The Guardian’s Ian Black and the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands

H/T Lyn and Just Journalism

I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of Israel’s leading wine makers, Eli Ben-Zaken.  

Ben-Zaken’s family lived in Cairo for generations but was forced to flee in the 1950s after their citizenship was stripped (and additional anti-Jewish measures were implemented) following Israel’s creation, making life there – which was never easy for Egyptian Jewry – almost impossible.

Ben-Zaken told us about the tax Egyptian Authorities required his father to pay merely for the privilege of leaving the country, and the stamp on their travel documents which explicitly noted that they were not permitted to return.

Such a story is not uncommon for Jews from Arab lands, but it came to mind upon reading a Guardian online discussion about the Arab Spring with the paper’s Middle East editor, Ian Black.

When asked about  the issue of minorities in the region – including Copts and Jews – Black said the following:

“It’s hard to imagine a Jewish renaissance in the Arab world without a settlement of the Palestinian question. Christians in Egypt are certainly worried about the rise of Islamists, but the Muslim Brotherhood has been going out of its way to be reassuring on this point. Salafi groups are a source of greater concern and have featured in several bad cases of sectarian violence – notably in the Cairo neighbourhood of Imbaba in May. Many have warned of the risks of manipulation by shadowy pro-Mubarak forces.” [emphasis mine]

While the Guardian’s Middle East editor’s naivete about the vulnerability of Copts and the intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood is itself worth discussing – a topic explored in great detail by Middle East scholarBarry Rubin – Black’s inability to acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands is appalling, and his suggestion about the future of Jewry in the region is itself based on the logic of the very Arab leaders who saw fit to expel their Jews in the first place.

As the only crime of the roughly 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands was that they shared the same religion of citizens of the nation which Arab leaders so despised – and subsequently attempted to annihilate – what possibly would allow Black to conclude that a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict would suddenly convince Arab leaders to allow back their expelled Jews (and their descendants) or compensate these families for their stolen property and forfeited assets?

Further, as Just Journalism noted:

“The suggestion that this situation won’t be resolved without a ‘settlement of the Palestinian question’ underplays the sheer level of hostility towards Jews in these countries, which goes far beyond political sympathy for the Palestinians. For example, throughout the Arab Spring both regimes and protesters in several countries denounced their opponents by smearing them as ‘Zionists’The Times recently highlighted how even in Egypt, which has been at peace with Israel for several decades, postcards of Hitler are popular ‘because he killed Jews’.

As Eli Ben-Zaken, or any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Arab lands, and their millions of descendants, could surely tell Black, Jewish life in Arab lands – which in some cases went back thousands of years – is all but certainly extinguished forever.

A “settlement to the Palestinian question” will not address nor ameliorate this profound and under reported injustice. 

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