In the aftermath of tomorrow’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, one possible outcome may be a massive influx of refugees into neighboring countries fleeing political violence. There is no chance that Robert Mugabe will accept any result other than victory for him and his ZANU-PF party. Though Mugabe has executed all the usual vote-rigging tactics in anticipation of the election, sentiment against him runs so strong that manipulation of the election could likely result in violence.
Zimbabwe’s small community of Jews — numbering no more than 300 — is particularly vulnerable, as most of them are elderly. Due to the massive inflation of the past 8 years, their savings have disappeared, and many depend on families abroad or on Jewish philanthropy. (Peter Godwin’s recently-published memoir, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, is a searing account of one Jewish family’s struggle to survive in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.) Mugabe is prone to anti-Semitic outbursts, and has long expressed support for Palestinian terrorist organizations. Though they are numerically small and represent no threat whatsoever to his regime, the Jewish community of Zimbabwe would be an easy group for Mugabe to scapegoat as he sinks to even further levels of desperation.
Claudia Braude has a piece in this week’s Forward reporting from Harare on the state of the Zimbabwean Jewish community. She writes that contingency plans are being drawn up by an African Jewish organization to help Zimbabwe’s Jews emigrate should they find themselves in physical danger following the election. In the 1980′s and 1990′s, the Israeli government sponsored a series of heroic missions to rescue Ethiopian Jews wishing to flee oppression and make Aliyah. Perhaps the time has finally arrived for another Operation Moses.