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Over the last quarter century, the Hispanic population of the United States has exploded.
Immigration laws have been ignored. The huge border separating the U.S. and Mexico is virtually unpatrolled. And the illegal population of recent immigrants has been offered a series of amnesties forgiving past trespasses.
Some within that community – and it is certainly a small minority of the population – are resentful about life in America. Some are even promoting the idea of creating a separate Spanish-speaking state of Aztlan in the southwestern United States.
All this raises an obvious question: If life in America is so bad for Spanish-speaking immigrants, why do they continue to flock to the United States?
Why do I ask this question today? Not because I am writing about immigration in America, but because I want to make a point about immigration in the Middle East.
Conventional wisdom suggests a huge Arab population was displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948. It suggests the remaining Arab population in Israel has been mistreated. And it further suggests the solution to this problem is the creation of an Arab Palestinian state on Israeli land.
There are several glaring misconceptions in this view:
- The Arab population displaced by the 1948 war has been greatly exaggerated. The actual figure is no more than 500,000. Even more important is the cause of that displacement. The 1948 war was declared against Israel by all of its Arab neighbors. The refugees left Israel at the urging of those Arab states. They were told to leave because their homeland was about to be liberated by Arab forces. Of course, we all know Israel survived. Who is morally and legally culpable for creating those refugees? I would suggest it is the Arab states, not Israel.
- Far from being mistreated, the Arab population in Israel and in the territories administered by Israel has been freer than the population in any Arab state. Arabs in Israel vote. They elect leaders to the Knesset. They have their own political parties. They have their own newspapers. They have full rights to citizenship. They are free to speak their minds. As an Arab-American journalist who has spent a good deal of time covering the region, I can tell you there is more freedom for Arabs in Israel than in any Arab state.
- Land cannot possibly be the contentious issue as the Arab and Muslim states in the region already have 800 times as much territory as Israel. The Arabs have 50 times the population of Israel. The Arabs have all of the oil reserves of the region. They have 21 states of their own – all varying shades of police states. It’s difficult to imagine how one more will bring peace to a region that has known some of the most devastating and costly wars of the last century.
But, to top it all off, I seem to be the only observer asking pointed questions about the Arab-Israeli conflict: If conditions for Arabs are so bad in Israel, why is the Arab population exploding — and I don’t mean because of suicide bombers? Why do Arabs continue to flock to the tiny Jewish state from virtually every Arab and Muslim land in the world?
In 1949, the Arab population of Israel was about 160,000. Today, it is over 1.2 million.
This is hardly attributable to higher birth rates. Most of the growth in Arab population is due to migration. In other words, Arabs are picking up stakes in Arab lands and choosing to live in Israel.
This trend, of course, doesn’t include Arab Jewish migration to Israel. No one talks about the staggering number of Arab Jewish refugees – as many as 1 million – who fled the Muslim world with little more than the clothes on their backs to reach the safety and security of the Jewish state in the last 50 years.
We’re led to believe Arabs hate Israel – and, indeed, it’s true there is an irrational, inexplicable form of virulent anti-Semitism growing in the Arab and Muslim world. But when they vote with their feet, Arabs seem to love Israel. They continue to choose it as a place to live over life in their native countries as they have for the last half-century.
I’d love to hear one of the Arab nationalists explain this phenomenon.
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