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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

May 21, 2003

The Arab World's Refugees

While the question of the refugees is one of the major issues supposedly holding back the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, we should not forget or cast aside the Arab world's refugees of 1948--the Jewish ones, that is, from Arab lands. Hey, if the Palestinians will not let the past be forgotten, why should we?

My grandmother was born in Marakesh, Morocco, to a relatively wealthy family. When the Second World War broke out, her family was forced to move to Casablanca, and hid away from the violence that--thankfully, in her case--never came. Once the war was over, she walked across North Africa to Algeria, carrying her little sister who suffered from a heart-disorder on her back. From there they made it to France, trained with the socialist-Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair, and finally found refuge on a Kibbutz in Israel. Her parents later joined her, forced to leave all of their property and wealth in Morocco, making it with no more than the clothes on their back to Israel.

Her story is only one of the 900,000 Mizrahi or Sephardic Jews who were forcibly expelled from the Arab lands in the aftermath of WWII. As the oldest ethnicity of the Middle East, chronicling a 4,000 year history in the region, do these Jews not deserve the same rights that the World community would afford the 750,000 Palestinians who either fled or were forced out of their homes in 1948 during the encroachment of the Arab armies on the fledgling Zionist state?

Itamar Levin makes a number of good points in the Israeli Globes newspaper: Israel must take the initiative and fully chronicle the claims of Israel's Middle Eastern Jews. Only when there will be hard, official evidence will the State of Israel be able to put its claims up against the Palestinian claims of retribution. Such research has a more important goal, though: proving once and for all to the world that this is our region and our history, and that the Jewish people have no other place to call home.