Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Jaffa's relatives were more Iraqi than the Arabs

I READ with great interest Malcolm Jaffa's article (Comment, November 30 in which he wrote: "My relatives lived in Iraq as Jews for more than 2,000 years [actually more like 2,500].

"By the 1950s, they were living as refugees in Israel."

This would have given them a far more legitimate right to have been classified as natives of Iraq than the Arabs, who only settled there a millennium later. It would certainly show them to be more indigenous to that country than the Arabs in Palestine, whom most people mistakenly consider the quintessential refugees - even though most of them are descended from those who infiltrated its highly porous land borders during the British Mandate (1918-48) in response to the opportunities resulting from Jewish economic activity. As regards the Gaza strip, the vast majority of its population are the descendents of Egyptian fellahin from the Nile delta.

They were settled there by Ibrahim Pasha in the 1830s in what had previously been a very sparsely populated area.

This applies equally to the 1948 refugees resident in the strip, who were also, in the main, of similar Egyptian provenance, being descended from settlers planted along the Israeli coast as far north as Ashkelon and Ashdod at the same time.

The common Palestinian surnames, such as Masri (Egyptian) or Hindi (Indian), are perhaps the clearest indicator of their bearers' non-indigenous origin.

MARTIN D STERN

Salford, Greater Manchester

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