850,000 Jewish Refugees Not to be Forgotten

In May, 1948 Israel became the first nation ever to be reborn. Each year since then the country celebrates its Independence Day.

However, not everyone joins in this annual holiday. In fact some consider it a day of mourning. Who mourns on this joyous occasion? The so-called “Palestinians.” I say ‘so-called’ because the term doesn’t truly represent an actual ethnic or historical people. The “Palestinians” are ethnic Jordanians, Egyptians, Lebanese and Syrians, who were displaced after the Arabs failed to destroy the fledgling Jewish state in the Independence War of 1948. The Arab countries refused to absorb their brethren after the war in order to keep a festering ugly reminder designed to convince the world their plight is Israel’s responsibility for which the “refugees” should be compensated.

Somewhere between 650,000 – 800,000 Arabs who were displaced eventually were renamed “Palestinians,” by the late Yasser Arafat not long after he founded the PLO in 1964. His motivation for their renaming was to create a distinct identity for them. Since then the term “Palestinians” which previously referred to Jews living in the land, has spawned an entire industry dedicated to carving out a heritage and ethnicity, both of which are made up. It’s not that the people themselves are made up. However, their ethnic history and heritage have been invented for what’s become a revisionist narrative. In spite of this, the news media, world leaders, organizations such as the UN, and millions worldwide have embraced this cause celebre and the plight of the so-called “Palestinian refugees.”

Arabs Observe the “Catastrophe”

Thus on the day Israel celebrates its independence, the Palestinians observe what they call the “Nakba,” which means “catastrophe.” Their businesses close, they mourn together, and hold demonstrations which include hateful speeches reminding them that the existence of Israel is the root cause of all their problems.

Today, they and their descendents number approximately 5 – 6 million. Mahmoud Abbas insists there will be no peace agreement unless they are allowed the “right of return.” Such a move would mean the only country where Jews are the majority would cease to exist as such and become the twenty-third Arab dominated country in the Middle East.

The Other Side of the “Refugee” Issue

Yet, there is another side of the refugee issue resulting from Israel’s rebirth, which has gotten nowhere near commensurate attention worldwide. It’s been going on for the same period, if not longer.

It’s about Jewish refugees.

Prior to Israel’s independence Jews had been living in numerous Arab countries, in some cases over 2,000 years. In several their communities exceeded 100,000. Collectively they numbered approximately 850,000. Like the so-called Palestinian refugees,  the rebirth of Israel brought tremendous problems. One day after the UN voted to partition the original “two state solution,” on November 29, 1947, Jews in these Arab countries began being persecuted. Their property was seized, bank accounts frozen, many were jailed. Some were killed. In virtually every country they were forced to leave, and in most cases with only what they could carry. They lost virtually everything they owned. Israel absorbed them all. Yet the countries they were forced out of provided no compensation for their pain and suffering, or for for losing their property, possessions, bank accounts, etc. Today there are less than 10,000 Jews where there were once 850,000.

Defining “Refugees”

While both groups are defined as “refugees,” there is a clear distinction between them which is important to recognize. The renamed “Palestinians” were not forced to leave. The Jewish leadership asked them to stay and help build the soon to be new state. However, local and regional Arab leaders told them to leave because they intended to destroy the new state. Promises were made they could return “in a few weeks” after all the Jews were annihilated. Then, the same Arab leaders refused to absorb them after their plans to destroy Israel failed, hence they became “refugees.”

Conversely the Jews living in Arab lands had no plans to destroy anything. They were forced to flee simply because of the impending Jewish state, which they had no role in creating. If they stayed their lives would be in jeopardy.

Justice for Jewish Refugees

In recent years the plight of these Jewish refugees has begun to get some attention, albeit nowhere near that of the so-called Palestinian refugees. In 2011 Israel’s National Security Council adopted a resolution that any peace deal with the Palestinians must include compensation for the Jewish refugees forced to flee Arab countries during the time of statehood.

Now, an effort is underway to approve an official memorial day in Israel commemorating the plight of the Jewish refugees. Moroccan born MK Shimon Ohayon has introduced a bill to establish “a day recalling the rights of the many Jewish refugees who were removed, expelled or fled from Arab lands on the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, and in its wake…” Ohanyon also sent a letter to the Nabil Elaraby, Secretary of the Arab League asking them to take responsibility for what happened to the Jews who lived in those Arab countries.

The Israeli government has given its support to the bill.

The day is long overdue to honor the true victims which resulted from statehood, and stop sympathizing with those who wanted Israel destroyed…and still do.

  • Dan Calic is a writer, history student and speaker. See additional articles on his Facebook page