General Antisemitism

Rachel Shabi’s appalling lack of empathy for Jews expelled from Arab lands


The following is a guest post by Bataween of Point of No Return

Rachel Shabi must be one worried woman. She is troubled because the Israeli government, led by deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, has lately been putting the issue of Jews driven out of Arab countries on the peace talks agenda.

Turning up the volume on Jewish refugees has shaken avowed anti-Zionists like Ms Shabi out of their comfort zone: a second set of refugees, they fear,  has popped up to challenge the Palestinians’ hitherto exclusive monopoly on victimhood.  Except that these Jewish refugees have not suddenly popped up. They and their descendants comprise 50 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. They have been in the background all along, these silent, reproachful reminders of a great and unacknowledged historical injustice. Just because the Arab world has chosen to deny or falsify their narrative,  the media have chosen to ignore them, and successive Israeli governments have made the monumental mistake of not making a public issue of them – does not mean that these Jews do not deserve recognition and redress.

Even as Saeb Erekat insists that there will be no peace without justice for Palestinian refugees, so can there be no meaningful peace without recognition for the 800,000 Jews driven out of Arab countries. In fact, addressing the suffering of both sets of refugees is more likely to lead to a lasting peace.

In truth, Jewish refugees, even if not explicitly stated as such, have been on the international agenda from the word go. UN GA 194, UN SC Resolution 242, international and bilateral agreements all address a just settlement of the ‘refugee problem,’ without specifying whether the refugees are Jewish or Arab.

It is almost as hurtful as Holocaust denial to deny that these Jews were refugees. To be sure, not one of them would say they were still refugees today – unlike the Palestinians. None still live in the maabarot tent camps of the 1950s. Only a minority came as Zionist idealists. The vast majority were driven out either by state-sanctioned brutality, discrimination and expulsion in Iraq, Syria, Libya or Egypt  –  or they were ushered towards the exit by violence, marginalisation and intimidation as in Algeria (eg Ayalon’s own family), Morocco and Tunisia. Absorbing these refugees was the right thing for Israel to do. It is the Palestinian condition of non-absorption that is abnormal and counter-intuitive to basic humanitarian values. It is the Palestinians penned in camps who are hostages to political point-scoring.

It would seem logical  that Israel should represent the interests of Jewish refugees, simply because 75 percent of Jews from Arab countries were resettled there. The argument that Israel would somehow ‘exploit’ the refugees and pocket any compensation intended for them, no longer holds water: the current thinking, expounded by former president Bill Clinton in 2000, is that individual Jewish and Arab refugees would receive compensation from an international fund.

How gracious of Rachel Shabi to acknowledge that some Jews might be entitled to compensation for their ‘impounded property and possessions’.  How then does Ms Shabi explain away the fact that not a single Jew from an Arab country now living in Israel has been awarded compensation for lost property? So deeply mired are Arab states in denial that they won’t admit that these Jews are entitled to demand such compensation. Even the new ‘democratic’ Iraqi government will not deal with pre- 1968 claims (the great Jewish exodus took place in 1950 – 51). In spite of a clause in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, the Egyptian government has not paid out a single dinar to Egyptian-born Israeli claimants.

As for Ms Shabi’s idea of setting up heritage centres to commemorate Jewish life in Arab lands, it is hard to take her suggestion seriously when such Jewish heritage as has not crumbled to dust is being appropriated as the Arab states’ own. Witness the Jewish communal archives and treasures considered to be Egypt’s national heritage;  the Jewish archives stolen and seized by the secret police in Iraq and now claimed as Iraq’s heritage;  the Jewish shrine of Ezekiel in Iraq, in danger of being turned into a mosque – and the list goes on.

True, Egypt recently spent much treasure restoring the Maimonides synagogue in Cairo to its former glory – but what use is a synagogue when Jews are not permitted to pray in it?

It’s all very well extolling the ‘long vibrant Jewish experience in Arab lands’. On the other hand, to whitewash the antisemitism that resulted in all but 0.5 percent of the Jewish population in Arab countries being ethnically cleansed is akin to celebrating the rich Jewish contribution to German culture without mentioning the Nazi Holocaust.

