In a recent article The forgotten Oriental Jews
published in the Jewish Chronicle, the author Lyn Julius, sets the record straight concerning the Jewish Refugees from Arab countries.
The article reminds us that the Middle East narrative though replete with the plight of the Palestinian refugees is one sided and sorely lacking in balance when it comes to the plight of the Oriental Jewish refugees.
… The Jewish refugees give the lie to the myth that the Israelis are western colonial interlopers who 'stole the land from the native Arabs'. Jewish communities were founded 1,000 years before Islam. The Mizrahim, now integrated into Israel, never left the Middle East. Israel today has over a million Arab citizens. Yet there are barely 5,000 Jews left in the Arab world. Just who is guilty of 'ethnic cleansing'? ...
The author enjoins the Israeli government to forgo its silence on the subject, which succeeded only in further distorting the Middle East narrative and in alienating the Mizrahim in the process, and to speak up more forcefully about the plight of the “Forgotten Oriental Jews”.
… it is time for Israel’s refugees from Arab lands to be brought back into the peace equation …
The forgotten Oriental Jews
Lyn Julius says it is time for Israel's refugees from Arab lands to be
brought back into the peace equation
Do an Internet search for 'Middle Eastern refugees', and you get 16 million
entries. These refer overwhelmingly to Palestinian refugees. A search for
'Middle Eastern Jewish refugees' turns up four million references. This is
strange, as there were more Jewish refugees from Arab countries than Arab
refugees from what is now Israel.
The Mizrahim (Oriental Jews) were expelled from countries like Iraq, Egypt
and Algeria - or ushered towards the exit by insidious marginalisation and
intimidation, as in Morocco and Tunisia.
The dispossessed lost far more than the Palestinians. Of 870,000 Mizrahi
refugees, 600,000 sought refuge in Israel, where they now form half the
Jewish population. There were between 300,000 and 750, 000 Arab refugees,
but four million is often quoted, as, uniquely, their descendants are
allowed to inherit refugee status.
For almost 60 years peacemaking efforts have run aground on the
Palestinian 'right of return'. But what of the right of Jewish refugees not
to return to despotic countries where civil and human rights violations are
The Jewish refugees give the lie to the myth that the Israelis are western
colonial interlopers who 'stole the land from the native Arabs'. Jewish
communities were founded 1,000 years before Islam. The Mizrahim, now
integrated into Israel, never left the Middle East. Israel today has over a
million Arab citizens. Yet there are barely 5,000 Jews left in the Arab
world. Just who is guilty of 'ethnic cleansing'?
The Arabs need to come to terms with their own history of anti-Semitism.
Until 'dhimmitude' was ended by the colonial powers, non-Muslim dhimmis
lived in a system of institutionalised humiliation. Political rights were
denied to all but Muslims. This is a huge, underrated factor in Arab and
Muslim rejection of Israel's right to exist.
The argument that Israel is the price paid by innocent Arabs for European
anti-Semitism and the Holocaust ignores the Mizrahi need for a safe Jewish
haven. The myth needs to be nailed that Jews and Arabs coexisted in total
harmony before Israel. Jews were massacred in Morocco in 1912, Algeria in
1934, Iraq in 1941 and Libya in 1945 - all pre-dating the modern state of
It is a mystery why Israel has not hitherto made the case for the Jewish
refugees. By keeping shtum, it has vacated the moral high ground and allowed
history to be distorted. This silence sets back the cause of peace by
reinforcing the Arabs' one-sided sense of victimhood, while alienating the
Mizrahim, who tend to vote for right-wing parties.
Things are slowly changing. Organisations such as Justice for Jews from
Arab Countries are trying to raise the refugee issue. They want families to
record their stories and lost assets on the website www.justiceforjews.com
- before the last generation of Jews born
in Arab countries dies out.
But we still need to do more to raise awareness of the injustice committed
against the Jews from Arab countries. Restoring them to the Middle East
narrative can only advance prospects for peace and reconciliation.
Lyn Julius helped found Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East
and North Africa.Israel Bonan
Introduction copyright by Israel Bonan, 2006. Original article © The Jewish Chronicle and Lyn Julius.
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Replies: 2 Comments
A reader e-mailed me to point out ambiguity in what I wrote. He said I shocked him! Ouch. Here's what I meant. I think this article is significant because people ignore the massive and forced exodus of Arab Jewry beginning in the late 40s. Thus, I wrote that this issue is "beside the point". That's not my view; that's the view of so many people who choose to ignore the fate of Arab Jewry. Guess I did great on my first post!
Bruce Levine, Saturday, November 25th
Timely. Just a few short weeks ago, I posted on a website called agonist.org, a left-leaning news and commentary website, in response to someone who had asserted that the "Canadian media is controlled by the Jews". At one point in the most unpleasant series of posts that followed, in which I was repeatedly challenged for attacking that poster as anti-semetic, the following question was posed to me: "Are not the Palestinians paying the price for Hitler's actions?" I was stunned, as leaving aside the European Jews who came to Israel, as this article suggests, the forced exodus of Arab Jewry from their ancenstral homes is besides the point in the ongoing and painful debate about Israel's right to exist.
bslev22, Tuesday, November 21st
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