Eldar: Trump’s plan should include Jewish refugee rights

Amazing! A former senior Haaretz journalist, Akiva Eldar, has called in Al-Monitor on the Trump administration, in its forthcoming blueprint for a peace settlement, to couple its expected demand for UNWRA to be shut down with compensation for Jewish refugees. Why has Eldar, who has never written about Jewish refugees before, woken up to their existence? He is right that Arab states would have no incentive to resettle  Palestinian refugees unless they are made to admit their responsibility for the expulsion and dispossession of their Jews. Eldar’s other motive is domestic: to haul the Left out of the political wilderness by encouraging it to champion the rights of Israel’s three million Jewish refugees and their descendants – an issue it has hitherto  viewed as an obstacle to peace. (With thanks: Gina)

In January, the Trump administration informed
the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that it was cutting tens of
millions of dollars in aid to the organization. Recently, the administration declared that UNRWA’s mandate must be changed.

The
campaign launched by the Trump administration against the UNRWA has
directed the spotlight once again at the issue of the Palestinian
refugees who fled their homes or were expelled from them in Israel’s
1948 War of Independence, a tragedy they dubbed “Nakba,” Arabic for
“catastrophe.”

 In emails he sent in January that were reported by Foreign Policy magazine,
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared
Kushner suggested that the Arab states take in the Palestinian refugees
and ensure their rehabilitation. Someone should remind Kushner that the
Arab states did not expel the Palestinians and turn them into refugees,
nor did they confiscate their property. On the other hand, Iraq, Iran,
Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, North Africa and the Gulf states did expel
the Jews living there, confiscate their property and turn them into
refugees.

What Trump calls the “ultimate deal” that presumes to find a regional
solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict must also offer a practical
resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem and at the same time seek
to rectify the injustice to the Jews who were expelled
from their homes in Arab countries and Iran or fled from them. The
riots against Jews and the anti-Semitic incidents that followed the UN’s
1947 Partition Resolution and the declaration of Israel’s independence
turned 865,000 Jews into refugees. In 1957, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees recognized them as refugees in accordance with the UN Convention on Refugees.

 Ambassador Zvi Gabbay, who died July 29, wrote in 2012
that while the UN has adopted dozens of resolutions in support of the
Palestinian refugees, established the UNRWA to aid them and allocated
huge budgets for its operation, the organization did nothing for the
Jewish refugees. “This one-sided approach,” the Iraq-born diplomat said,
“has not solved the problem and has exacerbated the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict.”

 Akiva Eldar: ‘has woken up’ to existence of Jewish refugees

(…)

Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that a special
section in his road map for Israeli-Palestinian peace refer to
compensation for Jews from Arab lands. Special envoy Martin Indyk also
spoke to Jewish leaders about the importance of recognizing the rights
of those Jews who had been ignored for decades by the international
community and Israeli society.

But Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who represented the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in negotiations with the Palestinians, gave Kerry’s proposal
the cold shoulder. Israel’s peace camp views inclusion of the Jewish
refugee issue in negotiations with the Palestinians as a right-wing ploy
designed to forge a troubling link with resolution of the Palestinian
refugee problem and thereby sink the peace process. Thus, for fear of
undermining prospects of an agreement with the Palestinians, the Israeli
left has ignored the pain and rights of Jews from the Arab world who,
together with their descendants, constitute about one-half of Israel’s
Jewish population, which means over 3 million people. Although the right
wing has been in power longer than the left, this attitude has led to
the left being solely blamed for “establishment” arrogance
toward Israelis displaced from Arab lands.

A scathing special report
issued in 2014 by the State Comptroller showed successive right-wing
governments did not go out of their way, either, for these Israelis.
Despite the “festive declarations” by Israeli governments about their
commitment to act on behalf of these groups, the findings show “an
unsatisfactory level of commitment by the government to carry out its
decisions and very little work” to ensure that proper attention was
given to the issue, according to the report.

The Palestinian refugees displaced by the creation of Israel are not
responsible for the injustice perpetrated by Arab states against their
Jewish communities. Nonetheless, promoting a solution to the Palestinian
refugee issue is an excellent opportunity, if not a crucial condition,
for realizing the rights of the Jewish refugees. The “Israeli Regional
Initiative,” an organization dedicated to advancing regional peace based
on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, has included compensation of Jews
from Arab states in its blueprint.
This section appears separately, deliberately so, from the chapter
relating to a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution, alongside other
regional issues such as security, economic cooperation, environmental
protection and more.

Arab states are highly unlikely to pick up the gauntlet thrown down
by Trump, who has called for them to take in the Palestinian refugees,
thereby freeing Israel and the international community from
responsibility for them. Just as one cannot wave away the issue of
Jerusalem from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table (on a
final-status solution), Trump’s declaration to the contrary
notwithstanding, shutting down the UNRWA will not wipe out the
Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere. Either
way, presenting the refugee issue in the context of a regional
arrangement provides the Israeli left with an opportunity to wave the
flag of regional peace with one hand and stretch out the other to
Israelis whose mother tongue was Arabic, to recognize their narrative
and to identify with them as equals. This may be the way to extricate
them from the tentacles of the nationalist right and with them the
entire state.

Read article in full 

Kerry deal to compensate Jews from Arab countries 

Knesset committee slams government 

Livni: no linkage of refugees

4 Comments

  • Just want to add to what Davsil wrote: "In 1948, these Arab states embarked on a war of annihilation against the Jews and israel, so they were even more responsible for what happened next." We need to add that the top leadership of the palestinian Arabs took part in the Arab League meetings where war upon a future, possible Jewish state was decided. So the top leaders of the palestinian Arabs, including and perhaps first of all, Haj Amin el-Husseini, were responsible too.
    For those not familiar with Husseini's personal story, he lived in Nazi Germany and the Nazi-fascist domain in Europe for most of the war. He was given a headquarters in Berlin with a generous stipend for this HQ and its staff [scions of leading palestinian Arab families]. So the Pal Arab leadership shares some of the responsibility for the Shoah too. [Yes, Husseini knew what was going on in the death camps. He collaborated in the Shoah in various ways.]

    Reply
  • the Arab League bears responsibility for the Ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab Countries, North Africa and the Persian Gulf.

    See the 1947 Draft Law of the Higher Committee of the Arab League documented by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries

    Reply
  • someone should remind Eldar that the countries from which the jews fled were rampantly anti-Semitic countries poisoned with the propaganda of Haj Amin al Huseini and Radio Berlin (via Fritz Grobba)

    Reply
  • Well, at least he's calling for recognition and compensation of jews from Arab countries. Even if it is just a political tactic for him. But a self-hating jew will always remain a self-hating jew. They can't stop. No where does he talk about compensation, or even a right of return for palestinian jews who were ethnically cleansed from their properties in the "West bank" and gaza. And he also wrote, "Someone should remind Kushner that the Arab states did not expel the Palestinians and turn them into refugees…". Uh, yes they did. In 1948, these Arab states embarked on a war of annihilation against the Jews and israel, so they were even more responsible for what happened next. In addition, someone should remind Eldar that the countries from which the jews fled, with the exception of Yemen and bahrain, are not "arab" countries, but arab-occupied countries – places where Arabs conquered and colonized at the expense of the indigenous non-Arab peoples living there.

    Reply

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