Palestinians rebuff Jewish refugees

 Point of No Return exclusive

An offer to advocates for Palestinian refugee rights to cooperate with advocates for the rights of Jewish refugees was rejected at the Zochrot conference*. 

The conference went ahead on the supposed site of an Arab village on the Tel Aviv university campus on 29 and 30 September, despite attempts to have it cancelled.  Levana Zamir, the president of the Association of Jews from Egypt in Israel, who made the offer to cooperate,  watched the conference develop into a nightmare – a sick and calculated blueprint for the annihilation of Israel. (One can only marvel at the irony that the bastion of anti-Zionism that is Tel Aviv university, whose staff and students so enthusiastically participated in the conference, should cooperate in their own destruction. )

Here is Levana’s report:

This international conference initiated by the Israeli NGO Zokhrot (meaning ‘we remember’),  titled “Realizing the Return of
Palestinian Refugees” took place over two days in the Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv – located on the site of the former Arab village of  Sheikh Mouniss.

It was  a nightmare to me.  Janet Dallal, an Israeli friend from Iraq, was there with me. The other
heads of organisations of Jews from Arab countries decided not to come and speak out – saying it would give the conference too much  publicity. Now I can say they were wrong. 

The aim of this conference was not to argue whether the Palestinian
refugees have a right of return, but the realisation of it,  termed ‘decolonisation’
by the conference, including  parts of north
Tel Aviv where small Arab villages were located before 1948.

The conference got off to a slow start, talking about doing justice to the dispossessed and
stateless Palestinian refugees, and with a few good words from Leila Hilal,
Director of the Middle East Task force of the New America
Foundation – the main sponsor of this conference, beside
other European organisations. 

Leila Hilal said she was embarrassed
to open the conference knowing that ‘the right of return’ issue was very
delicate for most of Israelis: I liked her opening very much. But she
continued saying it was about time to do justice to those politically-displaced refugees and put an end to their suffering. From time to time she talked of “compensation”.

Levana Zamir…’conference a nightmare’

Professor  Dan Rabinovitz of Tel Aviv University (where else?) gave
his presentation, saying that the ‘right of return’ would be granted to refugees born
in Palestine and are still alive – not to their descendants – i.e. 200, 000
refugees.  A  ‘right of return’ given by Israel to Jews only is discrimination, he said.
He asked for recognition and for an apology. The Return
would not always be to the original locations, but to alternatives.

After three more presentations about “reconciliation”, the Serbian refugee model, and the research findings of an Arab doctoral studentfrom the UK on displaced Palestinians, it was
easy for me at the Q&A to say my few words over the microphone and
to ask my question.  I said:

“I came here to give you a hand, to ask you to continue your fight
to get back your properties and compensation because I am myself a refugee, a
Jewish refugee from Egypt. We were dispossessed of all our family
properties, of our identity, then expelled. There are a million Jewish refugees
like me from Arab lands – Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, etc.  So I propose to pool our efforts – Palestinian and
Jewish refugees – to recover our properties, secure compensation, and not to
accept the kizuz (cancelling out) proposed by Israel. 

“My question to Leila Hilal was this:
“as you represent the New America Foundation, dealing with refugees in the
Middle East, would you agree to give us a hand, and deal with Jewish
refugees too. Let’s do it together, hand in hand.”

Leila did not answer my question but asked the others to do so.  Prof.
Dan Rabinovitz said that my request was absolutely right, but he was an expert on
Palestinian refugees and dealt only with them. The doctoral student from the UK,
Munir Nuseibah, said he would be ready to develop his research for both sides.
But during the coffee break, when I asked him how he would like us to cooperate
on his research, he said he could not cooperate. People around us heard his
answer very clearly.

When Leila asked the Serbian expert to answer to another question
about the success of the ‘right of return’ imposed on Serbia, she said
that it was a very bad experience involving killing people, and it had to be stopped.

During the coffe break, the president and founder of Zokhrot, Eitan Bronstein (an Israeli), came to me and said he was ready to see how Zokhrot could cooperate with us to include the Jewish refugees in
their themes and activities. At that moment I was really glad to be there, but
Leila avoided me and disappeared. I will send her a short message.


