Monday, June 27, 2005

The painful memories stirred by Gaza

The authorities want the Jewish homes of Gaza razed in case leaving them intact stirs some painful memories among those Israelis who were forced to flee Baghdad, Tripoli or Cairo, argues Clifford D May in Townhall.

"Such a display would lend credence to the claim that the Israelis had been forced to leave Gaza -- as they earlier had been driven out of Lebanon, and as they will, one day, be expelled from every inch of Israel. This week, Hamas pledged yet again that “the jihad” against “the Zionist entity” would “continue until victory or martyrdom” – i.e. until they wipe the Jewish state off the map or die trying.

In addition to concern about encouraging dreams of conquest and genocide, Israeli officials also must have worried about the psychological impact that images of Arabs taking over Jewish homes would have had on their own citizens -- particularly those Israelis who come from Arab lands.

It is often forgotten that half of all Israeli Jews trace their roots to such places as Baghdad, Cairo and Tripoli. Jewish communities were well established in many Middle Eastern and North African capitals hundreds of years before those capitals were conquered and occupied, beginning in the 7th century, by armies from the Arabian Peninsula, carrying the banner of the new faith of Islam.

Iraq, for example, was for millennia home to a prominent Jewish minority. As late as 1948 one of every four Baghdadis was Jewish. After the U.N. partition of Palestine, however, hundreds of Iraqi Jews were executed. Others were imprisoned. Jewish homes were confiscated. Eventually most Jews fled.

In Yemen, by contrast, Jews had long endured a kind of apartheid. They were not allowed to walk on pavements or ride horses. They were forced to clean the public toilets. By law, Jewish orphans had to be converted to Islam. Not surprisingly, once Israel was established, virtually all Yemeni Jews sought refuge there.

Egypt was among the leaders of the “jihad” declared against Israel in 1948. This was to be, in the words of Arab League Secretary Azzam Pasha, “a war of extermination.”

As Egyptian soldiers invaded Israel, mobs attacked the Jewish quarter of Cairo and Egyptian authorities shipped Jews suspected of sympathizing with Israel to concentration camps in the Sinai desert.

In all, close to 900,000 Jews are estimated to have fled Arab-majority countries, leaving behind houses, schools, synagogues, cemeteries and, in many cases, ancient cultures and traditions. " Read article in full.

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