Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Immigrants Pouring In

Today's document gives a taste of the atmosphere Israeli immigration officials operated in during the summer of 1950, when mass immigration of almost penniless immigrants had simply become the natural way of the world. It was penned by one Itzhak Refael, who later went on to become one of the leaders of the National Religious Party; the three-page document gives the projections for immigration in the coming three months (after June 1950). The purpose is to control the pace of arrivals, although, as Refael notes, this is only partially possible. The immigration from Arab lands, he explains, is motivated by distress, and if conditions get worse we can't keep people out.

Which is an interesting point, since present-day polemicists love to argue about whether the Jews were being forced out of the Arab lands, and were thus refugees, or they were coming because of religious belief in the centrality of Israel and the sudden possibility to move to a Jewish state, so they were immigrants (or worse, colonialists). As if there's necessarily a contradiction between being pushed and pulled.

Refael also didn't know how to reckon the pace of immigration from Romania, where there was one ship plying back and forth but the pressure was on to add another. As for places such as Turkey, Bulgaria and Morocco, he was allocating them only a few hundred monthly immigrants each because while he didn't see how the absorption numbers could be any larger, he didn't want to halt the immigration process completely.

Here are some of the numbers:

Poland: 5,700. There's a proposal to add a ship on the Gdansk-Haifa line, but this hasn't been decided yet.

Romania: 10,800.

Hungary: We have an agreement with them for 3,000 immigrants, then there will have to be another round of negotiations.

Austria: 800. Mostly Hungarian Jews who are finding a way out.

North America: 600. (North American Jewry wasn't participating in the wave of immigration, nor would it in noticeable numbers for the next 20 years, nor in sizable numbers ever).

Libya: 1,500 immigrants. There are 3,000 people in a transit camp in Tripoli.

Tunisia: 900. We're hearing that the pressure on the Jews to leave is growing.

Afghanistan's: 500.

Iran: 1,500.

Iranian Kurdistan: 1,500.

Iraq: 12,000. We're hearing about growing persecution of the Jews in Iraq, especially in the north.

Egypt: 2,000.

Shanghai: 400. (These would have been European refugess from Nazism who washed up in Shanghai.)

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