Jewish refugees deserve justice too

The truth about Middle Eastern refugees, like every other aspect of the conflict, is far more complex than meets the eye. Israel Hayom columnist Dror Eydar (pictured) explains why:

At the beginning of the week I
had the chance to take part in a rare historic event: the first
official conference on the issue of Jewish refugees, held under the
auspices of Israel’s Foreign Ministry in cooperation with the World
Jewish Congress. The international conference was titled “Justice for
Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries.”

 For the first time in decades, the
call for justice for the Jewish people was once again heard in
Jerusalem. Not just a call for security, or apologetic Israeli discourse
in the face of Palestinian calls for so-called justice, but a clear
call, by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, to bring the issue of Jewish refugees back into
every international arena: the ethical, legal, diplomatic and political
arenas. 

As one of the conference participants, former
Canadian Minister of Justice Professor Irwin Cotler, said: “Where there
is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there
will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no
reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no
peace – which we all seek.” 

Indeed, this is a serious issue that has
been neglected and kept silent for years, in stark contrast with the
Palestinian refugee issue, which has become self evident and universally
recognized in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The
Palestinians have become experts at marketing their victimhood to the
world, and thus, the concept of a “just solution” became unilaterally
linked to the Palestinian narrative. But just like every aspect of the
Middle East story, here, too, the truth is far more complex. 

With the exception of a few years prior to
World War I, the Arabs living in this region never accepted the Jewish
presence here. They rejected the various partition plans, ranging from
the Peel Commission in 1937, through the 1947 Partition Plan, to the
Oslo Accords and other generous Israeli offers. They were always willing
to accept land, but never to sign a final agreement that would spell
the end of the conflict.

***

In Nov. 1948, the U.N. appointed a task force
to coordinate humanitarian aid work for Palestinian refugees. A short
time later, the U.N.’s Economic Survey Mission issued its recommendation
to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem by resettling them in Arab
countries and integrating them in industry and agriculture there. That
is how the United Nations Relief and Works Agency came about. Obviously,
the plan never came to fruition, because the Arab countries refused to
naturalize the Palestinian refugees. They were tasked with being the
eternal victims — a means to bash Israel. 

The Twentieth Century saw millions upon
millions of refugees, products of various wars. Population changes
occurred in many places around the globe. Millions of Sikhs and Hindus,
for example, were displaced from Pakistan to India in the 1950s, and
millions of Muslims, meanwhile, took the opposite route. This population
exchange involved a lot of violence, but ultimately, it happened.
Incidentally, then-Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan visited Cairo
in 1960 and voiced hope during a press conference there that the fact
that his country absorbed some seven million refugees from India would
serve as an example to Arab countries to absorb 750,000 Palestinian
refugees. 

But the status of Palestinian refugees is
unlike the status of any other kind of refugee. The U.N. has two
agencies that deal with refugees: the UNHCR which handles all the
refugees in the world, and a refugee agency just for the Palestinians:
UNRWA. 

The U.N. also has two different definitions of
refugee status: one is a general definition assigning refugee status to
“people who are outside their countries because of a well-founded fear
of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political
opinion or membership in a particular social group, and who, for
persecution related reasons, are unable or unwilling to return home.”
This definition affords refugee status for a limited number of years,
and only to the displaced persons themselves, not their offspring. Under
this definition, refugee status is revoked when a displaced person
settles in, and integrates into another country. But not so when it
comes to Palestinian refugees. 

A Palestinian refugee is defined as “anyone
whose normal place of residence was in Mandate Palestine during the
period from June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948, and who lost both home and
means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.” In short,
anyone who lived here for two years prior to the establishment of the
State of Israel is considered a Palestinian refugee who lived here “for
thousands of years” since the biblical Jebusites … And incidentally,
only Palestinian refugee status can be passed down from generation to
generation. Most of UNRWA’s budget comes from the U.S. and the EU, both
of which are pushing Israel to resume negotiations with the Palestinians
but are simultaneously helping to perpetuate the conflict.

***

Opposite the 600,000 or 700,000 Palestinian
refugees, there are more than 850,000 Jewish refugees who were forcibly
expelled from Arab countries over the establishment of the State of
Israel and its victory in the 1948 War of Independence. 

The Arab countries are ultimately responsible
for creating the refugee problem, both the Palestinian refugee problem
that resulted from a war waged by Arab countries against Israel, and the
Jewish refugee problem, by stripping Jews of their citizenships,
confiscating their property, murdering many of them and violently
expelling the rest from the places they had populated for 2,500 years.
All this, some 1,000 years before the rise of Islam. 

