Sunday, March 18, 2007

Are US resolutions on Jewish refugees 'dangerous'?

Resolutions introduced in both the US Senate and House of Representatives last month - belatedly recognizing that there was once a Jewish refugee crisis in the Middle East - have been described as both 'promising' and 'dangerous'.

Ryan Jones blogs at that it is 'promising' that a body with as much influence as the US Congress is pushing the issue of the international community’s need to address the fact that hundreds of thousands of Jews were dispossessed and expelled by the Arab states they called home just 50-some years ago.

But it is 'dangerous' that Congress wants to tie that to recognition of the “rights of Palestinian refugees.”

He goes on to list the 'glaring differences' between the two cases:

1.The so-called “Palestinians” who were displaced during Israel’s War of Independence for the most part did not move more than 20 miles, and still found themselves surrounded by people sharing the same ethnicity, language, culture and religion. To call them “refugees” is somewhat disingenuous, to say the least.

2.The majority of displaced “Palestinians” became displaced because their own leaders ordered them to get out of the way so the Jews could be more easily finished off. Again, not “refugees,” but rather members of the Arab “Ummah” who unfortunately found themselves having to start over when their leaders and armies failed to defeat Israel.

3.The Jews, on the other hand, were the defenseless minority in their host nations, and were stripped of their possessions, persecuted and thrown out by their Arab overlords, necessitating in many cases a long and arduous journey to the only place they would be safe - the State of Israel. Once there, they did share a religion with those around them, but they had to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language in order to survive. The very definition of refugees.

4. Perhaps the most glaring difference between the Jewish refugees from Arab state and the “Palestinian refugees” is that the Jewish refugees were promptly resettled. And not only that, they were promptly resettled by a nascent state that didn’t really have the means to resettle them.

5.The “Palestinians,” meanwhile, have been forced to remain “refugees” by their Arab brothers for 50+ years! Additionally, their children have been labeled as refugees too!

There is no precedent for this, no other refugee situation that was ever dealt with by perpetuating the refugee status of the displaced and actually transferring it to their children and grandchildren.

The only explanation can be that the “Palestinian” refugee issue is not really a refugee issue at all, but a cynical diplomatic ploy to demonize the Jewish state and force it to allow its borders to be flooded with Arab Muslims.

This is what Congress needs to recognize in its resolutions.

The Jews long ago dealt with their own refugee problem. Now it’s time for the Arabs to do the same - or admit that there never was one to begin with.

Congress’ current course of action is only going to further legitimize the myth of the “Palestinian refugee.”

You are right, Ryan, and all you say is true. My own view, however, is that the issue of Jewish refugees is so far off the radar of public discourse and opinion about the Arab-Israeli conflict that tying the two refugee issues together can only be a positive development.

The issue of Jewish refugees is brought up all too rarely - I have never actually heard an Israeli government spokesman or commentator even mention it. When the issue does come up, too many people question whether the Jewish refugees are bona fide. They claim that the Jews emigrated willingly to Israel, or that 'Zionist agents' engineered their exodus.

It would be counterproductive to question whether the Palestinians are legitimate refugees at this stage. Let's get the Jewish refugees on the map. People need to know that there are two sides to this issue.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking to and replying to my original post.

I certainly did not mean to suggest that the Jewish refugee issue should be ignored. People absolutely should know about it.

But I must disagree about seeing this as a two-sided coin. I don't think that we should feel obligated to view the so-called "Palestinian refugees" as such in order to gain legitimacy for the Jewish refugees.

Even if "Zionist agents" assisted the Jewish exodus from Arab states, the Jews were still refugees by virtue of the fact they were fleeing before ill-treatment and persecution and coming to a strange land to participate in a strange culture that used a foreign language.

They were refugees in every sense of the word, and in those very same ways stand in stark contrast to those the world would have us view as "Palestinian refugees."

I would have no problem in terms of the peace process with tying the two refugee issues, so long as every demand being made on behalf of the "Palestinian" refugees was also made on behalf of the Jewish refugees. Of course, that would sink the whole debate, as the Arab states are never going to repatriate those 800,000+ Jews and their millions of descendants.

bataween said...

Thanks for your comment.
I know you are uncomfortable with the idea of any kind of equivalence, and so am I. But we have such a mountain to climb to get the Jewish refugees recognised, that tactically it must be a shrewd move to at least get both sets mentioned in the same breath.
People will then be able to draw their own conclusions and the debate can then move on.