Skip to comments.Disregarding Iraqi Jewish History-The media omit the reason for Iraqi Jewish emigration
Posted on 08/01/2003 5:48:03 AM PDT by SJackson
Disregarding Iraqi Jewish HistoryWhile the Palestinian and Israel Prime Ministers visit Washington to pursue high-level diplomatic discussions, a simple yet extraordinary humanitarian event occurred in the Mideast on Friday. Six elderly Iraqi Jews remainders of what was once a vibrant and ancient community were flown to safety in Israel, reuniting with long-lost family.
HonestReporting.com | August 1, 2003
The touching event was broadly covered by Western media, but when addressing the historical background of this story, the news outlets were remarkably vague:
-- Associated Press: "Iraq once had a community of 130,000 Jews, but about 120,000 made their way to Israel between 1949 and 1952, with smaller numbers of Jews leaving the country in subsequent years."
-- Reuters: "More than 129,000 Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel after its establishment in 1948."
-- New York Times: "Friday's charter was believed to have been the first direct flight between the countries since an airlift in 1950- 51 that brought thousands of Iraqi Jews to Israel."
Absent from these reports is the reason why 99% of the Iraqi Jewish community departed following Israel's independence they (like Jews in Syria, Libya, Egypt and other Arab nations) were systematically expelled by the Iraqi government. Iraqi legislation in 1948-51 first outlawed Zionist "behavior," then deprived Jews of their Iraqi nationality, access to education, and finally, of all their property. President Truman helped organize a massive airlift in 1951 to bring the desperate Iraqi Jewish community to Israel.
Read exposes of the persecution suffered by the Iraqi Jewish community:
- Denver's Rocky Mountain News
It is a glaring case of selective omission that these articles profile the remnants of the Iraqi Jewish community yet fail to mention these key historic facts. The same media outlets that typically describe Palestinian refugees as having been "driven out" or "evicted" in 1948 are curiously silent when describing the genuine persecutory context of Jewish refugees.
Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
Iraqi Jews: a case of 'ethnic cleansing'
Iraqi Jews: a case of 'ethnic cleansing'
Persecution began in 1930s and prevailed throughout Mideast
July 10, 2003
For more than 50 years, the plight of Palestinian refugees has remained at center stage of discussions of Middle East politics. The United Nations has passed dozens of resolutions deploring the status of refugees in that region and Arab representatives continue to insist on the Palestinians' "right of return" as a prerequisite to lasting peace between Arabs and Israelis.
Lost in this discussion, however, has been the memory of another flood of refugees created for the most part at the same time as the original Palestinian refugees left their home. This "forgotten exodus" of Jews from Arab lands involved just as many displaced people, and in some cases resulted in the virtual extinction of historic communities.
Carole Basri, adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author of a case study of the "ethnic cleansing" of Iraqi Jews, will talk about the refugees at a conference at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Rodef Shalom Synagogue in Denver. The conference is sponsored in part by the World Jewish Congress and open to the public. She spoke with Vincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages.
Carroll: Why do you say there was an ethnic cleansing of Jews from Iraq?
Basri: It was an ethnic cleansing because out of 150,000 Jews who lived in Iraq in 1948 about 35 to 39 Jews remain. Through various kinds of persecution under the color of law all these people have left.
Carroll: It began in the 1930s?
Basri: Yes, there was a lot of playing out of European politics in the Middle East then. You had the British and French there and you had the counterweight of the Germans, who had been allies of the Ottoman Empire at the close of World War I. So in 1933, with the coming of Hitler, the German Embassy became stocked with advocates of Nazi ideology, in particular the German ambassador. Iraq promulgated anti-Jewish laws as early as 1934. By 1939 there was a pro-Nazi curriculum in the schools in Iraq, also pro-Nazi youth groups. The German Embassy bought one of the newspapers so they could make sure the propaganda circulated. So you have this whole confluence of things finally leading to the pro-Nazi uprising in 1941 of Rashid Ali. It goes on for several months before it's put down by the British, but there's a pogrom against the Jews, and they kill a couple hundred Jews and thousands are injured and much property destroyed.
Later, in 1947 with the partition of Palestine, there again is a flurry of anti-Jewish laws and these laws deal with restrictions on attending the university, sale of land and the ability to teach your children. There were also restrictions on travel.
Carroll: Isn't this the period when Jews were banned from certain professions?
Basri: Exactly. So now you've got a population that's captive; they can't travel, they can't properly operate their businesses. They are losing their ability to function. Even sanitation to Jewish areas is cut off so that they have to resort to private sanitation.
There had been a Jewish press, but that was repressed as well. In March 1950 the Iraqi Parliament passed an Ordinance for the Cancellation of Iraqi Nationality for Jews. It required that Jews of their own free will and choice divest themselves of citizenship. In fact, because they couldn't travel and couldn't practice a profession, what ended up happening is that almost 120,000 Jews did register to leave. And 10,000 Jews ended up actually escaping. So you had all these people who felt they really couldn't live in Iraq any more. They didn't leave of their free will. It was coercion.
Carroll: I take it that some Jews did not sign up for this revocation of citizenship. What did that imply for them?
Basri: You could stay on but no one knew what it meant since you couldn't go to a university, practice a profession, take money out of the bank, and so on. You were going to probably be forced out of working for the government too because Jews were thrown out of government positions between 1947 and 1950.
Carroll: But if you did sign, you had crossed the Rubicon. You were committed in some fashion to leaving, right?
Basri: You lost your passport. But you hadn't lost your money, I mean the bank accounts were still there; your property was still there. But that's the next piece of legislation. On March 10, 1951, the Iraqi Parliament in an extraordinary session passed a law depriving all stateless Jews of their property. The Jews who had signed up had not realized that they were also going to be destitute. They thought they just had a one-way ticket out of the country. But now they lost all of their property, meaning they became homeless in their own country. At that time there was talk among the diplomatic corps of setting up concentration camps.
Carroll: They were saved by an airlift. How was that organized?
Basri: President Truman organized it. Israel in 1948 had 650,000 people. By 1951, three years later, it had 1,350,000 people. At first the Israelis basically said, we cannot absorb all these (Iraqi) people, and not only that, we don't have the money to even bring them here. They said if the Iraqi Jews could come with their money, because it was a wealthy community, fine, let them come, if they can't come with their money, we don't want them. But when the Israelis realized the dire straits these people were in then they concluded they would just have to take them in. And Truman said he would help at least to get the airlift going. The Israelis in fact put restrictions on Moroccan Jewish immigration in that period - unless they had a job waiting and money, they weren't going to be allowed in - because the situation with the Iraqi Jews was so desperate.
