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The forgotten refugees

Why are there no Jewish refugees?

(EXCITING NEWS: Have you heard our radio programme on PREMIER RADIO yet? You can hear past episodes here.)

Up until 1948, Jews had lived in most of the Arab Muslim countries of the Middle East. In most cases they had been there over 1000 years before Islam even existed. From 1947 hundreds of Jews in Arab lands were killed in government-condoned rioting, leaving thousands injured and millions of dollars in Jewish property destroyed. In 1948 Jews were forcibly ejected from Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, who confiscated property from the fleeing Jews worth tens of billions in today’s dollars. Of the 820,000 Jewish refugees created by this situation, 590,000 were absorbed by Israel.

All the facts presented so far are from an endlessly contested history. People have argued about these facts until the cows come home and have got nowhere in the process. So I’m now going to ask you to move on from the murkiness of endless debate and into the light of certainties.

The certainty is as clear cut as they come. You can witness it with your very eyes. It is a fact that cannot be contested. Palestinian refugees still exist, in camps, on the West Bank, in Gaza and elsewhere, why should this be?

The 820,000 Jewish refugees who were forcibly ejected from Arab countries where they had often lived for thousands of years were all welcomed and integrated into Israel or the Jewish world elsewhere, where they became full citizens. There are no Jewish refugee camps.

The 750,000 Arab refugees who were displaced in 1948, were largely placed into squalid refugee camps by fellow Arabs who had just gone to war (and lost) on their behalf but were unwilling to pay for the consequences. Incredibly, over 70 years later, more than a million of these poor people are still in these camps, despite billions of dollars of relief paid by rich Arab states, the United Nations, the EU and others. Where on earth has this money gone and why are they still in camps and not integrated into Arab society?

Palestinian Arabs are no doubt a peaceful, welcoming and gifted people, but they have been the greatest victims of the whole sorry affair, pawns in a wider struggle orchestrated by their powerful Arab brethren. For reasons known only to their political and religious masters, they have lived for two or three generations within the bounds of these camps. Isn’t a refugee camp meant to be a temporary home, as it has been for millions of refugees in other situations, until the people could be relocated to homes of their own? Not so here.

Palestinians were never allowed to be ‘ordinary’ refugees. They have been kept in a form of forced captivity for a sinister purpose. A purpose that has succeeded in transforming a peace-loving, gentle people into terrorist pariahs and has provided an atmosphere where it is considered holy and noble to send your young men and women out as living weapons of destruction to blow up other young men and women. What must this do to their national psyche, when suicide is seen as a positive ideal? Let’s be honest here and consider who is really responsible for this tragedy. It is not Israel. Can’t they see who their real enemy is?

But they lost their homeland, you may say. This is true, though, as I have suggested earlier, many would have been recent immigrants to the land, rather than having lived there for generations, as suggested by the propaganda; and of course, they were surrounded by oil-rich neighbours who shared their race, culture and religion. A homeland in Jordan, for example, would have been perfectly possible and logical. But let’s look at it in a wider context. When I walk the streets of Israel and look around I see people of every hue and shade, I hear accents ranging from the Russian Urals to the Hindu Kush. These are not people who have been born in this country; these are people who have relocated here, many as refugees. There is nothing unique about Palestinians. Let’s look at other recent refugee situations. Quoting from Encyclopaedia Brittanica:

The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the post-revolutionary civil war (1917-21) caused the exodus of 1,500,000 opponents of communism. Between 1915 and 1923 over 1,000,000 Armenians left Turkish Asia Minor, and several hundred thousand Spanish Loyalists fled to France in the wake of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. When the People's Republic of China was established in 1949, more than 2,000,000 Chinese fled to Taiwan and to the British crown colony of Hong Kong. Between 1945 and 1961, the year that the communist regime erected the Berlin Wall (opened 1989), over 3,700,000 refugees from East Germany found asylum in West Germany … The partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 resulted in the exchange of 18,000,000 Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from India--the greatest population transfer in history. Some 8,000,000-10,000,000 persons were also temporarily made refugees by the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 … During the 1980s and early '90s, the principal source of the world's refugees was Afghanistan, where the Afghan War (1978-92) caused more than 6,000,000 refugees to flee to the neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran. Iran also provided asylum for 1,400,000 Iraqi refugees who had been uprooted as a result of the Persian Gulf War (1990-91). The breakup of Yugoslavia, for example, displaced some 2,000,000 people by mid-1992.

Then, of course, the Jews themselves, over the last 3000 years, have been ‘relocated’ more times than you could count.

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