In this complex picture a critical historical element is always missing, even though it alone is a living challenge to the Palestinian manipulation of history. If around 600,000 Palestinians underwent displacement to Arab states (which had declared war on Israel), having left or having been driven out (in time of war!), about 900,000 Jews were despoiled and driven out of 11 Muslim countries.
They do not have inferior rights to the Palestinians because they are Jews. They were part of the local populations during the Islamic invasions of the seventh century and were transformed into foreigners in the countries where they lived.
Their departure and the shock of their displacement does not date from the establishment of Israel but well before, since the beginning of the 19th century when the oppressed peoples of Islam (Greeks, Armenians, Christians in Lebanon, etc.) began to cultivate projects of national liberation in the declining Ottoman Empire. These ended in blood, except for the Greeks who already won independence in 1827 in the Ottoman-ruled Balkans.
Zionism fit into these movements long before the creation of the state. It arose in the Sephardic world, where Rabbi Yehuda Alkalay of Sarajevo, who lived in the Balkans as they were achieving emancipation from the Turks, invented the Zionist endeavor before Herzl. This history has remained the big secret of the Israeli narrative and, of course, the main concealment of the Palestinian narrative, since the latter cannot accurately claim that Israelis are foreigners who came from Europe because of a European genocide.
No, the Sephardim, a majority of the Israeli population since the 1950s, come from the same world as the Palestinians by virtue of a persecution perpetrated by the Arab-Muslim states themselves.The Palestinians had been the active accomplices of these persecutions since the 1928 pogroms in Mandatory Palestine under the leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem. Both in the Arab-Muslim world (as the leader of Arab, and not “Palestinian,” nationalism) and in the European world – as a Nazi dignitary and founder of an SS corps of Muslims in the Balkans – the Mufti actively pursued the extermination of the Jews in Europe and actively prepared for that of the Jews of the Middle East.
The latter enterprise failed because of the Nazi defeat at El Alamein in Egypt; the plans to build crematoria in the Dothan Valley in Samaria had been drawn up.
This main concealment, the “repressed” of the Middle Eastern conflict, poses a question that remains without an answer: Why did the Israeli leadership ban this history from the corpus of the legitimacy of the state of Israel? What does this reveal about its relationship to its own legitimacy? The question of the Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, like that of the Jews of Europe, is a political and national question and not only one of victimhood. Why did the Israeli leadership exclude from the definition of the Israeli nation this population and this story?
Professor Shmuel Trigano
Was it to preserve the character of absolute victimhood that the Shoah imparted to its existence, thereby maintaining its nonpolitical character, which would imply that Israel is not a sovereign state sui generis even though that is the precondition of all sovereignty?
The story of the liquidation of the Jews from the Arab-Muslim world confers a historical, political, regional, and national meaning, internal to the Arab-Muslim world, on the history of these same Jews, who have become the majority in the state of Israel and are therefore the true interlocutors of the Palestinians with respect to the controversy about the “original sin.”
They too have the keys to their houses from which they were driven out; they too were despoiled, and infinitely more than the Palestinians! The Palestinians’ claims against Israel do not impress them; they reinforce all the more their own political, national, and financial claims.
Those who find themselves accused of colonialism and of racism, of the “original sin,” are the very people whom the Arab-Muslim world, with the complicity of the Palestinians, discriminated against, persecuted, and drove from their homes, and who found in Israel an opportunity to recover.9
That is the fundamental question to pose to the “Left” of the Jewish world and specifically to the Israeli Left. I do not tackle here the question to be posed to the West (where the Nakba has become the certificate of victimhood and of the “morality” of Western anti-Zionism and militant Islamism, the moral Trojan horse of the Islamic political intervention in democracies) and to the Arabs themselves (though it is now starting to be asked, it seems, in the Gulf states).
The concealment of what I propose to call the “liquidation” (Hisul) of the Sephardic world – besides the Shoah and the Nakba, two original terms conserved in a foreign language to give what they are designating a mysterious and unthinkable character – is the result of a repression, a structural blindness.
The story of the Hisul indeed calls into question the interpretation of the Shoah as exclusively concerning victimhood, which is the one the European Union privileges, just as it destroys the myth of the Nakba.
It also undermines the moral premise of postcolonialism, a late usufruct of the two narratives combined – turned, of course, against Israel, but mainly against the postcolonial West. The Hisul shatters the presumption of the innocence of the Arab-Muslim (namely, Palestinian) world and of the ex-colonies (starting with the fact that the ethnic cleansing, i.e., the expulsion and persecution of all of their Jews, constituted the new Arab nation-states following their decolonization). It shatters the nonpolitical, victimhood-based interpretation of the Shoah, the implicit source of the accusations against Israel (racism, apartheid, Nazism) that are made in its name.