It is important to get familiar with the
testimonies of Jewish refugees. A good starting point is a website
called The Forgotten Million, operated by the World Organization of Jews
from Arab Countries. These Jews also lived in refugee camps for a time:
the Israeli maabarot (refugee absorption camps). But, as opposed to the
Palestinian refugee camps, the tents in the maabarot eventually became
shacks, which then became permanent housing and ultimately cities. 

And so, in stark contrast with the U.N.-fueled
eternal refugee-hood of the Palestinians, these Jewish refugees
integrated into their old-new homeland and were no longer of any
interest to anyone. The term “pogrom” was seen as referring to violence
only European Jews were subjected to. Furthermore, as Cotler mentioned,
in the case of Arab Jews, the violence, the loss of citizenship, the
theft of property and the expulsion reflected the stated policy of the
Arab League, which had suggested a similar course of action against
Jewish nationals back in 1947. 

Now that the issue has gotten official state
recognition, Israel’s representatives should raise the issue of Jewish
refugees at every diplomatic event, and demand that justice be done.
More than 150 resolutions having to do with Palestinian refugees have
been adopted by the U.N. Not one has to do with their Jewish
counterparts. It is time to change all that. By the way, U.N. Security
Council Resolution 242 talks about a “just settlement of the refugee
problem” — all refugees, including the Jewish ones.

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7 Comments

  • talk, you are stubbornly ignorant. Did you look up Farhud and Haj Amin el-Husseini on google yet? Yes, Husseini was looked up to as the leader of the Palestinian Arabs even after he had to leave the mandated territory and go to Lebanon and then Iraq in the late 1930s. The British let him go since they did not want to arrest him or be in the awkward position of being expected to arrest him, despite his incitement to murder of both Jews and his Arab opposition. But he remained the chief leader of the Arabs in the country. He had agents inside the country among his own large clan and others and communicated with the Arab world through Radio Berlin.

    As to the legality of Israeli ownership of Judea-Samaria, here is a website with about a dozen links to relevant articles and videos.
    http://theisraelisettlements.blogspot.co.il/p/settlements-legal-issues.html

    Reply
  • al-Husseini did not represent the Palestinians at the time he met Hitler. He was ousted by the British in 1937. My sources are British Parliamentary Hansard.

    ziontruth.blogspot ?? seventy-years-since ?? The Palestinians of today were at the very best babies when he met Hitler. Isn't simple maths taught where you come from?

    Furthermore, it has absolutely nothing to do with the internationally recognized extent of Israeli sovereignty.

    Reply
  • talk, Husseini was appointed mufti in 1921 by Samuel as you say. And also was made head of the newly created Supreme Muslim Council. But Arabs made him head of the Arab Higher Committee. He was recognized as leader of most of the Palestinian Arabs by the British & Germans. See him being greeted by Hitler in Berlin in the video at the link below:

    http://ziontruth.blogspot.co.il/2011/11/seventy-years-since-arab-mufti-haj-amin.html

    Further, while in Berlin during WW2, Husseini had an entourage made up of members of most of the leading Palestinian Arab families. He was not alone there in Berlin representing only himself. I stand by what I wrote above. Your sources are unreliable.

    Reply
  • Eliyahu m'Tsiyon .. Odd. Plan Dalet was under way in the months before May 15th 1948. There were Jewish forces outside of the territory slated for the Jewish State, busy dispossessing non-Jews. BTW UNGA resolution 194 applied to both Jews and Non-Jews.

    The Palestinians A) didn't elect al-Husseini. He was appointed by the Jewish British High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel. B) He was not in office representing the Palestinians by 1937. C) The Palestinians had NOTHING what so ever to do with Hitler

    Reply
  • Moreover, the Palestinian Arab leadership collaborated in the Nazi Holocaust and in mass murdering Jews, including in Arab lands. Look up Farhud and Haj Amin el-Husseini on google or yahoo.

    These same leaders –the Arab Higher Committee for palestine– took part in Arab League decisions to despoil the Jews in Arab lands if the UN GA voted in favor of partition.

    So Palestinian Arabs took part in massacring and expelling Jews.

    Reply
  • In fact, talknic, the first refugees in the 1947-1948 Arab-Israeli war were Jews driven out of their homes in parts of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Tel Aviv & Haifa. Likewise the first refugees in the war who could not go back to their homes in the country after the war were Jews in Jewish neighborhoods near the Orient House & the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem.

    Reply
  • When folk take up citizenship in a country other than that of return they are no longer refugees. Furthermore, the Palestinians didn't expel anyone from the Arab States or elect the leaders of the Arab States. If there are actually any Jewish refugees who have not taken up citizenship in a country other than that of return, they are covered by UNGA res 194 (written a year before UNRWA was formed BTW) http://wp.me/pDB7k-jS

    Reply

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.