To the contrary of what Tzippi Livni claims, there is a direct linkage between the Palestinian refugee crisis and that of Jewish refugees from Arabic speaking countries.
The Jewish Press reported that Israeli chief negotiator Tzippi Livni stated, “There is no connection between the Palestinian refugees and the Arabic countries,” when asked about her position on Jewish refugees from Arabic speaking countries. As an Israeli citizen who happens to have a masters’ degree in Middle Eastern Studies, I must emphasize that this statement could not be further from the truth. Furthermore, if Israel’s chief negotiator truly believes this, then our whole negotiations with the Palestinians are being led by an individual who is quite removed from the Middle Eastern reality.
Aside from the fact that such statements undermine core Israeli positions that should be emphasized at every available possibility, her arguments purely don’t hold historical validity. Jerusalem Online News recently reported that Palestinian Grand Mufti Haj Amin Al Husseini, who orchestrated numerous terrorist attacks against Jews during the British Mandate period, “instigated the Farhud massacre that resulted in the slaughter of 800 members of the Baghdad Jewish community in 1941.” When World War II ended, the pro-Nazis forces within Iraq that committed the Farhud against the Iraqi Jewish community were released and led persecutions against the 2,600 year old Iraqi Jewish community that would ultimately lead to the community’s expulsion from the country.
The Iraqi Jewish community was not the only one within the Arab world to suffer directly as a result of Israel’s Independence and Palestinian objections to it. As Egypt’s delegate to the UN emphasized in 1947, “The lives of one million Jews living in Muslim countries will be jeopardized by partition.” Evidently, Arab leaders at the time of Israel’s establishment saw a direct link between the Palestine partition and the right of Jews to live safely within the Arab world. As the persecutions against Arabic-speaking Jews increased in the wake of the Palestinian refugee crisis, a linkage between Palestinian refugees and the Arabic countries should be indisputable.
Starting soon after the Egyptian delegate said this up through the 1960’s, anti-Jewish riots, massacres, property confiscations, official state-sanctioned discrimination and other abuses would compel the majority of Mizrahi Jews to leave the Arab world, where in some places their existence predated Islam itself. The number of Jewish refugees from Arabic speaking countries is estimated to be between 850,000 and 1,000,000, a number significantly higher than the 750,000 Palestinian refugees who fled the violence surrounding Israel’s establishment. In some countries, such as Iraq and Egypt, Jews were outright expelled, not even being given the option to remain.
Given that there is truly a direct correlation between the two refugee crisis’, an Israeli negotiator who truly cares about solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should politely tell the Palestinians, the Americans, and every one else who seeks to contribute towards Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations that there cannot be compensation for Palestinian refugees without Jewish refugees from Arabic countries receiving the same privilege. The linkage between the two refugee crises should be emphasized at every available opportunity and never dismissed by an Israeli official. An Israeli politician who doesn’t comprehend this basic Middle Eastern history should not be leading the peace negotiations with the Palestinians on the Israeli end. The cries, sorrow and pain of roughly half of the Israeli population is depending on it.
About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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