CiF’s Pankaj Mishra, refugees, and the selective empathy of the Guardian Left

Expelled Iraqi Jews arrive in Israel in 1951

Imagine how the Algerian government would respond if descendants of the 140,000 innocent Jews who were forced to flee that country after 1948 decided to storm the Algerian border.

How would Egypt respond if descendants of their ethnically cleansed Jews – who once numbered 75,000 and are now down to 100 – stormed Egypt’s border along the Sinai? How would the Egyptian military government respond to an assault on their border by Jews demanding to re-establish the Cairo synagogues in the once proud and flourishing Jewish communities there?

What if Jews whose families were expelled from Tunisia – a Jewish community which once numbered 105,000 and is now, after they were expelled for no reason other than they were Jewish, are down to 1,500 – decided to set sail along the Mediterranean Sea and disembarked at a Tunisian city in the port of Cape Don demanding that they be allowed back into the country to claim property which was stolen from them?

Of course, such scenarios could be played out in any number of the Arab countries who expelled their Jewish population (Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, or even Syria, once home to 30,000 Jews, and now numbering less than a 100) – whose total numbers use to be close to a million, and who, following forced expulsions, now number less than 19,000.

There is, to be sure, no doubt about the brutality which would be used by Arab regimes faced with Jews storming their borders. One need only look at the brutal crackdown against their own civilians in non-violent protests which have taken place in cities in Libya, Tunisia and Syria to get a sense of how “foreign” Jews who threatened their national sovereignty would be treated.

Yet, Pankaj Mishra, “In India and Israel, the burden of protest falls on the victims of injustice, CiF, June 6), like the overwhelming majority of Guardian writers, and CiF contributors, can not be burdened with the concept of justice for Jews who were ethnically cleansed from Arab lands, as the 900,000 or so Jews, and their descendants, have moved on, settling in Israel or the West.

And, while such Jews are increasingly conscious of the injustices which were meted out to their ancestors for merely sharing the same religious background of the Israeli state the Arab world loathed so much, they don’t walk around with the mantle of victim nor pass such a self-defeating moral identity to their children. 

Mishra, (indicative of all the worst intellectual ticks of the post-colonial far left), singles out democratic Israel (and India) for opprobrium, and characterizes the Jewish state as a “botched imperial partition” which possesses  ”enormous mountains of tyranny”.

Regarding the continuing attempts by Syrians to breach Israel’s borders, Mishra says:

“Encouraged by Egyptians and Tunisians, masses of unarmed Palestinians marched last month to the borders of Israel to mark the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians in Mandate Palestine. Israeli soldiers met them with live gunfire, killing more than a dozen and wounding scores of others.”

Of course, that Israel first announced warnings to the demonstrators, in Arabic, to stop, then resorted to tear gas, and only then, when Syrians continued their efforts to infiltrate Israeli sovereign territory, did the IDF selectively use live fire.

More importantly, however, perhaps, to get the attention of “activists” such as Mishra, and his political fellow travelers at the Guardian, the descendants of Jewish refugees from Arab lands should charge the Arab borders demanding back their stolen property – their homes, shops, and synagogues confiscated and looted by Arab authorities – and demanding restitution for their seized assets.

That such ethnically cleansed Jews deserve justice is beyond doubt.

That those on the Guardian left would never, under any circumstances, characterize such Jews as the victims they are is equally beyond doubt.   

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