Breaking the silence about Jewish refugees (and their descendants)

After reading  Pankaj Mishra’s CiF piece, “In India and Israel, the burden of protest falls on the victims of injustice, CiF, June 6), which noted that some of the descendants of Palestinians displaced by Israel’s defensive war of Independence, now living in Syria, have been attempting to infiltrate Israel’s border, and posting, here, that, while the issue of Palestinian refugees and their descendants is frequently cited by the Guardian, and the MSM, the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands (those Jews ethnically cleansed following the 1948 War) is rarely if ever discussed.

I further began wondering why, in the context of the fact that the UNRWA recognizes 4.8 million Palestinians as the official number of “refugees” – which includes descendants (and further descendants) of the original displaced refugees – there has never been a count of total number of Jewish refugees (900,000) from Arab lands which similarly includes their descendants.

Well, of course, the reason why such a number has never been established is largely based on the fact that such refugees were absorbed into Israel or emigrated to the West, but the fact remains that there has not been recognition of the enormous suffering, and subsequent loss of property and assets, which resulted from Arab nations’ decisions to expel their Jewish citizens for no reason other than they happened to share religious background of the majority of citizens in Israel.

Of that 900,000 figure (depending on estimates) there are around 5,000 Jews left in Arab countries, representing an expulsion rate of well over 99% of the total who once lived there – Jewish communities which dated back hundreds and, in many cases, thousands of years.

Equal justice demands that, if Palestinian refugees from Israel, displaced as the result of the War of Indpendance (a war initiated by the Arabs), and their descendants continue to get special status as permanent refugees and will eventually receive some sort of compensation for their loss, Jewish refugees and their descendants should similarly get recognition and compensation.

So, I ask those more familiar with the Jewish refugee problem, academics, statisticians and demographers for assistance in calculating the number of Jewish refugees and subsequent descendants in a way statistically consistent with the manner by which the UN has calculated the numbers of Palestinian refugees:


JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa

Point of No Return (Blog about Jewish Refugees)

14 replies »

  1. Kol hakavod Adam for raising this crucial point. The more the ‘right of return’ comes up, the more, Israel should bring up the issue of Jewish refugees. It is estimated that there are about 2.5 – 3 million Jewish refugees and their descendants in Israel – as you say no reliable figures exist.
    Since your table was published the figures for Jews still in Arab countries continue to dwindle. There are under 50 in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon and only seven in Iraq. I believe there are not more than 140 in Yemen now.
    thank you for the plug for ‘Point of No Return’: the address is
    http://www.jewishrefugees.blogspot. com/

    • Hi bataween, thanks! Is there a link you can provide where that figure you cite (2.5 – 3 million) is noted?

  2. I would think that Yisrael’s estimates are as good as any. The only question is do the offspring of mixed couples qualify (and they could account for 25 percent or more) ? Like my own children, good ‘Ashkephardis’.

  3. Bataween,

    If the Palestinians mix couples kids are “refugees” i don’t see why your kids and my nepheus for that matter aren’t.

    though my niece must be the blondiest blue eyed Sepharadi in the world…

    They wouldn’t believe her sir name in the army….

    She had to pull out her ID to prove it…


  4. I think all Israeli Jews, pretty much, qualify as the descendants of refugees, since historically Jews have been regarded as a people exiled and dispossessed. The Balfour Declaration and UNSCOP assume Jewish ROR as of justice and need.

    Similarly a Jewish diaspora is in part analogous to a Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian one.

  5. I am not sure one can blame Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians directly for Arab Jewish exile, except in so far their leadership collaborated with the Arab states in plans to subjugate, expel or eliminate Palestinian Jews; and indeed advocated Arab Jewish subjugation or expulsion, should a Jewish state be born.

    Arab Muslims treated Arab Jews as de facto Palestinian or Israeli Jewish nationals, indirectly confirming the Jewish nationalist narrative of Jews as a people exiled and dispossessed.

    • no such animal as an “arab jew”

      there were jews living in arab countries….but they were never considered arabs

      they all had second class status

  6. One has to be careful not to embrace the article’s argument on the basis that Palestinian Arabs = other Arabs qua ‘Arab’. That is a kind of anti-Arab racism i.e.’All Arabs are the same, one Arab is equivalent to another’.

  7. Although one could argue that Palestinian Arab nationalism was antisemitic in a way that other Arab nationalisms were.