Jewish refugees from Muslim lands
A major grievance of Israel-bashers is the plight of Palestinian Arab refugees from what is now Israel. The most credible figure is that about 600,000 of them fled or were otherwise displaced. What is overlooked is that at least as many Jews fled from Muslim countries to the new Jewish state. Most of the Palestinian Arab refugees, who with their descendants reportedly now number about 4 million, have never been absorbed by their fellow Muslims. Instead, they have been kept stateless and used as a political tool to delegitimize Israel's very existence.
In contrast, the Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran have been successfully assimilated into Israel. Indeed, they and their descendants now account for about half of Israel's Jewish population.
The most impressive evidence of their successful integration is the current makeup of Israel's political leadership. Both the president of Israel, Moshe Katsav, and the defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, were born in Iran. The new chief of the Israel Defense Forces, Gen. Dan Halutz, is the son of immigrants from Iraq and Iran. The foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, was born in Morocco. The former IDF chief, Yitzhak Mordecai, was born in the Kurdish region of Iran. Other members of Israel's cabinet have family roots in Yemen, Egypt and Syria.
I often wonder whether the political leaders of Iran and the Arab countries are aware that so many of their Israeli counterparts have such intimate links to the Muslim world. And do they recognize that their countries' traditional persecution of Jews helped create and strengthen a new nation that they still regard as an enemy?