Shabi-esque apologetics for Arab and Muslim antisemitism won’t wash. All the facts need to be on the table. Both sides need to feel each other’s pain if there is ever going to be hope of reconciliation between Arabs and Jews.

37 replies »

  1. This article, quite rightly, attracted widespread condemnation from many commenters, each one getting high scores of recommendations: so it is no surprise that the Comments Section was closed very quickly and has not been reopened.

  2. Shabby lies from Shabi…what else can you expect from someone like her? As a Miizrahi Jew, she dishonors her family with all that gibberish.

  3. She is an absolute ignorant twat,I’m a descendent of Iraq refugees to Israel,our families were thrown out of Iraq they had to leave thriving businesses.Their properties ,their belongings, everything,was confiscated,they were left with nothing.

    In Israel at first they lived in tents and tin shacks.They have prospered and have done extremely well for themselves in Israel,with no help from UNRWA.

    This Shabby of a person is a brown nose whose is trying to ingratiate herself with the Guardian crowd,one of her best buddies is BellaM,they tweet sweet nothings to each other on twitter.

  4. “… and successive Israeli governments have made the monumental mistake of not making a public issue of them …”

    Forgotten people, forgotten even by their own governments.

    But why one earth should either Arab or Jewish refugees be compensated from an international fund? The Arab states are responsible for both sets of refugees and they alone should pay. Israel’s coyness over this is incomprehensible.

  5. Thank you for this, Bataween.

    You say that turning up the volume about displaced Jews from Arab countries has shaken Shabi from her comfort zone, but I doubt that she could ever achieve one, so consumed is she with envy, malice and bitterness.

    In everything she writes Shabi exhibits all the results of pathological envy. This has, no doubt been born of her family’s experiences as new immigrants to Israel, where it didn’t get what it thought it was entitled to. Shabi was probably brought up surrounded by envy and bitterness but that doesn’t excuse her behaviour now. We can add exaggerated entitlement to that sense of envy – others lived under straightened circumstances too and yet did not sink to Shabi’s depths to vilify the country and its people.

    In a nutshell, a pathologically envious person experiences:

    Feelings of inferiority

    Resentment of own circumstances coupled with disproportionate blame of others for causing them

    Ill will towards envied person or people – ie in Shabi’s case, the other immigrants who made good when her family didn’t, and towards the government she perceives to have been responsible for her family’s failure to make good, coupled with the wish for them to be deprived of their improved circumstances if her family could not experience them.

    This pathological envy is part of Shabi’s narrative, and in her animus towards the government she perceives to be responsible for depriving her and her family of the status they failed to achieve, she joins forces with like-minded haters.

    All of which makes her, so far as I am concerned, a disgrace to her people and a grossly disturbed human being. Little wonder she is attracted to CiF and it to her. Like attracts like after all.

  6. Geary, you are absolutely right – the international fund idea is a fudge to preserve Arab honour.
    Israel’s lack of backbone can be explained by the Osloid strategy of de-emphasising Jewish rights, showing instead how many concessions Israel was willing to make for peace.
    You would have expected that far from the public glare Jews could have quietly won court cases for compensation against Arab governments(this is what Shabi, Michael Fischbach, Yehuda Shenhav and their ilk advocate in order to keep Israel out of the process) but Jewish refugees have won very few cases, and certainly no Israelis (as far as is known) have ever won any.

  7. Bataween, the Oslo accords having been proven to be the farce they were, surely the time has come for Sepharadi Israelis at least to kick the Israeli government into action.

    What can people like us do to help publicise the plight of these Jewish refugees apart from educate our own governments and protest as loudly as we can whenever the Palestinian refugees are brought to centre stage as part of the Arab process of delegitimisation of Israel?

  8. Agree with you 100 percent, Mitnaged! We can insist that Jewish refugees are mentioned every time Pal refugees are, we can go on demonstrations every week just like the Sheikh Jarrah protesters, and educate the Ashkenazim to support us every step of the way.

  9. The most insidious passage of Shabi’s piece, is this:

    “some say they were uprooted from Arab lands, either by agitating Zionist emissaries, or by the shockwaves that Zionism sent through the Middle East.”

    Let’s deconstruct this: According to Shabi, 800,000 or so Jews were uprooted from Arab lands due to either “Zionist agitators” or the “Shockwaves caused by Zionism.”

