The Jew-Movers Are Back
"We put 'em in the wrong place, so let's move 'em again!"
NOTE: Bastiat’s Window usually focuses on economics, health, science, ethics, and culture. After a few more posts on the Middle East, we’ll return to those topics. Through January 1, 2024, half of all paid subscription revenue will go to the Magen David Adom (Israel’s Red Cross). Since October 25, subscriptions have raised nearly $2,500.
Here they come again
Sages of social media and swarms in the streets tell us, “It’s time to move those Jews again.” “From the river to the sea,” they inform us, “Palestine will be free.” Free of Jews, that is. Or, some Germans once put it, “Judenrein.”
Following Hamas’s livestreamed orgy of murder, torture, rape, beheading, kidnapping, and necrophilia, and before Israel had reacted in any way, celebrants took to Western streets and campuses to condemn Israel, not Hamas, and to chant their ambiguous little rhyme, which has three plausible interpretations: (1) extermination, (2) coexistence in a binational state, and (3) expulsion and exile. Hamas has always made crystal-clear that their ambition is option (1)—the murder of every Jew on earth. Rep. Rashida Tlaib chose option (2), saying the phrase “is an aspirational call for freedom, human rights, and peaceful coexistence, not death, destruction, or hate;” but she proffered that definition while dodging censure and repeatedly spreading Hamas’s murderous lie that Israel had killed 500 by bombing a hospital.
So, let’s explore interpretation (3)—expulsion and exile. We’ll examine a whole array of questions: How long have Jew-Movers been forcibly relocating Jews? How did European and Arab governments force Jews to move to what is now Israel? What would happen if Israel’s Jews suddenly left Israel en masse? Where do Jew-Movers insist they go?
Arab Governments Move Their Jews to Israel
Contrary to the common belief of people with PhD’s, journalism degrees, and/or TikTok accounts, most Israeli Jews didn’t come from post-Holocaust Europe; rather, they were forced to go to Israel as refugees from a collective temper tantrum by Arab and other Muslim governments. Beginning in the 1940s, most were stripped of their homes and other wealth and sent packing. They and their ancestors had never lived anywhere but the Middle East since Biblical times. Consider Iraq:
In 586 B.C.E, the Babylonians demolished the Kingdom of Israel and moved its Jewish population to modern-day Iraq. The Jewish community’s fortunes there ebbed and flowed for 2,500 years. Oppression rose under the Mongols and medieval caliphates, but things improved when the Ottoman Turks welcomed Jews with open arms into their empire. As the Ottoman Empire grew decrepit, some of its Jews faced persecution. For example, the Sassoons, once prominent in government and business, fled from Baghdad to Mumbai, India in the early 19th century and then onward to other parts of the British Empire.
In 1941, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, after fleeing the British in Palestine, helped mastermind a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq, followed by the “Farhud”—a Hamas-like slaughter of Baghdad’s Jews. (A BBC report recounted a mob triumphantly carrying the severed breast of a freshly tortured and slaughtered Jewish woman.)
After Israel’s establishment in 1948, the Iraqi government began brutal persecution of the country’s Jews, who were fired from government jobs and also arrested, tried in kangaroo courts, fined, imprisoned, and even executed. Those in outlying communities were herded into Baghdad, where they lived in squalor. Like most Arab countries at the time, Iraq forbade Jews from emigrating, making the country, to coin a phrase, an “open-air prison.” In 1950, Iraq switched gears and encouraged Jews to renounce their Iraqi citizenship and move to Israel. Roughly 75% (120,000-130,000) were rescued by Israel’s Operation Ezra and Nehemiah. Many, stripped of worldly possessions, spent years in tents before successfully rebuilding their lives, aided (unevenly at times) by Jews already living in Israel.
Similar stories played out across the Arab World (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, etc.) and in non-Arab Muslim countries like Iran and Afghanistan. These Jews are the “colonizers” who are commanded to move out of Israel by finger-wagging PhDs, journalists, and TikToker-ers.
European Governments Move Their Jews to Israel
For centuries, Europeans treated Jews as movable pawns and, at times, as property. Here are a few of the countless stories in this saga.
In 1066, William the Conqueror invited Jews to settle in England. In 1290, King Edward I issued the Edict of Expulsion, exiling the Jewish community created over two centuries earlier by great-great-great-great-grandpa William’s invitation. Jews were invited back into England 366 years later by Oliver Cromwell (who moved the Irish around against their will).