Carroll: Although the vast majority of Jews left Iraq, the persecutions didn't stop. There was a rather gruesome public hanging in 1969, for example.
Basri: Nine Jews were hung in the public square. Actually, Saddam Hussein was behind that hanging. In 1968 there was a coup by the Baathists, with al-Bakr, who is the uncle of Saddam Hussein, installed as president. He tells Saddam to put together a security force that was similar to the Gestapo and to start the torture chambers. As the first group of victims he picks the Jews; they were the most defenseless. At this point, the Jews were not allowed to have telephones in their homes or offices, and they were not permitted to travel more than three-quarters of a mile from their home - there were 3,500 Jewish people left at that point, and this was after the 1967 Six Day War.
Yet in a community under that kind of repression they were charged with being American spies. So under this situation Saddam brought to trial nine Jews, who are hung in the public square. Now what this does for Saddam is it gives him a way to test out how much repression he can allow in the country and whether anyone will speak out. He also hung a few other people, who were not Jewish. But there was an outcry after this incident, as well as after some hangings in August 1969 of Jews in Basra. After that, the Arab world said "We're looking barbaric to the world, we can't do this anymore." So then Saddam had his agents pull people who were Jewish off the streets and they were never seen again.
Carroll: You point out that there have been 101 U.N. resolutions involving the Palestinian refugees who came about at the creation of the state of Israel, but not a single U.N. resolution has mentioned specifically the refugee flood of Jews from Arab countries into Israel and elsewhere - some went to the United States, others to Canada and Europe.
Basri: Out of almost 900,000 Jews who lived in the Arab world (before the creation of Israel), there are only about 5,000 remaining. The sort of things that happened in Iraq occurred elsewhere, leading to a general feeling among Jews that you couldn't raise your children properly and safely and so had to leave.
Carroll: There were other famous airlifts too - out of Yemen, for example.
Basri: Right. And you had people who were given one month to leave Egypt. It was a very dire situation because the resources in Israel were not that great. When the Iraqi Jews left, they went to live in 10 refugee camps for almost 12 years. Yet those people didn't keep a refugee mentality and I think that's a very important piece to this whole picture, not to mention what it says about the human spirit. You can have very little if you to decide you're going to make something of yourself. So many of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries have never received any support from the U.N. or any of the relief agencies, and yet they have been incredibly successful as a group. I think it's unfair to the Palestinians that they were kept political refugees and that the U.N. defines them as generational refugees so that now you have millions of Palestinian refugees. You know, I would be considered a refugee because my parents came from Iraq.
Carroll: Israel never attempted to use them as political pawns in the fashion that the Palestinian refugees have been used.
Basri: They didn't and I think that was to the benefit of these people.
Carroll: Do Iraqi Jewish refugees share a basis for legal claims under international treaties?
Basri: There are certain remedies that can be pursued and I talk about some of those remedies. But to tell you the truth, I'm not sure what will come out of that. We're dealing with countries in the Middle East with negative gross domestic products for the past 10 years. I've had the privilege of knowing a number of people who had parents who were hung, who were tortured or whose husbands or brothers were hung, and they've had no sense of closure on this issue; they felt as if their culture was taken from them. They spoke Arabic when they got to Israel, but people didn't want to hear Arabic, they didn't want to talk about the Middle Eastern culture these refugees had left behind, with the music, food and all of the other things that were very important to them. So right now it's important to talk about the refugees in the context of what happened and what was lost.
Carroll: You've suggested a "truth and reconciliation" commission.
Basri: That's what I spend my time on, truth and reconciliation, because I believe that with more than 50 percent of Israelis made up of Jews from Arab countries we need to talk about what happened to these people. Without such talk, I don't think you can ask the Palestinians, who've also suffered, to understand that there are other people who suffered just as deeply, just as dramatically, and that this didn't happen in a period of war.
These people were living in these countries and had everything taken from them that made life beautiful and precious. They were part of a culture that went back 2,700 years. To me that's the issue. To talk about money in this context as if you're ever going to replace all of that, right now I don't think that makes sense.
Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries
Ya'akov Meron holds a doctorate in law from the Faculté de Droit de Paris and is an authority on Islamic law and the law of Arab countries. He was a member of the Israeli delegation to negotiate the peace treaty with Egypt and to solve the Taba issue.
COORDINATING A PROGRAM OF EXPULSION
In a key address before the Political Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on November 14, 1947, just five days before that body voted on the partition plan for Palestine, Heykal Pasha, an Egyptian delegate, made the following key statement in connection with that plan:
The United Nations . . . should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in the Moslem countries. Partition of Palestine might create in those countries an anti-Semitism even more difficult to root out than the anti-Semitism which the Allies were trying to eradicate in Germany. . . If the United Nations decides to partition Palestine, it might be responsible for the massacre of a large number of Jews.
Heykal Pasha then elaborated on his threat:
A million Jews live in peace in Egypt [and other Muslim countries] and enjoy all rights of citizenship. They have no desire to emigrate to Palestine. However, if a Jewish State were established, nobody could prevent disorders. Riots would break out in Palestine, would spread through all the Arab states and might lead to a war between two races.1
Heykal Pasha's thinly veiled threats of "grave disorders," "massacre," "riots," and "war between two races" did not at the time go unnoticed by Jews;2 for them, it had the same ring as the proposition made six years earlier by the Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husayni to Hitler of a "final solution" for the Jews of Arab countries, including Palestine. But the statement appears to have made no lasting impression, to the point that a historian of the Jews in Egypt has described Heykal Pasha as "a well-known liberal."3
Particularly noteworthy is that although Heykal Pasha spoke at the United Nations in his capacity as a representative of Egypt, he continuously mentioned the Jews "in other Muslim countries" and "all the Arab states," suggesting a level of coordination among the Arab governments. Indeed, four days after his statement, Iraq's Foreign Minister Fadil Jamali declared at the United Nations that "interreligious prejudice and hatred" would bring about a great deterioration in the Arab-Jewish relationship in Iraq and in the Arab world at large,4 thereby reinforcing the impression that Heykal Pasha was talking not just on behalf of Egypt but for all the independent Arab states. Further confirmation came several days later, after the General Assembly had decided in favor of partitioning Palestine, when, "following orders issued by the Arab League,"5 Muslims engaged in outrages against Jews living in Aden and Aleppo.6
Another indication that Arab rulers coordinated the expulsion of Jews from their terrorites comes from a Beirut meeting one and a half years later of senior diplomats from all the Arab States. By this time, March 1949, the Arab states had already lost the first Arab-Israeli war; they now used this defeat to justify an expulsion that had been officially proclaimed before the war even began. As reported in a Syrian newspaper, "If Israel should oppose the return of the Arab refugees to their homes, the Arab governments will expel the Jews living in their countries."7
According to Walid Khalidi, perhaps the leading Palestinian nationalist historian and a highly reputable source, "The Arabs held their ground throughout the period from November 1947 to March 1948. Up to March 1, not one single Arab village had been vacated by its inhabitants, and the number of people leaving the mixed towns was insignificant."8 The mass departure from Palestine of 590,000 Arabs began only in April 1948; yet , Heykal Pasha had publicly and very formally announced a program to expel Jews from Arab countries fully five months earlier.
