The Forgotten Refugees: The causes of the post-1948 Jewish Exodus from Arab Countries

By Philip Mendes, Presented at the 14th Jewish Studies Conference, Melbourne, March  2002

This paper explores the question of the other Middle Eastern refugees – the Jews who fled or were expelled from Arab countries between 1948 and the mid 1950s. Specific attention is drawn to the experience of Iraq.

Using relevant literature, the author analyses the two principal and polarized versions of the exodus: the Zionist position which attributes the Jewish exodus almost solely to Arab violence or threats of violence; and the Arab or anti-Zionist position which assigns responsibility to a malicious Zionist conspiracy. This paper suggests a middle-ground or less polarized version which acknowledges the role of both anti-Jewish hostility, and the attraction of Zionism and the newly-created State of Israel.

Some comparison is also made between the Jewish exodus, and the slightly earlier Palestinian exodus. Whilst acknowledging certain similarities, the author rejects as overly simplistic the specific equation of the two exoduses, or the notion that they constituted a legitimate exchange of populations.

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