Janet Dallal intervened during the afternoon sessions, reminding
the audience (all of them leftists) of the existence of the second group of refugees, the
Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, and the role of the Arab League in all

The second and last part of the conference became a

During the whole next day, the lecturers demonstrated what the Return
would be like, geographically – through animated short clips – and

For example, in North Tel Aviv, on Ibn-Gvirol Street and the corner
of Arlozorof – a sophisticated Tel-Avivian neighbourhood where an Arab village called Soumayel was located – the ‘Israeli occupiers’ would
have the right to decide to leave their homes or stay and pay the ‘Palestinian refugee owner’ the
‘market value’ of their house. Then the ‘Palestinian refugee owner’ would decide between recovering ‘his’ house or taking the
money, with all that entailed. The Israeli ‘occupiers’ could not pass their homes on as inheritance to their descendants, etc. etc. 

The Palestinian refugee who did
not wish to Return, would get all their rights as Israeli citizens (
Bituah Leumi national insurance rights, etc). in the paradise of One state for Two Peoples.  There was never any talk of “two separate nation-states”.

Everything is already settled for the Return to Arab villages too. The speakers planned, for example, how the ‘new’ Arab village of Ladjoun, on the
edge of the flourishing kibbutz Meggido in the North,  will look, and under which conditions
two Arab buildings still located inside the kibbutz would be incorporated into the village.

All this seemed to me sick and destructive, so the second day I did  not attend the conference but watched via the
on-line conference link on the Zokhrot Facebook page. 

The conference continued in this vein. Some lecturers even said, “Zionism is a crime” and
nobody objected, except one lady who said: ” please respect others’ beliefs”. That was the only moment when I wished I had been there to say that today the word
“Zionism” has no meaning any more – because the State of Israel belongs
to the people of Israel. We are Am Israel, living in Medinat Israel.

To sum up, I cannot believe this is happening to us, that Israelis could
side with our enemies so as to annihilate the State of Israel. This
conference came one step closer towards this annihilation. I would like to say to all
those who were there, that the creation of the State of Israel after 2,000 years
was a miracle, and that the people of Israel on its own land is neither invincible, nor should it be taken for granted.

*Update: should Jewish refugees from Arab countries work together with Palestinians? See comments thread below. Please join the debate.

Imagine this conference happening in Baghdad 

Funds from European governments support an ‘erase Israel’ conference

J-Street crowd applauds ‘Right of Return’


  • I think that the moral thing to do is to join with those who are persecuted for who they are, while being careful not to be carried toward extremism, right or left.

  • Their (declared) motives must be scrutinized, particularly the claim that that they're exclusively supporting the Palestinian cause because of their so-called "Jewish values" and some strange pretension that they are called to repair the world.

    Yet, they look the other way where real suffering occurs: no mention of children gassed in Syria, of churches burning everywhere in the Middle East, of people blown to pieces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya or Boston, because mentioning it might upset their proteges who for the most part are Muslim and might feel differently.

    The radical left's attitude is like that of the Poles who lived and worked peacefully around Auschwitz concentration camps all the while they were hearing the screams coming out of the camps and smelling the burning flesh, but who looked the other way either because it's happening to someone else or maybe because saying or doing something or just sympathizing could have had an effect on their relations with the Germans.

    Tikkun Olam is about bringing justice by trying to alleviate the physical and material suffering of those who are persecuted just for who they are, with words or deeds, not about taking sides in a political or territorial dispute.

  • I agree with Sylvia that you can't really have honest dealings with these "leftist" fanatics. These are not sincere people concerned about humanitarian issues, as they often pretend. They have fixed prejudices and ideological goals that include hatred of Jews and Judaism and any authentic Jewish culture, secular or religious.

    In this they are on the same side as many prominent Judeophobes [antisemites] in Western countries. Further, we know that zokhrot and other fake humanitarian NGOs are funded by the EU and other Western govts and institutions such as churches, trade unions, foundations, etc etc.

    The EU is particularly insidious. Note the recent op ed by Professor Kontorovich in the JPost in which he pointed out that the EU itself funds projects in occupied territories, such as Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus [although Cyprus is also an EU member –but very much a stepsister] and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Conversely, the EU charges Israel with occupying the "west bank" and insists not one eurocent should go to help any Jews who lives over the 1949 armistice line.

    For about 50 years –starting in 1956– the Muslim, arabized northern Sudan govt, installed by the UK, was practicing genocide against the tribal Blacks of southern Sudan. Neither the EU nor USA nor the international "Left" cared what happened to the Blacks in southern Sudan. And that was for most of a period of 50 years!!!