To understand how and when the expulsion of Jews from the Arab countries was actually carried out, we look at the Iraqi case in some detail, then others more breifly.
As mentioned above, the Iraqi authorities openly and formally identified themselves with Heykal Pasha's threats just four days after he uttered them. Foreign Minister Jamali addressed the United Nations in this manner:
The masses in the Arab world cannot be restrained. The Arab-Jewish relationship in the Arab world will greatly deteriorate. . . . Harmony prevails among Muslems, Christians and Jews [in Iraq]. But any injustice imposed upon the Arabs of Palestine will disturb the harmony among Jews and non-Jews in Iraq; it will breed interreligious prejudice and hatred.9
By "the masses in the Arab world," Jamali in fact meant his own government, which soon took a series of steps, including anti-Semitic legislation, against its Jewish population. This began with a 1948 amendment to the Penal Code of Baghdad, adding Zionism to other ideologies and behavior (communism, anarchism, and immorality) whose propagation constituted a punishable offense. Laws in 1950 and 1951 the deprived Jews of their Iraqi nationality and their property in Iraq, respectively.10
At times, Iraqi politicians candidly acknowledged that they wanted to expel their Jewish population for reasons of their own, having nothing to do with retaliation for the Palestinian exodus. Perhaps the most interesting incident took place at the tail end of the Israeli war of independence, in late January or early February 1949, when Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Sa'id described a plan to expel Jews from Iraq to Alec Kirkbride, then the British ambassador at Amman, and Samir El-Rifa'i, head of the Jordanian government. Kirkbride recounts that Nuri
Came out with the astounding proposition that a convoy of Iraqi Jews should be brought over in army lorries escorted by armoured cars, taken to the Jordanian-Israeli frontier, and forced to cross the line. Quite apart from the certainty that the Israelis would not consent to receive deportees in that manner, the passage of Jews through Jordan would almost certainly have touched off serious trouble amongst the very disgruntled Arab refugees who were crowded into the country. Either the Iraqi guards would have had to shoot other Arabs to protect the lives of their charges. . .
Samir and I were flabbergasted and our faces must have shown our feelings. . . .
I replied, at once, that the matter at issue was no concern of His Majesty's Government. Samir refused his assent as politely as possible but Nuri lost his temper at being rebuffed and he said: "So, you do not want to do it, do you?" Samir snapped back: "Of course I do not want to be party to such a crime." Nuri thereupon exploded with rage and I began to wonder what the head of the diplomatic mission would do if two Prime Ministers came to blows in his study. We then broke up in disorder, but I got them out of the house whilst preserving a minimum of propriety.11
Nuri probably chose the British embassy in Amman as the site at which to disclose his plan to the head of the Jordanian government because high-ranking British officials had often spoken of the need to exchange Palestinian Arab and Arab Jewish populations,12 and he most likely expected British understanding of, it not support for, his scheme.
Similarly, when Nuri visited Jerusalem on January 13, 1951, he met 'Arif al-'Arif, the Palestinian leader who served as Jordan's district commissioner for Jerusalem. 'Arif asked Nuri to hold up the departure of Jews from Iraq "until the problem of Palestine and of the refugees had been solved," or at least "for one or two years." Nuri refused to do so. Revealingly, his reasons bore only on considerations of internal Iraqi policy:
The Jews have always been a source of evil and harm to Iraq. They are spies. They have sold their property in Iraq, they have no land among us that they can cultivate. How therefore can they live? What will they do if they stay in Iraq? No, no my friend, it is better for us to be rid of them as long as we are able to do so.13
Nuri candidly acknowledges here that he wanted the Jews out of Iraq, and never mind what consequences their exodus might have for the future of the Palestinian Arabs.
In conversation with foreign diplomats, however, Nuri presented the expulsion of Iraq's Jews in a very different light-as an exchange of population. On no less than six occasions in 1949, he made this point with foreigners.
(1) In talks with the U.N. Reconciliation Commission in Baghdad on February 18, 1949 (in other words, even before the Beirut meeting of Arab diplomats in March 1949, when the Arab states coordinated their stand on the matter), he threatened harm to the Jews: "Iraq has thus far been able to protect its 160,000 Jews but . . . unless conditions improve and unless Jews now demonstrated their good faith with deeds not words Iraq might be helpless to prevent spontaneous action by its people."14
(2) To an American diplomat in Baghdad on May 8, 1949, Nuri mentioned his idea of a "voluntary exchange on pro rata basis of Iraqi Jews for Pal[estinian] Arabs," adding the threat that "firebrand Iraqis might take matters into [their] own hands and cause untold misery to thousands [of] innocent persons."15
(3) On August 8, 1949, he raised with an official of the British Foreign Office the idea of "an exchange of population."16
(4) On September 29, 1949, a member of the British embassy in Baghdad reported Nuri's wish "to force an exchange of population under U.N. supervision and the transfer of 100,000 Jews beyond Iraq in exchange for the Arab refugees who had already left the territory in Israeli hands."17
(5) On October 14, 1949, Nuri spoke with U.N. officials about the exchange of "100,000 Baghdad Jews and 80,000 other Jews in Iraq for [an] equivalent number [of] urban Arab Palestinian refugees."18
(6) To the Clapp Mission in 1949,19 Nuri presented the Jewish expulsion from Iraq as part of a population exchange.20
This (and other evidence) leads to the conclusion that while the Iraqi government sought to present the explusion of Jews as a crowd-driven retaliatory act for the exodus of the Arab refugees from Palestine, it in fact had a full-fledged plan in place before the Arab refugee problem even came into existence.
