Israel’s new UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, is off to a good start: his speech on ‘International Solidarity with the Palestinian people Day’ on 29 November at last made the comparison between Jewish and Palestinian refugees. But he needs to keep chipping away at the UN wall of denial and evasion in order to make a difference. Michelle Huberman writes in her Jerusalem Post ‘Clash of Cultures’ blog:
At last, the audience of predominately hostile nations at the UN heard Israel’s envoy, Ron Prosor, make a resounding comparison between Jewish and Arab refugees. He boldly confronted the Arab countries about the Jews who were forced to flee their lands but were successfully resettled in Israel, while they refused to absorb their own Palestinian refugees.
Ron stated, “as a result of the war (in 1948), there were Arabs who became refugees. A similar number of Jews, who lived in Arab countries, were forced to flee their homes as well. They, too, became refugees. The difference between these two distinct populations was – and still is – that Israel absorbed the refugees into our society. Our neighbours did not. Refugee camps in Israel gave birth to thriving towns and cities. Refugee camps in Arab Countries gave birth to more Palestinian refugees. “We unlocked our new immigrants’ vast potential. The Arab World knowingly and intentionally kept their Palestinian populations in the second class status of permanent refugees”.
The full plenary meeting at the UN. Ron Prosor’s Speech commences at 1:41:45
The enraged UN delegate from Kuwait who followed (at 2:42) was spluttering to deny Prosor’s claims that Kuwait forcibly expelled its Palestinian citizens in 1991. Clearly, he was suffering amnesia over the exodus that took place at the end of the Gulf War, when Kuwait expelled almost 450,000 Palestinians after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the PLO aligned themselves with Saddam Hussein, who had earlier invaded Kuwait. Prior to the exodus, Palestinians made up about 30% of Kuwait’s population. Following the exodus, only 7,000 Palestinians remained.
For too long, Israel’s public diplomacy has pussy-footed around the question of Jewish refugees. Ron Prosor’s explicit mention of Jewish refugees from Arab countries represents a more pro-active approach by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon in particular has been pushing the Jewish refugees issue.
Edwin Shuker of Harif recalls the unstinting support offered by Ambassador Prosor when he was in the UK to Harif’s various campaigns to educate the public and to ensure the subject takes its proper place in peace negotiations between Israel and Arab countries. The Ambassador was particularly delighted with the Mezuzah Campaign which would be a constant reminder to raise the subject at the UN at every opportunity.When are member states going to wake up to the truth? One mention of Jewish refugees is patently not enough. Our Ron needs to chip away at the UN’s 60-year-old wall of denial and evasion. As the Arab countries take their turn to spew out their lies and hatred for our Jewish State, Ron has continually to press the message strongly and clearly at every international meeting and in every forum. Not only has there been a Jewish presence in Israel since Biblical times, not only was it a refuge for European Jews after the Holocaust…. but it has also been a refuge for the Jews kicked out by the Arab states. Every one of those countries has to be asked “what did you do to your Jews? Where are they now? Why have you never been held to account for human rights abuses against them? Where are their properties? Where are their businesses? What did you do with their stolen goods?The truth about the sufferings of their Jewish populations and expulsion from 1948 onwards makes Palestinians and Arabs generally realise that they were not the only ones who suffered from the Arab-Israeli conflict. Out of a mutual appreciation of suffering arises an opportunity for reconciliation. There is a concept in Arab culture called sulha – a permanent reconciliation. The condition for a sulha is that the side that causes injustice to the other side has to pay for it. Full reconciliation is reflected in the sulha ceremony where the payment is made. But first, each side must sit down and acknowledge the suffering and losses of the other. Up until 29 November 2011, most UN member states had not even heard of Jewish refugees. Ron Prosor has a Herculean education job to do in the UN. But he has made a start.