Two elderly Jewish refugees on their arrival in Israel
Unlike Palestinians, Jewish refugees from both Europe and the Middle East were absorbed in their new countries - no 'right of return' requested, writes Warren Kozak in the Wall St Journal (with thanks: Lily) :
It is doubtful that there has ever been a more miserable human refuse than Jewish survivors after World War II. Starving, emaciated, stateless—they were not welcomed back by countries where they had lived for generations as assimilated and educated citizens. Germany was no place to return to and in Kielce, Poland, 40 Jews who survived the Holocaust were killed in a pogrom one year after the war ended. The European Jew, circa 1945, quickly went from victim to international refugee disaster.
Yet within a very brief time, this epic calamity disappeared, so much so that few people today even remember the period. How did this happen in an era when Palestinian refugees have continued to be stateless for generations?
In 1945, there were hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors living in DP Camps (displaced persons) across Europe. They were fed and clothed by Jewish and international relief organizations. Had the world's Jewish population played this situation as the Arabs and Palestinians have, everything would look very different today.
To begin with, the Jews would all still be living in these DP camps, only now the camps would have become squalid ghettos throughout Europe. The refugees would continue to be fed and clothed by a committee similar to UNRWA—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (paid for mostly by the United States since 1948). Blessed with one of the world's highest birth rates, they would now number in the many millions. And 66 years later, new generations, fed on a mixture of hate and lies against the Europeans, would now seethe with anger.
Golda Meir pondered what would have become of the Jews had they been destroyed by the Arab armies.
Sometime in the early 1960s, the Jewish leadership of these refugee camps, having been trained in Moscow to wreak havoc on the West (as Yasser Arafat was) would have started to employ terrorism to shake down governments. Airplane hijackings in the 1970s would have been followed by passenger killings. There would have been attacks on high-profile targets as well—say, the German or Polish Olympic teams.
By the 1990s, the real mayhem would have begun. Raised on victimhood and used as cannon fodder by corrupt leaders, a generation of younger Jews would be blowing up buses, restaurants and themselves. The billions of dollars extorted from various governments would not have gone to the inhabitants of the camps. The money would be in the Swiss bank accounts of the refugees' famous and flamboyant leaders and their lackies.
So now it's the present, generations past the end of World War II, and the festering Jewish refugee problem throughout Europe has absolutely no end in sight. The worst part of this story would be the wasted lives of millions of human beings in the camps—inventions not invented, illnesses not cured, high-tech startups not started up, symphonies and books not written—a real cultural and spiritual desert.
None of this happened, of course. Instead, the Jewish refugees returned to their ancestral homeland. They left everything they had in Europe and turned their backs on the Continent—no "right of return" requested. They were welcomed by the 650,000 Jewish residents of Israel.
An additional 700,000 Jewish refugees flooded into the new state from Arab lands after they were summarily kicked out. Again losing everything after generations in one place; again welcomed in their new home.
In Israel, they did it all the hard way. They built a new country from scratch with roads, housing and schools. They created agricultural collectives to feed their people. They created a successful economy without domestic oil, and they built one of the world's most vibrant democracies in a region sadly devoid of free thought.
Yes, the Israelis did all this with the financial assistance of Jews around the world and others who helped get them on their feet so they could take care of themselves. These outsiders did not ignore them, or demean them, or use them as pawns in their own political schemes—as the Arab nations have done with the Palestinians.
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Here's an interesting comment by Abigail Frij, whose husband is from Morocco:
There is one Middle-Eastern Jewish community that has not yet been mentioned and that is the Jews of Kurdistan. The Kurdish-Jewish community was an ancient one, possibly dating back to Babylonian times. Since the traditional territories of Kurdistan and now dispersed among Iran, Iraq and Turkey, the numbers of emigrated Kurdish Jews are hidden in the statistics for those countries. However, immigration to the Land of Israel began as early as the 16th century, with the first immigrants from Kurdistan settling in Safed. In the 20th century, Kurdish immigrants arrived in the 1920s and 30s and by 1948 there were some 8,000 Kurds in the country. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, almost all the Jews of the Iraqi Persian and Turkish parts of historic Kurdistan were airlifted to the new state in 1950-51 in an operation known as “Magic Carpet.” Kurdish Jewish population in Israel is over 150,000.
I have a relative by marriage whose grandfather took his family to Israel on foot from his village in Kurdistan. The local Muktar (Chieftan) made it known that he wanted the Jewish man’s daughter for a wife to his son. The Jewish man knew that to refuse meant real danger and so, that very night he had his family prepare what they could carry. They all left in the middle of the night and walked to Israel over considerable terrain.
My husband's family arrived in Israel in 1948 and lived in a tent city until enough housing was built to accommodate them. They lived side by side Jews from Yemen, Morroco, Iraq, India, and more, as well as Holocaust survivors. They came with only what they could carry. They too were in a concentration camp in Libya-yes there were such in North Africa - read about the Nazi general Rommel and WWII in North Africa. My husband's family lost loved ones during that time and when they were finally allowed to go home, they, together with other Jews who lived there since the time of the first Temple in Jerusalem, were threatened by their Arab neighbors.
The history of Jews in Libya (and the rest of North Africa) is quite extensive, but in Libya, it ended in 1968 when the last of the Jews were expelled. Except one old woman who was later found in an old age home and since was brought to Israel and died and was buried here. Please note that my husband grew up in poverty. His fathers struggled to make a living. The basics for daily life were always cherished as everything came from hard work. But they were happy to be in their ancient homeland where they could live without fear for their lives.
My sister-in-law told me that when she was still in Libya, he urged her parent to come to Israel. It did not matter if it was only sand, it is the home that they had longed for. The first home they were moved to was a small one-room building in an area with no trees and mud when it rained. Today, that place has orchards and lovely homes. This small comment area is not a place to give their story sufficient justice, but I hope you get the idea.