This interpretation resolves a number of historical questions. It explains the origins of the otherwise mysterious legislation in 1950 depriving Jews of their Iraqi nationality. For example, Shlomo Hillel cannot understand how this complete reversal of the Iraqi attitudes happened, and suggests that Nuri Sa'id did not really intend immediately to apply the law.21 This author respectfully disagrees: take into account the U.N. declarations, the anti-Jewish legislation, and the government persecution of Jews, and it becomes clear that the deprivation of Iraqi nationality was but another step in a plan of expulsion.
The Iraqi plan of expulsion also explains the bombing of the Mas'uda Shem Tob Synagogue in Baghdad on January 14, 1951, as Jews were registering there to emigrate to Israel. Zionists have been accused of causing the violence in the hopes of spurring the Jews to leave Iraq, an accusation whose truth so eminent an authority as Elie Kedourie has said "must remain an open question."22 But knowing of the authorities' expulsion plan suggests that not Zionists but Muslim Iraqis were behind the incident . That an Iraqi army officer arrested for throwing the bomb belonged to the opposition Istiqlal Party points to that faction's responsibility.23
OTHER ARAB COUNTRIES
Similar patterns of Jewish exodus existed in other Arabic-speaking countries, including Yemen, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan.
Yemen. Yemeni persecution of Jews prompted a trickle of Jewish emigration to Palestine from the third quarter of the nineteenth century on. Heykal Pasha's speech merely added momentum to the longstanding Yemeni policy of discrimination against and degradation of Jews, based on a particularly pedantic interpretation of the Islamic law. A bribe from the American Joint Distribution Committee to Yemen's ruler, Imam Ahmad ibn Yahya, led to his agreeing to the mass exodus of Jews to Israel in 1949-50 by airplane via Aden, an operation known as "On Eagle's Wings" (or, in journalistic lore, "Magic Carpet"). The Jews of Yemen, relying on their own means, sufferng losses of life and deprivations, traversed the desert to Aden by foot and on donkeys. There, the Jewish Agency lodged them in camps and eventually boarded them onto planes that took them to Israel. In this way, some 50,000 Yemeni Jews reached Israel during the two-year period.
We lack information about the Yemeni government's decision-making process. But this case provides the clearest example of Jews' being persecuted and expelled for reasons having to do with Islamic law.
Libya. In Libya, as in Yemen, the exodus of the Jews began even before Heykal Pahsa's declaration at the United Nations. Attacks on Jewish quarters in Tripoli and other cities occurred in 1945, leading to a death toll the British put at 130 Jews.24 In other words, Jews began leaving Libya three years before the establishment of Israel and seven years before Libya gained independence. Their departure turned into a mass exodus as soon as Israel gained independence and the gates opened to Libyan Jewry. As in Iraq, internal policy appears to be the reason both for the Jews' expulsion and for later rhetoric inviting them back.
Syria. In Syria, too, the majority of Jews departed before independence in 1946, and long before Heykal Pasha's statement and the establishment of Israel. As in Yemen and Libya, crude pressure on the Jews of Syria-such as the 1947 pogrom in Aleppo and the rape and murder of four Jewish girls who allegedly tried to smuggle themselves out of Syria-caused a substantial emigration.
While Syria is distinguished from other Arab countries by the fact that its legislation does not manifest discrimination against Jews, Heykal Pasha's policy was indeed applied there, too. The government seized control of Jewish property in Syria on the basis of emergency legislation and gave it to Arab refugees. Thus, Palestinians were settled in Damascus's Jewish ghetto, while the Alliance Israélite Universelle School, finished 1n 1939, became a school for Palestinian children. A diplomat at the French embassy in Damascus intervened with the Syrian authorities about this school and was told that the Syrian Jews had to provide room for the Arab refugees, the latter having been expelled by their Palestinian co-religionsits.25
Egypt. In some cases, the execution of the Arab plan of expulsion extended over a period much longer than that of the military hostilities. In Egypt, the expulsion reached its climax only after the overthrow of the monarchy by disgruntled army officers back from the Palestinian battlefield. In Algeria, which did not attain independence until 1962, the expulsion took place later yet.
Jews in Egypt faced acute problems in the 1940s but these did not set their mass departure in motion. Rioting against Jews occurred in November1945, then resumed in June-November 1948,26 the latter time inspired by the war with Israel. An amendment to the Egyptian Companies Law dated July 29, 1947, required that 40 percent of a company's directors and 75 percent of its employees be Egyptian nationals, causing the dismissal and livelihood of many Jews, 85 percent of whom did not possess Egyptian nationality.27 A letter to the editor of Akhir Sa'a in 1948 offers some insight into the predicament of Egyptian Jews:
It would seem that most people in Egypt are unaware of the fact that among Egyptian Muslisms there are some who have white skin. Every time I board a tram I hear people pointing at me with a finger and saying "Jew," "Jew." I have been beaten more than once because of this. For that reason I humbly beg that my picture (enclosed) be published with the explanation that I am not Jewish and that my name is Adham Mustafa Galeb.28
This testimony rather directly refutes the fine rhetoric of Heykal Pasha about Jews' enjoying "all rights of citizenship."
Cairo was slow in carrying out the plan proclaimed by its own diplomat, Heykal Pasha; only during and after the Suez Crisis of 1956 did Egyptian Jews leave in substantial numbers. At that time, the Egyptian Nationality Law was amended to prohibit "Zionists" from holding Egyptian nationality,29 Army Order no. 4 then confiscated property of individuals and associations;30 and supervision, imprisonment, or expulsion followed. The amendment to the Nationality Law of 1956 defined the term Zionism as "not a religion but the spiritual and material bond between those defined as Zionists and Israel."31 A furthur ministerial decree in 1958 indicates that all Jews between the ages of ten and sixty-five leaving Egypt would be added to the list of persons prohibited from reentering the country.32 Clearly, these decrees had little to do with the Arab refugees of a decade earlier.
