Two blogs argue that the Palestinians have hoodwinked the West into believing in the deception of the ‘right of return’ and the justice of their cause. Lyn Julius explains that the ‘right of return’ is a recipe for war, while Karen Hurvitz calls out the Palestinians on the ‘big lie’ of their victimhood. Both writers remark that the Palestinians are not unique in their displacement, and that we should speak of the Jewish refugees too:
Lyn Julius writes in her Jewish News/ Times of Israel blog: The idea that the refugees should return to Israel, and not to Palestine, runs counter to the two-state solution. What is the point of establishing a Palestinian state if the Palestinian refugees still cling to their ultimate objective of returning to Israel?
Apart from the fact that it would soon turn Israel into a majority-Arab state, little thought is given to the mayhem that such a return would produce. Refugee questions after such a long lapse of time have not been solved by return. The great majority of Palestinian refugees today never lived in the homes that they are programmed to ‘return’ to. Most might no longer exist. In 2010 the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Greek Cypriots who demanded to return to their properties in the northern part of the island now under Turkish-Cypriot control. As so much time had elapsed since 1974 when the Turks invaded the island, the Court ruled, in the words of Tel Aviv professor Asher Susser, that ‘it was necessary to ensure that the redress offered for these old injuries did not create disproportionate new wrongs’. If this was true for Cyprus since 1974 it is all the more true for Palestine since 1948.
But the issue of the Palestinian refugees needs to be seen alongside the parallel plight of the Jewish refugees, who fled Arab countries for Israel in roughly equal numbers at about the same time. A permanent exchange of refugee populations occurred. The last thing the Jews want is a ‘right of return’ to countries which remain as hostile and antisemitic as the day the refugees fled.
As long as the Right of Return is the cornerstone of the Palestinians’ strategy, the 650,000 Jewish refugees who fled from Arab lands to Israel remain its antidote. Yet the issue of the Jewish refugees is either denied or ignored. When Jewish and Palestinian ‘narratives’ are juxtaposed, the Jewish refugees remain invisible. When Fisk goes hunting for original Palestinian homes and the locks which fit the Palestinian keys, invariably he finds a Jew from Poland or Romania now occupying the Arab home, never a Jew from Yemen or Iraq. In other words, Jews did not come to Israel because they were fleeing Arab and Muslim antisemitism.The innocent Palestinian is ‘paying the price of the Nazi Holocaust’ – a European crime.
In the same breath as we speak about Palestinians who were displaced by the creation of Israel, so too should we speak of Jews who were forced to leave their homes in Arab countries. Massive exoduses of Jews took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s, mostly from Iraq, Yemen and Libya. At least 90 percent of those Jewish populations had to flee, forced to leave all of their possessions behind.
Overall, more than 850,000 Jews were kicked out of Arab lands and exactly zero of them claim refugee status today. Just between the years 1948 and 1951, 260,000 Jews from Arab countries immigrated to Israel and a few years later, following the 1956 Suez Crisis, another 25,000 Jews were expelled from Egypt. Israel is largely a country made up of Jewish refugees and their children, and these are the very people that a refugee organization now seeks to displace — other refugees!
Jews do not refer to the slaughters, pogroms, property confiscation and deportations they endured in Arab countries as nakbas (the Arabic word for catastrophes). Instead of using these slaughters and expulsions to drive their narrative, Jewish Israelis have chosen to build a country. None of them, including the Holocaust survivors who (to put it mildly) had the right to be heart-wrenchingly furious after losing most of their families, have ever returned to their countries of origin to throw bombs, stab civilians, run down people with vans, and commit other acts of terror and revenge.
We should take to heart the suggestion of Professor Ada Aharoni, chairman of The World Congress of the Jews from Egypt, who stated in his Ynet article “What about the Jewish Nakba?” that publicizing the expulsion of Jews from Arab states could aid the peace process. It would show the world — and the Palestinians — that they are not unique in their experience of displacement and that instead of destroying, they could just as easily redefine themselves as a nation that builds itself up in the face of displacement. Not only would this be a productive way to channel their nakba, but it would also dispel their necessity to channel Joseph Goebbels by continuing to propagate their “big lie.”