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Jewish refugees from Arab lands may be a factor in overall peace settlement

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–This is the time of Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. Appropriate to the season, I’ve received two e-mails with items that some may see as a bit too assertive for their taste. Yet they tell important elements of the Israeli narrative. It is not the whole story of the Middle East, but it is one that is as worthy of consideration as any Palestinian narrative. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nwI2hzPjrA          part one 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBHc0yvtrDw        part two

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp5_LddyVys       part three

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyaF0dXJdOE      part four

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TJfEf5UMSI          part five

http://new.ba-bamail.co.il/View.aspx?emailid=1318&memberid=687147

The five chapters of youtube deal with Jewish refugees from Arab lands. It’s a story of unknown weight in the unresolved disputes between Israel and Palestine plus other Muslim countries. Jewish refugees get far less attention than Palestinian refugees. Some may wonder if their story is nothing more than a chorus of the disaffected, like African-Americans who demand compensation for slavery. 

Should the suffering of Jewish refugees be ignored only because they have become integral to Israeli society, with countless stories of success, as well as comprising some 50 percent of the population (a statistic that is increasingly difficult to calculate due to substantial intermarriage)? If Jewish refugees are largely ignored, why not also ignore the claims of Palestinians who call themselves refugees? Does the failure of Arab countries to absorb them justify political prominence and their continued weight on the budgets of international aid organizations?

The production of these chapters is dated by the snippet devoted to the Iranian-born President of Israel, Moshe Katsav. Here he is presented as what became of an impoverished refugee. The less attractive Katsav story was yet to be told. 

The second item deals with the disproportionate treatment given to allegations about Israeli violations of human rights. No less instructive than the speaker representing United Nations Watch is the response of the chairman of the UN Human Rights Council. He considers the young man’s accusations to be nothing more than an intolerable insult against the fine work of the UNHRC.  

Some Jews want the return of assets that had to be left behind elsewhere in the Middle East. Many want only a recognition of the injustice done to communities that existed for as long as 2,500 years in places that came to be dominated by Muslims. Some want to cancel the obligations owed to Jews as the equivalent of canceling the obligations said to be owed by Israel to the Palestinians.   

Memorial Day and Independence Day will provide the Israeli government more of a respite before answering the renewed demands of the White House and State Department for responses about negotiations with the Palestinians. The Americans want to hear about easing the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, West Bank settlements, and Jerusalem. 

As I wrote this note, I was hearing the rehearsal in the elementary school yard next door for the evening ceremony that begins Memorial Day. These are days that prompt some Israelis to harden their postures with respect to Arabs, and others to insist even more forcefully on the need for an accommodation. 

Justice will be elusive. The strengths of competing narratives may prevent any accommodation now, as they have for more than a century that has seen occasional spurts of intense debate, and longer periods of international indifference. Neither Barack Obama’s well measured reasoning, nor Hillary Clinton’s screeching may accomplish  what has eluded generations of their predecessors.  

Ed Koch and several other prominent Americans have weighed in against what they perceive to be the White House’s disproportionate pressure on Israel. A common message is that the administration has insulted a friend while coddling those who support terror.  

http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/WTARC/2010/ss_israel0229_03_22.asp

A month ago, General David Petraeus was quoted as saying that Israeli intransigence was endangering American troops in Asia. Either he had an epiphany, or he got a message from here on earth. More recently he has said that “the men and women who walked or were carried out of the death camps, and their descendants . . . helped build a nation that stands as one of our great allies. The survivors have, in short, made our country and our world better, leaving lasting achievements.”

http://www.centcom.mil/en/from-the-commander/gen.-petraeus-remarks-at-the-holocaust-memorial-museum-national-day-of-rememberance-commemoration.html

Perhaps we are ratcheting down from intensity, and heading for  indifference.
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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

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