Algeria. In Algeria, no significant Jewish emigration occurred until the summer of 1961, and then nearly the entire population was gone within the year.33 Algeria's independence from France was the key event here; Jews were no longer welcome after the French depature. The Algerian Nationality Code of 1963 made this clear by granting Algerian nationality as a right only to those inhabitants whose fathers and paternal grandfathers had Muslim personal status in Algeria.34 In other words, although the National Liberation Front in Algeria was known for its slogan "A Democratic Secular State," it adhered to strictly religious criteria in granting nationality.
Jordan. No Jews lived in Transjordan in 1946 (when it became an independent state), as a result of Winston Churchill's 1921 decision in favor of "preserving [the] Arab character" of Transjordan35 and the resulting British policy forbidding Jews from settling there. Legislation passed in 1954 declared that only non-Jews coming from the former British Mandate of Palestine were entitled to Jordanian citizenship.36 What is so striking about Jordan is that although it lacked a Jewish population, it still shared in the general Arab trend of excluding Jews. Further, it actively discriminated against Lebanese and Syrian Jews.37
SILENCE, DENUNCIATION, AND ACCEPTANCE
A strange silence prevails over the expulsion of the Jews from Arab countries. Out of fifteen books (mainly autobiographies) written by Iraqi politicians and other public figures, only two make any reference to the farhud,38 the Iraqi pogrom of 1941 that first shook feelings among the Jews for the land of their very ancient residence and was the first step in their leaving the country. In his memoirs, Tawfiq as-Suwaydi, head of the Iraqi government and the man with whom the agreement to transport Jews from Baghdad to Israel by air was reached, "does not recall, if only by way of a mere hint, the actual departure of the Jewish communities from his country."39
On the Israeli side, the establishment did little to break the silence about the dire circumstances of the Jewish exodus from Arab countries.40 Quite the contrary, the romantic "magic carpet" image for the migration from Yemen and the "Ezra and Nehemiah Operation" name attached to the Iraqi migration stress the positive, glossing over the unhappy circumstances of the Arab expulsions. Jean-Peirre Péroncel-Hugoz, a Frence orientalist and journalist at Le Monde, notes with surprise "that Israel only very rarely emphasizes the fact that a part if its population left property and space it legitimately owned in the Arab countries of its origin."41
Palestinians are the only Arabs vocally to denounce the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. This began in January 1951 with a telegram from 'Aarif to the Arab Legue after he failed in his efforts to persuade Nuri to stop the exit of Jews from Iraq. "Were every area of Arab land where Jews reside to retain the Jews and their property as a pledge, two problems would easily be solved, that of Palestine generally and that of the refugees in particular."42 Along these lines, the Palestinian National Covenant calls for sending the Jews back to their lands of origin. Nabil Hga'th, Yasir Arafat's advisor, twenty years ago drew attention to the invitation that the Sudan and Libya sent to "their" Jews to return, and called upon the Arab states to legislate a kind of "Law of Return" for Jews of Arab origins.43
Remarkably, some Palestinians have come to see Jewish sovereignty in Israel in terms of a population exchange, and as the necessary price to be paid for the Arab expulsions. 'Isam as-Sirtawi, who participated in some well-known terrorist operations but later excelled in seeking contact with the Israelis, told Ha-'Olam Ha-zé editor Uri Avneir that he gave up terrorism against Israel and instead began promoting negotiations when he realized that Israel serves as the asylum for Jews expelled from Arab countries; and that there is no going back along that path.44 Sabri Jiryis, director of the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut, enumerated in 1975 the factors leading to the establishment of the State of Israel. The Arab states had much to do with this, for they expelled the Jews "in a most ugly fashion, and after confiscating their possessions or taking control thereof at the lowest price." These Jews then
Participated in the reinforcement of Israel, its strengthening and fortification to the degree we see it as present. . . . There is no need to say that the problem of those Jews and their passage to Israel is not merely theoretical, at least from the viewpoint of the Palestinian problem. Clearly, Israel will raise the question in all serious negotiation that may in time be conducted over the rights of the Palestinians. . . . Israel's arguments take approximately the following form: "It is true that we Israelis brought about the exodus of the Arabs from their land in the war of 1948 . . . and that we took control of their property. In return however you Arabs caused the expulsion of a like number of Jews from Arab countries since 1948 until today. Most of these went to Israel after you seized control of their property in one way or another. What happened, therefore, is merely a kind of 'population and property transfer,' the consequences of which both sides have to bear. Thus Israel gathers in the Jews from Arab countries and the Arab countries are obliged in turn to settle the Palestinians within their own borders and work towards a solution of the problem". Israel will undoubtedly advance these claims in the first real debate over the Palestinian problem.45
In brief, 'Arif, Sirtawi, and Jiryis recognize that the expulsion of a million Jews from the Arab countries renders the return of Arab refugees infeasible. This realization is compounded by the fact that almost half a century has elapsed since the beginning of the refugee problem, both Arab and Jewish, within the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those individuals to be involved in any future rehabilitation program will mostly be heirs, and even grandchildren, of the original refugees.
Accounts of the late 1940s widely assume that the Arab exodus occurred first, followed by the Jewish expulsion. Kirkbride refers to "a decision of the Iraqi government to retaliate for the expulsion of Arab refugees from Palestine by forcing the majority of the Jewish population of Iraq to go to Israel."46 In Libya, too, there is a similar tendency to associate the uprooting of the Jewish community with the establishment of the State of Israel. "Jews," John Wright argues, "were forced out of Libya as a result of events leading up and following the foundation of the State of Israel in May 1948."47
But these accounts oversimplify the actual sequence of events: as we have seen, in a good many cases, Jews were forced out well before the Palestinian exodus. As 'Arif, Sirtawi, and Jiryis acknowledge, the Arab states contributed substantially to the Palestinians' present predicament. A recognition of the full wrong done to the Jews of the Arab countries should put to rest Palestinian claims for restitution by Israel. As Péroncel-Hugoz correctly points out, the Jews "left property and space [they] legitimately owned" in the Middle East. In coming to Israel, then these Jews brought with them certain rights.
This information not only straightens out the sequence of events fifty years ago but it refutes exorbitant claims made in the name of Palestinians. A recognition of the true nature of those events represents the best chance for a swift resolution of the Palestinian refugee question today. With so many issues that will have a lasting effect on the future of their populations awaiting the attention of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, this is one case where the two sides would do well to let history stand and call it even.
