As the Palestinians gear up to press their case for reparations and other benefits from Israel, it is fitting that the "forgotten" story of the Jewish refugees from the Arab lands also be brought to public attention. The editor counts their number and that of their progeny today at about two million; she argues that the "world in general and the Arabs in particular owe them a debt," for having left their homes without violence, having endured a very difficult time initially in Israel, integrating into life there, and then becoming productive citizens.
The volume contains some first-class talent, mostly Israel academics, and they cover many aspects of the topic. Bat Ye'or provides a useful summary of her important theories about "dhimmitude," the state of mind of being a second-class citizen in the Islamic order: "The world of the dhimmi is one of silence," she writes, in just a few words summing up why the plight of the Jewish refugees is so vastly less known than that of their Palestinian counterparts. Reprising an analysis first made in this journal,1 Ya‘akov Meron reviews the gratuitously cruel policies of the Arab states as they expelled their Jewish populations fifty years ago. Chapters by Yehuda Dominitz and Pnina Morag-Talmon usefully describe the absorption process within Israel.
With luck, others will take heart from this study and speak up about the hundreds of thousands whose lives were disrupted not because of war but due to unregulated passions. Perhaps it might even lead a future Israeli government to break with the tradition of ignoring the population exchange that took place a half century ago; and when opportuned about paying reparations and other benefits, will reply with a report along the lines of The Forgotten Millions.
1 Ya‘akov Meron, "Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries," MEQ, Sept. 1995, pp. 47-55.