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 I preferred life in a war zone, and both would be fair questions, except that both assumptions would be completely wrong: for all my love and pride in Israel, and despite the anti-Semitism I experienced intermittently my entire life in Britain, I genuinely love it too, and leaving was not an easy choice. Sitting here in my office in Jerusalem, as happy as I am, I can say with my hand on my heart, that I'm still a proud Brit and I miss many aspects of life there, and probably always will. I support the England Cricket team with a near obsessive passion and this morning I stayed up until the early hours willing Andy Murray to win his first grand-slam title, 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, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and I admit that I sat glued to the TV, eating home made scones, as William & Kate got hitched!
This is despite the fact that I am essentially a 2nd/3rd generation immigrant to the UK (although I've never seen myself in those terms): Six of my eight grandparents were refugees from Eastern Europe, and indeed one of my grandfathers was born outside the UK, but I was born & educated in Birmingham, England - , it's 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, because as G-d said to Abraham (the first Jew), "go to the land I will show you (sic. Israel) for your own good" - I didn't 'make aliya' (Heb:move to Israel) to escape the UK, or because I hated it there, but because I believe being here is better for me and for my family's future and for the Jewish future. My choice, my decision.
Jews from across the Middle East also loved the countries of their birth: Yemen, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon etc - all these had housed Jewish communities for thousands of years, some from even before the Roman's 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 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. I cannot imagine Israel without these people's descendants, who today number around 50% of the population. (I'm not sure that was the desired effect the Arab states were hoping for!). Zionism, the political ideology behind the birth of Israel, believes in the in-gathering of the Jewish people and so these Jewish-Arab refugee's children and grandchildren are woven into the fabric of Israeli society. That does not erase the racist crime that was done to them by states across the Arab world.
Nobody can take away my pride in being British and I can't imagine that identity being ripped away from me. I can say I'm a British Israeli with a smile, because that country was and is good to my family. Its still my other home. What does a Yemenite or Libyan Israeli think, of a land his family helped build and cultivate since Caesar ruled in Rome, that turned on him for no reason than his religion? Many of these people had never left the town of their birth, had lived in the home of their parents, grandparents and generations before that, and suddenly they are fleeing for their lives to a place they only know from prayers? Businesses, homes and possessions, all their lifetime of achievements, stolen from them overnight. I doubt Moroccan Israelis feel able to cheer the Moroccan football team as I do the English cricket team.
An entire agency of the UN (UNRWA) exists to handle Palestinian refugees from that period, who today number 5,000,000 stateless people - the same Arab states who'd expelled the Jews, then refused to let the Palestinians become absorbed into their countries, as Israel did for it's Jewish refugees. Three generations later Palestinians across the Middle East remain stateless and in some places still live in shanty town refugee camps, not allowed to work, build homes or create lives. The real crime of 1948 was never the creation of a tiny Jewish state in barren, undeveloped land, or the exile (self imposed or otherwise) of 450,000 local arabs (today known as Palestinians). No, the real crime was the racist exile of Jews across Arabia & the on-going disgrace of the Palestinian refugees, who only still exist because their arab 'brothers' need them to be poor and angry pawns.:
Over 50 years ago, Ralph Galloway, former Director of UNRWA, August 1958 wrote "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it an open sore, as an affront to the UN and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die."
While the UN & Human Rights groups have been busy condemning Israel for the past 60 years, they have been complicit in the crime of the Palestinian refugees. Even King Hussein of Jordan recognized this crime writing in 1960: "Since 1948 Arab leaders…have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is…criminal."
This situation should shame the world, but it is never discussed in the media, by HR groups or in the UN. The Palestinians are still pawns as they were in 1958, in the Arab worlds xenophobic hatred of Israel and Jews in general. The Palestinian's so called leaders are busy selling their 'narrative', but let's call a spade a spade – their so-called narrative is nothing but propaganda, full of half-truths, omissions and outright lies and it's built on the tears of the racist crimes the Arab world committed against 850,000 Arab Jewish refugees and continues to commit on the 5,000,000 downtrodden Palestinian pawns. Shame on them and shame on anyone out there who becomes an accessory to these crimes by buying into the propaganda.