Daily Beast posts a rebuttal on Jewish refugees

Lara Friedman: ‘Jews cannot be both refugees and immigrants’

Last week, several Point of No Return readers pointed out Lara Friedman’s piece in the Daily Beast entitled ‘Exploiting Jews from Arab Countries’. Here at last is a rebuttal by Lyn Julius, accusing Friedman of denigrating the rights of Jewish refugees.

For Lara Friedman, a lobbyist for Americans for Peace Now, the sun was not shining last week. Jews from Arab countries are being cynically exploited, she claimed on Open Zion, by a two-pronged drive that seeks to abolish the hereditary status of Palestinian refugees, while pushing for the rights of Jews from Arab Countries. A Congressional Bill, coupled with an Israeli diplomatic initiative, will, she fears, pit the refugees against each other.

Jewish refugees from Arab countries do indeed outnumber Palestinian refugees– by 850,000 to 750,000. According to economist Sidney Zabludoff, Jews lost 50 percent more in assets. Two sets of refugees were created after 1948—one by violence and persecution, the other by war. Jewish refugees were absorbed in Israel and the West; the Palestinians were left to fester in camps.

But the new initiatives do not, as Friedman alleges, set new terms for the peace agenda: they mean to correct a historic distortion.

Friedman’s main argument echoes the radical Marxist professor Yehuda Shenhav: after conceding that Jews from Arab countries have legitimate rights, she proceeds to question if Jews were ‘refugees’ at all—a ‘degrading’ term. Although Yisrael Yeshayahu and Shlomo Hillel, who arrived before Israel was born, are on record as saying they came as Zionists, they are exceptional. Jews fled because certain push factors made life hell after 1948—murderous riots, anti-Jewish incitement, arrests, executions.

For ethnocentric reasons, Israel discouraged the Jews from seeing themselves as refugees, but as immigrants returning to their ancestral homeland. Bizarrely, Friedman seems to believe that unless Jews want to return to their countries of birth, they cannot be real refugees: “They are either refugees, or they are new immigrants—they can’t be both.”

I say they can be both. Were they dispossessed, their ancient, pre-Islamic communities destroyed, their families dismembered—of their own free will? Did Jews choose to spend up to 13 years in tents or huts (ma’abarot) with inadequate sanitation and food?

What would Friedman say about the 200,000 Jews who did not flee to Israel, but found refuge in the West? Read this refugee’s comment to Friedman’s piece:

“Less than one month after the Six Day War…We left with one suitcase each. Leaving everything behind was the least of our concerns, although we had lived well in Casablanca, Morocco. Our primary concern was to get on that plane bound for Paris because staying in our country meant risking our lives. In Paris, we had to live in a dingy, one-bedroom apartment with no bathroom, no hot water, and lots of rats.”

Undeniably, Jews arrived as refugees. But they ceased being refugees once they were given citizens’ rights in their new countries. It is the Palestinians, consigned to squalid camps as political pawns, who have been cynically exploited, denied a ‘right of resettlement’ in their host countries and fed the delusion of return. A humanitarian solution would demand for them full citizenship, property ownership rights and jobs in Arab countries.

Here’s another Friedman fallacy: Palestinians are not responsible for what happened to Jewish refugees. Yet the two issues are linked. The Palestinian leadership pushed for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab countries, while driving the Arab League into the 1948 war against Israel.

The pro-Nazi Palestinian leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, instigated the Farhud pogrom against the Jews of Iraq in 1941. He sought Nazi license to exterminate Jews in Arab countries as well as Palestine “ in the same way as the problem was resolved in the Axis Countries.” Before the mass Palestinian exodus, the Arab League hatched a postwar, coordinated Nuremberg-style plan to persecute their Jewish citizens as enemy aliens.

The expulsion of Jews from Arab states and Arab genocidal intentions against the fledgling State of Israel were essentially two sides of the same coin.

An involuntary exchange of populations took place. Jews may yearn for the countries of their birth, but as long as these remain hostile and dangerous, return is inconceivable. And if one set of refugees cannot return, neither should the other. But both sets of refugees should be able to claim to compensation—the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has proposed an international fund.Unless the claims of both sets of refugees are dealt with equally, a final peace settlement will not be based on truth.

By what right can Lara Friedman denigrate the rights of half the Jewish population of Israel, who descend from refugees of Arab and Muslim lands? What is truly degrading is her denial of Jewish refugee rights and belittling of Jewish suffering. Justice for Jewish refugees is an unresolved human rights issue with no statute of limitations. Its pursuit is more, not less, likely to achieve reconciliation between the two peoples.

Read post in full

Crossposted on Harry’s Place

And now…a rebuttal from Ms Friedman to the above rebuttal

Lyn Julius responds to Lara Friedman


  • Responding to Lara articles I would just say:

  • Lara Friedman was invited to and attended the International Conference on Jerusalem. Though she expressed "Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians," she still hoped "that the rest of the conference will deal more honestly and more constructively with …" Jerusalem.
    How anyone subjected to a day of denial of Jewish history could fail to rethink her premises is beyond me. She will make any excuses for Arab hatred of Israel, but will not defend Jews or Israel in the name of "peace."