In the early 20th century, persecution of Jews ran rampant across Europe during and after the Dreyfus Affair. Russia was already a hellscape of pogroms, including the 1903 Hamas-like massacre of Jews in Kishinev, Bessarabia—a province of the Russian Empire. In 1928, Stalin decreed that Russia’s Jews should move to Birobidzhan—a swampy, malarial chunk of land on the Siberian/Manchurian border—bitterly cold in winter and hot, humid, and buggy in summer. Perhaps 40,000 Jews relocated there, but almost all later left. Despite the near-total absence of Jews, the district today retains the name “Jewish Autonomous Oblast.”
In 1492, Spain had a large, ancient, influential Jewish population, but that year, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decided to expel all Jews via the Alhambra Decree. The Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II promptly invited them to move to his empire and sent his navy to pick them up, famously saying:
“You venture to call Ferdinand a wise ruler … he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine!”
24 years later, the Ottomans conquered Greater Syria, which included modern-day Israel and Palestine. Jews migrated throughout the empire that had welcomed them in, which expanded their communities in Turkey, Arabia, North Africa, the Balkans, Iraq, and present-day Israel and Palestine.
After conquering vast territories from Lithuania, Poland, and other countries, Russia established the Pale of Settlement—yet another open-air prison. Previously flourishing Jewish communities were relegated to the impoverished village existence we associate today with Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye stories (source of Fiddler on the Roof). Russian Jews faced continuous oppression until emigration was permitted in the 1980s, with most migrants heading to the two nations that would admit large numbers—the U.S. and Israel.
As the 20th century began, with oppression of Jews spreading from Dreyfus Affair and Russian pogroms, Theodor Herzl hosted the First Zionist Congress, which formalized the notion of a Jewish homeland (not necessarily an independent nation) in the Turkish satrapies (provinces) of Greater Syria. After all, Jews were indigenous to that region, their communities had existed there without interruption since Biblical times, and the Ottomans had welcomed them in for almost 500 years. During WWI, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, calling for “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. In 1922, the League of Nations handed control of Palestine (modern-day Israel, Palestine, and Jordan) to Great Britain, which wavered back and forth until WWII between allowing and disallowing Jewish immigrants.
When Hitler rose to power, eradicating all Europeans Jews became the Nazi Government’s central mission. Until 1940, Germany planned to force them into exile—in Palestine, a “reservation” in Poland, or Madagascar. Eventually, the Nazis shifted their plans from exile to extermination.
After the Holocaust, the remnant hovered in refugee camps until making their way to the United States, Israel, or whatever other countries would take them in. Again, these are the “colonizers” and “oppressors” one hears about.
In 1947, the United Nations voted to divide Palestine west of the Jordan into two nations. The Jewish state would be a thin sliver of land that Jews had bought, not taken, over many years. The rest would be an Arab state. The Jews said yes, and the Arabs said no, ultimately launching a failed attempt to wipe out Israel in its infancy.
Of Poets and Pessimists
Expulsion-and-exile advocates seem to have two vaguely formed ideas as to where the 7 million Israeli Jews should go: “back where you came from” or “the United States.” Blogger James Lileks recently highlighted one such Illuminata (“Poet” by her own description) who offered the following advice in a series of tweets:
“Israel + US should start making plans for safe Israeli relocation.”
“Jewish people should be safe as a global diaspora.”
“Jews co-existed peacefully in the region before Israel.”
As suggested above and in a recent Bastiat’s Window essay (“Jews, Massacres, and U.S. Presidents”), the historical record indicates clearly that Jews have never been “safe as a global diaspora;” nor was it ever true that they “co-existed peacefully in the [Mideast] before Israel.” The murder, torture, rape, beheading, and kidnapping of October 7 had countless precedents over the centuries in both Europe and the Muslim World. (Hamas’s novel contributions are limited to livestreaming and, perhaps, necrophilia.)
The Poet is a self-described “Jewish queer anti-zionist”—a much-sought-after demographic for the rooftops of Gaza. She also says she is a former Fulbright Scholar, chief of staff at a “diversity, equity, inclusion, and consulting firm focused on film/TV culture,” and purveyor of “psychedelic sessions for a more just, equitable & sustainable world” in Amsterdam. (I’ll aver that by her own logic, as a Jew in Amsterdam, she is a colonialist usurper who stole an apartment from some oppressed indigenous Netherlander.) Nonentity that she is, as of November 25, 2023, her three tweets had garnered, respectively, 2.9 million, 379,000, and 1.6 million views—and she is only one of a great horde of online Jew-Movers. This helps explain why a recent Harvard CAPS/Harris poll shows 48% of 18-to-24-year-olds in America supporting Hamas (Hamas specifically, not Palestinians in general) against Israel.
