Silence engulfs the ‘other refugees’

Erik Arnold is a freelance columnist who writes on a variety of cultural and political topics. Here is his take, featured on the weblog Dhimmiwatch on 24 November, on the refugee problem in the Middle East:

Arab aggression has created not one but two groups of refugees in the Middle East. The world has not been allowed to forget the first but has remained largely unaware of the second. The first group comprises those Arabs who abandoned their homes in Palestine during the 1947-1949 fighting. They numbered 587,000… The second group encompasses the Jews who, between 1947 and 1963, were uprooted from African and Middle Eastern countries where their ancestors had lived for generations and where they were full fledged citizens until they suddenly became anathema. They numbered about 650,000 [Note: The numbers are actually much higher than this, being closer to 800,000. E.A.]

… The overwhelming majority were poor people, but they collectively left behind property valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars… The world has not overly concerned itself about the Jews who were constrained by forces beyond their control –discriminatory laws, persecutions, physical violence, and purposeful exclusion from Arab societies — to flee “to a place of safety,” thus meeting Webster’s definition of refugees.

Attention has been concentrated instead on the plight of the Arabs who left Palestine voluntarily — persuaded by their own military commanders and politicians that the war against the Jews would be short and their victorious return would be sweet with booty — hence might be categorized more properly as “fugitives” rather than as “refugees.” (Frank Gervasi, The Case for Israel, Viking Press, New York, 1967, pgs. 108-109).

The above paragraph makes succinctly clear a problem long ignored by the world’s governments: the history of the persecution and expulsion of the large Jewish population of the Middle East and North Africa. The story of the Arab refugees has occasioned much gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts among the collective court of international opinion, while the same sentiment has not been granted to their more numerous Jewish counterparts.

(..) The post-World War II period witnessed the end of the millennia-old history of Jewish life in the Near East. Across this huge area dictators arose who emphasized the purely Arab character of their countries, thus automatically excluding the Jews from the nation-building process. The growth of Zionism and the subsequent battle for Palestine were used to stress the alien-ness and the subversive-ness of the Jewish populations. The persecution, despoliation, and expulsion of whole communities proceeded apace, ending only with the impoverishment and ejection of the Jews of Libya following the Qaddafi coup of 1969. Yet when the issue of refugees is discussed, the group in question is always Arab.

The implications of this one-sided emphasis for the Israel-Arab problem have been profound. While Arabs and their supporters loudly declaim the unconditional demand that Israel open its doors to a flood of emigrants and their descendants, no Muslim country is expected to do the same for Jews. Indeed, in many instances the Jewish presence in certain areas predates that of both Arabs (North Africa), and Islam (Yemen), by several thousand years. Yet there is no large-scale effort to make restitution to these shattered communities.

A visit to any library will reveal a large amount of works devoted to the dilemma of the Arab runaways. In fact, a whole “Palestine industry” has arisen dedicated to the articulation of this group’s point of view while systematically ignoring that of the Jews. The Israeli government, rather than making a case for its own victimized citizens and their progeny, simply allows a black silence to engulf the memory of the destroyed Levantine communities of the world’s oldest diaspora.”

Hear, hear.

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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