“Nakba” is the phrase Arabs use to refer to the creation of Arab refugees from the British Mandate of Palestine created during the civil war and then Arab armies invasion after Arabs rejected the U.N. General Assembly 1947 Partition Plan.
Had the Arabs accepted that plan, there would have been an Arab state created in 1947. Since Jordan was created from most of the original Mandate, the Partition Plan would have given Arabs the supermajority of the land. Instead, the Arabs declared holy war on the Jews, and lost the civil war and 1948 War.
In the course of that loss, hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled, then were kept in refugee camps by other Arabs, and have been kept as non-citizens in those Arab countries pending the destruction of Israel.
The there was another “Nakba” resulting from the Arab rejection of Israel.
The story of 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries has been told here many times, but rarely is discussed in the public debate over the Middle East.
- Oh, those refugees whose property was taken
- Israel double-dares Arabs to seek compensation for refugees
- The other Nakbah: The ethnic cleansing of Jews in the Arab world
The silence on the Jewish Nakba is changing.
The Knesset decided only this year to set aside a special day, November 30, to mark the Jewish Nakba. Most school children in Israel know about what was done to the Jews of Kishinev and also about what was done to the Arabs in Deir Yassin.
But most Israeli students don’t know about Jewish Nakba. They don’t know about a long series of pogroms and massacres perpetrated against Jews in most Arab countries. The Kishinev pogroms in 1906 claimed the lives of 29 Jews. A year later, in pogroms in Morocco, 50 Jews were murdered in the city of Settat, and another 30 were killed in Casablanca.
How many high school students know about them? And how many know about the pogrom in Aden in 1948 in which 82 Jews were murdered? And how many know about the hundreds more who were killed during that period in Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Libya only because they were Jews?
The “narratives” have taken control of the university campuses and school system. On their behalf, Israeli students are told “the other side’s version of the story.” Not that one should belittle the pain of the Palestinians. God forbid. The thing is that there is nothing unique about the Palestinian story in particular. People fled. Some were deported too. But where were things any different?
Canadian Human Rights lawyer Irwin Cotler writes, It’s time to remember the Jewish refugees:
Israel is observing the first annual National Day of Commemoration to mark the “exile and expulsion of Jews from Arab states and Iran.” The law establishing this commemorative day – adopted by the Knesset on June 23, 2014 – in part requires the Minister of Foreign Affairs to instruct Israel’s embassies abroad to “increase international awareness and recognition of the Jewish refugees from Arab states and Iran and their right to compensation……
Significantly, some Governments and Parliaments have made welcome progress on this question, such as the U.S. Congress in adopting legislation recognizing the plight of Jewish refugees and requiring that the issue be raised in any and all talks on Middle East peace. Recently, the Canadian government affirmed the Canadian Parliament’s recommendation for the recognition of the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Democratic parliaments should hold hearings on the issue to ensure public awareness and action, to allow for victims’ testimony, and to right the historical record.
The exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from Arab countries continues to prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties and a just and lasting peace between them. Let there be no mistake about it: Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace – which we all seek.
The one-sided presentation of the 1947-1948 refugee problem is part of the problem. It has nurtured the destructive Palestinian narrative of exclusive victimization which feeds rejectionism and violence.
There were two Nakbas. Remember both of them.
Update: Also read The Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands: Toward Redressing Injustices on All Sides from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, for detailed background.DONATE
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