Israel tries to shed light on Jewish refugees

Monday, September 10, 2012 |  Ryan Jones

Israel on Sunday officially launched a campaign to gain international recognition for the fact that the early years of the Israeli-Arab conflict actually created far more Jewish refugees than Arab refugees.

One of the main sticking points of the Israeli-Arab peace process has been the so-called "Palestinian refugee crisis," with even left-wing Israeli leaders having been unable to accept the Arab demands that the Jewish state open its doors to millions claiming status as "Palestinian refugees."

As far as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon are concerned, the solution is simple: the Arabs will absorb their refugees in the same way Israel has absorbed the mass influx of Jewish refugees.

What is typically lost in all the talk about the original 600,000 Arab refugees and their millions of descendants (the UN actually has an official annual event for this) is the documented fact that well over 850,000 Jews were at the same time forced to flee from the newly established Arab states.

"The issue of refugees from the Middle East has two sides. Granted, there are Palestinian refugees, but there is a larger number of Jewish refugees from Arab countries," Ayalon said at the opening of the "Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries" conference.

Ayalon also inaugurated his new online "I Am a Refugee" initiative to gather the testimonies of Jews who fled to Israel from 1948-1952.

Addressing the conference via a pre-recorded message, Netanyahu added:

"The Arab world has neglected Arab refugees for decades and has used them as a battering ram against Israel, while Israel, who was just born as a nation-state, has managed to absorb and resettle the Jewish refugees from Arab countries and turn them into productive citizens."

There are, of course some significant differences between the Jewish and Arab refugees. First, while the Arabs moved to numerous different neighboring countries, many of which were just coming into new-found oil wealth, every Jewish refugee was taken in by the single, tiny, resource-bereft Jewish state. On top of that, there is debate over whether or not the Arabs in this equation can truly be called refugees, since many of them only moved a short distance and continue to live among people who are of the same ethnicity, language and religion. Displaced? Yes. Refugees? That is less clear.

Last year, Ayalon produced a YouTube video to help explain the situation:

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