  • Is Lara Friedman related to the NY Times columnist Tom Friedman? If so, that would go a long way toward understanding why she writes such a crap understanding of the status of Jews in the MENA.

  • He was questioned last year with other Tahrir activists by the military. Not for this article, though.

  • Occasionally one gets flashes of insight into the disastrous impact of the Jewish Nakba on the Arab world like this article by Nabil Rashaf al-Din. It reminds me of the piece by Magdi Allam (in the PoNR sidebar). One wonders if al-Din must now fear for his life in the current Egyptian climate now he has spoken the truth.

  • Lara Friedman represents "Americans for Peace Now." This is not exactly a squeaky clean purely peace-loving ogranization. Its board members include a number of members of the Washington Establishment. One of them was Samuel "Sandy" Berger, the national security advisor for Bill Clinton's administration. He was the one caught stealing documents from USGovt archives, apparently in an effort to protect his reputation. Unlike Jonathan Pollard, who also copied rather than stole documents, Berger was punished with a mere slap on the wrist.

  • Bataween

    Did you see the article by Nabil rashaf El-Din on the jews of Egypt in Masr Alyum (2008)

    I translated the beginning but maybe you have seen it already.


    "The Jews of Our Country

    ByNabil Sharaf El-Din 11/25/2008

    Can nations progress by means of arrogance and self-justification, or do so by expressing a degree of humility, courage, and willingness to recognize mistakes and apologize for them?

    Logically, the answer to that question seems clear; however, the reality is that we should forget about it, since the culture of arrogance and self-justification is so common in our societies to the point where it has become one of our characteristics – as opposed to people in the West, for example the Germans, or the other people in the East, such as the Japanese. In the aftermath of WWII, the Germans admitted that Nazism was a black page in their history, and they turned that page forever. And the Japanese too didn’t devote themselves to taking revenge on the Americans, who struck them with a nuclear bomb. Rather, the two people moved beyond the bitterness, and concentrated on building a productive society at peace with itself. A society that doesn’t dwell in the past and doesn’t seek to turn back the wheel of history. Those people concentrated their efforts toward the future. This is how Germany was crowned “Princess of Europe”, a title she has held for decades, and this is how Japan positioned herself at the top of the world economies.

    This introduction leads us to the tragedy of the Egyptian Jews of our generation, following the extinction of this authentically Egyptian community, of which all that is left are a few elderly. With their deaths, the history of the Jews of Egypt will become a miserable chapter of our own history."

  • From: Levana Zamir, Israel
    Thank you Lyn, for reminding the whole world and Laura Friedman included, that WE ARE BOTH: REFUGEES AND NEW IMMIGRANTS. My family and thousands of other Jews of Egypt became REFUGEES when expelled in 1956, after confiscation of all our assets. We have been uprooted for ever, stayed as refugees at a Refugees-Camp – CAMP D'ARENAS in Marseille – then in another Refugees Camp, called in Israel MAABARA. Because Israel is A BIG REFUGEES STATE. A few came as Zionists, but only a few. My parents would never leave Egypt, if it wasnt persecutions, arrests and finally massive expulsion. The only difference between Palestinian and Jewish Refugees, is that after three years at the Refugees-Maaabara-Camp in Tiberias, we decided to go out of this Refugees-Maabara-Camp. The Palestinians instead are perpetuating their status of Refugees, with the help of people like Laura Friedman.
    What happened to us, is happening now to the Copts in Egypt, with all the persecutions, bloody clashes and burning of Churches. Those who can afford to leave already left and became Refugees in a Foreign country. And the world is keeping silence…
    Levana Zamir,
    a Jewish Refugee from Egypt, living in Israel.

  • I posted this on that other site. I thought it might be useful to post it here.

    It is disheartening that such a loaded subject should be held hostage by people who have no understanding whatsoever of what it is actually like to live under a dhimma system, benevolent as it may be. That system is the equivalent of perpetual nazi racial laws, directed at non-Muslim religious populations, whereby indigenous Jews and Christians have inferior status by law.

    The Dhimma system is what the remaining Christians of Arabo-Muslim lands are having to deal with under Muslim Brotherhood rule. This kind of life is traumatizing and debilitating. Persecutions occur when it is felt that the "protected" people are forgetting their place, by having a public funeral for example or by protesting mistreatment, as happened to Copts in Egypt.

    It seems to me that anyone who wants to see the "Arab Spring" revolutions succeed should raise this subject. It is unthinkable that in the 21st century dhimma laws still exist in most Muslim countries and that there is a liberal left that will do anything – but anything so that they are allowed to continue.

    The government of Israel is "exploiting" the plight of the Jews who fled Arab countries? So what? Does anyone think they should be acting like choir boys? This, however, doesn't take away one single inch off the gravity of this issue. There are people and their descendents still affected by centuries of daily humiliations and one should be amazed by their resilience.

    Enough with superficialities.


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