For Yehouda Shenhav of Tel Aviv University, author of "The Arab Jews", the purported equivalence is plainly spurious:
"Any reasonable person, Zionist or non-Zionist, must acknowledge that the analogy drawn between Palestinians and Arab Jews is unfounded. Palestinian refugees did not want to leave Palestine. Many Palestinian communities were destroyed in 1948, and some 700,000 Palestinians were expelled, or fled, from the borders of historic Palestine. Those who left did not do so of their own volition. In contrast, Arab Jews arrived to Israel under the initiative of the State of Israel and Jewish organizations. Some arrived of their own free will; others arrived against their will. Some lived comfortably and securely in Arab lands; others suffered from fear and oppression."
Moreover, the claimed equivalence between Jewish and Arab refugees stems from an organised campaign whose aims are far from humanitarian. Shenhav describes it as
"...a folly attempt to use the Arab Jews and their histories to counter-balance the Palestinian claim for the so called "right of return". The campaign has tried to create an analogy between Palestinian refugees and Arab Jews, whose origins are in Middle Eastern countries - depicting both groups as victims of the 1948 War of Independence. The campaign's Jewish proponents hope their efforts will prevent conferral of what is called a "right of return" on Palestinians, and reduce the size of the compensation Israel is liable to be asked to pay in exchange for Palestinian property appropriated by the state guardian of "lost" assets.[i.e. Palestinian property stolen by the Israeli government] Whereas in the past, the State of Israel and Jewish organizations have denied any linkage between the two groups and argued that the campaign was launched in the interest of the Arab Jews (see Chapter 3 in my book The Arab Jews, Stanford University Press, 2006), today all parties involved acknowledge that the main objective of the campaign is not to secure the interest of the Arab Jews, but rather to counter-balance the Palestinian political demands. ... [T]he idea of drawing this analogy constitutes a mistaken reading of history, imprudent politics, and moral injustice; and ... any analogy between Palestinian refugees and Jewish immigrants from Arab lands is folly in historical and political terms "
This campaign, Shenhav points out, continually fails to win support amongst Arab Jews because many of them refuse to see themselves as refugees and insist that they came to Israel as willing Zionists. This is not to say that many Arab Jews were not wronged by Arab governments at that time, but rather to point out that an equivalence can not be made in order to justify some trade-off of rights. After all, those Arab Jews who did not come to Israel of their own volition, who were expelled from Arab lands with their property confiscated, now at least enjoy self-determination in a democratic national homeland. Certainly few of them are demanding the right to return to their ancestral homes in Iraq, Syria and other countries. The Palestinian refugees by contrast are condemned to live in squalor, forcibly denied by Israel and its international allies their right to self-determination and a democratic state of their own. Its hard to say what's uglier: the claim that the plight of the two groups is the same, or the attempt to trade one crime off against another.
In this article, Lyn Julius argues that a resolution to the refugee issue can be found in Palestinians relinquishing their right of return in exchange for Arab Jews relinquishing theirs. I responded as follows:
"To seek restitution for the Jewish refugees is a noble and worthy cause. To try and trade off the rights of Jewish refugees against the rights of Palestinian refugess, by contrast, is cynical in the extreme.
Human rights, by definition, are not a commodity and cannot be traded. People who sign up to the principles of liberal democracy should not need this to be explained to them. Why should the Palestinians be held accountable for the crimes of Arab tyrannies? Because we're holding the whole Arab race responsible? Anyone who subscribes to that view has no right to speak of anti-semitism. You either oppose racism or you don't.
Let the Jewish refugees come to a settlement with those who wronged them; the Arab governments. And let the Palestinians come to a settlement with those who wronged them; the Israeli government. And let those who profess to speak on behalf of one oppressed group not exploit their cause in order to oppress another."