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Historical Israel-Arab wars Discuss the strategies and the situation of the historical Israeli-Arab wars from 1948-1982 and it's implications on Israel.

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Old 01-23-2008, 05:59 AM
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Exclamation What happened to the Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern countries?

What happened to the Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern countries?

In the years following Israel's independence in May 1948, 600,000 to 800,000 Jews from Arab North Africa and the Middle East (approximately as many as the number of Palestinian refugees who left Israel in 1948) arrived in the new state, as a direct result of official and popular anti-Semitic actions against them. Israel received them as returning countrymen, granted them citizenship and helped them begin new and productive lives. There is currently no visible sign of their being "refugees," since they have long since been absorbed into Israeli society.

Nevertheless, they still have substantial claims against those countries which forced them to flee, often penniless, and these must be addressed in any comprehensive resolution of the refugee problem.

Throughout Arab lands, 1948 Jewish populations have been decreased to next to nothing. To where did these Jewish refugees vanish? The majority went to Israel, often living in tent camps for up to 12 years, just as the Palestinian refugees. However, they got citizenship in Israel and did not remain permanent refugees.

Jewish refugees from Arab lands have received no compensation for expropriated property, while Arabs who lost property in Israel are eligible to file for compensation from Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property.
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The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Asymmetric Warfare It’s not just for the “Other Guys”

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As Israel and the Palestinians continue to move towards achieving a just and lasting peace, a number of long-standing issues that have divided them are being resolved. One of the most complex, and crucial, of these is the problem of Arab and Jewish refugees displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the question of a fair settlement to the dispute. Although no policy decisions have yet been taken, any consideration of a viable solution must address a number of essential concerns. First, how did these large numbers of Jews and Arabs become refugees? Clearly, the remedy must reflect, to some degree, the causes of the problem. Also, as in the fundamental principle of equity, those who claim to seek justice must have clean hands. Second, why has this problem festered for decades, and who bears responsibility for blocking its resolution? Third, what are the possible alternatives for an equitable solution? Finally, what political objectives may lie behind some of the ostensibly neutral proposals for solutions, such as the Palestinian "right of return?"

When discussing these questions, the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries must also be given their due consideration. In the years immediately following Israel's independence, nearly 600,000 Jews from North Africa and the Middle East (approximately as many as the number of Palestinian refugees who left Israel in 1948) arrived in the new state, as a direct result of official and popular anti-Semitic actions against them. Israel received them as returning countrymen, granted them citizenship and helped them begin new and productive lives. There is currently no visible sign of their being "refugees," since they have long since been absorbed into Israeli society. Nevertheless, they still have substantial claims against those countries which forced them to flee, often penniless, and these must be addressed in any comprehensive resolution of the refugee problem.

In light of growing interest in the issue on the part of journalists, an overall review may be useful. This paper will address the question of how the Arab and Jewish refugee problems were created, the different ways in which these problems have been treated since 1948, the alleged Arab "right of return," and the different approaches now being considered for the resolution of these issues.

The Arab Refugees of 1948 The Jewish Agency for Palestine, under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, publicly accepted the United Nations General Assembly partition resolution, passed on 29 November 1947, which would have led to the establishment of separate Jewish and Arab states in Palestine. The Arabs, however, both in Mandatory Palestine and in the surrounding Arab states, rejected it and immediately began to carry out their oft-repeated threats of violence. This violence was not limited to Mandatory Palestine, but was also directed against Jews living throughout the Middle East. In Aleppo, Syria, 300 Jewish homes and 11 synagogues were burned to the ground, and half of the city's 4,000 Jews fled elsewhere. In Aden, 82 Jews were killed. In Mandatory Palestine itself, the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day general strike from 2-4 December 1947. Violence immediately ensued, with attacks on Jewish quarters in Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa. Soon after, the Higher Committee began recruiting volunteers throughout Palestine's Arab towns and villages. The "militias" they formed carried out hit-and-run assaults on isolated Jewish settlements and Jewish-owned vehicles, killing and destroying Jewish property. The attacks were launched exclusively by Palestinian Arabs, although some of their funds and military equipment came from neighboring Arab countries.

During this stage, however, offensive planning was uncoordinated, even on a local basis. Left alone, the Arabs and Jews of Mandatory Palestine, for the most part, continued to live without incident, if fearfully. The Higher Committee's violence alone would not have precipitated a full-scale war between the two peoples. However, following the UN partition vote, a meeting of Arab premiers was held in Cairo on 12 December 1947. At this meeting, a plan was adopted to supply the Arab League's military committee with 10,000 rifles and other light weapons, to arrange for the passage of 3,000 Arab volunteers through Syria into Mandatory Palestine, and to provide a considerable sum toward the cost of "defending Palestine."

Field command of the "Arab Liberation Army" was given to Fawzi al-Qawukji, guerilla leader of the Arab Uprising of 1936 (who later participated in the Vichy defense of Syria in 1941, before fleeing to Nazi Germany, where he lived out the remainder of the Second World War). Most of his "volunteers" were actually mercenaries from Syria, along with some non-Muslims, including German SS veterans.

Far from engaging in mere rhetoric, the Arabs began infiltrating forces into Mandatory Palestine in late January 1948, and by March there were nearly 7,000 Arab irregulars in the country. They launched assaults against urban Jewish quarters, attacked outlying kibbutzim and cut vital roads linking major cities and Jewish centers.

This period also marked the beginning of the movement of Arab residents out of Mandatory Palestine; approximately 30,000 Arabs chose to leave the country in the months immediately following passage of the partition resolution, in reaction to the deteriorating security situation. These were mostly businessmen and their families from the larger cities, who liquidated their holdings, transferred their accounts to banks in Egypt and Lebanon, and departed unobtrusively. In April and May 1948, the Jews began to reverse the initial Arab advantage in Palestine and, at the same time, Arab public services collapsed as a result of the pandemonium generated by the British evacuation. The exodus of Arab families increased, expanding to include large numbers of communal leaders, village mayors, judges and cadis. Thousands of peasant farmers and town-dwellers accompanied them.

