CiF’s ‘Jewish naqba denial’

This is a guest post from Bataween of Point of No Return

It’s easier to condemn Comment is Free for what it does than for its sins of omission. And for a site that focuses disproportionately on Middle Eastern issues, CiF is remarkably coy about the forgotten Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
There were more Jewish refugees fleeing from Arab countries after 1948 than Palestinian Arabs from Israel. There were more of them, they lost more and suffered more.
But only rarely have Jewish refugees been the subject of attention at Comment is Free. Coinciding with a conference in London in June 2008, Matt Seaton allowed Lyn Julius to put the case for Jewish refugees. But he also got David Cesarani, an academic not known for his expertise in this field, bizarrely to argue that Jews who fled Arab countries should not have their suffering compared to ‘the misery of the Palestinians’. Rachel Shabi, the Guardian’s pet Mizrahi, was then wheeled out to deny that Jewish refugees were refugees at all – in fact most were Zionists who left of their own free will – an argument which she contradicts in some of her other writings.  It’s a classic CiF strategy: obscure, confuse, and de-construct historical fact.
The denial of what is being increasingly becoming known as the ‘Jewish naqba’ is central to the Guardian’s agenda.
On no account must  the ‘de facto’ exchange between roughly equal numbers of Arab and Jewish refugees be permitted to challenge the Palestinians’ exclusive claim to victimhood.
On no account must the successful integration of the majority of Jewish refugees in Israel and elsewhere be mentioned. This would undermine the ‘sacred’ right of return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. It would be disastrous if the reader twigged that Palestinian refugees could just as easily be resettled – if not more easily – in Arab host countries.
On no account must the idea that the Jews in Israel are anything other than ‘white’ interlopers from Europe, engaged in a colonial  adventure in Palestine, be challenged. The whole edifice of Guardian groupthink crumbles once you introduce the notion that around half the population of Israeli Jews  come from ‘indigenous’ communities in the ‘Arab’ world predating Islam by 1,000 years.
Commenters on CiF fervently believe that Jews only came to Israel from Arab countries as immigrants, or were forced to flee by ’Zionist bombs’. This ‘Zionist conspiracy’ conveniently lets Arab governments off the hook for the state-sanctioned persecution of their Jews.
Some commenters admit that violence and Arab antisemitism did force the Jews out, but that it was an ’excusable backlash’ provoked by Israel’s creation. Before 1948, Jews and Muslims ‘lived in perfect harmony’. The word ‘dhimmi’ – the condition of institutionalised humiliation of 14 centuries of Jewish and Christian life under Islam – is virtually unknown on CiF.
On the rare occasions that Jews from Arab countries feature on Comment is Free, they do so as ‘Arab Jews or Jewish Arabs’ –  fellow victims of the ruling Ashkenazim, united in discrimination with the Palestinians. It is Zionism which has driven an artificial wedge between ‘Arab Jews’ and ‘Muslim Arabs’. (See the writings of Khaled Diab here and discussed here and Rachel Shabi here) Yet another reason for CiF to endorse the one-state solution, where the Jews can revert to the idyll of their minority existence in Arab lands.
Jewish refugees are at the heart of the Middle East conflict. Stuck in its one-sided cheerleading for Palestinian refugees, by its ‘Jewish naqba denial’,  the Guardian is skewing the ‘narrative’. Surely its readers deserve better?

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