Israel must pursue redress for Jewish refugees

Further to President George Bush’s allusion to an international fund to compensate refugees, a Jerusalem Post editorial hammers home the point that compensation for refugees must include Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Israel must pursue this in earnest:

“As the (Israeli) Foreign Ministry’s web site explains, “Israel does not bear responsibility for the creation or the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem. Thus it cannot declare, even as a gesture, responsibility for the problem.” Our diplomats and leaders need to hammer this point home, and also stress that if there is to be compensation, that the Jewish refugees of this period not be forgotten.

“The establishment of Israel afforded Arab tyrants the pretext to engage in massive ethnic cleansing against their own Jewish inhabitants. In effect a population exchange transpired in this region, with Jewish refugees from Arab countries outnumbering those Arabs who left Israel (about one million Jews compared to 600,000 Arabs).

“The Jews, though, were never compensated for the property they were forced to relinquish. If compensation mechanisms are to be set up, then by right they ought to include reimbursement for Jews as well, especially as these Jews did not initiate aggression against anyone and in many cases resided in the various Arab countries centuries before Arabs or Islam appeared there.

“The Jewish refugees’ cause was first raised forcefully in the Knesset in 1975 by then-MK (later Israel Prize laureate) Mordechai Ben-Porat, who founded the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) to document property and assets left behind by Jews in Arab countries. In 2003, the government officially authorized WOJAC to list all that was confiscated from Jews by Arab governments.

“Jewish lands were wrested from Jews by order of Arab regimes, as were Jews’ bank accounts and even jewelry. This wasn’t only limited to the time of Israel’s establishment. Egypt stripped its Jews of all they had in 1956.

“Occasionally there are murmured allusions to these facts from official Israel, such as from Menachem Begin in the first Camp David process and Ehud Barak in his 2000 Camp David talks. But the issue has not been pursued in earnest. It should be.”

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