The Condition of Would-be Exiles
Before examining the implications of “back where you came from” and “to the United States,” let’s take a look at the condition in which the Israeli refugees would arrive in their new countries.
Since 1948, Israelis have gone from very poor to among the world’s wealthiest people via hard work and creativity, but expulsion and exile would likely render the vast majority of them penniless overnight. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, the average Israeli household (Jewish and Arab) has income of around $164,000 per year and wealth of around $455,000. Departing en masse, they would almost certainly walk away uncompensated from their homes, offices, businesses, farms, careers, personal possessions, and income-generating networks—as always happens with refugees. Israelis have bank accounts and securities, but the moment an outward exodus began, Israeli banks, bonds, and stocks would quickly fail. In many cases, rebuilding that wealth and restarting those incomes would be impossible.
Financial collapse wouldn’t be limited to Israeli Jews. 2 million Arabs live in Israel, and their finances would implode as the economy around them vanished. The same is true of Arabs in the Palestinian territories, as their economy is tightly integrated with the Israeli economy.
Israelis’ current wealth is worth approximately $1.3 trillion, and the sudden collapse of that much wealth would likely set off a disastrous chain reaction throughout world financial markets. After all, much smaller bank failures can send world markets reeling.
Another domino effect worth pondering is that Israeli technology is strategically central to Western military defense systems. Despite the country’s small size, it is estimated that 10% of the world’s military exports come from Israel. An exodus would disrupt our defense markets at the very moment that Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea pose deadly threats to the West.
Israel is also a world powerhouse in medicine and information technology. How much of these industries could be relocated or replicated outside of Israel, and what lines of research would vanish? Good question.
Back Where You Came From
Pressed on the broader implications of her tweets, the Poet also agreed that non-Indigenous Americans are colonialist usurpers and hinted that they, too, should be sent back to where they belong. (Personally, I will be able to choose from among Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Czechia, and Moldova—and maybe Turkey.) As Lileks wrote:
“So the Jews should be moved to the United States, but don't unpack, because we're moving everyone in United States out of United States. The good news is it will be okay to be a colonizer for a week or two until we sort out the paperwork and figure where you're going. … It's not just the wisdom of these bright lights that inspires, it's the way it's matched with such can-do practicality.”
Lileks noted that, continuing with her logic:
“everyone with European ancestry has to leave Central and South America, and pile back into Spain and Portugal.”
I’ll add that the estimated 16 million descendants of Genghis Khan—who are now genetically identifiable—will have to “go back where they belong” and live among the current 3.3 million residents of Mongolia. Carried to its logical conclusion, the Poet’s relocation diktats will result in an extraordinarily crowded Olduvai Gorge.
If Israel’s Jews were hurled “back where they came from,” nearly half would be deposited in their ancestral homelands in Europe—where 6 million of their kin were slaughtered within living memory, and where few of their coreligionists still remain. So, smallish numbers, for example, would be deposited, in places like Belarus, Poland, Bosnia, Estonia. They would lack financial resources, job prospects, knowledge of the local languages, or sizable Jewish communities to assist them. They would instantly become highly resented burdens on the nations where they were dropped.
For slightly over half of Jewish Israelis, “back where they came from” would mean Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and other realms of the Muslim world, where their ancient communities were plundered, ravaged, and driven into exile in the decades after Europe’s killing fields fell silent.
Both in Europe and in the Muslim World, Jews would be parachuted alone, impoverished, and helpless into places where mobs today fill the streets to celebrate all the murder, torture, rape, beheading, kidnapping, and necrophilia delivered upon the exiles’ families and friends. It should also be noted that none of these countries has offered to take in large numbers of such Jewish refugees, and it’s unlikely that many (or any) would.
Of course, some Israeli families have resided continuously in that land since Biblical times, so sending them “back where they came from” poses a conundrum. (Ur, perhaps?)
From the River to D.C.
Then there’s the other big idea—that America’s political leadership should just gather in Washington, D.C. and issue an invitation to all the newly homeless, newly impoverished Jews to come to America. After all, from the 17th century till today, 3.5 million Jews did immigrate to America and fared quite well here. So why not just triple that figure by bringing an additional 7 million or so overnight?
Indeed, the Jews of Europe were incredibly lucky that the United States was such a welcoming place in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. During that period, three factors made this possible: (1) America’s economy had a unique capacity to absorb huge waves of immigration and to offer remunerative work to unskilled workers; (2) Americans had a remarkably welcoming attitude toward immigrants, including Jews; and (3) A tightly knit, well-organized Jewish community had ample resources and community spirit to get the newcomers through the early years and start them on the way up. None of these things is true in 2023.