    Only the Guardian can continue to find Jews such as Shabi who view proponents of one Jewish state in the Middle East as “agitators”, and Israel’s very existence as a dynamic so horrific that Arabs were justified in resisting it.

  10. This is classic denial, based on the propaganda that Zionists set off bombs in Baghdad to scare the Jews into leaving. Even Tom Segev has debunked this one.
    Complete and malicious nonsense, of course.

  11. A superb article.

    I note that inclusion of Iranian Jewish refugees brings the total Jewish refugees from Muslim countries to about 970,000, or just under one million originally, now augmented by descendants.

    Nor should the material and property losses be ceded by Israel (to offset Palestinian claims); MIzrahim are entitled to compensation from Muslim governments.

  12. Discussions of this type on Middle Eastern Jewish refugees always make me suspicious:

    1) The discourse is invariably laced with nakba-denial. The Arab States are not responsible for the Palestinian refugees; that would be the Zionists who planned decades in advance to become the majority population of Palestine and resorted to transfer because mass immigration wasn’t enough.

    2) No one mentions how Sephardim and Mizrachim were treated in the New Yishuv. Had Yemeni Jews been forced to sleep in barns or barracks and paid a pittance compared to Muslims while they were in Yemen, it would be cited as a reason for their rescue. That’s how the Palestine Office treated them. After 1948, Yemeni children were abducted from their parents and raised in the collectives. Perhaps a Zionism away from Zionism was in order.

    3) This is a criticism of Rachel Shabi’s article as much as anything, everyone conveniently forgets how most of the region was under some form of colonialism, be it direct occupation, partial occupation or governments staffed with advisers from the occupier. The foreign powers had a role to one extent or another in the Arab states’ actions against Jews, either as a cause or direct participant.

    4) Empathy of course means the rights of the Palestinian refugees have to be balanced against the rights of Jewish refugees no one expects to be honored. You have the right to leave and return to your country regardless of who you are; this right isn’t a bargaining chip.

  13. Of course the Arab states are responsible for the Palestinian refugees. Five Arab states joined in the war whose consequence was the creation of the Arab refugee problem.
    Zionists did not need to expel the Palestinians, the 1947 Partition plan gave them a slight Jewish majority in the territory allocated to them.
    Yemeni Jews WERE badly treated in Yemen. Their duties were to clean the public latrines until 1950. The most significant reason for their exodus to Israel was the forced conversion of Jewish orphans to Islam
    http://jewishrefugees.blogspot.com/2010/01/jews-of-yemen-countdown-to-extinction.html
    Whatever abuses they suffered on arrival in Israel – and it is undeniable there were some – there was a sizeable number of children without families.
    Much of the antisemitism was perpetrated by independent sovereign Arab states without help from the colonial powers, added to ‘arabisation’ laws which marginalised and excluded the Jews. The largest expulsion of the Jews took place under the rule of the anti-colonial Nasser.
    Neither the Palestinians nor the Jewish refugees have an automatic right to return to their their country of birth.

  14. andrew r Lovely of you to remind us of the nostalgic past. The teething problems of the state desperate to feed all and for protection against enemies no longer exist as the state grows & develops despite all odds. When you’re fighting for very existence small things either assume undue importance or are unfairly overlooked.

    Yr pt 4. Thank you, but Israel like any other sane country doesn’t want people who for sixty three years have been talking about yearning to ‘return’ though they’ve never been there and unceasingly declare their hatred and enmity for the citizens of the country.

  15. Shabi has turned her Iraqi family’s personal failures into a crusade against Israel. The question that always puzzles me is why she insists on living in Israel instead of Golders Green with Mom and Dad and the rest of her whining family, from whom she clearly inherited this bizarre view of what really happened.

  16. It’s odd how such as Shabi blame Israeli or Palestinian Jews for Arab Muslims’ expelling Arab Jews, but not Palestinian or other Arab Muslims for Palestinian or Israeli Jews’ expelling Palestinian Arab Muslims, despite they or their allies threatening to do that to Palestinian Jews, at the very least.

    She clearly thinks Jews are moral adults while Arab Muslims are moral infants.

    Isn’t that usually called ‘Orientalism’?

