The Forgotten Middle Eastern Refugees
In the United States and the United Kingdom student organizations, such as the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine, push anti-Israel divestment campaigns on their college campuses. These divestment campaigns perpetuate lies about the State of Israel, painting the Jewish state as racist and a colonial usurper, all this despite the fact it’s no larger than the state of New Jersey and its territory a tiny fraction of the Middle East.
These campaigns demand “right of return”— not a lasting peace with Israelis, but the deliberate destruction of the State of Israel.
The May campaigns also allege that Israelis are committing genocide against the Palestinian Arabs, a ludicrous statement. Figures show that since 1948 this segment of the population has quickly increased to over 4 million.
Beyond the anti-Israel campaigns—movements that have become more like street theater—is the plight of a genuine refugee group that has suffered in total silence.
With the rise of Arab nationalism in the early 1900s, Jews in what became Islamic lands found that they had become a scapegoat. No longer living under colonial rule, their situation began to worsen. Even prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews found that they were being discriminated against under Arab governments. In many cases, being Jewish was practically outlawed due to Nuremberg-style laws.
In 1948 the Arab League declared all Jewish people enemy citizens, regardless of the fact that several had no will or motivation to leave their homes. Throughout the Middle East Jewish bank accounts and property were confiscated, Jews were arrested and fired from their jobs, and synagogues were attacked. Homes were looted, women were raped and people were killed.
According to official Arab statistics, approximately 900,000 to 1,000,000 Jews left their homes in Arab countries from 1940 until the early 1970s. Over 600,000 resettled in Israel. Their descendants, and those of Iranian and Turkish Jews, now number 3.06 million of Israel's 5.4 to 5.8 million Jewish citizens, thereby accounting for more than half of Israel’s population.
Today, fewer than 3,000 Jews remain in Middle Eastern lands, many living in poverty. They often find themselves the recipients of religiously motivated hate-crimes.
The generation of my parents and grandparents were refugees before the term became fashionable. Middle Eastern Jews are not recognized as refugees by the United Nations, hardly a surprise when one considers how far the organization has moved since it’s founding, yet you won’t find a single suicide bomber among Middle Eastern Jews.
One has to wonder why the international community is obsessed with the “right of return” as an exclusive right to the Palestinian Arabs. The original occupants of the Palestine Mandate, the spoils of the Ottoman Empire, were encouraged to leave by their leaders in 1948 so that they could make way for the invading Arab armies. After they would have killed the Jews in a sweeping defeat Arab leaders assured that those who fled could return to their homes and also appropriate the homes and property of the Jews who had been killed. But as Israel won, that plan didn’t quite work out.
Yet the international community’s fixation on the Israel-Arab conflict continues.
Since the creation of Pakistan in 1947 millions of Hindus and Sikhs were displaced to form a Muslim state but not one word has been heard about their “right of return.” It is only Israel that is supposed to acquiesce to such a fatuous and unjust arrangement so that their country can be overrun by the children and grandchildren of people who left thinking they would return to gorge themselves on the spoils of a victory that was never realized.
The real reason for the lack of peace has everything to do with Arab nationalism and Islamic radicalism. It has nothing to do with bogus charges of human rights violations against the Jewish state where the rights of all citizens, regardless of nationality or religion, are protected and where, in recent years, women, gays, and non-Muslim minorities have fled from persecution in Muslim countries throughout the entire Middle East. The best judge of the character of any given country on any given day is to see how many people are trying to get in as opposed to how many people are trying to get out. Anyone interested in immigrating to Damascus, backpacking in Lebanon or touring the sights in Tehran? I didn't think so.