    Also note that millions of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf sheikdoms are treated horribly, as reported lately by the Guardian of all papers. Yet today's "Left" has little to say and does less to help those super-exploited workers. When we were young and naive we thought that the Left existed to help the working class.

    The way to deal with this crowed [zokhrot, etc] is to throw back at them Arab crimes/oppressions/persecutions/massacres as well as crimes of the Left itself. For example, Arab collaboration with the Nazis and in the Holocaust, the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, etc.

  • Eliyahu. That's not enough for those thugs and professional bleeding hearts. See my post to Bataween.

  • Bataween,they are thugs who'll make mincemeat out of levana like they did with "Mizrahi" feminism and even the "Mizrahi" radical left. They crushed them.

    A much more threatening strategy that we all have noticed but did not address is the increasing tendency to totally erase from discourse and consciousness the very existence of Jews from Arabo-Muslim countries.

    This includes their history, culture, literature, worship, etc. All that is left is their cooking but that too is about to go as they increasingly attribute all that cooking to "the Arabs".

    And if that trend persists, this refugee issue naturally goes away as well.

    Understand: the very existence of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries is a threat to the Ashkenazi radicals' fundamental argument that Zionism is a European colonial endeavor, whether you live in Israel or not, whether you are a Zionist or not.And they won't stop at anything to eliminate that threat.
    A "shared" podium would be handing them a gift on a silver platter, because then they will have hands on, direct control over what is said, how it is said, and if it is said.

    Don't misunderstand me, I am not blaming the radical left exclusively. The issue is used by the right when it serves their purpose and buried when it doesn't. You can be certain that as they negotiated about negotiating for this last round of talks the Palestinians demanded that this issue be taken off the agenda, ruining the career of Danny Ayalon in the process.

    This is why I have always maintained that the issue of the refugees must be non-governmental and must seek independent funding.

    It would be helpful to give time to readers to debate this subject and add their input and what to do about it, and not only as regards the refugee issue, but most importantly, about the evil attempt to turn millions of us to a relic of the past.

    Perhaps put a link at the top of the page so it won't disappear.

  • Well as ou know "Jews is news!"
    People have been talking about us since time began.
    i wish they would leave us in peace!

  • Sylvia, I don't think a joint campaign would necessarily backfire on Jewish refugees. It would show the futility of 'Return' to one's country of birth. The Jewish refugees would very quickly demonstrate that the countries they left are as dangerous for Jews (and Christians) today as when they fled them.

  • correction and additions:
    . . .the first refugees in that WAR who could not go home after it were Jews. . .

    The area of Jerusalem, an area later called "East Jerusalem", was taken over by the British-officered Transjordanian Arab Legion from Arab irregulars.

  • Two general points against the zokhrot/lowi/ claims:

    1– in re Jews from Arab countries, their place in Arab-Muslim society was inferior as they were dhimmis, along with other non-Muslims
    1a– Islam rejects and reviles Jews as part of its religious ideology, including in the Quran and Hadith.

    2– the first refugees driven out of their homes in the Israeli War of Independence –1947-1949– were Jews. The first refugees in that home who could not go home after it were Jews in the Shimon haTsadiq, Nahalat Shimon & Siebenbergen Houses quarters in Jerusalem who were driven out of their homes in the December 1947-January 1948 period. The attackers were Arab irregulars under the command of the Arab Higher Committee.
    2a- This took place after Arab collaboration in the Holocaust, especially by Haj Amin el-Husseini, the chief palestinian Arab leader, protected by the UK, USA, USSR and France after the war so that he was not put on trial at Nuremberg. He was pleased with Hitler's promise to him that the Holocaust would be extended to the Jews in the Arab countries.

    All these points are neglected in the utterances of Zokhrot people. Unfortunately, Levana too does not make these points.

    3– the call for a Return is unjust to Jews from Arab countries or anywhere else who do not want to go back where they came from for very good reasons. Further, sending 1948 and later Arab refugees back to Israel would raise the possibility of renewed Arab persecution and attacks on Jews, back to the bad old days of dhimma, etc.