    Does Shabi really believe that she can recreate her Iraqi Jewish ancestors’ Ur- paradise by ingratiating herself with their persecutors?

    Personally, I think that pretty much every Jew who became Israeli should be reckoned a refugee restored to offset Palestinian Arab ones, not only the Mizrahim. The Mizrahim are significant because a) the Palestinian leadership connived in their fate and b) they show how easily Arab Islamic anti-Jewish prejudice and ‘anti-Zionism’ evolved into full blown anti-semitism: they readily turned on ‘their’ anti- or non-Zionist Arab Jews as de facto fellow nationals of Palestinian or Israeli Jews.

    If Arab Muslims had ever truly regarded Arab Jews as Arab, they had a choice not to treat them as Palestinian or Israeli.

    They chose otherwise. Perhaps Shabi should get to know her fellow middle-eastern Jews a bit better, instead of trying to re-create a mythical childhood of which she believes Israel and the Zionists robbed her.

  17. “Israel like any other sane country doesn’t want people who for sixty three years have been talking about yearning to ‘return’ though they’ve never been there and unceasingly declare their hatred and enmity for the citizens of the country.”

    Say hello to Germany, the insane country that allows you to return if your ancestors were expelled by the National-Socialist govt. and you would have been born there otherwise. And better yet, a few thousand Israelis have taken advantage.

    And Israel has a “law of return” for people who have never been there on the grounds their ancestors from 2000 years back were. What sanity. I’m going to need a few Jaegerbombers to sober up.

  18. “Lovely of you to remind us of the nostalgic past.”

    Well, you’re just shrugging off an example of Jews persecuting other Jews in the name of Zionism and in a way that would be outrageous had it been done by Arab Nationalists. The first example I gave was before WWI and you don’t seem to appreciate the extent to which the PO was segregationist towards the Yemenite Jews – They had to live in special quarters away from the settlements they worked at. The PO leadership considered them – Ouch – Arabs and did not want them intermingling with the Europeans. They were strictly a source of labor to replace the Arab workers in menial jobs. The European file concurred – Workers’ associations excluded the Yemenites. The details are in “Land, Labor” by Gershon Shafir if you give a rat’s patoot.

  19. andrew r

    Say hello to Germany, the insane country that allows you to return if your ancestors were expelled by the National-Socialist govt. and you would have been born there otherwise. And better yet, a few thousand Israelis have taken advantage.

    Say hello to a hypocryte called andrew r. who compares the millions of Arabs who are openly hostile to Israel and declared their intention to destroy it with some thousands Jews of German origin.

    And Israel has a “law of return” for people who have never been there on the grounds their ancestors from 2000 years back were

    Have you ever heard about the thousands yers of persecution of Jews without a homeland? Have you any idea how many Arab/Muslim – and Jewish countries are on this planet?

    I’m going to need a few Jaegerbombers to sober up.
    I think a course on the subject “How to control my hate of the Jews?” would be more helpful.
    BTW your worries about the persecuted Yemeni Jews by the Zionists is very touching, but I somehow doubt that they wanted to go back to Yemen escaping their horrible fate in Israel.

  20. Argue all you wish andrew r, even one as divorced from reality as you cannot deny that there is a deep seam of Islamist supremacist belief which feeds Jew-hatred (and to which you obviously subscribe) which sees Jews as untermenschen (is this why Haj Amin al Husseini and Hitler had such a thing going?) and that Arabs and Muslims will stoop to any depths, tell any lies about in order to fool idiots like yourself.

    You cherry pick information from sites you don’t quote, but you are convincing no-one of anything except your own hate-filled distortions.

    Yes, go and get drunk, and if you are drunk already get so drunk that you pickle your liver. That should be the apotheosis of your existence because with you for a spokesman the Muslims and Israel detractors are in deep trouble. You wouldn’t know sanity if it shook you by the hand and what right have you to talk about empathy as if you can experience it, much less attribute it to such a one as Shabby?

    conchovor, you may be overlooking something. Perhaps Shabby’s fellow Middle Eastern Jews wouldn’t want to get to know her. In their place, would you?

