Jewish Refugees

11 Apr

Passover marks the birth of the Jewish nation 3,300 years ago – the Exodus from Egypt – which left millions of Jews as refugees. Yet we persevered, innovated, and built a flourishing new home in the land of Israel. It was, by all estimates, the most successful refugee settlement enterprise in human history. 

This got me thinking about events 60 years ago, when 850,000 Jews were forced from their homes in countries like Iraq, Morocco, Yemen and – ironically – Egypt. They made their way to Israel, where they were successfully resettled, and today form the core of the modern State of Israel.

Now, the Israeli government is reiterating a demand that the Arab League acknowledge responsibility for expelling these Jews from Arab countries and turning them into refugees.

Over the years, the media has been incredibly near-sighted in promoting only the Palestinian half of the refugee story. For example, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed declaring that “All refugees have the right to return… that cannot be negotiated away.” And when the 2011 WikiLeaks diplomatic cables showed that peace negotiations had achieved progress in solving the Palestinian refugee issue, the London Guardian reacted not with joy, but rather by castigating Palestinian leaders for not adopting a sufficiently hard-line stance. (See here and here.)

So as we celebrate the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, it’s a good time to reflect on the modern refugee issue. Here’s an excellent backgrounder from Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon:


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