Myths and realities: Israel and the refugee problem

The Arab world committed crimes against 850,000 Arab-Jewish refugees and continues to commit crimes against 5,000,000 downtrodden Palestinian pawns

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Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, 1952
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Adam Mallerman
On 13 September 2012 11:44

Five years ago I came to a life changing decision – I was leaving the country of my birth, Great Britain, and I was moving to Israel. You may question whether this was a difficult choice for a Jew and passionate Zionist to make. You might also want to know why I hated life in England so much that I preferred the prospect of living in a war zone. Both would be fair questions.

But for all my love and pride for Israel, and despite the anti-Semitism I experienced intermittently throughout my life previously, I genuinely love Britain too, and leaving was not an easy choice. Sitting here in my office in Jerusalem, as happy as I am, I can honestly say that I'm still a proud Brit and that I miss many aspects of life there, and probably always will.

I support the England Cricket team with a near obsessive passion and stayed up until the early hours willing Andy Murray to win his first grand-slam title this week, not because I'm a big tennis fan, but because I'm British. Some of my favorite places in the world are in the UK: The New Forest, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales. And I admit that I sat glued to the TV, eating homemade scones, as William and Kate got hitched.

This is despite the fact that I am essentially a second/third-generation immigrant to the UK (although I've never seen myself in those terms): six of my great grandparents were refugees from Eastern Europe, and indeed one of my grandfathers was born outside the UK.

But I was born and educated in Birmingham, England; its customs, accents, culture, food etc. are mine and no amount of eating falafel and speaking Hebrew will erase the imprint onto my psyche that growing up British has made.

I am a lucky person, because I was totally free to choose to move to Israel, which I did for purely ideological and religious reasons. As God said to Abraham (the first Jew), "go to the land I will show you for your own good". I didn't 'make "aliya" (Heb: move to Israel) to escape the UK. I made it because I believe being here is better for me and for my family's future and for the Jewish future. My choice; my decision.

I’m not alone. Thousands of Jews from across the Middle East also love the countries of their birth: Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon etc. -- all these have housed Jewish communities for thousands of years, some from even before the Romans destroyed the second Temple.

There was no strong Zionist movement in these communities, largely untouched by Hitler's efforts to eradicate the Jewish people from Europe, but in the 1940s and 50s these Jews were thrown out of the countries that they had considered themselves citizens of since before Islam's birth. They were told that because a little patch of land hundreds or thousands of miles away had declared itself to be a Jewish state, and they shared that faith, that made them enemies of the Arab people. 820,000 Jews were made refugees overnight, with literally just the clothes on their backs as possessions.

It is true that they didn't stay refugees for long, because unlike the Arab world's treatment of "Palestinian refugees", their Jewish brothers and sisters in the new state of Israel welcomed them with open arms and far from hurting Israel, the absorption of these people strengthened it, bringing new cultures, foods, languages and ideas.

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