The most dramatic episode in this second phase of Arab departure occurred in Haifa, where approximately 70,000 Arabs lived alongside a large Jewish population. The businessmen among them began leaving immediately after the partition resolution, even though Haifa remained relatively peaceful. As early as February and March 1948, the local Greek Catholic primate arranged for the removal of large groups of Arab children to Damascus and Beirut. By the end of March, approximately 25,000 Arabs had already left. An additional 20,000 departed in early April, following Qawukji's offensive and rumors that the Arab air forces would soon bomb the Jewish quarters of the city. Finally, on 21-22 April, the British garrison withdrew and the Jews consolidated their positions in the city. On the afternoon of 22 April, the Jewish mayor of Haifa and his colleagues met with Arab leaders and pleaded with them to remain in the city with their fellow residents. The (Jewish) Haifa Labor Council issued an appeal to the Arabs of the city:

For years, we have lived together in our city, Haifa...Do not fear: Do not destroy your homes with your own not bring upon yourself tragedy by unnecessary evacuation and self-imposed burdens...But in this city, yours and ours, Haifa, the gates are open for work, for life, and for peace for you and your families. These calls, however, went unheeded. Following a consultation with the Higher Committee, the Mufti and the Arab League, Arab leaders informed the mayor and his associates that the Arabs would not live, for a single day, under Jewish rule; they demanded permission to leave the city. Efforts to change their minds failed, and within 36 hours the remaining Arab population of nearly 30,000 had left the city and departed for Lebanon, either overland or by sea.

The Arab exodus also gained momentum elsewhere in Mandatory Palestine, reaching nearly 175,000 during the last weeks of the Mandate. There were various reasons for this flight. The most obvious reason was the collapse of Arab political institutions that resulted from the departure of the Arab elite, at the very moment when their leadership was most needed. The departure of mukhtars, judges and cadis from Haifa and the New City of Jerusalem, from Jaffa, Safed and elsewhere, created serious problems for the Arab population. The semi-feudal character of Arab society at the time rendered the "fellah" (uneducated peasant) almost entirely dependent on the landlord and cadi. Once this elite had left, the Arab peasant was placed in the terrifying position of remaining in an institutional and cultural void.

Initially, the Jewish community of Mandatory Palestine was at a disadvantage, in terms of the size of forces and the quality of equipment available. As a result, in late 1947 the Haganah defense force -- faced with increasing Arab attacks -- adopted a static defense posture, deploying the few men and weapons it had to protect individual Jewish settlements and supply convoys. It avoided military action against Arab population centers, even when there were compelling strategic reasons for taking such action. It was only in April 1948, with their military position badly deteriorating and the movement of supply convoys completely halted by the Arabs, that Jewish forces went on the offensive, securing Arab towns which dominated vital road arteries and communication lines, in an effort to seize control of Mandatory Palestine's interior road network and the country's strategic heights.

The unanticipated military advances by Jewish forces also inevitably intensified the fears of the Arab population, accelerating their departure. Then too, since Arab villages and towns along highways and in strategic locations were often used as bases from which Arab forces would stage attacks, Jewish forces were compelled to respond, occasionally forcing the hostile inhabitants to move and destroying houses which had been used as military positions.

The invasion of Mandatory Palestine by the regular Arab armies after 15 May 1948 had a brief stabilizing influence on Mandatory Palestine's Arab population. However, the Arab armies failed to consolidate their positions, and their relationship with the local Arabs was often ambivalent at best. By 11 June, when the first UN truce came into effect, some 250,000 Arabs had fled the Jewish-controlled areas of the country, for a variety of reasons.

Facing invading armies from surrounding Arab countries, in a fight for the survival of their country, Israeli troops took control of Lod, Ramle and the cluster of surrounding Arab villages in the center of the country, causing approximately 100,000 of the local inhabitants to flee. In fact, many Arabs evacuated their settlements even before the Israeli forces arrived. By 9 July, almost 350,000 had left, and their numbers rapidly increased in the early autumn following Israel's first Negev offensive. After the hostilities ended, about 70% of the Arab population of Mandatory Palestine had fled Israeli-controlled territory. Estimates of the total number who left range from 540,000 to 720,000. Not all of those who fled their homes departed Mandatory Palestine itself. By some estimates, 45% of them simply crossed into the eastern sector of the country occupied by Jordan's Arab Legion. Around 5% crossed the Jordan River and entered the Hashemite Kingdom itself. About 30%, who originally had encamped in the south, fled toward the Gaza area. Nearly 15% sought refuge in Lebanon, another 5% in Syria, with smaller groups traveling on to Iraq and Egypt -- and later to the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms.

Israel's Policy Towards the Arab Refugees Since the beginning, Israel has linked a resolution of the problem of the Palestinian Arab refugees to the achievement of a comprehensive peace with its Arab neighbors. On 1 August 1948, David Ben-Gurion, in the midst of a brutal and bloody war which had been imposed on the new state, laid out Israeli government policy:

When the Arab states are ready to conclude a peace treaty with Israel this question [of refugees] will come up for constructive solution as part of the general settlement, and with due regard to our counter- claims in respect of the destruction of Jewish life and property, the long-term interest of the Jewish and Arab populations, the stability of the State of Israel and the durability of the basis of peace between it and its neighbors, the actual position and fate of the Jewish communities in the Arab countries, the responsibilities of the Arab governments for their war of aggression and their liability for reparation, will all be relevant in the question whether, to what extent, and under what conditions, the former Arab residents of the territory of Israel should be allowed to return.

The Arab refugee problem, then, was not to be viewed in a vacuum, but rather as one element of the overall Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel could not reasonably be expected to allow the entry to its territory of several hundred thousand openly hostile Arabs, who viewed Jewish sovereignty over any part of the former Palestine mandate as anathema. They had, after all, supported a concerted attempt by the Arab world to destroy Israel before it even had a chance to become established.

Even so, in 1949, Israel offered to admit 100,000 Arab refugees, with the understanding that their repatriation would be linked to meaningful peace negotiations. Although 35,000 Arabs eventually returned under a family reunification plan, further implementation of the offer was suspended in the 1950's, after it became clear that the Arab states steadfastly refused to consider Israel's peace overtures, preferring instead to maintain a state of war with and economic boycott against Israel. In contrast, as a gesture of goodwill, Israel unilaterally released the frozen bank accounts and safe deposits of Arab refugees.

Arab Responsibility for the Refugee Problem In 1973, Khaled al-'Azm, who served as Prime Minister of Syria in 1948 and 1949, published his memoirs in Beirut. In analyzing the reasons for the failed Arab attack against Israel in 1948, al-'Azm includes the following:

The call by the Arab Governments to the inhabitants of Palestine to evacuate it and to leave for the bordering Arab countries, after having sown terror among them, following the incident at Deir Yassin. This collective flight helped the Jews, whose position improved, without any effort on their part. Let us try to imagine what would have happened if the inhabitants of Palestine, more than a million in number, had remained; what a fifth column they would have constituted and what continuous trouble their remaining would have caused the Government of the Jews!

Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated between our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return. Is this a wise and stable policy? Is there harmony in such a programme? We have brought destruction upon a million Arab refugees, by calling upon them and pleading with them to leave their lands, their homes, their work and their business, and we have caused them to be barren and unemployed though each one of them had been working and qualified in a trade from which he could make a living. In addition, we accustomed them to begging for hand-outs and to suffice with what little the UN organisation would allocate them.

Following the war, the Arab countries consistently refused to take steps necessary to improve the lives of the Palestinian refugees. In early 1950, the UN General Assembly established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, with a budget of $54 million. UNRWA was charged with the task of employing the Palestinians on projects in the Arab states in which they resided. It was an explicit expectation of the program that within 18 months most of these refugees would be as self-supporting as their Arab neighbors, and relief handouts could be ended. However, when UNRWA officials initiated talks with the Arab governments, they encountered an uncompromising refusal to cooperate with any plan designed for economic integration.

Arab leaders argued that Paragraph Eleven of General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 1948 guaranteed the refugees the right to return to their homes, and that they could not participate in any scheme that might compromise such a right. In fact, the Arab states themselves had voted unanimously against the resolution, since it envisaged peace negotiations with Israel. The refugee issue accordingly served as a useful obstacle to future discussions and as an effective lien on the world's conscience. By the end of 1950, as a result, no more than 10,000 of the refugees were employed.

Throughout the 1950's, UNRWA put forward additional plans to resettle and rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees. Like the earlier plan, these too were rejected by the Arab countries, individually and through the Arab League. By 1959, UNRWA was obliged to report that its rehabilitation fund, created in 1950 to provide homes and jobs for Palestinian refugees outside the camps, had been boycotted by the Arabs. The fund had set a goal of $250 million, but after three years only $7 million had been spent, and a further $28 million lay unused in the fund. Thereafter, a small part of the money was used on agricultural development; the rest of the money was used to augment UNRWA's general reserves.

Some of the Palestinians were formulating their own solution by then. In 1952, UNRWA observed that a good number of the Arab refugees had recently found homes and livelihoods in neighboring countries, in Iraq and the Persian Gulf states. At least 280,000 refugees had established themselves in Jordan and, by their own efforts, had become an integral part of that country's economy. For others, however, the situation was different.

In January 1951, the "Committee of Palestine Refugees" in Lebanon wrote the Arab League political committee, observing that a return to their homes was less than imminent for most of the Palestinians. Until a political solution could be found they could hardly be left to rot in Arab countries without decent food, shelter or means of providing a livelihood. The letter suggested that the Arab states should at least provide those refugees willing to settle outside Palestine with the opportunity to do so. Yet the single affirmative response to this appeal was King Abdullah's decision to confer Jordanian citizenship on the 200,000-odd refugees of the West Bank. Of these, 100,000 found employment; the rest continued to live in camps on UNRWA's dole.

By contrast, the refugees in Gaza were confined as virtual prisoners within the Strip. With the exception of perhaps 20,000 who managed to secure jobs in Iraq and the Persian Gulf area by 1951, they were denied employment or citizenship in Egypt itself.

As a result of this situation, UNRWA relief aid became a fixture in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The "advantages" of refugee status were not unsubstantial. The refugees had access to health services. The incidence of sickness and death accordingly was lower among them than among the surrounding Arab populations. Some 45% of their children of school age received free education. While their rations were meager, they did not suffer from malnutrition. By the end of 1956, only 39% of registered refugees actually lived in UNRWA camps; yet nearly all of them drew UN rations. Israel, therefore, cannot be held solely responsible for the socio-economic problems of the Gaza refugees, which were created by deliberate Arab neglect before 1967.

In 1959, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold personally investigated the possibility of a comprehensive resettlement scheme in the Middle East. Such a scheme would, like the earlier recommendations of the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission, have been based on the general principle of resettling Arab refugees in Arab countries; as a result, it encountered Arab opposition and was dropped.

Since UNRWA's inception, Arab countries have made totally inadequate contributions to its funding. UNRWA's annual budget, and deficits, have been covered almost entirely by Western countries; Arab states have made only token contributions, amounting to about 5% of the total budget.

Over the years, Arab governments have placed a higher priority on the destruction of Israel than on the welfare of the Palestinian refugees. They perceived it as their interest to keep the bitterness and anger of the Palestinian refugees alive. For decades, in fact, Arab leaders used the Palestinians' misfortune to promote their efforts to undermine Israel, linking a return of refugees to Israel's destruction. In an interview to the Cairo journal "Al-Masri" on 11 October 1949, Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Salah A-Din said:

In demanding the return of the Palestinian refugees, the Arabs mean their return as masters, not slaves; or, to put it quite clearly -- the intention is the termination of Israel.

This motif was repeated in later years, with President Nasser of Egypt saying, in a 1965 speech, that "Our aim is to restore the national rights of the Palestinian people, namely to destroy Israel."

The Impact of the 1967 War The 1967 Six Day War, which resulted from a further attempt by the Arab states to destroy Israel, added new dimensions to the refugee problem, created new problems and opened up new possibilities. In the wake of its victory, Israel suddenly had to deal with large numbers of Arab refugees living under Israeli administration. They challenged Israel to apply and prove the approach it had advocated for resolving the refugee problem. New refugee problems emerged due to the flight of great numbers of West Bank inhabitants to Jordan. The political problem posed by the refusal of the Arab states to accept Israel's existence, which was always a major obstacle to a solution of the refugee problem, was further aggravated by Israel's success.

While the Arab states' primary use of the West Bank had been as a staging area for attacking Israel, Israel's first concern in the administered territories was to prevent a disruption of essential services to the local population, including the refugees. On 14 June 1967, four days after the cease-fire became effective, the Israeli government reached agreement with UNRWA for the continued functioning of the agency. Israel also initiated public works projects in order to provide a livelihood for many refugees, and permitted them to find employment in the rapidly expanding economy of the territories and in the Israeli labor market. Along with economic development, public services were improved; a network of roads was built; water, electricity and sewage services were expanded; health services were enhanced; and new schools, in addition to those run by UNRWA in the refugee camps, were erected. A number of refugee
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The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Asymmetric Warfare It’s not just for the “Other Guys”

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Who Were the 1948 Refugees?