  21. A PS to andrew r

    I assume that you can read and that your posts aren’t constructed by someone less intellectually-challenged

    If my assumption is correct, then may I suggest that you read Bat Ye’or’s very scholarly “Islam and Dhimmitude” for a very detailed picture of how Arabs and Muslims perceive and treat Jews.

    Of course, the shock may be too much (in which case you should get on with pickling your liver).

  22. “BTW your worries about the persecuted Yemeni Jews by the Zionists is very touching, but I somehow doubt that they wanted to go back to Yemen escaping their horrible fate in Israel.”

    Okay, you forced me to type this out.

    From p. 106 of ‘Land and Labor’

    ‘Finally, Yemenite Jews, and particularly their children, suffered from a tragically high mortality rate. According to Yavnieli’s count, between 1912 and 1918, 124 of the Yemenite Jewish residents of Petach Tikva, that is a staggering 40 percent of their total number, died. Of the dead 73 were children, while only 45 boys and girls survived. The treasurer of Petach Tikva’s chevrat kaddisha (burial society) remarked with bitter irony that “the burial of a Yemenite cost us 50 francs, at such rates it would be better to have them cured.” While it is true that the Jewish community in general suffered from the ravages of the First World War during that period, the war cannot explain the great difference in the mortality rate between the ashkenazim and Yemenite Jews of Rechovot, for example. Among ashkenazim, 75 of the 900 residents there died, among them 11 children, of the 237 Yemenite Jews 101 died, and among these 76 were children.’

  23. “even one as divorced from reality as you cannot deny that there is a deep seam of Islamist supremacist belief which feeds Jew-hatred”

    Uh, yeah, Zionism wouldn’t have lasted one day in Palestine if the Palestinians were fanatical Jew haters.

  24. andrew r

    Your must be investing a lot of work to bring up some negative actions of the Zionists and your heroic mountain of efforts gave birth a very small mouse.

    At that time in the Mandate countless non Yemenite Jews – mostly Ashkenazis who didn’t have the financial means or lived far from the cities died due to the epidemic ilnesses of this time (malary, pneumonia, etc) if you had the slightest idea about Israeli history you certainly would know about the settlers of the Hula-valley etc. You certainly could compare the sad fate of these Yemenites with the bad fortune of their ex countrymen who remained in Yemen and had been slaughtered by their Muslim neighbors during the pogroms in Aden. Maybe you could know anything about the effort of the new State (Operation Magic carpet rings any bell?) to save them and bring them to Israel.
    In the period of 1910 – 1918 those Ashkanazis – the World Zionist Congress who so hated these “Arabs” sent Shmuel Yavnieli to Yemen in order to bring them to Israel. Have you ever heard of the sharia legalized kidnapping of Jewish children in Yemen? I think you didn’t. Maybe then you wouldn’t whine about their tragic life under the Zionist opressors.
    Reading your posts is pretty enlightening – one can see an ignorant Jew – hater sweating to find any BS to attack Israel.
    Sorry Andrew no cigar, you have to work harder, the next Jagerwhatever is waiting for you…

  25. andrew

    Uh, yeah, Zionism wouldn’t have lasted one day in Palestine if the Palestinians were fanatical Jew haters.

    Again your ashtonishing ignorance…
    The local Arabs were not fanatical Jew haters because they realized the huge improvement of their life with the arrival of the European Jews and their socialistic values – until the twenties. Their leaders when understood that they lose their grip on them started to incite them against the Jews – and to the detriment of the present Palestinians they succeed. No fanatical Jew haters – not at all. The Hebron pogrom in 1929 was certainly a love festival….
    Andrew I’m not sure whether are you for real or maybe you are trying to make a satire of an ignorant anti-Semite?

    BTW The Zionists lasted in much more dire circumstances thank you very much. Just think of 1949 and 1967…

  26. This is my main source. The Yemenite Aliyah is covered in pp 270-277 and 318-340 (Go by the text, not the pdf).
    http://www.tau.ac.il/tarbut/tezot/bloom/EtanBloom-PhD-ArthurRuppin.pdf

    “You certainly could compare the sad fate of these Yemenites with the bad fortune of their ex countrymen who remained in Yemen and had been slaughtered by their Muslim neighbors during the pogroms in Aden.”

