Do the descendants of Jews who fled the Arab and Muslim world in 1948 want to “go home?” That’s the odd question asked today by Foreign Policy magazine in introducing a photo essay featuring images of the remnants of Jewish life in places like Libya, Iraq and Iran. But while the photos are interesting, the idea that “the uncertain revolutions of the past year may present the best chance for long-exiled Jewish communities across the Middle East to return home” is probably the most bizarre as well as misleading statements published on the topic in some time. Not only are Jews not longing to return to the Arab world, the so-called Arab Spring has unleashed forces of Islamism that makes such an unlikely occurrence even less inviting for anyone foolish enough to believe that Jews are welcome there.
For decades one of the most appalling gaps in knowledge of the modern history of the Middle East is the way even supposedly educated people ignore the fact that what happened in 1948 was an exchange of populations. While hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled the area that would become the State of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Jews were fled, usually for fear of the lives, from Arab countries where Jews had lived for more than a millennium. The difference between the two sets of refugees is that while the Jews were resettled in Israel and the West, the Arabs were left refused homes elsewhere in the Middle East and kept in camps where they were told to wait until the Jewish state was destroyed.