1 U.N. General Assembly, Second Session, Official Records, Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, Summary Records of Meetings, Lake Success, N.Y., Sept. 25-Nov. 15, 1947, p. 185. The original language of this statement is French, so we have altered the U.N's English translation to bring it into harmony with the equally official French text.
2 For example, Emile Najjar, the last president of the Egyptian Zionist Federation and a future Israeli diplomat, pointed out Heykal Pasha's remarks in a lecture delivered in Paris at the Centre d'Etudes de Politique Etrangére on Dec. 20, 1947.
3 Gurdron Krämer, "Aliyatah u-shki'atah shel Kehilat Kahir," Pe'amim, Spring 1981, pp. 28-30-34.
4 U.N. General Assembly, Second Session, Official Records, Verbatim Record of the Plenary Meeting, vol. II, 110th-128th meetings, Lake Success, N.Y., Sept. 16-Nov. 29, 1947, p. 1391.
5 H.J. Cohen, The Jews of the Middle East, 1860-1972 (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1973), p. 67.
6 Daniel Pipes, Greater Syria: The History of an Ambition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990) p. 57, records 75 victims of the Aleppo massacre.
7 Al-Kifah, Mar. 28, 1949, quoted Shlomo Hillel, Ruah Kadim (Jerusalem: 'Idanim, 1985) p. 244. This book is available in English as Operation Babylon, trans. Ina Friedman (New York: Doubleday, 1987).
8 Walid Khalidi, "Plan Dalet, Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine," Middle East Forum, Nov. 1961, p. 27.
9 U.N. General Assembly, Second Session, Official Records, Verbatim Record of the Plenary Meeting, p. 1391.
10 Cohen, Jews of the Middle East, pp. 29-35: Hillel, Ruah Kadim, pp. 135-42.
11 Sir Alec Kirkbride, From the Wings: Amman Memoirs, 1947-1951 (London: Frank Cass, 1976), pp. 115-16.
12 For example, the colonial secretary spoke of this to the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations in 1937. League of Nations, Minutes of the 32d (Extraordinary Sessions of the permanent Mandates Commission, Geneva, July 30-Aug. 18, 1932, p. 21; Hugh dalton, Memoirs: The Fatal Years, 1931-1945 (London: Frederick Muller, Ltd., 1957) pp. 426-427.
13 'Arif al-'Arif, An-Nakba, 1947-1955, vol. 4 (Sidon and Beirut: Al-Maktaba al-'Asriya, 1960) p. 893.
14 Telegram from the American embassy in Damascus to Washington, D.C., Feb. 21, 1949. I am grateful to Ron Zweig for making this and other U.S. government telegrams available to me.
15 Telegram from the American embassy in Baghdad to Washington, D.C., May 9, 1949.
16 Moshe Gat, A Jewish Community in Crisis: The Exodus from Iraq, 1948-1951 (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1989), p. 40.
17 Hillel, Ruah Kadim, p. 245.
18 Telegram from the American embassy in Baghdad to Washington, D.C., Oct. 15, 1949.
19 Formally, the Economic Survey Mission, a U.N. effort headed by the Tennessee Valley Authority chairman, Gordon R. Clapp, which led to the establishment of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
20 Information related to the author on Dec. 12, 1990, by Paul Marc Henry, secretary to the Clapp Mission (and later French ambassador to Lebanon).
21 Hillel, Ruah Kadim, p. 224.
22 Elie Kedourie, The Chatham Version and Other Middle Eastern Studies (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970), p. 449n. 72.
23 Gat, Jewish Community in Crisis, pp. 151-52. An Israeli court has confirmed that Zionists were not behind the explosion: Barukh Nadel, an Israeli journalist, wrote that Israel's emissaries in Iraq were involved in this crime. In 1980, Mordekhaï Ben- Porat, a former member of parliament (and later a government minister) who had played a major role in organizing the mass immigration of Jews from Iraq to Israel, brought a libel suit against Nadel. Ben-Porat produced the results of an inquiry by the Israeli secret services in 1951, which concluded that none of the Israeli emissaries was involved in the crime. The defendant retracted his allegations and the case was closed. See Ma'ariv, Dec. 7, 1981.
24 John Wright, Libya: A Modern History (Baltimore, Md.: The John Hopkins University Press, 1982), p. 75n. 1; "The Jewish Case before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine as presented by the Jewish Agency for Palestine" (Jerusalem: Publishing Department of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, 1947), pp. 392-94.
25 The French diplomat (whose name is no longer known) told this in the early 1950s to Eugene Weill, secretary-general of the Alliance Israélite Universelle; Mr. Weill repeated it to the author in the early 1970s.
26 Cohen, Jews of the Middle East, pp. 49-51.
27 Ibid., p. 88; Shimon Shamir, The Jewis of Egypt (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1987), pp. 33-67.
28 Published originally in Akhir Sa'a, then translated into French as part of a newspaper survey in La Bourse Egyptienne of July 22, 1948; cited in Yehudiya Masriya, Les Jufis en Egypte (Geneva: Editions de l'Avenir, 1971), p. 54.
29 Law no. 391 of 1956, section 1(a). See Al-Waqa 'i' al-Misriya, no. 93 repeated (1), Nov. 30, 1956.
30 Egyptian Official Gazette, no. 88 repeated (1) of Nov. 1, 1957.
31 "Egyptian Nationality," in Revue Egyptienne de Droit International, vol. 12 (1956), pp. 80,87.
32 Egyptian Official Gazette no. 31, Apr. 15, 1958.
33 For a compelling account of how the "very old and well-established " Jewish community of one Algerian town, Ghardaia, "could be blasted loose from its deep and ancient roots almost overnight, and could be shattered so completely," see the compelling account by Lloyd Cabot Briggs and Norina Lami Guéde, No More For Ever; A Saharan Jewish Town (Cambridge, Mass.: Peabody Museum, 1964).
34 See section 34 of the Algerian Nationality Code, Law no. 63-69 of Mar. 27, 1963 p. 306; also cited in Annuaire de l'Afrique du Nord 1973, pp. 806-14.
35 Quoted in Aaron S. Klieman, Foundations of British Policy in the Arab World: The Cairo Conference of 1921 (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970), p. 230.