by Yoram Ettinger
February 4, 2001

  1. 630,000 Palestinian, and 820,000 Jewish, refugees were produced by the 1948 war, which was launched by Palestinians, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon against Israel.
  2. The Jewish refugees - from Muslim countries - were absorbed (590,000 in Israel), as were millions of European refugees in the aftermath of WWII. In contrast, Palestinian refugees have been confined to camps, by Arab and PLO leaders, fomenting terrorism. None of the financial aid received by the PLO, from the US and other countries, has been directed at the refugee camps!
  3. 810,000 Arabs resided in Israel (defined by the 1949 ceasefire lines) on November 30, 1947. At the end of the war there were 168,000 Arabs in Israel (including 14,000 Bedouins, down from 66,000 before the war). Considering the 1%-2% war fatalities (Israel lost 1% of its people!), the 52,000 displaced Bedouins, who joined tribes in Jordan and Sinai, the Palestinians who rejoined their families in Lebanon and Syria (please see below) and the wealthy Palestinians who were resettled in the Mideast and in other parts of the globe, the actual number of Palestinians in refugee camps, in 1949, was no more than 550,000!
  4. Many Palestinians are descendants of Egyptian, Sudanese, Syrian and Lebanese migrants, who settled in the current boundaries of Israel during 1830-1945. Migration by Arab citizens of the Ottoman Empire did not require any permit until WWI. Migrant workers were imported by the Ottoman and (since 1919) by the British authorities for infrastructure projects: The port of Haifa, the Haifa-Qantara, Haifa-Edrei, Haifa-Nablus and Jerusalem-Jaffa railroads, military installations, roads, quarries, reclamation of wetlands, etc. Illegal Arab laborers were also attracted by the relative boom, stimulated by Jewish immigration, which expanded labor-intensive enterprises (construction, agriculture, etc.).
  5. The (1831-1840) conquest, by Egypt's Mohammed Ali, was solidified by thousands of Egyptians settling empty spaces between Gaza and Tul-Karem up to the Hula Valley. They followed in the footsteps of Egyptian draft dodgers, who fled Egypt before 1831. The British traveler, H.B. Tristram, identified Egyptian migrants in the Beit-Shean Valley, Acre, Hadera, Netanya and Jaffa. The British Palestine Exploration Fund indicated that Egyptian neighborhoods proliferated in and around Jaffa: Saknet el-Mussariya, Abu Kebir, Abu Derwish, Sumeil, Sheikh Muwanis, Salame', Fejja, etc. Many of those who fled in 1948 attempted to reunite with their families of origin.
  6. "30,000-36,000 Syrian migrants (Huranis) entered Palestine during the last few months alone" (La Syrie daily, August 12, 1934). Syrian rulers have always considered the area as a southern province of Greater Syria. Az-ed-Din el-Qassam, the role-model of Hamas terrorism, who terrorized Jews in British Mandate Palestine, was a Syrian, as were Said el-A'az, a leader of the 1936-38 anti-Jewish pogroms and Kaukji, the commander-in-chief of the Arab mercenaries terrorizing Jews in the thirties and forties.
  7. Tristram, and other travelers, identified over 15 Arab nationalities who settled in Jaffa. Libyan migrants and refugees settled in Gedera, south of Tel Aviv. Algerian refugees (Mugrabis), escaping the French conquest of 1830, settled in Safed, Tiberias and other parts of the Galilee. Their leader, Abd el-Kader el-Hasseini, headquartered in Syria! Circassian refugees, fleeing Russian oppression (1878), Moslems from Bosnia, Turkomans, Yemenite Arabs (1908) and Bedouin tribes from Jordan (escaping wars and famine) diversified Arab demography there.
  8. The aforementioned data are contained in the book The Claim Of Dispossession (Arieh Avneri, 1982) and in From Time Immemorial (Joan Peters, Harper, 1984).
  9. Habib Issa, Secretary General of the Arab League: In 1948, Azzam Pasha, the former Secretary General, "assured Arabs that the occupation of Palestine, including Tel Aviv, would be as simple as a military promenade...Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property, and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states." (Al-Hoda Lebanese daily, New York, June 8, 1951).
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In 1945 there were more than 870,000 Jews living in the various Arab states. Many of their communities dated back 2,500 years. Throughout 1947 and 1948 these Jews were persecuted. Their property and belongings were confiscated. There were anti-Jewish riots in Aden, Egypt, Lybia, Syria, and Iraq. In Iraq, Zionism was made a capital crime. Aproximately 600,000 Jews sought refuge in the State of Israel.(1) They arrived destitute, but they were absorbed into the society and became an integral part of the state. In effect, then, a vertible exchange of populations took place between Arab and Jewish refugees. Though, while the Jewish refugees became full Israeli citizens, the Arab refugees remained "refugees" according to the wishes of the Arab leaders.

1. Howe & Gershman, op. cit., p. 168.

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One Million Jews in the Muslim World / The Political Climate Changes / Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the 1940s / Mass Escape to Israel / Hardship for Those Who Remained / The Situation Today / The Jewish Claim for Restitution
[Editor's Note: After nearly three decades during which "Middle East refugees" seemed to be synonymous with "Palestinian refugees," Jews from Arab countries living in both Israel and the diaspora formed the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) in 1975 to make certain that any "just settlement of the refugee problem" recognizes those Jews who were forced to flee from lands where they had lived for centuries. This Jerusalem Letter is based on a presentation prepared for the Third International Conference of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Lands held in Washington, D.C., October 26-28, 1987.]

One Million Jews in the Muslim World

Jews have lived in the Arab-speaking countries of western Asia and North Africa for millennia. Indeed, in certain countries such as Iraq, Yemen and Morocco, Jewish communities can be traced back to the period of the first exile, following the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. If one includes the Muslim but non-Arab countries of Iran and Turkey, more than one million Jews lived in this region before the establishment of Israel in 1948. Today only 75,000 remain in Muslim countries." If we exclude Turkey and Iran and concentrate on the Arab countries, the contrast appears even sharper. As against some 880,000 Jews living in Arab countries on the eve of the creation of the State of Israel, today fewer than 25,000 remain, more than half in Morocco. Although they are protected by the king and officially enjoy full rights, their numbers continued to dwindle through gradual emigration. The second largest community, of 4,000 to 5,000 is in Syria. There the number remains relatively constant only because the Syrian authorities forbid all Jewish emigration. Even to visit relatives abroad, Syrian Jews must leave a large financial deposit and close family members behind as hostages for their return. Jews caught trying to flee the country are subject to brutal interrogation and imprisonment for six months or longer.

