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Putting Jewish Refugees on the U.N. Agenda

A new initiative focuses on Jews expelled from Arab countries in 1948

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Danny Ayalon at 'The Untold Story of the Middle East: Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries'(Morton Landowne)

If the U.N. has its way, the only refugees likely to be mentioned in this fall’s General Assembly, set to open tomorrow, are the Palestinians. After all, there have been more than 172 resolutions exclusively devoted to Palestinian refugees, but not one dedicated to Jewish refugees. But Danny Ayalon wants to change that.

Last Friday, at an event hosted by the Israeli Mission to the U.N., Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister announced to a crowd of 500 people at Turtle Bay that the Jewish State is determined to “bring justice” to a different group of refugees: The 856,000 Jews who were expelled from Arab countries during the birth of the State of Israel.

What exactly does justice look like? Echoing Bill Clinton’s call in July 2000 for an International Fund administered by the U.N. to compensate all people who were made refugees by the 1948 war, Ayalon announced that Israel will make the creation of such a fund a precondition of any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

In addition, Ayalon announced to the attendees–which included U.N. ambassadors from Canada, Germany, and New Zealand–that in the coming weeks Israel will propose a national memorial day for Jewish refugees in order to “celebrate the heritage of Jews from Arab lands,” and that the government will establish a museum in Jerusalem to memorialize and teach that history, and inaugurate curricula in its school system so that “our children know the truth.”

It seemed clear that underlying these various announcements was a determination by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to insist that a resolution of the refugee issue, one of the key Palestinian demands in any final peace settlement, must include an apology and compensation to Jewish refugees. “There will be no peace,” Ayalon stated, “without solving the refugee problem on both sides of the divide.” He continued:

“This has not been designed as a smokescreen, or an obstacle to peace; the world has long recognized the Palestinian refugee problem and the time has now come to recognize the Jewish refugee problem. If there will be a real peace, it must be based on truth and justice.”

The event, co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CP) was titled: “The Untold Story of the Middle East: Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.” It also featured remarks by Ron Prosor, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the U.N., Ronald Lauder, WJC President, CP Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, Irwin Cotler, Former Canadian Justice Minister, Professor Alan Dershowitz, and testimonies from Lebanese born Rabbi Elie Abadi, and Iraqi exile, Edwin Shuker. Fittingly, it took place during the U.N.’s annual “International Day of Peace,” which featured other programs, including an address by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Sun Kyi.

Remarks by Israeli Ambassador at the United Nations [Ajiri]

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PhillipNagle says:

This is just feel good nonsense. Anything associated with the UN is a waste of time.

Pam Green says:

I disagree. It’s important that this information gets out, even if the U.N. and people brainwashed against Israel try to dismiss it. Most people are not even aware of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the confiscation of their properties, the destruction of ancient indigenous Jewish communities! I read the speech given by Ron Prosor last April to the Security Council (link above), and I think it’s a fantastic speech, simple, direct, crystal-clear, and undeniably factual. Whatever the biased U.N. does or doesn’t do, it’s good to keep setting the record straight.

It will be difficult to find any reference from an Israeli source that depicted Jews from Arab countries as refugees before Rabbi Meir Kahane began doing so and suggesting that what had happened should be considered a “transfer” of populations.

As Prof. S.N. Eisenstadt of Hebrew Univ., in his comprehensive study of Israeli society in a book by that name, “Israeli Society” (Basic Books, 1967), explained it, “the new society… continued to be dependent on external resources for its membership and its explicit ideology stressed the ingathering of the exiles. The country opened its doors to the great mass migration that took place. (P. 61).

Moreover, the total numbers of these Mizrahim and Sephardim that arrived in Israel between 1948 and 1962 was 575,755 according to Israeli census figures with the largest number not having emigrated in 1948 (12,931) but in 1951 (123,449). (p.62).

Thus, while the numbers of Palestinians who fled or were forced to leave their homeland and the number of Jews who left on their own or were coerced by their respective Arab governments or the Jewish Agency to leave their homes may be approximately the same, the circumstances and time spans were not comparable. For example, both Yemeni and Iraqi Jews were airlifted to Israel by plane. The Palestinians were provided no such accommodations.

Dick Stanley says:

Indeed, it makes good sense to rub the noses of the dictator’s club in their own hypocrisy from time to time.

