There’s a great piece on refugees in the Times of Israel, by the Israeli son of Egyptian Jewish refugees. Daniel Haboucha rejects the recent effort by Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon to tie the Jewish refugees’ plight to that of the Palestinians refugees created by the Nakba in 1948. Haboucha concludes, “Danny Ayalon does not speak for me.”
The first paragraphs I excerpt call both refugee groups “victims of Zionism.” The last paragraph addresses my mother’s question to me, Why didn’t the Arab states absorb the Palestinian refugees?
[E]fforts to equate my “plight” today with the plight of a Palestinian of my age who grew up in a refugee camp (mere kilometers from my beautiful Jerusalem apartment) are manifestly absurd….
in drawing a direct parallel between the Jews who were forcibly dispossessed by Arab governments and the Palestinians, the Israeli government finally appears to be acknowledging its role in creating the Palestinian refugee crisis, with all of the political and diplomatic consequences this implies…. Israel’s founders knew long before 1948 that the establishment of a Jewish state in the heart of the Arab world would spell catastrophe for the Jews living in the region. In declaring Judaism to be a nationality, Zionism transformed Jews in Arab countries from members of a deeply rooted religious minority into “enemy nationals.” When made aware of the impending danger faced by the Jews of Iraq in the 1940s due to mounting hostility toward Zionism, David Ben Gurion felt responsible for the harm he suspected would befall them; he referred to these Arab Jews as potential “victims” of the Zionist movement (quoted in Meir-Glitzenstein “Zionism in an Arab Country” p. 140)….
Ayalon and his supporters note, correctly, that the Palestinian refugee problem could have been similarly put to rest had there been political will to integrate the refugees into other countries. In advancing this argument, however, Ayalon (himself the son of an Algerian refugee) fundamentally misunderstands — or willfully ignores — the nature of the problem. The Palestinian Nakba, as [Yehouda] Shenhav notes, is not a historic individual trauma rooted in personal loss; rather it is the ongoing, collective trauma of an entire nation being dispossessed of its homeland. Proposed solutions that fail to acknowledge and address this cannot hope to resolve the issue. While Jewish refugees have little interest in returning to their former homes (many Arab countries have indeed already invited them to return), Palestinian refugees are seeking collective redress through repatriation or remedial self-determination.