The Political Climate Changes

Why did the overwhelming majority of the Jews in the Arab world "vote with their feet" and leave their homes during the past 40 years? For some there was the positive attraction of political Zionism: the rebuilding of an independent Jewish state in the land of Israel. For others, such as the Yemeni Jews who were flown to Israel in "Operation Magic Carpet," the return to Zion on "the wings of eagles" appeared as the marvelous fulfillment of biblical prophecy and an age-old Jewish longing.

But in the great majority of cases it was a combination of negative forces in their countries of residence -- push factors -- that impelled them to leave their homes, sometimes at great personal peril. These historical forces were:

1. The breakdown of the Ottoman Empire and traditional Islamic society.
In the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Ottoman Empire -- a "world state" of 400 years duration -- Jews had enjoyed a large measure of autonomy in their communal and religious life. Sovereignty, however, and participation in the ruling elite, were traditionally reserved to Muslims. Although Jews and Christians had a second class and inferior position in the Islamic order, they had a clearly defined status. Under benevolent rulers, Jews and other minorities enjoyed affluence and even achieved positions of prominence. Under fanatical or arbitrary rulers they were severely restricted and discriminated against, and at times of political instability suffered murder and pillaging at the hands of Muslim mobs.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Ottomans tried to reform their empire. Two attempts at constitutionalism, with Western encouragement, tried to broaden citizenship to include the minorities on an equal footing. But these attempts were resisted by traditional Islamic elements. They succeeded only in undermining the old Islamic basis of political stability and coexistence.

2. The domination of the Middle East by Western colonial powers and the rise of Arab nationalism.

With the decay of Ottoman power in the 19th century, Britain, France, and Italy seized large areas of the Arab world, a task they completed at the end of World War I. From this time onward, Jews, as well as some of the Christian minorities, played a disproportionately large role in the commercial, professional, and administrative life of these countries. Their knowledge of Western languages, inculcated by the educational efforts of their Occidental co-religionists, and their commercial contacts abroad, facilitated ties between local Jews and the colonial powers." Local Arab nationalism developed in part as a reaction to foreign rule. Since Jews were visibly associated in trading and administrative relationships with the hated foreign rulers, especially in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, it was simple for Arab nationalists to scapegoat Jews as tools of the imperialists. As proponents of a new educated, urban class, Arab nationalists were at times jealous of the wealth and position attained by some Jews in administrative and economic life. As they sought wealth and position for themselves through government channels, their policy of "Arabization" became a convenient justification for limiting and ultimately supplanting Jews in these places.

3. Resentment over the development of Jewish nationalism and its political manifestation in the Zionist movement.

With the issuance of the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917, the awarding of the Mandate over Palestine to Britain after World War I, and the subsequent increase in Jewish immigration to Palestine, Arabs within the Mandate and in the surrounding countries felt politically threatened. Zionist efforts increasingly clashed with Palestinian and pan-Arab nationalism. There was rioting in Palestine in 1921, 1929, and throughout the period of 1936-39. Pro-Palestinian sympathy in Arab countries led to demonstrations which sometimes spilled over into attacks on local Jews, as in Syria in 1936.

It must be noted that although a limited amount of Zionist activity -- usually clandestine -- took place among Middle Eastern Jewries in those years, it was neither widespread nor prevalent enough to warrant being called "Jewish provocation.

4. The readiness of political movements and unpopular regimes to scapegoat the local Jews for political purposes. The new Arab states, politically weak autocracies emerging from imperialist domination, would at times persecute their Jews, or allow others to do so, to divert public attention from their own failings in the political, military and economic spheres. This trend reached a fever pitch directly after the unexpected defeat of the Arab armies in Palestine, during the first Arab-Israeli war, but in some instances it began well before 1948. The chosen governmental methods of persecution were unjust arrests, imprisonment and torture, discriminatory legislation, confiscation of property, and agitation in the press and radio. Members of the Jewish communities were scapegoated as being Communist or Zionist (sometimes both), and imprisoned and despoiled of their property for belonging to these movements that were anathema to Arab regimes. Notorious examples of these practices occurred in Iraq during the 1940s, Egypt during the Nasser era, and Syria since its independence after World War II.

Moreover, pan-Arab and pan-Islamic parties and movements in almost every Arab state have fomented mob violence against Jews, in part to undercut the authority of these very same regimes, as well as in revenge for Israeli victories in the several Arab-Israeli wars. Indeed one might characterize these assaults as a veritable war against the Middle Eastern Jews. In Aleppo, Syria in 1947, much of the Jewish quarter was set ablaze. In 1948, bombs were found in numerous locations in the Jewish quarter of Damascus; in August 1949, more bombs in the same neighborhood killed and wounded scores. In Cairo in 1945, mobs in the Jewish quarter burned a synagogue, a hospital, and numerous homes and shops; on June 20, 1949, bombs in the Jewish quarter killed 34 and wounded 80. Eighty-two died in a riot in Aden in 1947. These are just a few of the examples that can be cited from this notorious and bloody catalogue.

As one European observer of these disturbances, Victoria d'Asprea, put it rather bluntly, "of all the non-Moslems, the Jews are the safest targets. They are considered to be Europeans and as such any 'barefoot' Mohammedan is glad to shoot at them. They are not supported by a powerful empire and attacks on them do not create diplomatic incidents. Moreover, they are 'infidels,' which make them particularly attractive victims of the more fanatical Mohammedans. They are Jews, which satisfies those who are more specifically anti-Semitic.

Anti-Jewish Violence in the 1940s

All these factors combined over the past century to weaken the traditional position of the Jewish communities in Arab lands. But it was the last set of factors, the state-sponsored discrimination and pogrom-like mob violence, that precipitated the rapid dissolution of these ancient Jewish communities. As a result of these events, the Jews of Arab countries in effect became political refugees, that is, persons who had a well-founded fear of persecution and consequently fled untenable, often life-threatening, political situations in their countries of origin. Within a four-year period, from 1948 to 1952, 127,000 Jews escaped from Iraq, almost 50,000 from Yemen and Aden, 36,000 from Libya, and perhaps another 100,000 from French-controlled North Africa. Violence, discrimination, and in some cases expulsion brought about what was euphemistically called "whole community transfer."

In Iraq, for example, a large Jewish community having roots dating back to biblical Babylonia was decimated in less than a year, in a particularly illuminating case study of several of the trends listed above. A weak, unpopular monarchy installed by the British Mandatory power in the 1930s faced subversion by radical pan-Arabist forces, violence and discrimination against Jews were rife from an early period, well before the establishment of the State of Israel.

