Jewish refugees: Israel must do more

Irwin Cotler at Monday’s meeting in Jerusalem (All photos: Andras Lacko)

Israel must do more to raise the issue of Jewish refugees in its dealings with international bodies, declared Irwin Cotler, ex-Canadian minister of Justice and international human rights advocate at a World Jewish Congress/Israel Council of Foreign Relations meeting in Jerusalem on Monday. If the UN does not launch a day, or now a year, of solidarity with the Jewish people, the Jewish people must do it themselves. Jerusalem Post report by Sam Sokol:

The “Arab League should incorporate the question of Jewish refugees
as part of its framework for an Israeli- Arab peace in the same way
that the Jewish narrative incorporates the Palestinian refugees,” and
(…) the government of Israel (must)insist that in “any and all discussions
between the negotiating parties, any reference to Palestinian refugees
must also include express reference to Jewish refugees.”

It is “high time that the forced exodus of Jews from Arab lands be
introduced to the international agenda after the unconscionable neglect
of the issue for six decades,” he declared.

This is not the first time that Cotler has called for the end of UNRWA
or for recognition and redress for the 850,000 Jewish refugees of the
Israeli-Arab conflict; he said so in almost identical words in an op-ed
in The Jerusalem Post three years ago.

Israel, Cotler insisted, must do more to raise the issue of Jewish refugees during its dealings with international bodies.

“The [UN’s} annual November 29th commemoration [of the Palestinian
defeat in 1948] and the 2014 Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian
People must be an annual day and now a year of solidarity with the
Jewish people as well as with the Palestinian.

If the UN is not going to do it, then the Jewish people, in conjunction
with men and women of goodwill, must launch our own year of truth and
justice and solidarity.”

In response to Cotler’s comments, MK Shimon Ohayon told the Post that
he hoped to soon pass a law “to create a day of commemoration and
education about the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”

“The Foreign Ministry under Avigdor Liberman has pressed the issue on
the international stage, creating a now annual event at the UN in New
York devoted to the issue which is attended by foreign ambassadors, and
communiques were sent to all our foreign-based representatives to raise
the issue with their interlocutors where relevant,” the lawmaker said.

While a 2010 law mandates that the Jewish refugees be brought up during
any negotiations with the PLO , Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is
in charge of the current talks, reportedly told World Jewish Congress
officials that she would not raise the issue.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Dr. Harold Rhode, the former Middle East
analyst at the US Defense Department who found a large collection of
documents in Baghdad confiscated from the now exiled Iraqi Jewish
population, insisted that his discovery not be returned to Baghdad later
this year as agreed by the US government.

Edwin Shuker, whose school leaving certificate was found in the archive.

Harold Rhode

“Sending the material back to Baghdad would be comparable to the US
returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted
by the Nazis,” Rhode insisted.

The documents, which the Hussein regime confiscated from the Jewish
community, were discovered by coalition forces in the basement of the
headquarters of the Mukhabarat, or secret police, in 2003 and document
centuries of life in Mesopotamia. A portion of the documents, which are
being restored, are on display at the US National Archives in
Washington, and are due to be returned to Iraq within months.

World Jewish Congress report (with thanks: Jeremy)

Video film by Eli Freedman of talk by Harold Rhode,

Edwin Shuker, Irwin Cotler

Middle East Online


  • I have to admit I have never heard of Noam Leshem, but with friends like that Israel certainly does not need enemies. I hope he belonged to the previous BICOM regime – the current staff are much more sympathetic to the Jewish refugee cause and we are even working with them on joint events.

  • Interesting (but not surprising) to see that Livni refused to raise the issue of the Jewish refugees. There is a guy called Noam Leshem who apparently was 'advising' the Israeli government on this issue and his view was that the Jewish refugee issue must never be raised. The problem is that Leshem is an extreme lefist who is also a revisionist anti-Zionist. How he ever came to be an advisor to people like Livni I will never know (it was leshem himself who said he was an advisor so I have no reason not to believe him). But he was also working in London for BICOM which is also a complete mystery. See the following articles:


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