Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let's not make comparisons of tragedies

I've seen a lot in just the past few days on the history of Mizrahi Jews in Muslim countries. See here, here (which comes to me via here), and of course this dedicated site.
Israel is perhaps the least efficient "ethnic cleanser" in the history of mankind, calumnies to the contrary notwithstanding.

In 1947 some 740,000 Palestinians lived in the British Mandate for Palestine. Today, the Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza, together with Arab citizens of Israel, comprise a total of over five million Palestinians (altogether over nine million people worldwide refer to themselves as Palestinian.)

Using a popular population growth rate equation, the Palestinian growth rate has been calculated as close to double that of Asia and Africa over a comparable period of time.

Drazen Petrovic defines ethnic cleansing as "a well-defined policy of a particular group of persons to systematically eliminate another group from a given territory." By this definition, only one type of ethnic cleansing has occurred in the Arab-Israeli conflict - that of the Jews of Asia and North Africa. Whereas before 1948 there were nearly 900,000 Jews living in Arab lands, by 2001 only 6,500 remained.
There are two very important points here. First, Israel's evilness is greatly exaggerated. Second, Jewish refugees from Arab and Mulsim countries suffered greatly and deserve to have their stories heard. However, I do have a problem with the way these two points are made together. It's true that many Palestinian supporters are hypocrites incapable of recognizing Jewish suffering except through token insincerities, but it seems the rhetoric is to undermine sympathy for the Palestinians by saying, "We had it worse."

It is possible and necessary to recognize the suffering of all parties without diminishing the suffering of any.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree - I tend to think that maybe those very dedicated to educating about the Sephardic exiles might be speaking out of frustration that they've been so largely ignored for so long a time, but your point still stands that comparing tragedies ultimately helps no one.