The most notorious example of this violence was the Farhud (breakdown of law and order), a two-day pogrom in Baghdad in June 1941. In a spasm of uncontrolled violence, between 170 and 180 Jews were killed, more than 900 others were wounded, and 14,500 Jews sustained material losses through the looting or destruction of their stores and homes.
Although the government eventually restored order, the general position of the Jewish community continued to deteriorate as anti-foreign sentiment mounted and Iraq and the states bordering Palestine -- Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon -- became increasingly involved in the Arab-Jewish struggle. Jews were squeezed out of government employment, limited in schools, and subjected to imprisonment, heavy fines, or sequestration of their property on the flimsiest charges of being connected to either or both of the two banned movements. Indeed, Communism and Zionism were frequently equated in the statutes. In Iraq the mere receipt of a letter from a Jew in Palestine was sufficient to bring about arrest and loss of property.

On November 2, 1945, the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration became the occasion for widespread rioting, murder, and destruction of synagogues and Jewish property in Aleppo, Syria; Cairo, Egypt; and Tripoli, Libya. The Libyan Jewish community was particularly hard-hit, losing 130 people in the Tripoli area in three days of wanton violence. As in the earlier Farhud, the pogrom had been fomented by extreme nationalist elements who were intent on undercutting the British occupation of the country. The British troops in control of Tripoli waited days before restoring order, with an unconcern reminiscent of their conduct in the Iraqi massacre. As in the Iraqi case, the Tripoli massacre inaugurated a train of events that would demoralize and in a relatively short time dissolve the Libyan Jewish community.

After the first Arab-Israeli war broke out, the belligerent Arab governments lost all incentive to continue what little protection they had afforded their Jewish communities. Egypt, Syria, and Iraq took active measures against Jews under the guise of emergency regulations. Arrests, torture, and sometimes hangings of Jews, severe restrictions on travel, and sequestration or confiscation of Jewish property were imposed when these countries sent armies to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state on May 15, 1948. A climate of fear prevailed in these communities as sporadic attacks against Jews mounted.

Mass Escape to Israel

After the defeat of the Arab armies, immigration of Jews from these countries increased until it became a flood. In the first years of Israel's existence, its government arranged a variety of rescue operations from these countries either extra-legally or with the Arab governments' tacit agreement. Operations "Ezra and Nehemiah" in Iraq and "Magic Carpet" in Yemen airlifted many tens of thousands of Jews to their new homes. Jews from other countries fled through ports along the Mediterranean.

Whatever their method of escape, Middle Eastern Jews were required to leave behind Jewish communal holdings, and their real property and immovable goods, which were taken over by their home governments. In the case of Iraq, where many Jews had been involved in banking and finance, liquid assets were also frozen. The effect of these measures was that large numbers of Jewish refugees from Arab countries arrived in Israel penniless.

It must be noted that certain Arab states or governments refrained from the discriminatory behavior manifested by their more belligerent counterparts and enacted measures to protect their Jewish communities. In these states, notably Morocco, but to a large extent also in Tunisia, the exodus was more gradual. the continued existence of the small but vital Moroccan Jewish community attests to the modus vivendi achieved by this state and its Jews wherein Arab-Israel problems are held separate from the relations of the state with its indigenous Jews.

Hardship for Those Who Remained

The Jews that remained within the confines of other Arab states after the mass exoduses of the late 1940s and early 1950s experienced periods of marked hardship, violence and discrimination interspersed with periods of relative quiet, mirroring the ebb and flow of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the domestic political and economic situations. Iraq and Syria both saw frequent coups d'etat in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, which fostered insecurity. Each new dictator, for better or for worse, could not be counted upon to continue the policy towards the local Jews of his predecessor.

Egypt, under the stable dictatorship of the pan-Arabist and Arab socialist Gamal Abdul Nasser, set about expropriating and nationalizing Jewish property along with that of other Egyptian minorities. In truth little difference can be discerned between the treatment of the Jews in the so-called socialist states of the period and that of the right-wing dictatorships. In Libya, where Jews had extracted guarantees of protection at the advent of independence under King Idris in 1952, restrictions on Jewish commerce, licenses, and holding of property were gradually imposed under nationalist pressure.""Meanwhile, the propaganda arms of the confrontation states, (Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq), but particularly Nasser's influential Sawt al-Arab min al-Kahira (The Voice of the Arabs from Cairo) beamed anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda on the airwaves all across the Middle East. This inflammatory campaign reached unprecedented proportions in the weeks preceding the June 1967 war. When in this poisoned atmosphere news came of the unexpected and swift Arab defeat by Israeli forces in the Six-Day War, mob violence broke out: riots against Jews in Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. In Morocco and Tunisia the governments struggled to protect the Jews, but in Egypt and Syria the governments themselves unleashed fresh anti-Jewish measures. Cairo arrested some 500 Jewish men and held them for months in terrible conditions. They were told that they would be released only if they forfeited their citizenship and property and agreed to be expelled from Egypt. Riots in Libya were so severe that virtually all of the remaining Jews in the country -- slightly more than 4,000 -- were evacuated to Italy with the help of concerned Italian and American diplomats.

The Situation Today

In the period since the 1967 war up to the present day, there has been a continuing decline in the number of Jews in the Arab world. Draconian government restrictions, sporadic popular assaults, and murderous, often unexplained and unprosecuted individual attacks have contributed to a sense of insecurity in the countries ruled by military dictators. It is thought that today between 200 and 300 Jews live in Iraq, mostly elderly. Few are permitted to travel. Some 250 Jews live in Egypt, also mostly elderly. But in contrast to Iraq and Syria, their situation has brightened. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979 has enabled them to resume open contact with their relatives in Israel.

The 5,000 Jews of Syria are a cause of continuing concern for Jews everywhere. Now that the U.S. Ambassador has returned to Damascus, efforts to gain permission for them to emigrate should be high on the agenda of American-Syrian relations. The estimated 1,200 to 2,000 Jews scattered in villages in Northern Yemen are virtually cut off from the outside world. They may not travel or even maintain normal postal ties with relatives abroad. the only periodic contact with the community is maintained by two anti-Zionist rabbis from Brooklyn. Efforts by Yemeni Jews in the United States to organize a visit to their co-religionists in Yemen have been systematically rebuffed by the authorities.

