comment by Jerry Gordon

chesnoffhead.jpgThe Forgotten Refugees they are called. Watch the trailer for the film about their plight and story, here. They are the more than 900,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands after the start of Israel’s War for Independence in 1948. Richard Cheznoff in this Jewish World Review article compares and contrasts the success of absorption of Jews expelled from Arab lands with properties confiscated estimated at being worth over $200 billion today, with the failure to absorb 500 to 600,000 Palestinian Arab refugees ,now grown to over 4 million, huddled in those eyesores-the UNWRA refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and, as we found recently, Iraq. The forgotten Jewish refugees from Arab lands were absorbed by the world Jewish community in Israel and the West without a penny of assistance from the UN or from the US government. Contrast that with the annual half billion budget for the UNWRA eyesores teaching Arab children to hate and harboring terrorists on the payrolls. The UNWRA program has been going onb for over 60 years, with most of the donations coming from Western countries and minimal amounts from wealthy Arab oil sheikdoms. Why our government donates $150 million annually to maintain the third generation of Arab refugees and their descendants from the 1948 Arab Israeli War in these UNWRA camps is beyond comprehension. Save for one aspect. It is propaganda to put the guilt of their alleged expulsion onto the West to force a peace agreement with Israel with billions in compensation, something Saudi Arabia and the wealthy oil Sheikdoms could take care of in a nanosecond, but won’t. Why? Because that would mean recognition of the Jewish state in their midst.

by Richard Z. Cheznoff, Jewish World Review, July 24, 2008

Israel’s birth 60 years ago produced two refugee problems that still haunt us. One we all know about: the flight of some 650,000 Palestinian Arabs from what is now the Jewish state. Most fled out of fear of war, others because they were urged to make way for “victorious” Arab armies, and some — but certainly not most — because Israeli troops drove them out in the heat of battle.

Most other mid-20th century refugee problems were quickly settled (the millions who simulataneously fled Pakistan and India, for example). But the Arab refugee problem has merely festered. Eager to maintain the Jewish character of its sliver of Mideast land, Israel allowed only a handful to repatriate. No Arab state has ever granted them a permanent home, let alone citizenship . Instead, masses of Palestinian refugees have been kept permanently penned up inside overcrowded refugee camps, living off massive international welfare doles, playing the political pawn, and waiting for Israel to die so they can invoke their “Right of Return”. According to UN sources, Palestinian refugees now number more than 4 million.

Compare that to the other, lesser know refugee crisis that coincided with Israel’s birth — the forced exodus of some 900,000 Jews from their centuries old homes in the Arab world; from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Aden, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia , Algeria and Morocco.

These were communities rich in culture, with their own Judeo dialects and traditions, their own rich religious literature, thought and scholars.

To be sure, Jews in the Arab world were occasionally subject to outbreaks of violence, forced conversion and never accepted as anything but Dhimmi — protected second class citizens. Still, this vast Jewish community flourished, most especially in the late fifteenth century when thousands of Sephardic Jews fled the persecutions of Spain and the rest of southern Europe for the relative peace of the Islamic world.

By 1947, close to a million Jews lived in the Arab world. Many played primary roles in local economies, global trade, and medicine. Some became senior advisors to Emirs and Sultans and helped enrich the cities of the Arab world ((EG Baghdad’s pre 1948 Chamber of Commerce was 50% Jewish).

The historic decision to establish the State of Israel changed all that. Outraged by the idea of a Jewish state in their midst, the Arab world turned against its Jews, targeting them with legislated discrimination, government sponsored anti-Semitic riots and murderous pogroms. Faced with growing threats, outright violence and government moves to completely disenfranchise them, close to 900,000 Jews were forced to abandon their ancient homes.

Almost all were allowed to leave only on condition they signed agreements never to return and — most important — to leave their property and belongings behind. Recently uncovered documents indicate that much of this massive theft was a coordinated scheme by several Arab governments to grab Jewish property worth as much as $100 billion.

Today, with the exception of small communal pockets in Morocco, the Arab world is effectively Judenrein. Egypt which once had 180,000 Jews now has only a handful of mostly aged Jews living in Cairo and Alexandria; Iraq which had 160,000 Jews now has 20, Libya and most other Arab states have none.

But here comes the difference between the fates of Arab and Jewish refugees. While the corrupt Arab world condemned Palestinian Arabs to statelessness, squandered chance after chance to make peace with Israel and stole mega-millions in welfare funds, the Jewish state and the world Jewish community worked tirelessly to resettle its fellow Jews from Arab lands. More than half a million have settled in Israel where, after early years of economic and sometimes social hardship, they and their descendants have been successfully integrated and now form more than 50% of the Jewish population. Others found new homes in South America, Western Europe, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada — rebuilding lives while trying to retain their own unique cultural ties and communal institutions.

Most important, not a single Jew from the Arab world remains a “refugee”, not one lives in a squalid camp or demands a “Right of Return” to the Arab world. Above all, not one angry Arab Jewish terrorist has ever strapped a suicide bomb to his or her waist and climbed aboard an Arab bus to murder dozens of innocents.

Next time someone moans to you about the plight of Arab refugees, remind them that there still is another way. And that compensation works in two directions.

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