A scene of destruction in Aleppo, Syria after rioting mobs targeted Jewish shops, homes and synagogues in 1947
The Christian Science Monitor is not known for its sympathy towards Israel, but this article dealing with Israel’s Jewish refugees campaign by Christa Case Bryant is reasonably balanced – except for the word ‘scramble’ in the headline, implying deliberate obfuscation or confusion – and errors in the text. We see the familiar counter-arguments emerge: Yehuda Shenhav’s contention that Israel is trying to ‘cancel out’ what is owed to both sets of refugees ( a piece of out-dated misinformation); the objections of Almog Behar’s phantom Iraqi-Jewish committee (who represents no-one but himself); and the idea that a Jew can’t be both a refugee and a Zionist returning to his or her homeland.
Though many Palestinians recognize at least some Arab Jews as
refugees, they are concerned that Israel is trying to cancel its debt to
them by putting the suffering of Arab Jews on the same international
The campaign has also met resistance from some Arab Jews
in Israel, who have criticized both the logic and the motives behind it.
Palestinian and Israeli critics have two main arguments: that these
Jews were not refugees but eager participants in a new Zionist state,
and that Israel cannot and should not attempt to settle its account with
the Palestinians by deducting the lost assets of its own citizens,
thereby preventing individuals on both sides from seeking compensation (this is nonsense – President Clinton’s international fund has been mooted by Israel – ed).
cannot create some kind of accounting equation in which one cancels out
the other,” says Yehuda Shenhav, an Iraqi Jew and author of “The Arab
Jews.” She adds, “you cannot use the Arab Jews that arrived to Israel
… as the capital in which you deny the legitimate rights of
When the United Nations presented its 1947 proposal for partitioning historic Palestine
into two states, an Arab delegate warned that doing so could unleash
hatred against the roughly 1 million Jews living in the Middle East – an
anti-Semitism perhaps worse, even, than seen in Nazi Germany.
the United Nations decides to partition Palestine, it might be
responsible for the massacre of a large number of Jews,” said Heykal
Pasha of Egypt.
later, the UN voted in favor of the 1947 partition plan, paving the way
for Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948. As Arab countries
joined Palestinian fighters to protest the new state, they also cracked
down on Jews in their own countries.
made it illegal to propagate Zionist ideology and froze the assets of
its Jewish population – the wealthiest in the Middle East – and allowed
them to leave only under condition that they leave behind their property
and never return.
The Syrian government took property from
Jewish residents to make room for Palestinians. Egypt passed a law just
before the UN decision, in July 1947, requiring Egyptian companies to
maintain quotas of Egyptian directors and employees that caused many
Jews to lose their jobs, since most were not Egyptian citizens.
Egypt, Algeria, and Jordan
(Jordan had banned Jews living there from 1922 on – ed) all passed laws in the 1950s and early 1960s preventing Jews from
holding citizenship (The Egyptian Nationality Law was passed in the 1920s -ed). And Jews were the target of significant violence,
particularly in Libya and Iraq, where hundreds were killed.
Zionists, eager to bolster the population of their new state,
recruited fellow Jews during these tumultuous times and the Israeli
government helped to orchestrate the floods of new immigrants.
Israel originally romanticized the exodus of Jews from Arab countries; the transport of 50,000 Jews from Yemen
became colloquially known as the “magic carpet” operation, for example.
Only more recently has Israel sought to emphasize the suffering endured
by such refugees.
Indeed, part of what makes Israel’s campaign controversial now is the timing, which some say is politically motivated.