The remaining Jews of Lebanon, who had been protected by successive Christian-dominated governments there, began to emigrate after the 1967 war, with this trend accelerating after the current civil war broke out in 1975. Today fewer than 100 remain, mostly in Christian-held East Beirut.
The kidnapping of four Lebanese Jews at the end of March 1985, provides tragic evidence of the extent to which even Lebanon, which had long been the most tolerant country in the Arab world, has been engulfed by fanaticism and wanton violence. Christian and Muslim officials, including Nabih Berri, the leader of the Amal, the mainstream Shi'ite militia in Lebanon, condemned the kidnapping of the Jewish leaders in Beirut. In February 1986, a new radical Shi'ite group, the "Organization of the Oppressed in the World," claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and threatened to abduct and kill other Lebanese Jews unless Israel withdrew from "all of the occupied territories" and freed all Lebanese and Palestinian detainees. Eight Lebanese Jews have thus far been murdered by this terrorist group, which is ideologically linked to the pro-Iranian Hezbullah (the Party of God).

As of October 1987, nothing was known of the fate of Isaac Sasson, president of the Lebanese community, kidnapped in March 1985, and Salim Jammous, secretary-general of the community, who had been abducted in August 1984. The bodies of only three of the victims have been recovered and given a Jewish burial. The kidnappers refuse to release the others until their demands against Israel are met.

In North Africa the situation is somewhat different. The roughly 10,000 remaining Moroccan Jews, as mentioned earlier, are fairly secure under the benevolent rule of King Hassan. The 2,800 Jews of Tunisia face uncertain times owing to the presence there since 1982 of the PLO headquarters, as well as the death of Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba, their traditional protector. A trend toward instability and rising Islamic fundamentalism has left its mark on the community. In 1983, a suspicious fire that completely destroyed the synagogue in the town of Zarzis was viewed by local Jews as the work of Palestinian extremists.

In October 1985, on the holiday of Simhat Torah, a crazed guard assigned to protect the Jewish community killed three and wounded eight others in the historic La Ghariba synagogue on the island of Djerba. According to Tunisian government sources, the Libyans also indoctrinated Tunisian workers in Libya with anti-Semitic sentiments. Some 30,000 were expelled back o Tunisia only weeks before the synagogue attack. The Tunisian government had early expressed its outrage to the Libyan government when it was discovered that a pirate radio station based in Libya, "Radio of Vengeance and Sacred Hate," was broadcasting calls to overthrow the pro-Western regimes and to massacre North African Jews.

Barely half a dozen Jews remain in Libya. In a 1970 law nationalizing the assets of some 600 Libyan Jews, the Libyan government explicitly committed itself to issue fifteen-year bonds to pay full and fair compensation. Nevertheless, the July 21, 1985 deadline passed without any action by Colonel Muamar Qadhafi to fulfill this pledge.

In the section on Libya in the U.S. State Department's report on human rights practices during 1985, the contradictions in the Libyan policy are pointed out: "Qadhafi has stated that he is opposed to Zionism, not Judaism, and that Arab nations should welcome Arab Jews who wish to return o their countries of origin. But in a speech in June 1985 he cited the Prophet Muhammed as stating that Judaism and Islam cannot coexist in the land of the Arabs, and in September 1985, virulently anti-Jewish broadcasts on Libyan radio called for anti-Jewish violence in Tunisia within broadcast range.

Only 300 Jews are thought to live in Algeria, most having left earlier because of the hostile popular climate attendant to this state's radical stance on Arab-Israeli matters.

The Jewish Claim for Restitution

The Jews of Arab countries naturally consider themselves victims of the Middle East conflict and seek restitution for their confiscated properties -- both personal and communal -- from the governments involved. In this quest they have significant basis in international law, the UN Charter and conventions dealing with human rights. Indeed, the arbitrary decrees against the Jews in many cases run counter to the fine principles enunciated in the much abused constitutions of their countries of origin.

Since 1967 they have also received official United Nations recognition of their claims: United Nations Security Council resolutions 237 and 242. Resolution 237, of 14 June 1967, concerns itself with the safety, welfare, and security of the inhabitants of the areas where military operations had taken place in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and also with the protection of minorities in the states involved in the conflict. UN Secretary-General U Thant sent his special representative, Nils-Goran Gussing, on a special mission to the Middle East to implement the resolution. The Secretary-General stated expressly that the provisions of the resolution dealing with minorities "might properly be interpreted as having application to the treatment, at the time of the recent war and as a result of that war, of both Arab and Jewish persons in the States which are directly concerned because of their participation in that war.

The Israeli government had expressed its concern about the treatment of Jewish minorities in the Arab states since the outbreak of hostilities.
Gussing met with officials of the Egyptian government and raised the subject of the treatment of the reported 500 Jewish prisoners and the confiscation of the property of Egyptian Jews. He also met with the Syrian authorities to investigate the restrictions placed on the Jews of that country. Moreover, the questions concerning Egyptian Jewry were taken up by the Secretary-General with the United Arab Republic's (Egypt) permanent representative to the UN in New York.

Resolution 242, still considered the primary vehicle for resolving the Arab-Israel conflict, stipulates that a comprehensive peace settlement should necessarily include "a just settlement of the refugee problem." Justice Arthur Goldberg, the American delegate who was instrumental in drafting the unanimously adopted resolution, has pointed out that the adjective "Palestinian" or "Arab" was deliberately omitted from the resolution to indicate that the claims of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands need also to be addressed.

This diplomatic activity did not produce results at the time, but it established the claims of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and the treatment of the Middle Eastern Jewish minorities as concerns of the international community. Following these developments, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty also provided for a joint commission to handle the claims of the Egyptian Jewish refugees. These precedents are important, as are the International Conferences of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Lands which seek to focus attention on the communal and personal losses suffered by these Jewish communities. A just settlement of the Middle East conflict must entail protection of the rights of Jewish minorities remaining in the Arab world and a fair handling of the claims of the Jewish refugees.

* * *
BIBLIOGRAPHY Cohen, Hayyim J., The Jews of the Middle East, 1860-1972 (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1973).
De Felice, Renzo, Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835-1970 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985).
Gruen, George E., Tunisia's Troubled Jewish Community (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1983).
Lewis, Bernard, The Jews of Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).
Rejwan, Nissim, The Jews of Iraq: 3000 Years of History and Culture (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985).
Robinson, Nehemiah, The Arab Countries of the Near East and Their Jewish Communities (New York: World Jewish Congress, 1951).
Stillman, Norman A., The Jews of Arab Lands (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1979).
O Israel
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The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

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In discussions about refugees in the Middle East, a major piece of the narrative is routinely omitted, and my life is part of the tapestry of what's missing. I am a Jew, and I, too, am a refugee. Some of my childhood was spent in a refugee camp in Israel (yes, Israel). And I am far from being alone.

