[Opinion] The plight of Jewish refugees is being ignored
Click here to read the original article
On Nov. 29, the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status to a non-member observer state. The significance of the date cannot be overlooked. This day marks the UN’s 1947 adoption of the plan for two states — Jewish and Arab — in mandated Palestine, a compromise that was totally rejected by the Arab side.
Since then, this history has been twisted into an annual UN observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which is focused on Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
But as international non-governmental organizations held events expressing their solidarity, the nearly one million Jews from Arab states driven from their homes remain the forgotten refugees of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The tragedies of both groups of refugees are the result of the double aggression committed by the Arab leaders in 1948. Not only did the Arab world reject the UN plan, but they did so with intense violence. Palestinians fled the fighting brought on by their own leaders, and Jewish residents of Arab states came under assault.
In Iraq, Zionism came to be considered a capital crime; some 70 Jews were killed by terrorist bombs in Cairo’s Jewish quarter. Pogroms in Yemen resulted in the brutal murder of 82 Jews, and in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Tunisia and elsewhere, Jews were expelled, had their citizenship revoked, or fled following violence and anti-Jewish legislation.
Yet, despite the common origins and parallel numbers, the subsequent histories of the two refugee populations could not have been any different. Some 850,000 Jews from the Arab world fled to Israel and other countries, mostly as stateless refugees. Most of the Jewish refugees went to Israel and were welcomed, became citizens, and are fully integrated into Israeli society.
Palestinians, on the other hand, have suffered the Arab world’s refusal to treat them humanely. Though Arabs, Palestinians are barred from acquiring citizenship in all Arab states except Jordan.
In Lebanon, Palestinians suffer from official discrimination barring them from 50 professions, and are prohibited from owning property. The purpose is to keep this refugee issue festering, as a means to eventually overrun Israel with a claim for the right to return.
Meanwhile, some western governments have begun to address the question of redress for Jewish refugees from Arab states. Recently, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler presented a motion in the House of Commons proposing formal government recognition of the Jews “forcibly displaced and exiled from Arab countries.”
Cotler, who has played a prominent role in the campaign to bring international recognition to the rights of the Jewish refugees, also addressed the issue with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, requesting that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs hold hearings on this matter, similar to those in the United States Congress and the Italian and British parliaments.
But more needs to be done to recognize the rights of the Jewish refugees by the UN and non-governmental organizations that carry the mantle of human rights. If they have a real interest in justice and equality, they must acknowledge that both the refugee populations are joint victims of the conflict, both deserving of redress.
The continued silence of the international human rights NGOs on the issue is palpable. Many international NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have failed to acknowledge that following Israel’s establishment, many Jews in Arab countries found themselves in hostile environments where their human and civil rights were denied, some facing brutal violence, arbitrary arrest and torture.
Human Rights Watch, for example, states in a report that any future Middle East peace agreement should recognize the claim of a right to return for “Palestinian refugees and exiles from territory located in what is now Israel or in what is likely to be a future state of Palestine…” The report fails to acknowledge the Jewish refugees that resulted from the 1948 war started by the Arab side.
In 2007, Amnesty International issued a report on Palestinian refugees, declaring that the “international community must also attempt to find a durable solution for (Palestinian) refugees that fully respects and protects their human rights.”
Yet, Amnesty International is silent on the injustice Middle Eastern Jews suffered and fails to advocate for their human rights.
In the words of Cotler: “If there is no remembrance, there will be no truth; if there will be no truth, there will be no justice; if there will be no justice, there will be no authentic reconciliation between peoples and states and the just and lasting peace which we all seek.”
This is a case of selective application of justice, which is discriminatory and racist. If these NGOs truly applied their founding principles, and not just promoted their biased opinions, the rights of the 850,000 Jewish refugees would warrant their voices.