Middle East Migration: Muslims Out, Jews In

While more and more Arabs are fleeing the region, Israel is the only Mideast state in conflict that attracts newcomers

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According to the UN Population Division, there are today 244 million immigrants or people living in a country other than their own, 60 million of whom are refugees.

The UN defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence.”

Though living in a state of bloody conflict for decades, Israel, including the West Bank, is not considered a country at war, which is why those leaving Israel today are not considered refugees.

Arab countries around Israel that are ravaged by war produce a staggering amount of refugees and immigrants. According to Pew Research Center, between 1990–2015, there are 5 million Syrian, 1.5 million Iraqi and nearly one million Lebanese displaced people, most of whom are defined as refugees.

During those same years, almost one million non-Syrians, 350,000 non-Iraqis and 2 million non-Lebanese settled in these respective countries. Most of this influx represents Muslim refugees from neighboring countries, not immigrants by choice.

When considering Israel, the very opposite seems to be happening.

Between 1990–2015, some 2 million Jews arrived in Israel, while 340,000 left the country. Among Middle Eastern states in conflict, Israel is the only one that attracts more people than it repels. This is even more striking given that almost all the newcomers immigrate by choice. The only Arab states where this is true are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which attract millions of immigrants seeking a better life, but are comparatively not engaged in open conflict.

This picture is even more intriguing considering that while millions of Muslims who are forced to leave their countries are choosing the West as their destination, Jews are going in the opposite direction.

To further emphasize this point, European Jews who have other choices of destination besides Israel are nevertheless choosing to migrate to the Jewish state in the Middle East rather than go elsewhere in Europe or to the Americas.

There is often a grim truth behind this choice.

Today, a great many Jews are leaving free, democratic countries – French Jews in particular – because they no longer feel safe there. Most arriving from well-to-do countries are doing so because they once again feel compelled by the rise of anti-Semitism.

Though the phenomenon is by no means a reflection of deliberate policy, Jews are nevertheless once again being expelled from Christian nations.

But contrary to centuries past when fleeing Jews could only trade in one hostile country for another, today they believe that Israel, imperfect as it may be, is the only place where our people can feel perfectly at home.


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