Arab League and US State in denial on refugees

Appearing in The Weekly Standard, a highly-respected publication read by many in the Washington administration, this article, The other refugees by Jillian Bandes, is a breakthrough on several levels. It is the first to try to elicit an Arab League reaction to the sensational discovery of documents from 1947 pointing to Arab state collusion to exploit their Jewish citizens. The Arab League spokesman questions whether such documents ever existed. Equally damning – the US State department admits never having addressed the issue of recognition nor of restitution for Jewish refugees (at least from Iraq) , while recognising the rights of Arab refugees. (With thanks: Lily)

“A NEW DISCOVERY in the archives at the United Nations has drastically altered the historical narrative of the exile of Jews from Arab countries.

“Conventional wisdom had long held that the exile was the result of isolated incidents of anti-Semitism. But the newly discovered document reveals that it was, in fact, the result of concerted efforts by Arab countries, amounting to what is essentially a standard multinational policy of discrimination.

“The document was released by the human rights group Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JFJ) (in fact JJAC – ed) at a conference this past weekend, and includes the following:

” . . . every Jew whose activities reveal that he is an active Zionist will be considered as a political prisoner and will be interned in places specifically designated for that purpose . . . his financial resources . . . will be frozen.”

“No one at the Arab League was available to speak on record about the document despite repeated call to the organization over a four-day period. But an unnamed source there claimed that any document explaining such repression is “pretty questionable,” given that there is no record of it in Arab League files.

“The source said that, due to the lack of computers, there had not been any record-keeping that long ago.

“University of Miami professor Henry Green, an attendee at the JFJ (JJAC) conference, said “the historical record regarding the United Nations partition vote and the ongoing issue of refugees includes archival information that is accessible to anyone,” and that he would invite the Arab League “to join me and review the records so we can bring the historical documents to bear.”

“JFJ (JJAC) President Stan Urman said that the law outlines “a step by step chronology pointing to collusion by the Arab League” to work against Israel during the time of its inception. Urman and over 50 scholars from 10 countries met at the conference, which Green said “acknowledged and addressed the plight and pain of Jews from Arab and Islamic Lands that have been displaced because of state-sanctioned policies of repression.”

“The document comes at the center of a controversial historical and international debate. Almost sixty years ago, between 850,000 and 1 million Jews were exiled from Egypt, Saudi Arabia (actually Yemen – ed), Iraq and elsewhere in the region, while around 726,000 Palestinian refugees were displaced at roughly the same time. Jewish advocates point to 126 U.N. resolutions that have been passed on behalf of Palestinian refugees, and note that zero have been passed on behalf of their Jewish counterparts.

“JFJ (JJAC) spokeswoman Shira Dicker believes this to be the result of Israel’s inaction on the issue (…) Furthermore, the refugee victims felt as if their stories were less tragic than those of the Holocaust survivors, who were taking up residence in Israel during the same period. And as time went on, Jewish refugees from Arab lands found it difficult to bring attention to their cause as victims because of their success in re-rooting themselves.

“Conference attendees interested in seeing that change were infuriated when an Israeli official offered that the government would “address the issue when the time is right.”

“A State Department official was similarly noncommittal, saying that there are no plans to address the issue of Jewish refugees at the upcoming Middle East peace talks in Annapolis, Maryland between U.S., Israeli, and Palestinian representatives among others. Looking for allies, the victims are turning to Congress. Spearheaded by Reps. Tom Lantos and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, H. Res. 185 and S. Res. 85, address the issue of Jewish refugees by mandating that any Middle East peace agreement would address the plight of “all refugees in the Middle East”–not just Jews, but Christians and Muslims as well. The proposed legislation would also require that Jewish and other refugees be mentioned when resolutions are made about Palestinian refugees–a point likely to stir anger among Palestinian advocacy groups. However, debate won’t begin on the resolution before the Annapolis talks.

“Gina Wills, a public affairs specialist in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the Department of State, said that the United States has never addressed the issue of Jewish refugees or commanded attention to their restitution. In fact, it has refused to recognize the claims of Jews fleeing Iraq, despite recognizing the claims of Arab refugees against Israel.

The issue “has been expunged on the pages of history,” said JFJ’s Shira Dicker. “This is it, 60 years after the fact.”

Read article in full


  • I think of all the reasons you give for the Israeli government’s silence the most convincing are ‘the excessive and/or stupid pragmatism of Israeli policymakers which does not believe in taking moral positions and making national claims’. It is also true that Israel did not see any reason to politicise what was essentially a humanitarian issue.It is only because the Arabs turned their refugees into a political weapon that the truth about the Jewish refugees needs to be known.Also, with the exception of a brief period in the 1970s when WOJAC was first set up, the Mizrahim did not have an effective lobby to represent them. Another factor is that between 1970 and the 1990s secret operations were going on to rescue the remaining Jews of Iraq and Syria. Israel probably thought that quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy would be more effective.

  • So we see that the UN and the US State Dept didn’t care and still don’t care and won’t care about Jewish refugees from Arab lands. That’s not new. What’s new is that it’s being talked about at last. Not enough, of course.

    For the record, neither the UK nor USSR nor France cared that much either. The fact is that the Big 4 post-war powers in Europe [US, UK, USSR, France] did not want to prosecute Haj Amin el-Husseini [British-appointed mufti of Jerusalem] for his participation
    in the Holocaust in Europe and in Iraq [the Farhud].

    As to why Israel did not make an issue of it, I think that the explanation given in the article by Miss Dicker is simplistic, although partially true. After all, there were Middle Eastern Jews prominent in the Foreign Ministry from the early years of the state [for example, Eliyahu Sasson, later his son, Moshe]. Bringing up this issue at the UN would not have been a costly matter. More than overlooking the issue being a matter of Ashkenazic favoritism, I attribute it to 1) the “leftist” [pro-Soviet Communist] orientation of early Israeli governments, at a time when the Soviet-led “progressive” movement was defending Arab nationalism; 2) the desire on the part of the Foreign Ministry not to displease the British or the Americans by saying anything that might cast an unfavorable light on their Arab proteges [the State Dept was even pro-Arab before 1948]; 3) an excessive and/or stupid pragmatism on the part of Israeli policymakers to this day which does not appreciate the importance or value of taking moral positions and making national claims. I believe that these reasons were more important than an Ashkenazic favoritism. Maybe we could learn more about the Foreign Ministry’s failure to act on this issue if we examined its records from 1948 up to 1967, and in particular the papers of Eliyahu Sasson.

    It is of interest in this context that Cecil Roth, the British-Jewish historian, wrote a pamplhlet in the post-WW2 period about the treatment of Jews in Arab lands both over history and during the war and its aftermath, when –as you know– there were numerous pogroms in Arab lands. However, the line of discussion propounded by Roth was dropped subsequently by the Israel govt, Zionist organizations [if I am not mistaken], and various world Jewish organizations.

    Of course, nowadays, when there seems to be a pan-European [EU] and
    UN consensus that the Arabs in general and the Palestinian Arabs in particular are the most pity-deserving and sympathy-deserving people in the world, there is a moronic reluctance on the part of some Jewish organizations to challenge that consensus. This is especially true since that consensus is supported by the so-called “left” as well as by many Western govts [including UK & US State Dept].


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