    Bear in mind, btw, that the 1948 and later Arab refugees from Israel were kept in refugee settlements and were fed and clothed by funding from Western powers, first of all the USA. Why did the Western powers create a special refugee agency –UNRWA–for these Arab refugees, separate from the agency for all other refugees?? It was Western policy to perpetuate the Arab refugee problem as a political weapon against Israel.Likewise, Western powers and institutions fund zokhrot and similar NGOs. Why?

  • Dear David:

    Of course, Zionism tried to induce Jewish immigration to Palestine by sordid means. The story of the bombing of the Massouda Shemtov synagogue in Baghdad is just one small episode. There were all the deals with the Nazis, preceded by the Nazis' "JEWS TO PALESTINE" campaign, and Ben Gurion's statement about how colonizing Palestine is more of a priority than rescuing persecuted Jewish children.
    With all of that, Zionism has always claimed that the Oriental immigration was sparked by strong religious Zionist impetus, i.e. not a response to persecution. This has always caused friction in Israel.
    My in-laws, who moved to Haifa from Cairo in 1957, always felt shut-out from Holocaust memorial activities in Israel, because they tended to favour the glorification of Ashkenazi persecution and sacrifice over the celebration of Oriental zeal and Zionist commitment.

    Only now is Zionism hoping to use the Arab Jews to counteract the resurgent demand of the Palestine refugees to recognize their right of return. I, of course, have no hesitation in recognizing the right of return for all, whether forcibly displaced or not. That is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says. So, we have to get over the hurdle of recognition, rather than contest the legitimacy of the claim.
    Then, can you imagine Jews in Israel or Montreal or Los Angeles standing up and saying: "I can't stand living here any longer. Let me return, reclaim my property, and rebuild my life in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, or Iran."? This Zionist campaign will boomerang back on itself, but, in the interim has to be confronted on its merits or lack of same.

    At this point, I am contemplating an organized response to Zionism's organized propaganda offensive on the Palestine refugees' right of return.

    The format of "refugee voices" is attractive for its authenticity and openness and diversity. Each participant has a story, and a take on that story, and a position.

  • "the president and founder of Zokhrot, Eitan Bronstein (an Israeli), came to me and said he was ready to see how Zokhrot could cooperate with us to include the Jewish refugees in their themes and activities."

    Levana beware

    Never give this kind of people control of the issue not even for one minute.

    I believe I have posted this some time ago but below is the reaction of one of those pro-Palestinian conference organizers who posted under the name Henry Lowi in reaction to the post of Yehuda Shenhav on the Jewish refugees in Haoketz, where he commented in English on Sept 9 2012. Read all of it.

    I believe that it is important to tackle all of this head on, as I have said ad nauseam.

    Currently, I am proposing a public forum, with a title something like: "Refugee voices: Palestinians, and Jews from Arab lands". Possibly with the addition of "Holocaust survivors".
    The idea would be to have a panel, with 4 (or 6 speakers), in which each panelist will address briefly 3 matters: 1. own experience of dislocation; b. attitude to exercise of own right of return, and 3. attitude to others' right of return. We could have one first-generation speaker and one 2nd or 3rd generation speaker from each refugee experience. We would not have to go far afield for guest speakers: They are all in our community! Possibly there would be some diversity, eg. one speaker might assert right of return for self and deny it to others. Another speaker might express an intention not to exercise her/his own right of return, but recognize it for others. The result would be heightened awareness of the values set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the focus on "choice" ("refugees' right to choose") which would immediately benefit the campaign for the Palestine refugees.
    I believe that the propaganda war on this important issue is ongoing.
    This year is the 60th anniversary of the Nakba and Nakba denial. These issues should be aired in a way that can raise awareness. A public forum, or series of forums, would seem to be the way to go.
    What do you think?

    Coninued next post

  • I am very upset to hear this! What are they? Neo-nazies?
    We paid dearly for that land and now these self-rightuous idiots
    are trying to put the blame on us for the Arab refusal at that distant date.The Arabs were also told: leave eveything and go; we shall push the Yehoud into the sea and you'll come back! But it did not work out that way!They seem to forget there was a UN vote! I think all they want is to "eat" Jews

  • bear in mind that zokhrot is funded by European and US bodies. These Arabs are the tools of Western Judeophobes.

  • C'est terrible!Entendre que des juifs veulent détruire tout ce qui a été accompli c'est inimaginable et navrant!
    Si Israel n'était pas un pays démocratique jamais au grand jamais cette
    conférence n'aurait eu lieuiii


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


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.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.