Israel’s Greatest Blunder

Lyn Julius is the daughter of Iraqi-Jewish parents and has written  a most remarkable book, entitled Uprooted: How 3000 years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight. In one small portion of the book she uses the headline above.

Then crux of the argument as  she explained it is as follows,”Given the centrality  of the refugee issue to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the journalist and writer Ari Schwartz has labeled Israel’s  prolonged silence ‘incomprehensible’. Tommy Lapid ,who served as justice minister, recognized the long term damage from Israel’s failure to make an issue of Jewish refugees; it has helped perpetuate the myth that the Jews were the aggressors and dispossessors, and not the other way around, with all that implies for Israel’s legitimacy. He has described the failure to play the refugee card  as one of the greatest blunders in the state’s history.”

The facts are these: more than 99% of the Arab World’s Jews have fled to other parts of the world. 650,000 to Israel and 200, 000 to the West. at one time- about 60years ago, 10% of the world’s Jews lived in the Arab World. One of the largest Jewish populated cities in the world was Baghdad. They were evicted or fled from fear of further pogroms.

This subject was brought to mind by the evacuation of the remaining handful of Jews of Yemen this past month.- a place that Jews had lived in for 3000 years.

Jews of Yemen

Why did the usually quick thinking Israelis miss this vital information/propaganda issue ?

Miss Julius gives three main treasons. First  the Israelis tend to  be a more pragmatic people in opposition to the more animated and romantic heroic narrative of the Arabs.  Raphael Patai ( The Arab Mind)  explains  this part of Arab person personality  with extreme emotions and proclivity for fantasy as well as the lure of exaggeration in the language.  This has been reinforced the Arabs by constant repetition  and help from anti-semitic, anti zionist  radical left and  right wing journalists, academics  and useful fools who have kept the Palestinian refugee issue in the spotlight, overshadowing the fact that Jews, Kurds, Greeks, and especially the Armenians have also been expelled under horrible conditions from Islamic countries. But this rarely makes the Middle East guru’s writings. Nor does it obviate the fact that Christianity, once the main Abrahamic  religion of the Middle East, has been virtually extinguished as well.

Jews of Morocco

Secondly the Israeli foreign office has been reticent in bringing up the Palestinian refugee problems.——- a non starter in that that the Palestinian refugee issue bubbles up everywhere, especially among the dominant left wing academics, who control the narrative,  regardless whether the Israelis exodus from Muslim Lands is exposed or not.

Thirdly the Israelis basically solved their problem by accepting the Arab World Jewish refugees…not always happily… but they did. The Arabs on the other hand have resisted integrating Palestinians into their countries, often using the excuse that if they did so the Palestinians would forget their homeland. The Palestinians have reciprocated in kind, fomenting civil war in Lebanon and Jordan and colluding with invading Iraqis in Kuwait. No where in the Arab World are the Palestinians trusted as a community. Ironically it is the West , especially the United States, that provides the majority of aid to Palestinian refugees. For which they get little if any credit.

I would give another reason. When I use to visit my wife-to-be in Brooklyn NY in the early sixties, Zionist activism was everywhere evident with banners across the Streets urging the purchase of Israeli war bonds. The Jewish presence was overwhelming, with many subway riders reading Yiddish language newspapers.  The  Jews  apparently believed this attitude would last forever- the small state struggling valiantly against a monolithic Islamic world bent on their destruction. They were wrong.

Jews of Baghdad at one time the most populous Jewish cities in the world

Then came the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. It was a humiliation for the Arabs and from not came the concept of the “Super Jew”- a small state defeating the huge, oil rich, populous Arab World. With this came a great deal of Israeli hubris leading to the” near thing” of the Israeli victory in 1973

Today the small state of Israel surrounded by a hostile population, with about 15% of the  general  population, mostly Arab,   generally hostile  as well,  has become the bete noire  of the “woke generation, ”  a  Western generation of spoiled forever adolescents, indoctrinated by uneducated academics, that evidences an embedded theme that the hated Western Civilization includes Israel as a prime example of a colonizing state. One finds a surprising number of young Western Jews who have adopted this view as well.

jews of Egypt

Today as I write this there are riots and fights between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, with liberal Jewish voices  plaintively asking on TV what can be done to change this pervasive attitude of ethnic  hatred.  In the short run very little, which is one reason  I see the current establishment of relationships with Arab states  by Israel with some skepticism.


It has been a common myth perpetuated by Western islamic academicians that the Jews indigenous to the Middle East lived a relatively peaceful life tolerated by their Muslim neighbors.. As Bernard Lewis has written , in relation to the murderous policies toward Jews in the Western world which culminated in the holocaust, that is true, but it was only a small part of the overall picture. Jews and Christians have never been first class citizens in the Arab World. At best they were tolerated, and under the Islamic rule acquired the submissive attitude necessary for survival  that Ibn Khaldun so well captured.

Egyptisn Jewish actress Naja Ibrahim

Reading the books by Bat Ye’or,  the most detailed historian on the Jews of the Arab World, the lot of Jews and Christians was always fraught with uncertainty as any disturbance was liable to set off a pogrom.

Jewish Egyptian actress Leila Murad

However the real systematic expulsion and persecution of the Jews began with the advent of Arab Nationalism, an ideology based on an inchoate socialistic and racist doctrine. Regrettably it was partially fanned by the West, especially the British to counteract the Communist inroads into the Middle East.

Haj Husseini with his mentor Herr Hitler. My friend and great Middle East writer, Barry Rubin, wrote that Haj Husseini urged Hitler to to carry out the most extreme measures against the Jews.

Not so strangely, the Middle Eastern Jews often referred to as “Mizrahi”, as opposed to the “Ashkenazi”  Jews Europe, have a distinctly Oriental culture and have not always had an easy time conforming to the Western culture of the Ashkenazi ,which has defined Israel.One can find many  Jewish web sites nostalgically lamenting their lost paradise of their lives in Iraq or Egypt.

Jewish Egyptian singer Najwa Salem

But also not surprising, despite a lot of Academic nonsense abut the commonality of the Mizrahi Jews to the Arabs, the hatred of the Mizrahi toward the Arabs, is often the most intense. This is not at all surprising considering their treatment.

When we were in Egypt, the US embassy personnel use to do short weekends  at the Faroun house in Alexandria. It formerly belonged  to a wealthy Jewish family that had lived in Egypt for hundreds of years. Even the silverware was still there as the Jews were expelled with generally one suitcase and the clothes on their back. In places like Iraq and Syria they were lucky to escape with their lives.

The Israelis have missed a huge opportunity to harp on this to counter the unceasing Palestinian tales of exile.










About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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