Dan Bielak has written a piece entitled It's about Standing Up for the Human Rights of the Jewish People that I would like to take a little time exploring. It is one of Dan's persistent themes that what those of us who care about the well-being of Israel must do is simply tell the truth of the Jews in the Middle East.
I must admit that when someone starts speaking to me about the truth I tend to cringe because I recognize the inherent subjectivity and inevitable bias in considering truth in history, much less politics. The most important book to date on the difficulties of historical and academic objectivity is Peter Novick's That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession.
Nonetheless, and Novick would agree, most in the social sciences recognize "truth" as an ideal to be striven towards and not something to be prostituted in the service of politics. I want, therefore, to hold Dan's piece out as a reference for further discussion and intend to do so by highlighting, as the spirit moves me going forward, some of his bullet points.
Today, let's look at this.
Refugees caused by the conflict between the Muslim Arab states in the Middle East and Israel: Approximately 400,000 to 700,000 Arab refugees from Israel; Approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jewish refugees from Muslim states in the Middle EastI don't know about these numbers, really, but they are reasonably close to the ones that normally get bandied about. I know of no reputable study that comes close to a definitive statement on the numbers, but that doesn't mean such a study is not out there. Generally we read about 700,000, or so, refugees from both sides, with the Jewish side being somewhat higher.
I guess one question to ask would be, do the people who form and spread opinions about the Arab-Israel conflict know about the Jewish refugees? The Jewish nakba, if you will. I do not know the answer to that question.
Directly after the Holocaust, and right on the heels of the establishment of Israel, the Arab countries chased out their Jews. People were killed and property was absconded from Jews all throughout the Middle East so that now there are virtually no Jews left throughout that part of the world other than in Israel. These Jewish refugees were absorbed into Israeli society and therefore are not refugees any longer and certainly their children are not.
The Arab refugees, of course, were put up in camps by the surrounding Arab nations who use them, generation upon generation, as pawns in their ongoing war against Jewish sovereignty on Jewish land to this day.
I do not know the extent to which people know this, including people who persistently spit hatred and fire at the Jewish state of Israel. But if they do know it then they are moral hypocrites. If they don't know it, perhaps they should learn a little more history before spouting their righteous opinions in the public sphere.
In any case, Dan is right on the money when he says that this whole issue is about standing up for the human rights of the Jewish people. That is precisely what this is about. Over the recent decades the Arabs have successfully portrayed their ongoing aggression against the Jews in the Middle East as a matter of the "national liberation of the Palestinian people."
Before that they simply spoke of pushing the Jews into the sea and before that we were dhimmis under Muslim imperial rule.
I just find it remarkable that 13 centuries of Jewish oppression in the Middle East seems to have been airbrushed out of popular knowledge. Although dhimmitude varied in different times and different places it always represented second or third class citizenship for Mizrahi within Muslim societies.
And this must be recognized as a big part of the context out of which Israel emerged.