The story of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands is told in the film, “The Silent Exodus” by Pierre Rehov.

disqus_Pb5yBxXpB8 says:

You refer to the numbers only of Jews who arrived in Israel. Many refugees fled elsewhere, making the number of Jewish refugees considerably greater. The absence of fancy travel assistance to Palestinians is not much of a consideration. They didn’t have far to go. What is the vital, central issue is that both populations were displaced as a direct result of Arab intransigence and Islamic dominance theology.

One of the big PR victories the Arabs have achieved is in pretending that only Arabs were victims of the establishment of Israel, of denying the over-running of what-might-have-been-Palestine by Jordan, and the enforced, on-going victimhood of Muslim refugees while Jewish refugees were assisted to resettle and are consequently ignored by the entire world in this conflict’s victim calculus.

The Jewish Exodus fromArab Lands 1947–1967A SERIES OF FIVE PROGRAMS PART TWO
Saturday January 25, 2014 at 7:30pmTHE UNTOLD STORY OF ALMOST A MILLION REFUGEES
Dr. Mordechai KedarScholar of Middle Eastern Cultures, Bar Ilan University
Dr. Kedar will explain why the story of the Jewish refugees from Arab
lands was so unknown for many years. Why has this changed recently?
He will cover topics like the mindset of the Israeli society and leadership
during the 50s and 60s, Israeli priorities, self-presentation, stereotypes,
and relations between communities.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.)
Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence
specializing in Arab political discourse,
Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the
Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic
Literature at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an
expert on Israeli Arabs.

PART THREE
Sunday February 2, 2014 at 7:30pm
THE JEWS OF YEMEN
Dr. Isaac Hollander
Department of History, University of Toronto
Dr. Hollander will discuss the Jews of Yemen and their dramatic exodus
to Israel. Dr. Hollander’s research has exposed the intricate relationships
between Jewish villagers and their Muslim counterparts in the decades
preceding the 1949 Jewish exodus from Yemen.

Isaac Hollander (Ph.D. Hebrew University)
specializes in the social complexity of the
Middle East and in particular the relationship
over time between the world of Arabic Islam
and the Jewish people. His book, Jews and
Muslims in Lower Yemen: A Study in Protection
and Restraint, 1918–1949 (Brill 2005),
offers a rare portrait of rural life in Yemen.

OTHER PROGRAMS
IN THIS SERIES:
All programs begin at 7:30 pm
March 2 (Sun.), 2014
Farewell Babylon
Naim Kattan
Iraqi Jewish writer, Montreal
April 6 (Sun.), 2014
The Jews of Libya
Dr. Gina Waldman
Founder of JIMENA (Jews
Indigenous to the Middle East and
North Africa), San Fransisco
Presented by the Jewish Diversity
and Israel Connections Committees
CANADIAN
FRIENDS OF
KULANU
Program co-sponsors:
Join us a

The Jewish Exodus fromArab Lands 1947–1967A SERIES OF FIVE PROGRAMS PART TWO
Saturday January 25, 2014 at 7:30pmTHE UNTOLD STORY OF ALMOST A MILLION REFUGEES
Dr. Mordechai KedarScholar of Middle Eastern Cultures, Bar Ilan University
Dr. Kedar will explain why the story of the Jewish refugees from Arab
lands was so unknown for many years. Why has this changed recently?
He will cover topics like the mindset of the Israeli society and leadership
during the 50s and 60s, Israeli priorities, self-presentation, stereotypes,
and relations between communities.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.)
Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence
specializing in Arab political discourse,
Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the
Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic
Literature at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an
expert on Israeli Arabs.

PART THREE
Sunday February 2, 2014 at 7:30pm
THE JEWS OF YEMEN
Dr. Isaac Hollander
Department of History, University of Toronto
Dr. Hollander will discuss the Jews of Yemen and their dramatic exodus
to Israel. Dr. Hollander’s research has exposed the intricate relationships
between Jewish villagers and their Muslim counterparts in the decades
preceding the 1949 Jewish exodus from Yemen.

Isaac Hollander (Ph.D. Hebrew University)
specializes in the social complexity of the
Middle East and in particular the relationship
over time between the world of Arabic Islam
and the Jewish people. His book, Jews and
Muslims in Lower Yemen: A Study in Protection
and Restraint, 1918–1949 (Brill 2005),
offers a rare portrait of rural life in Yemen.

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Putting Jewish Refugees on the U.N. Agenda

A new initiative focuses on Jews expelled from Arab countries in 1948

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