Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A useful backgrounder on Arab and Jewish refugees

This background article on Arab and Jewish refugees by Gilead Ini of CAMERA has some useful data on the Jews who were forced out of what later became known as 'Arab East Jerusalem' and the West Bank. Ini also summarises the plight of Jews driven from Arab countries, who still seek acknowledgement and redress.

"Although relatively overlooked, a large number of Jews — over 800,000 — became refugees during and after Israel's war for independence. An overwhelming majority were driven from their homes in the Arab world, a result of anti-Jewish sentiment amplified by the war. Others lost their homes in British Mandate Palestine as a direct result of the fighting — they either fled or were captured by Arab troops as the armies of neighboring states overran and destroyed their villages.

"Jewish Refugees from Mandate Palestine: The number of Jews who lost their homes within the territory of Mandate Palestine as a direct result of the fighting was significantly less than the number of Arabs who fled from the region. In large part, this was because Arab armies failed to capture many Jewish towns, thus allowing many of the roughly 10,000 Jewish evacuees who fled the fighting to return to their homes after the war. It was also because, in the words of Palestinian leader Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, "[t]he Palestinians had neighboring Arab states which opened their borders and doors to the refugees, while the Jews had no alternative but to triumph or to die."

"Still, in some cases Jews fled their homes when it became clear their village was on the verge of being lost to Arab forces. For example, women and children were evacuated from Gush Etzion, a block of four villages southwest of Jerusalem, as the situation there started to deteriorate. At Yad Mordechai and Kfar Darom, in the south, residents escaped just before the Egyptian army captured and destroyed the towns. The village of Atarot, north of Jerusalem, was evacuated under fire, its residents escaping on foot to Neve Yaakov. When the Arab Legion attacked Neve Yaakov the following day, the residents of that town fled and, along with the displaced from Atarot, found refuge in Hadassah Hospital.

"Jewish villages who did not flee before Arab forces gained control of their town were generally removed from their homes and held as prisoners of war. Prisoners from areas that remained under Arab control after the war were eventually transferred to Israel, where they had to find new homes. For example, residents of the Gush Etzion villages of Mesuot Yitzhak, Ein Tzurim and Revadim, which came under the control of the Arab Legion, were taken captive and resettled in new Israeli villages after the war. (The residents of the fourth Gush Etzion village, Kfar Etzion, were almost all massacred by Arab gunmen.)

"The surrender of Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter to Arab Legion troops was immediately followed by the exile from the ancient city of roughly 1,300 Jews. Almost 300 others — males of fighting age — were taken captive. The impossibility of keeping a Jewish presence in the Old City, which had been inhabited by Jews from time immemorial, was underscored by the Arab mobs that marched on the departing residents and on a hospital housing severely injured Jews, only to be held off by the well-disciplined Arab Legion. The Jewish Quarter was ransacked and burned.

"Even when Israel regained control of a captured village by the end of the war, residents generally could not return to their homes, as they were destroyed by the Arab conquerors. The residents of Mishmar Hayarden, for example, were taken into captivity by Syrian troops, who then destroyed the village before Israel regained control. The same happened when Nitzanim was overrun by Egyptian troops.

"Jewish Refugees from the Arab World:Between 1948 and 1951, as a result of the War of Independence, about 400,000 Jewish refugees were absorbed by Israel after being driven from their homes from Arab lands. In total, well over 800,000 Jews indigenous to Arab and Muslim countries lost their homes and property following Israel's independence, roughly 600,000 of whom found refuge in Israel. Although the number of Jewish refugees and the total area of their lost land exceeded that of their Arab counterparts, the vaguely similar number of Jewish and Arab refugees has led some to describe the exodus of the two groups as a de facto population transfer.

"With the UN's 1947 decision to partition Palestine, the Jewish community in Iraq, which only a few years earlier had suffered a devastating pogrom, faced a new wave of harsh persecution.

"The Iraqi government adopted what author and journalist Edwin Black described as "Nazi confiscatory techniques," levying "exorbitant fines as punishment for trumped-up offenses." Zionism was made a criminal offense. As Arab countries invaded the newly declared Jewish state, the Iraqi police ransacked Jewish homes and arrested hundreds of Jewish citizens. Hundreds more were dismissed from their public jobs. Crippling restrictions targeted Jewish commerce and travel. The government seized Jewish property, cut off municipal services to Jewish neighborhoods, and shut down Jewish newspapers

"Researcher Esther Meir-Glitzenstein explained that "what had begun as voluntary emigration turned into an expulsion." Eventually, about 120,000 people — almost the entire Jewish community — would escape the oppression, with little more than the clothes on their backs.

"A similar scenario played out in Egypt. The events of 1948 brought a revival of anti-Jewish sentiment, complete with anti-Jewish riots and murders, the confiscation of Jewish property, legal restrictions affecting the employment of Jews and mass arrests. This prompted a wave of Jewish flight from the country, a trend that only increased in the decade that followed.

"Violent anti-Jewish rioting in Yemen in the wake of the UN partition plan help spur tens of thousands of Yeminite Jews to leave their homes and migrate to Israel as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Murderous pogroms in Morocco in 1948 and 1953, and in Libya in 1945 and 1948, yielded similar results."

Read article in full

1 comment:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Gilad Ini should add that the first people driven out of their homes in Israel in the 1947-49 War of Independence --and who could not go home after the war-- were Jews from the Shim`on haTsadiq neighborhood north by northeast of Orient House and the American Colony Hotel. They were driven out near the end of December 1947. The nearby Nahalat Shim`on quarter was evacuated by the British after an Arab attack had been repulsed by the residents and the British came and confiscated the Jews' guns. The nearby Siebenbergen Houses quarter was evacuated by the Jews not long after. This was before the Deir Yassin battle [not a massacre, although non-combatants were killed]. These Jews could not go home after the war since these quarters were under Arab Legion [Transjordanian] control, while that part of Jerusalem was dubbed by Arabs and their partisans as "traditionally Arab East Jerusalem."

However, Jews in south Tel Aviv, driven out by sniper shooting from the mosques in Jaffa in Dec 1947-Jan 1948, were able to return home after the war.