36 Section 3(3) of Jordanian Nationality Law no. 6 of 1954, recorded in Al-Jarida ar-Rasmiya, no. 1171, Feb. 16, 1954, p. 105.
37 Anti-Jewish discrimination appears in order no. 1282 of July 1, 1957 (attributed to the Official Gazette of Jordan, no. 1282 by the Collection of Laws and Regulations [in Arabic], vol. 1 issued by the Jordanian Bar, Amman, 1957, p. 186), which exempts Syrian nationals from showing their passports on entering or leaving Jordan. They may use any other identifying document provided that "they are not Jews." The same discriminatory legislation against Jews from Lebanon appears in Majmu'at al-Qawanin wa'l-Anzima, vol. 1 (Amman: Jordanian Bar, 1966), p. 188
38 Yehuda Tagar "Ha-Farhud bi-Ktavim be-'Aravit me'et Medina'im u-Mehabrim 'Iraqiyim,"Pe'amim, Summer 1981, pp. 38-45.
39 Hillel, Ruah Kadim, p. 285.
40 Mordekhaï Ben-Porat is one exception,: at the end of 1975, he established the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries. He also spoke up on this topic in the Israeli parliament (see, for example, Divrei ha-Knesset, vol. 72, Jan. 1, 1975, p. 1112).
41 Jean-Pierre Péroncel-Hugoz, Une Croix sur le Liban (Paris: Lieu Commun, 1984), p. 114. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is likely to grow in importance as many of their number reach the forefront of public life in Israel. In the imd-1980s, for example, the chief of staff of the Israel army, the parliamentary speaker, the minister of justice, the minister of energy, and the minister of health all were of Iraqi origin. The secretary-general of the Histadrut (the labor federation) was born in Yemen. The deputy prime minister and the minister of the interior were born in Morocco. The countries of the Arab League have by now an impressive representation in the government of Israel.
42 'Arif, Al-Nakba, p. 894.
43 Jeune Afrique, July 4, 1975; Ma'ariv, July 3, 1975.
44 Kol Ha'ir, Oct. 30, 1986.
45 An-Nahar, May 15, 1975.
46 Kirkbride, From the Wings, p. 115.
47 Wright, Libya, p. 75n 1.
August 14, 2000, Vol. 156 No. 7
The Other Side of the Refugee Coin
Jews driven from their homes in Arab countries gain hope of compensation
By MATTHEW REES Jerusalem
The last time Munira Mussafe saw her elegant house on the banks of the Tigris, it was through her tears. She and her family had to flee Iraq in 1951, leaving a spice warehouse burned out in anti-Jewish riots, a safe full of banknotes and jewels, and dozens of expensive, handmade Persian carpets. From prosperity in Baghdad, Mussafe and husband Salim brought their six children to a life of miserable poverty in the new state of Israel. Every day, Mussafe lamented the riches she left behind, even as Salim struggled to run a small dairy farm in the coastal town of Herzliya. Her daughter Judith, who fought decades of depression over the decline in her parents' status, hanged herself in 1988. Mussafe, 78, knows she can never recover the house or her daughter, but she believes new moves in the peace process with the Palestinians may help her win back the $2 million in cash and assets she left behind. "It's coming to me, just like it's coming to the Palestinians," she says. "Every refugee should be compensated."
Mussafe has a powerful ally in President Bill Clinton. In an interview with Israeli television, Clinton said the failed Camp David summit, which ended two weeks ago, at least brought good news for the more than 580,000 Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab countries. Palestinian negotiators agreed that these Jewish refugees should be compensated for the property they left behind or were forced to give up, he said. The President's comments reopened a little-noted but highly nettlesome area of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians which is sure to take on even greater urgency as the two sides move toward a final settlement. As the Palestinians negotiate for billions of dollars in compensation for their refugees, Israel will press for billions more to be paid to the Jews from Arab countries, probably by the kind of international fund suggested in Clinton's remarks. If the compensation is forthcoming, it could help the Israeli government sell an entire peace deal to voters of Middle Eastern and North African origin, who are a slight majority among Israelis. They're also largely right-wing and usually suspicious of prospective agreements with Arabs. "It will be very important," says Justice Minister Yossi Beilin. "It could help people accept the agreement. It would be something tangible."
Jews all over the Arab world faced persecution, fear and anti-Semitic attacks after the establishment of Israel in 1948. Communities that were 2,000 years old packed up en masse in the following few years and moved to Israel. Some of the expulsions were accompanied by government seizures of property, from the Iraqi regime in 1951 to Muammar Gaddafi's Libya in 1972. The Jews left behind them small goldsmiths stores on the Street Called Straight in Damascus and rich Italianate villas in Alexandria. According to Mordechai Ben-Porat, a former parliamentarian who, as a Mossad agent, helped bring refugees out of Iraq, the value today of the property abandoned or confiscated would be about $15 billion. That would dwarf the $1.25 billion compensation pledged by Swiss banks to Holocaust victims. Unlike the Palestinian refugees who were often kept in poverty by their Arab hosts and in some cases denied the right to find jobs outside their squalid camps, Jews from Arab countries were given citizenship in their new land. Still, these Jews, known as Mizrahis from the Hebrew word for east, faced discrimination from the European élite in Israel and lived in rough camps of tents and tin shacks. The towns that grew around those camps remain Israel's poorest neighborhoods. "We struggled to convince the world that there is another side to the refugee coin in this region," says Oved Ben-Ozair, chairman of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, a group based in Tel Aviv. "With Clinton's statement, we succeeded."
The Palestinians argue it's the other side of a completely different coin and that most of the Jews came to Israel out of Zionist conviction, rather than as true refugees. Adel Dajani left his father's home in West Jerusalem's German Colony in 1948 when he was 17, fleeing the battle that raged then for the city. Now a retired banker who lives in Amman, Jordan, Dajani recently took his wife and daughter to the ornate sandstone house on a leafy street renamed Zvi Graetz, after a nineteenth century biblical scholar. The Israeli woman who lives there today had herself fled from Iraq. Briefly, she let Dajani inside. "I was taken by the shivers," he says. Despite the efforts of Yasser Arafat's negotiators, Dajani expects to receive little compensation for the 16 houses his family left in Jerusalem, and he believes the Jews who fled Arab lands should get nothing either. "A lot of them left of their own free will, not under the gun like us." Palestinian officials at the peace talks agreed to the idea of compensation for the Mizrahi Jews only on condition, they say, that the money comes out of an international fund. They fear Israel will try to cancel out at least some of what it owes the Palestinian refugees by netting it against payments due their Jewish counterparts. They are suspicious, too, that Israel will cite the estimated $11 billion it spent over four decades integrating the Jewish refugees to further cut the cash it will hand over to the Palestinians.
