Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Arab states' 'original sin'

This 'must-read' article by Professor Shmuel Trigano who teaches at the University of Paris was published in the French daily Le Figaro in 2001, but is as relevant as ever.

"A bizarre amnesia obscuring the fundamental truths of the Israel-Arab conflict afflicts the debate about the Palestinian 'right of return' for 3,700,000 refugees to the territory of the state of Israel.

"To frame the debate in terms of the 'right of return' is to falsify historical truth. In no way is the Arab world an innocent victim and Israel congenitally guilty. This distorted account obscures the experience and history of most of the Israeli population - the Jews from Arab countries - as if they never existed or as if their plight mattered less than that of Palestinians or of other Israelis."

Professor Trigano goes on to detail the 'original sin' of the Arabs - the ethnic cleansing of the Jews. Repression and pogroms were followed by a 1949 decision taken in concert by Arab diplomats in Beirut to expel their Jewish populations in revenge for the Palestinian exodus.

"Thus the Jews from Arab countries are critical to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Seen in this light, the creation of Israel (where they constitute a majority) in the heart of "the Arab world appears less as a humanitarian solution for Holocaust survivors than as the fruit of the struggle for liberation and self-determination of an oppressed minority of the Arab world. (My italics - Ed) Their situation is directly comparable to that of the Palestinians: there was a de facto exchange of populations between 600,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries and 540,000 Palestinians displaced after the creation of Israel. These 600,000 Jews were dispossessed and confined to transit camps (ma'abarot) - tents and low wooden huts - before they were settled more permanently in Israel. To date, they are still suffering from the economic, political and cultural effects of their uprooting.

"One can understand why Palestinian apologists should obscure this dimension of the conflict so inconvenient to their cause. Nonetheless, it will not go away. One can less easily understand how Israeli leaders, especially on the left, should have turned a blind eye to it - for ethnocentric reasons, no doubt. As for the Arab states, they are doubly responsible - for having expelled their Jewish residents, they not only failed to integrate the Palestinian refugees but transformed them into a weapon against Israel." Read article in full

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