It is true that Israel was, in 1948, primarily a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims. But few people, in talking about the Israeli-Arab conflict, or the Israeli-Muslim conflict, pause to consider that the exodus of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in an Israeli Jewish population that was 50% indigenous to the Middle East, up until the time of the Russian migration in the 1990s.
Most westerners are unaware of this, and the Muslim countries are even more ignorant/in denial about it. They act as if Muslim countries were a paradise for Jews and other religious minorities in comparison to Europe. This may have been true at some points in history, but it is largely a self-congratulatory fantasy.
To the extent the Jewish exodus from Muslim lands is acknowledged (and it’s important to note that upwards of 98 percent of the Jews left places such as Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and other countries, where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years, and where they were part of the landscape prior to the existence of Islam), the party line is that they left voluntarily because they were Zionists. This is about as true as the allegation that most of the Palestinians left their homes voluntarily. Since when does 98 percent plus of a population leave a place their family has been for generations when they feel safe in their homes?
My husband comes from a large family of Jews who fled Morocco in the middle of the night, leaving their house and everything else behind, because they were tipped off that his grandfather was about to be arrested and killed. My husband’s aunts and uncles in Israel all married Jews from other parts of the Middle East, so I have relatives who originally hailed from every one of those countries mentioned above. Arabic is their mother tongue. When we go to family gatherings, our relatives are constantly laughing uproariously at jokes that fall flat in translation, and some great aunt or uncle will say to me, apologetically, “It’s much funnier in Arabic.”
This book review in City Journal exposes more canards contributing to the myth that Israel was a colossal mistake (with thanks: Eliyahu).