America is in no position to absorb a sudden wave of 7,000,000 impoverished immigrants. The country is already experiencing an immigration crisis. Since Joe Biden became president, an estimated 6,000,000 undocumented immigrants have entered the country, and governors and mayors are screaming to the heavens about the costs. 100,000 have ended up in New York City, and Mayor Eric Adams says this the cost of caring for them and the social turmoil they cause constitutes a crisis that “will destroy New York City.” Politically, it is unimaginable that 7,000,000 Jews would be admitted to the country while federal authorities are closing the doors on immigrants of other nationalities. If it costs, say, $40,000 per year to provide an immigrant with minimal basic food, clothing, housing, education, and healthcare, 7,000,000 new immigrants would require nearly $300 billion per year—equivalent to 40% of the annual U.S. defense budget.
Add to this the fact that you would be bringing millions of newly impoverished, culturally isolated Jews into a country that is arguably currently experiencing the most dangerous wave of antisemitism in the country’s history. Jews are receiving death threats on campuses and in American cities across the country. Mass marches were in the streets of America celebrating Hamas’s bestial attack within hours of the news breaking; these same mobs were condemning Israel before Israel had taken any retaliatory steps at all. The Dean of the Law School at the University of California—Berkeley said, “never in my life have I seen or felt the antisemitism of the last few weeks.” News accounts have shown threats and assaults against Jews across America. University professors celebrate the slaughter of October 7. In Los Angeles, a professor allegedly killed a 69-year-old Jewish man for the offense of carrying an Israeli flag. Some American Jews are arming themselves and checking their passports. It’s not clear that America today Di Goldeneh Medinah (The Golden Land) to which Jews arrived a century ago.
But, of course, this whole issue is moot, as no one has invited 7,000,000 Jews to come en masse to the U.S., and no one will.
One can have a thoughtful debate over the history, ethics, and impacts of the Balfour Declaration, the severing of present-day Jordan from the rest of Britain’s Palestine Mandate, the relocation of displaced European Jews to British Palestine, the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947, the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948, and Israel’s relationship with the West Bank and Gaza since Arab nations failed attacks on Israel in 1967 and 1973. On the other hand, seeking to reverse those events, 80 to 100 years later, is a barbarous notion.
The 20th century was a time of great and terrible migrations, and those forced to move and those who lived where the migrants came did, indeed, experience hardships. But for some strange reason, Israel is unique in experiencing demands that they reverse the mostly involuntary migrations that they underwent 50, 75, 100, 150 years ago. No one today argues that the world should undo the 1947 partition of India (10-20 million displaced and up to 2 million killed). Or the expulsion of 340,000 Volga Germans who had lived for centuries in Ukraine and thereabouts. The expulsion of 3 million Sudeten Germans from then-Czechoslovakia. The repeated relocations of Poles and Germans and Ukrainians as Poland blinked in and out of existence and as its borders moved repeatedly. The various population separations during and following the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Forced relocations of Greeks, Turks, and Cypriots. Of Kurds by Iran and Iraq. Of various Syrian ethnicities by the Assad regime. The mass deportations of Yemenites by Saudi Arabia. Chinese in Tibet. Only Jews need to move again.
Decades ago, a wise friend, after hearing that Jews should leave Palestine, told me his reaction is, “Will someone please tell me in which year was everyone in the world where they’re supposed to be?
Light of the Hammer
Around 2000, I wrote a poem on the subject of Chanukah—the Jewish Festival of Lights—and set it to music. The words speak of the revolt against the Seleucid Empire, led by Judah Maccabee (a.k.a, “The Hammer”), the oil that was said to burn for eight days, the destruction of that Jewish kingdom by the Romans in 70 C.E., the centuries of wandering, and the ultimate return to Israel. It occurred to me that words have become extraordinarily timely.
Here, the clarinet follows the words of the poem, accompanied by piano, bass, cello, and oboe. My wife’s painting features the blue tones one associates with the Mediterranean and with sacred Jewish objects. The poem/lyrics are below, as well as on the video.
“Light of the Hammer”
music and lyrics by Robert F. Graboyes © 2000, 2023
The Hammer’s blow set free the sparks that kindled the light
Whose flames drove king and army into flight,
Whose rays pierced the darkness through a night and seven more,
Illuminating the vision of a peace carved out of war.
Although the fire burned only for a dozen generations,
Then was crushed beneath the tyrant’s heel,
Amid the ashes in the wind, there wafted embers glowing bright
Which, stoked with dreams, could yet make tyrants kneel.
And though they drifted through a hundred generations on their way,
The embers lived to light a torch as bright as day.