Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Better Late Than Never

For years Palestinian refugees, as in those who fled when the State of Israel was created in 1948, have been une cause célèbre in the world press, at the United Nations, and in the world community in general. We rarely if ever heard about the much larger number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries in the wake of World War II. That is finally changing. On 24 May The New Republic published a piece by Joseph Braude titled The Jewish Refugee Problem: Due Recognition. He says, in part:
Later this week, a bipartisan group of senators and congressmen are expected to introduce a resolution that would make the Arab-Israeli conflict a little easier to resolve--by making it a little more complicated to discuss. The resolution urges the president to make sure that, during international discussions on refugees in the Middle East, "any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees is matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity." Sponsors of the measure include everyone from Rick Santorum on the right to Dick Durbin on the left, and a number of congressmen and senators in between.

The resolution constitutes a long-overdue acknowledgment of a tragedy which, for decades, Arab states have denied and the international community has ignored. Nine hundred thousand Jews have been forced to flee their homes in Arab countries and Iran since the years leading up to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. (Most left in two waves--immediately before or after Israel's independence, and during the years following the Six Day War.) Some were deported outright; others faced widespread campaigns of violence and intimidation so unbearable as to render their ancestral homelands unlivable.

This recognition has been a long time coming, and it is better late than never.

Ariel Beery, writing in Blogs of Zion a couple of days later, adds:
The current identification of those Arabs who lived in the Mandate (Palestinians and Jordanians and other groups who self-identify in diverse ways) as the only victims of the post-World War Two shake-up is ridiculous. It's time we realize that there were many victims of the war of 1948--and both sides deserve to have a State of their own as a way of repairing those wounds over time.

This is, indeed, an answer to those who claim Israel was founded strictly by European invaders and those who try to delegitimize Israel. 42% of Israel's population are sephardim, these Jewish refugees and their descendants.

It is also high time that the world starts to recognize that the blame for the ongoing Palestinian refugee problem rests largely with the Palestinians themselves and their Arab brethren. It is they who insist that the refugees remain in camps (actually slums within cities) and forbid them to resettle, own land, or take jobs elsewhere in the territories or the Arab world. The Palestinian and wider Arab leadership perpetuate the suffering of their own people for political reasons, namely to blame Israel and foster sympathy abroad and to have a fertile ground in which to sow hatred and breed terrorists. This needs to change if there is ever to be peace in the Middle East.

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