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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sunday November 30 is Jewish Nakba Day

This is long overdue.

Israel's President, Reuven Rivlin, will conduct a ceremony at his residence on Sunday marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. Ben Dror Yemini explains.

The Knesset decided only this year to set aside a special day, November 30, to mark the Jewish Nakba. Most school children in Israel know about what was done to the Jews of Kishinev and also about what was done to the Jews in Deir Yassin.

But most Israeli students don't know about Jewish Nakba. They don't know about a long series of pogroms and massacres perpetrated against Jews in most Arab countries. The Kishinev pogroms in 1906 claimed the lives of 29 Jews. A year later, in pogroms in Morocco, 50 Jews were murdered in the city of Settat, and another 30 were killed in Casablanca.

How many high school students know about them? And how many know about the pogrom in Aden in 1948 in which 82 Jews were murdered? And how many know about the hundreds more who were killed during that period in Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Libya only because they were Jews?

The "narratives" have taken control of the university campuses and school system. On their behalf, Israeli students are told "the other side's version of the story." Not that one should belittle the pain of the Palestinians. God forbid. The thing is that there is nothing unique about the Palestinian story in particular. People fled. Some were deported too. But where were things any different?

And yet, the Jewish Nakba vanished into thin air, despite the fact that it was far more severe. After all, the Jews of the Arab states didn't declare war on the Arab countries; they didn't have a leader like the Mufti who was planning and plotting to eradicate all the Arabs – every last one. On the contrary, they were peaceful citizens wherever they were.

* * *
Let's set the record straight. The disintegration of the empires, beginning with the Ottoman, through to the Austro-Hungarian, and on to the British, intensified the demand on the part of various peoples for self-determination – no more multi-ethnic states under imperial rule, but nations with a sense of independent identity instead. Some would call it an imaginary heritage, but that's not important.

The result was huge waves of population transfers, beginning in 1912 and through to the years following World War II. Around 52 million people underwent the experience, including tens of millions in the period after the war.

Millions of Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Ukrainians, Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians, Indians, Pakistanis and more and more were forced to leave their birthplaces to make way for national entities, old and new. One would be hard pressed to find a single conflict during the period in question that did not end without a population exchange.

And the same happened in the Jewish-Arab conflict too. When the Peel Commission decided in 1937 on a population exchange, one of the reasons it offered to support its decision was the fact that the Iraqis had carried out against the Assyrian minority, despite earlier assurances to safeguard their rights.

The population exchanges between Greece and Turkey also served as a backdrop for the commission's decision. At the time, this was the position held by statesmen, scholars and intellectuals. Furthermore, in 1930, the Permanent Court of International Justice, the highest international judicial instance at the time, approved population transfers by force when it ruled that the purpose of mass population transfers was to "more effectively aid the process of pacification of the Near East."
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