Thursday, May 08, 2008

Happy Birthday all round!

Today Israel is celebrating its 60th anniversary. It's a magnificent achievement. Israel has grown from nothing to be a leader in so many fields. For the Jews of the Middle East, Israel was their refuge, the country which gave many of them full citizens' rights for the first time.

Point of No Return is also celebrating. It's been three years since this blog was set up (with the help of Joseph Alexander Norland) and we have clocked up almost 107,000 hits - 50,000 in the last six months. In the last five years, thanks to the Herculean efforts of the Justice for Jews from Arab Countries campaign, awareness has grown - especially among Israel's friends - of the plight of the Jews from Arab countries and Iran, and our story has penetrated the mainstream US media such as The New York Times. At the beginning of April, the US Congress adopted a resolution calling for Jewish refugees to be treated equally with Palestinian refugees. This was a major breakthrough.

In Europe it is a different story. The political and academic elites remain ignorant or in thrall to propaganda. Press and media coverage of Israel's 60 years has been distorted by the juxtaposition of the Palestinian 'nakba' alongside the story of Israel's miraculous birth - as if Israel was created at the expense of Palestinians.

Almost nothing has been said or written about the 'nakba' of almost one million Jews of the Middle East, 'ethnically cleansed' by state-sanctioned anti-Jewish decrees and their ancient communities destroyed. Tales of 'native' Palestinians evicted from their homes are invariably contrasted with the stories of Israeli 'interlopers' from Europe. Sometimes the Israelis profiled on the BBC 'came' from Yemen or Morocco, but, while no effort is usually spared to describe in graphic detail how Palestinians were expelled, there is no hint that the grandparents of Israeli Jews of Arab origin fled for their lives while the mob screamed 'Ytbah al-yahud'.

It is unfair that Israel’s quiet absorption of 600,000 of these refugees should not be news, while the grievances of an equal number of Palestinians –whose ‘refugee’ status in defiance of precedent and morality remains unquestioned 60 years on – have been kept alive and are given undue prominence.

In England, advocates of Israel's case have promoted the rights of Palestinians, in the belief - bolstered by opinion polls - that if Israel treated the Palestinians more fairly, Israel would be viewed in a more positive light. But this strategy is itself based on a one-sided and distorted understanding of the Middle East conflict in which the suffering and rights of half of Israel's Jews - victims of Arab Muslim antisemitism - are overlooked. Such distortions confirm Arab opinion in its sense of victimhood, and the prospects of peace and reconciliation recede even further.

So on this anniversary, we celebrate that much has been done, but much still remains to be done, in the name of truth and justice.

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