Many of the Mizrahi Jews harbor the same suspicion. They believe they may never see their compensation and that the Israeli government only floated the idea to trim its potential obligations to the Palestinians. "It's an elegant stunt by the Israeli government," says Yehouda Shenhav, a Tel Aviv University professor. They'd better hope Clinton isn't in on the trick.
With reporting by Jamil Hamad and Aharon Klein/Jerusalem
Listen to Sabri Jiryis, a prominent Palestinian Arab researcher at the Institute for Palestinian Studies in Beirut:
"While it is estimated that 700,000 Arabs fled the 1948 war...against this...Arabs caused the expulsion of just as many Jews from Arab states...whose properties were taken over...a population and property exchange occurred and each side must bear the consequences (Al-Nahar, Beirut, 5/15/75)." Much more evidence for this exists in books written by Arab kings and officials as well as by others.
So, why is it that over fifty years later, Arabs-- who have received billions of dollars in aid from the U.N., oil revenues, other international funds, etc.--still have not relieved the plight of their own refugees? They have, after all, twenty-two states on some six million square miles of territory--lands that belonged mostly to non-Arab peoples like Kurds, Black Africans, Copts, Berbers, etc. before their conquests and forced arabization in the name of the Arab nation. Jews absorbed their refugees into their sole, tiny state that is not even the size of New Jersey.
The answer can be illustrated by Arab actions. Some years back, with the status of the territories unresolved, Israel offered to knock down the dilapidated camps and replace them with new housing and better living conditions. It's worth remembering that Egypt and Jordan occupied these territories from 1948-1967 and not only did nothing about this but never discussed the creation of another Palestinian Arab state here either. The Arabs demanded that Israel do nothing to remedy life in the camps. Again, why?
Quite simply, Arabs have used their own refugees as pawns in their war to delegitimize Israel. For them, there is no justice nor suffering besides their own. They don't want the refugee problem solved--not as long as it means that a viable Israel will still exist on the morrow. That's why they tacked on the "right of return" of millions of real or alleged Arab refugees to the recent Saudi peace plan. The result is that that Saudi "peace" plan still envisions Israel's Jews being overwhelmed so that a second Arab state will replace Israel, not live side by side with it. This should come as no shock since all Palestinian (and many other) Arab maps, school books, etc. omit Israel as well. This is also why current talk about a "provisional Palestinian Arab State" being created at this time is scary. Faisal Husseini, the late showcase moderate of the PLO, said that while he'd accept any land diplomacy would yield, a purely Arab Palestine from the River to the Sea was the real goal...the same old "destruction of Israel in stages" strategy dominant since after the "one fell swoop" alternative collapsed as a result of its failure in the Six Day War in 1967.
So, this tragic conflict still has no end in sight. And the horrendous human tragedy specifically associated with suicide/homicide bombings has been both created and sustained by Arabs themselves. Reasonable compromises have been repeatedly offered--and rejected-- to end the Arab-Israeli conflict...certainly more than anything Arabs have ever offered to the numerous native, non-Arab peoples they conquered and forcibly arabized in carving out most of the twenty-two states they now call their own.
THE RIGHTS OF JEWS FROM ARAB COUNTRIES
(Draft Article for Bulletins, Newsletters, Press, etc.)
When the issue of refugees is raised within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer to Palestinian refugees, not Jews displaced from Arab countries. In fact, there were more Jews displaced as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict than Palestinians.
Jews in substantial numbers resided in Arab countries over 1,000 years before the advent of Islam. In 1948, there were over 850,000 Jews living in Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa. By 1958, 97% of all Jews in Arab countries had emigrated due to hostile political, social and economic climates.
JEWISH POPULATION 1948
Source: Roumani, Maurice M., The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue,
(© 1983, World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC)
In virtually all cases, as Jews were driven out or fled from their country, individual and communal properties were confiscated without compensation.
Securing rights and redress for Jews displaced from Arab countries is a complex challenge that, in light of the world�s preoccupation with Palestinian refugees, has not yet been adequately addressed by the international community.
There are many who would reject any linkage between the issue of Palestinian refugees and the plight of Jews displaced from Arab lands. There is neither comparable history nor demography that could allow for any appropriate comparison between the respective plights of Palestinian refugees and that of Jews displaced from Arab lands.
There does exist, however, a moral imperative to ensure that justice for Jews from Arab countries assumes its rightful place on the international political and judicial agenda and that their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity.
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries is a coalition of Jewish communal organizations, established under the auspices of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the World Jewish Congress and the American Sephardi Federation. Organizations participating in this initiative include: the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, Jewish Community Centers Association, United Jewish Communities, B�nai B�rith International, the Board of Jewish Education, Hadassah, Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
The objectives of this international campaign are:
i) To educate public opinion on the causes, and plight,
of Jews who were displaced from Arab countries; and
To document the history and testimonies of displacement; and
To advocate for, and secure rights and redress, for
the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.
LEGAL AND POLITICAL BASIS
The rights of former Jewish refugees are no less legitimate than those of Palestinian refugees. Indeed, there are legal and political bases to pursue these rights.
Resolution 242, adopted by the United Nations in 1967, declares that there should be �a just settlement of the refugee problem.� The Resolution makes no distinction between Arab refugees and former Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
The Camp David Accords and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty provide that �the parties agree to establish a Claims Committee for the mutual settlement of all final claims.� President Carter stated in a press conference on Oct. 27, 1977 that �Palestinians have rights? obviously there are Jewish refugees? they have the same rights as others do.�
The rights of Jews displaced from Arab lands were discussed at �Camp David II� in July 2000. Immediately thereafter, President Clinton was interviewed on Israeli television and stated clearly:
�There will have to be some sort of international fund set up for
the refugees. There is, I think, some interest, interestingly enough, on both sides, in also having a fund which compensates the Israelis who were made refugees by the war, which occurred
after the birth of the State of Israel. Israel is full of people, Jewish people, who lived in predominantly Arab countries who came to
Israel because they were made refugees in their own land
Yes, but how much do the Arab nations owe Israel?
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