As the Annapolis summit approaches, it is vital to keep alive the memory of the state-sanctioned persecution of Jews in Arab countries, writes Geoffrey Alderman in The Jewish Chronicle:
“In a few days’ time we shall celebrate the 60th anniversary of the passage, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, of Resolution 181. This was the resolution that authorised the division of Mandate Palestine (or, more accurately, Western Mandate Palestine) into a Jewish state and an Arab state, with Greater Jerusalem under international control.
“Prior to this historic vote, the head of the Egyptian delegation at the UN, Dr “”Muhammad Haykal (a relatively liberal intellectual and politician), had warned that, “were the western portion of Mandate Palestine to be so partitioned, there would “inevitably follow a wave of anti-Jewish feeling in the Arab world, and that Jewish blood would be spilled. And so it was.
“The UN’s historic decision to re-establish a Jewish state in Palestine was taken on November 29, 1947. On the very next day, a number of Jews in Palestine were killed by Islamic militants. Elsewhere in the Arab world, no distinction whatever was made between Jews and Zionists. There followed a campaign of harassment and violence against Jewish populations that had lived in these areas for centuries, if not for millennia. As a result, between 1948 and 1951, around 850,000 Jews fled from Arab countries to the re-established Jewish state. These are indeed the “forgotten refugees” of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“Some months ago, appearing at a panel discussion on this conflict, I drew attention to this ethnic cleansing, only to be told by my opponents that the story that Jews had been forced to flee Arab lands was a myth — another piece of mischievous Zionist propaganda. No Jew (I was told) had been forced to flee. Zionists deliberately planted bombs in synagogues and Jewish commercial property in order to “stimulate” a Jewish exodus to Israel. In Iraq (I was told) Zionist agents paid Jews to emigrate, whilst in Libya the government made desperate attempts to persuade its beloved Jews to stay put. If there were genuine attacks against Jews, these were few and far between, and no effort was spared to protect these unfortunates from the wrath of local Islamists.
“The truth is very different. There were bloody pogroms against Jews in Syria and the Yemen. In Libya, Jews were stripped of their citizenship. In Iraq, Jewish property was confiscated.
“Recently, evidence has come to light suggesting that these collective persecutions were carefully planned and co-ordinated. Earlier this month, at the New York offices of the American Jewish Committee, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries presented a report on the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab lands. Within the report, new evidence is published drawn from the UN’s own archives.
“Amongst these is advice, drafted by the Arab League in 1947, on how Arab countries might systematically discriminate against their Jewish citizens: all Jews, save those who were citizens of non-Arab countries, were to be considered and treated as members of the Jewish “minority state of Palestine”; their bank accounts were to be frozen so as to permit the funds in them to be used to finance resistance to “Zionist ambitions in Palestine”; Jews believed to be active Zionists were to be interned as political prisoners and their assets confiscated; only Jews who accepted service in Arab armies or who placed themselves at the disposal of these armies were to considered “Arabs”, with the rights and protections that went with this classification.
“It is now clear that the guidance of the Arab League was followed very closely by a number of Arab governments, whose legislative discrimination against Jews mirrored — and still mirrors, sometimes almost verbatim — the advice that the League offered.
“How will the UN mark the 60th anniversary of the partition resolution? Well, in a typical and typically spiteful perversion of the truth, November 29 is officially recognised by the “modern” UN as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This year, as in past years, the UN will hold special meetings in New York, Geneva and Vienna to cement this “solidarity” and to call to mind the “inalienable” rights of Palestinian Arabs.
“The decision to so designate November 29 was taken in 1977. No mention whatever was made, when this decision was taken, of the inalienable rights of the Jews forced from their homes and deprived of their property and even of their lives as a result of institutionalised harassment in the Arab counties in which they lived 60 years ago.
“As the peacemakers gather in Annapolis, it is vital to keep alive the memory of this state-sanctioned persecution.