Watch: From Kuwaiti Arab to Orthodox Jew

Kuwaiti-born Israeli Jewish 'Palestinian refugee' decries UN hypocrisy in keeping Arabs refugees forever.

Hezki Baruch ,

Mark Halawa
Mark Halawa
Yonit Schiller, courtesy of Mark Halawa

A man born to a Muslim Arab family in Kuwait who eventually embraced his grandmother's Jewish roots and became an Israeli citizen spoke about his journey from Islam to Orthodox Judaism at a meeting of the Knesset at the Israel Victory Caucus Tuesday.

Mark Halawa was born to a secular Muslim family in Kuwait, and like many in the Arab world, viewed the State of Israel as an enemy, despite knowing that his maternal grandmother was Jewish

Born in Jerusalem in the 1930s, Halawa's grandmother married a Jordanian soldier, and moved with her husband to Zarqa, Jordan.

"The Middle East - and my life - does not fit into a simplistic category," Halawa told caucus members at Tuesday's meeting.

Halawa described the education he received as a child from "the enemies of Israel."

"They taught me from a young age that Jews have no connection this land, and that Israel is a racist colonial project set up by Western imperialists and supported by America - the great Satan - to divide the Ottoman Caliphate so that there would never be a Muslim empire again.

He described his mixed Muslim and Jewish heritage and how his father, a Palestinian Arab born in Beit Shean in 1945, told him "how Arab radio broadcasts urged all the Arabs of British Palestine to clear out immediately to make room for the great slaughter that would be carried out, promising them they would come back and seize the properties of slaughtered Jews in a matter of days. So they left and became refugees in camps in Jordan, in Syria, and in Lebanon."

Halawa slammed UNRWA for "keeping people refugees indefinitely and increasing their numbers."

"My father received a Jordanian passport and full citizenship rights. But UN bureaucrats and UNRWA and the so-called PLO bamboozled the world, turning us into perpetual refugees.

"Instead of resettling, UNRWA created six million of us today, paying the PLO several hundred dollars a month on behalf of myself and those six million people while the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) struggles to find funds and shelter to feed real refugees. We have to end this sham now.

Halawa called on the delegates to help his nonprofit reach out to young Arabic speakers "to create a social revolution to liberate the next generation of the Middle East to recognize the plurality of life and to live the democratic values represented represented by free and great countries such as Israel and the United States of America."