    If you’re trying to position the Aliyat Yavnieli as rescuing them from Islamic oppression, well, Yavnieli wanted to save them but not from pogroms. He was more concerned with cultural degeneration. “[…] another generation will pass, and the Jews from the East will finally tear this worn out cobweb and enter into culture – good or bad. They will emerge from their religious diaper” (quot’d in Bloom p. 324)

    He was also disturbed that “from many points of view, the condition of the Yemenites in Jaffa and Jerusalem is much lower than their condition here in Sana’a. This is obvious and I can’t stop thinking about it.”

    “In the period of 1910 – 1918 those Ashkanazis – the World Zionist Congress who so hated these “Arabs” sent Shmuel Yavnieli to Yemen in order to bring them to Israel.”

    Right. I already mentioned the reason above.

    “Have you ever heard of the sharia legalized kidnapping of Jewish children in Yemen?”

    I’ve heard Jewish orphans were forced to convert. The high concept of my posts here is that the Ashkenazi Zionists didn’t care about rescuing Jews from Arab countries except for utilitarian reasons, not that there was no persecution.

    “The local Arabs were not fanatical Jew haters because they realized the huge improvement of their life”

    And then their leaders made them fanatical. I’d be pretty impressed if you could even name a Palestinian leader before 1948 other than the Mufti, the Nashashibis and Qassam. Hint: The Mufti assassinated other Palestinians who fought Zionism because they threatened his feudal leadership. And during the first aliyah, before the peasants were expelled from the land bought from under their feet, they usually became tenant farmers.

  27. andrew r
    One last demo of your stupidity then I will leave you alone. You have became very boring lately…

    …And during the first aliyah, before the peasants were expelled from the land bought from under their feet, they usually became tenant farmers.

    So these poor fellow fellahs became fanatical Jew haters because the bloody Jews bought the land under their feet. Do you realize your utter stupdity Andrew? Maybe buying the land wasn’t a legal transaction? The buyers used counterfeit money? The sellers weren’t the legal owners? The Jews paid less than the market value of the land?

    Anyway have I read your sentence correctly? Bought the land? Not stolen? Your friends on CIF will be very displeased and disappointed…

  28. Sorry Peter, I should’ve made it clear it was a direct response to the “huge improvement in their life” notion… thought quoting it would be enough.

  29. Neither the Palestinians nor the Jewish refugees have an automatic right to return to their their country of birth.

    WRONG!

    Morocco has long granted each and every Jew who emigrated from Morocco to Israel the right of return. And as you may know, Moroccans comprise about half of all Sephardic Jews who immigrated to Israel.

    Consequently, Israel should grant the same right to at least half of all Palestinians who fled or were expelled by the Jews from present-day Israel.

  30. TROLL ALERT

    the Hasbara Buster is only here to whore for clicks to his dirty malignant piece of a revived from months of blessed zombie-dom blog.
    Don’t click on anything he provides.

    his a.k.a.-s are

    Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf
    Alberto José Moravia

  31. “Morocco has long granted each and every Jew who emigrated from Morocco to Israel the right of return.”

    The South Boronesian Dung Heap has granted me a right of return, but strangely enough I don’t particularly care.

  32. I don’t have the time of day for Rachel Shabi, who the hell does she think she is renouncing Israel’s law on the right’s of Jews who were either forced out, fled for their lives, robbed of all their asset’s from the arab world from the time and just before the inception of ‘The State of Israel’ in 1948. The jewsh exodus from the arab speaking world not including Turkey or Iran in the same period was close to one million, outnumbering the the arab exodus of post-palestine. To date the arabs don’t want to discuss this issue as they consider it a taboo subject. many jews that couldn’t get out of the arab world or didn’t want to leave their property were used as hostages against future wars with Isrrael, they suffered terrible ordeals, from being rounded up on trumped up charges to tortue and death. Today in israel the 130,000 – 150,000 Arabs that decided to stay on in the newly declared state of israel in 1948 number today around 1-3 to 1-5 million around 20% of the total population of israel. The=y are citizens of israel and are represented in the Knesset. many have reached very high positions in the Israeli government, such as depty primeminister, and even a general in the IDF. which is more than i can say for what befell the unfortunate Jews of the arab world who today are down from almost one million to around 6-7,000, that is what you call ethnic cleansing.