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Jewish World Review
July 24, 2008
/ 21 Tamuz 5768
Mideast Refugees Failure vs. Success
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Israel's birth 60 years ago produced two refugee problems that still haunt us. One we all know about: the flight of some 650,000 Palestinian Arabs from what is now the Jewish state. Most fled out of fear of war, others because they were urged to make way for "victorious" Arab armies, and some but certainly not most because Israeli troops drove them out in the heat of battle.
Most other mid-20th century refugee problems were quickly settled (the millions who simulataneously fled Pakistan and India, for example). But the Arab refugee problem has merely festered. Eager to maintain the Jewish character of its sliver of Mideast land, Israel allowed only a handful to repatriate. No Arab state has ever granted them a permanent home, let alone citizenship . Instead, masses of Palestinian refugees have been kept permanently penned up inside overcrowded refugee camps, living off massive international welfare doles, playing the political pawn, and waiting for Israel to die so they can invoke their "Right of Return". According to UN sources, Palestinian refugees now number more than 4 million.
Compare that to the other, lesser know refugee crisis that coincided with Israel's birth the forced exodus of some 900,000 Jews from their centuries old homes in the Arab world; from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Aden, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia , Algeria and Morocco.
These were communities rich in culture, with their own Judeo dialects and traditions, their own rich religious literature, thought and scholars.
To be sure, Jews in the Arab world were occasionally subject to outbreaks of violence, forced conversion and never accepted as anything but Dhimmi protected second class citizens. Still, this vast Jewish community flourished, most especially in the late fifteenth century when thousands of Sephardic Jews fled the persecutions of Spain and the rest of southern Europe for the relative peace of the Islamic world.
By 1947, close to a million Jews lived in the Arab world. Many played primary roles in local economies, global trade, and medicine. Some became senior advisors to Emirs and Sultans and helped enrich the cities of the Arab world ((EG Baghdad's pre 1948 Chamber of Commerce was 50% Jewish).
The historic decision to establish the State of Israel changed all that. Outraged by the idea of a Jewish state in their midst, the Arab world turned against its Jews, targeting them with legislated discrimination, government sponsored anti-Semitic riots and murderous pogroms. Faced with growing threats, outright violence and government moves to completely disenfranchise them, close to 900,000 Jews were forced to abandon their ancient homes .
Almost all were allowed to leave only on condition they signed agreements never to return and most important to leave their property and belongings behind. Recently uncovered documents indicate that much of this massive theft was a coordinated scheme by several Arab governments to grab Jewish property worth as much as $100 billion.
Today, with the exception of small communal pockets in Morocco, the Arab world is effectively Judenrein. Egypt which once had 180,000 Jews now has only a handful of mostly aged Jews living in Cairo and Alexandria; Iraq which had 160,000 Jews now has 20, Libya and most other Arab states have none.
But here comes the difference between the fates of Arab and Jewish refugees. While the corrupt Arab world condemned Palestinian Arabs to statelessness, squandered chance after chance to make peace with Israel and stole mega-millions in welfare funds, the Jewish state and the world Jewish community worked tirelessly to resettle its fellow Jews from Arab lands. More than half a million have settled in Israel where, after early years of economic and sometimes social hardship, they and their descendants have been successfully integrated and now form more than 50% of the Jewish population. Others found new homes in South America, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada rebuilding lives while trying to retain their own unique cultural ties and communal institutions.
Most important, not a single Jew from the Arab world remains a "refugee", not one lives in a squalid camp or demands a "Right of Return" to the Arab world. Above all, not one angry Arab Jewish terrorist has ever strapped a suicide bomb to his or her waist and climbed aboard an Arab bus to murder dozens of innocents.
Next time someone moans to you about the plight of Arab refugees, remind them that there still is another way. And that compensation works in two directions.
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The Arrogance of the French
This book will open your eyes!
Why do the French hate America? Richard Chesnoff has figured it out and informs us with entertaining clarity.
France sucks, but this book doesn't.
Michael Barone, Co-author, The Almanac of American Politics
Americans-and the French-will learn a lot from this book.
Clifford D. May, President, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
Richard Z. Chesnoff insightfully-and entertainingly-explores America's most dysfunctional relationship with America's least reliable ally.
Sales help fund JWR.
JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a contributing correspondent at US News & World Report, a columnist at the NY Daily News and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Demoracies. A two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club Award and a recipient of the National Press Club Award, he was formerly executive editor of Newsweek International. His latest book, is "The Arrogance of the French: Why They Can't Stand Us & Why The Feeling Is Mutual". (Click on cover above to purchase. Sales help fund JWR. )
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© 2008, Richard Z. Chesnoff