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

May 23, 2003

A contribution to the PR debate, by Celia

In connection with our debate on Israel's PR (see articles posted on Tursday and today), I received the submission below by e-mail. The letter is particular important because it highlights one of the major problems with pro-Israel advocacy: Israel fails to make her principal arguments known. The fate of the Jewish people who fled Arab lands should never have left the consciousness of people, and the same can be said for hundreds of similar points, big and small. Just the other day Israel captured yet another arms ship - the item has disappeared from the news even before it was reported; and who remembers the Karine A, or the sister-ship that was caught after the Karine A, as reported by ha'Aretz on May 17, 2002?

And now, Celia's letter:

I do feel that Israel has allowed the Palestinians to set the agenda and dictate the terminology of the conflict. The only way we will get out of this box is by shifting the focus to the plight of the Jews from Arab countries. This issue is hardly raised at all by Israel advocates. The following three main myths, peddled by the left and Palestinian sympathisers, can be quite easily exploded with reference to the plight of the Jews from Arab lands.

MYTH 1. That Israel is a state overwhelmingly made up of European and American Jews who moved into Palestine and displaced Middle Eastern natives.

The truth:

*More than half Israel's Jewish population are refugees from the Arab world and their descendants.

*Israel absorbed a number of Jewish refugees equal to, or in excess of, the Pal refugees. Some 900,000 refugees in all never received international recognition; nor did they get any compensation for their confiscated property. The Jewish refugees were displaced, not by war, but by a deliberate policy of harassment, intimidation and persecution.

*The Jews are the authentic natives of the Middle East, some communities going back 2,500 years. The Arabs are the interlopers, conquering the region as late as the 7th century. The loss of the Jews' rich heritage is immeasurable. Until their expulsion they made a huge contribution to the Arab world, culturally, economically and to scholarship.

*The 'right of return' for Palestinian refugees can only be considered in the context of the rights of the Jewish refugees. Since these Jews have no desire to return to despotisms where they were oppressed, the Palestinian demand is a non-starter. The world must recognise that what took place was an exchange of refugee
populations, as has taken place in countless other conflict situations.

MYTH 2. Historically Jews were well-treated in the Arab world. The current Arab hostility stems from the current conflict.

The truth:

*Although the Ottoman empire welcomed the Jews and many flourished in a tolerant atmosphere, there were sporadic outbreaks of violence against the Jews. Many regimes sympathised with the Nazis and consequently mistreated their Jews. For instance, a Nazi-inspired riot in 1941 against the Jews of Baghdad resulted in the deaths of 169 Jews.

*However successful the Jews were always 'dhimmi' - second class citizens before Islamic law. They were at the mercy of their rulers.

MYTH 3. Israel derives its moral legitimacy solely from the European persecution of the Jews, namely the Holocaust. The Arabs have been 'made to pay the price' for European antisemitism because Israel was created 'at their expense'.

The truth:

*Israel is just as much a by-product of Arab persecution. (Arguably, such is the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Muslim Arab states since they achieved independence, that, even without the conflict over Israel, the Jews would sooner or later have been driven out). Arab antisemitism has as much created the need for a haven for the Jews as has European antisemitism. The Arabs must face up to their responsibilities towards their Jews and admit that their appalling treatment of their Jews has created the need for a Jewish haven. It is entirely natural for this Jewish haven to be in the Middle East where the Jews have always lived.

Conclusion: The real tragedy or 'Naqba' of the Middle East is the 'ethnic cleansing' of the Arab world of its Jews.