Wistrich on leftist ‘ethnic cleansing’ blindspot

The great historian Robert Wistrich died in May 2015. This wide-ranging article was published posthumously in the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. Wistrich’s masterly analysis of the Anti-Zionist mythology touches on the way that the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa has been suppressed and distorted, so as to spread the myth that Israel is an ‘alien’ colonialist body in the region. (With thanks:Lily) 


“At the core of the anti-Zionist world-view
espoused by Islamists, leftists, and many misguided Western liberals is a
seriously distorted perception of Israel as the last Western
colonialist project. Among the more glaring blind spots is the willful
refusal to face the reality of the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews from Arab
lands in the Middle East after 1945. At the end of World War II, there
were almost a million Jews in Muslim countries, many of them
concentrated in North Africa.25

As a result of Arab persecution, pogroms, and harassment, a majority of
these Middle Eastern Jews were driven from their homes and sought
refuge in the newly created State of Israel. There, they were finally
able to enjoy full political rights and the prospect of socioeconomic
mobility for the first time as a collective. For many centuries, the
so-called “Oriental” Jews from Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen,
Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran had been deeply rooted in the Middle
East, where Jewish settlements had long predated the advent of Arab
invaders from the desert. Exactly the same was true of the Land of

This fact, too, has been deliberately suppressed or marginalized
by left-wing and pro-Palestinian ideologues who continuously stigmatize
Zionism as a Western pro-imperialist movement. It enables Palestinians
and their allies to perversely misrepresent Israel as an “alien body” in
the Middle East—a claim that itself reeks of antisemitism.

At the same
time, the Western left remains stunningly indifferent to the endemic
intolerance of Sunni Muslim Arab majorities, not only to Jews but also
toward Middle Eastern Christians, Shi’a Muslims, Kurds, Yazidis, Bahais,
and other minorities. Indeed, the “Christian” West as a whole has
little interest, it would appear, in the genocide perpetrated before our
eyes by Islamists against the most ancient Christian communities of
Iraq, Syria, and the Levant. The barbaric atrocities of ISIL (Islamic
State) in crucifying, beheading, and executing “infidels” (including
fellow Muslims) is by no means exceptional in the bloodstained history
of Islam. Yet it arouses minimal indignation or protest in comparison
with the imaginary “crimes of Israel.”

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