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Book Review : The Forgotten Millions

The Modern Jewish Exodus From Arab Lands

Edited by Malka Hillel Shulewitz

Published by Cassell & Co.

London WC2 - Hardback. 49.95

Reviewed by Percy S. Gourgey

This is a fascinating account, consisting of articles by various experts, on Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Little is known of them, as, owing to media ignorance or prejudice, "refugees in the Middle East" refers to some 540,000 Palestinian Arabs. They fled the country on the orders of invading Arab armies' commanders during Israel's War of Independence in 1948. Just because Jewish refugees from Arab countries, most of whom fled to Israel, outnumbering Arab refugees, did not engage in acts of violence and terror, it does not mean their claims and rights should be ignored. This issue is likely to be discussed in the ultimate stage of the Peace Process between Israel and her Arab neighbours, hopefully under Prime Minister Barak's new Coalition Government.

Ten chapters, contributed by ten authors cover the broad spectrum of Jewish settlement in the Middle East, including Israel, from Biblical times. This settlement long precedes that of the Arabs, who swept out from Arabia, to carry the message of Islam in the 7th century CE.

Perhaps of special interest is the chapter by Hebrew University Professor Yaacov Meron entitled "Expulsion of Jews from Arab Countries" with copious footnotes. In it he writes that "The existence of push and pull" forces in every movement of Jews to Israel is commonplace. What distinguishes the exodus of Jews from Arab countries is the particular force of 'push' that led to it.

What happened, therefore, is a kind of 'population or refugees exchange' between Israel and Arab countries, the consequences of which both sides have to bear. True, but what should not be overlooked are the claims of those Jewish refugees who did not go to Israel, totalling some 200,000 who found refuge in Europe and Americas.

While this book is highly priced, a paperback edition is likely to appear.

 

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