This experience is shared by hundreds of thousands of other indigenous Jewish Middle Easterners who share a similar back ground to my own. However, unlike the Palestinian Arabs, our narrative is largely ignored by the world because our story -- that of some 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries dispossessed by Arab governments -- is an inconvenience for those who seek to blame Israel for all the problems in the Middle East.

Israel did this without receiving a single cent from the international community.

Our lives in the Israel of the 1950s were difficult. We had no money, no property; there were food shortages, few employment prospects. Israel was a new and poor country with very limited resources. It absorbed not only hundreds of thousands of us, but also an equal number of survivors of Hitler's genocide. We lived in dusty tents in "transit camps," their official name since these were to be temporary, not permanent.

Housing was eventually built for us, we became Israeli citizens, and we ceased being refugees. The refugee camps in Israel that I knew as a child were phased out, and no trace of them remains. Israel did this without receiving a single cent from the international community, relying instead on the resourcefulness of its citizens, and donations from Diaspora Jewish communities. Today, many of Israel's top leaders are from families that were forced to flee Arab countries, and we make up more than half of Israel's Jewish population.

Roots in Iraq
I was born in Baghdad, and like most other Iraqis, my mother tongue is Arabic. My family's cuisine, our mannerisms, our outlook, are all strongly influenced by our synthesized Judeo-Arabic culture.

There once was a vibrant presence of nearly one million Jews residing in ten Arab countries. Our Middle Eastern Jewish culture existed long before the Arab world dominated and rewrote the history of the Middle East. Today, however, fewer than 12,000 Jews remain in these lands -- none in Iraq.

What happened to us, the indigenous Jews of the Arab world? Why were 150,000 Iraqi Jews -- my family included -- forced out of Iraq? Why were another 800,000 Jews from nine other Arab countries also compelled to leave after 1948?

When the world of the 1930s and '40s was divided between the democratic Allies and the Fascist Axis, Arab nationalists in Iraq and Palestine chose to form an alliance with Nazi Germany. The father of Palestinian nationalism, Haj Amin el-Husseini, began his close collaboration with Nazi Germany as early as 1936.

The British expelled the pro-Nazi Palestinian leader when war broke out in Europe in 1939. A year later he arrived in Baghdad and linked up with pro-Nazi Iraqi nationalist Rashid Ali el-Gaylani. In 1941 el-Husseini and el-Gaylani engineered a pro-German coup against the pro-British Iraqi government, which brought a reign of terror to Iraq's Jews. This culminated in what we remember as the Farhud, an Arabic word akin to "pogrom."

Arab mobs went on a rampage in Baghdad and Basra, killing 200 Jews and destroying 900 Jewish homes.

In a two-day period in 1941, Arab mobs went on a rampage in Baghdad and Basra murdering, raping and pillaging these cities' Jewish communities. Nearly 200 Jews were slaughtered, more than 2000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted, as were hundreds of Jewish-owned shops.

My father was a survivor of the carnage. He hid in a hole dug in the ground to save his life. He saw Iraqi soldiers pull small children away from their parents and rip the arms off young girls to steal their bracelets. He saw pregnant women being raped and their stomachs cut open.

Around the Region
Britain eventually regained control, and el-Husseini and other Palestinian nationalists fled to Berlin where they became honored guests of the Nazi state. Hitler told a grateful el-Husseini that "Germany's only remaining objective in the [Middle East] would be limited to the annihilation of the Jews living under British protection in Arab lands."

Later, in a speech over Radio Berlin's Arabic Service, el-Husseini voiced support for the Nazis' "Final Solution" and became the first Arab leader to call openly for the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands -- some eight years before there was a single Palestinian refugee.

Even though Hitler lost the war, el-Husseini's call was heeded. In 1948 Iraq rounded up and imprisoned hundreds of Jews. Others were removed from their jobs in the civil service, business licenses of Jews were revoked, and quotas were placed on Jewish high school and college students. Later, discriminatory restrictions were imposed on Jewish travel abroad and the buying or selling of property. Thus, even if Jews wanted to escape Iraq, they could not do so legally and they could not liquidate their assets.

The Iraqi parliament stripped Iraqi Jews of their citizenship, and then passed another law confiscating all Jewish property.

In 1950 the Iraqi parliament passed a law called "Ordinance for the Cancellation of Iraqi Nationality for Jews, Law No. 1" that stripped Iraqi Jews of their citizenship. In 1951 the Iraqi parliament passed another law, confiscating all Jewish property. Within a year most of Iraq's ancient Jewish population -- my family included -- fled to Israel.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, Jews faced similar circumstances. In Libya in 1945 nearly 100 Jews were massacred. In 1948 the Jewish communities of Aden and Algeria were rocked by a series of massacres that left hundreds dead and many more injured. Anti-Jewish discriminatory laws were passed in other Arab countries. Within a decade the exodus of Jews from Arab countries was almost complete, with most going to Israel. All of this was conducted under the guise of law by Arab governments. This forced the flight of Jews out of lands where we had lived for thousands of years before the Arab-Islamic conquests.

Since 1949, the United Nations has passed over 100 resolutions on Palestinian refugees. Yet, for Jewish refugees from Arab countries not a single UN resolution has been introduced recognizing our mistreatment or calling for justice for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees forced out of our homes. This imbalance of the world's concern is itself an injustice.

Arab governments instituted policies that led to some 900,000 Middle Eastern Jews becoming stateless refugees. Those same governments forced some 750,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants to remain in impoverished refugee camps refusing them citizenship and denying them hope.

Peace between Israel and the Arab world requires a solution that recognizes that there were two refugee populations. Acknowledging and redressing the legitimate rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries will promote the cause of justice, peace and a true reconciliation.
This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.
O Israel
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The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

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Old 01-23-2008, 06:44 AM
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The Forgotten Narrative: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Avi Beker

Historically, there was an exchange of populations in the Middle East and the number of displaced Jews exceeds the number of Palestinian Arab refugees. Most of the Jews were expelled as a result of an open policy of anti-Semitic incitement and even ethnic cleansing. However, unlike the Arab refugees, the Jews who fled are a forgotten case because of a combination of international cynicism and domestic Israeli suppression of the subject. The Palestinians are the only group of refugees out of the more than one hundred million who were displaced after World War II who have a special UN agency that, according to its mandate, cannot but perpetuate their tragedy. An open debate about the exodus of the Jews is critical for countering the Palestinian demand for the "right of return" and will require a more objective scrutiny of the myths about the origins of the Arab- Israeli conflict.

Why was the story of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries suppressed? How did it become a forgotten exodus?

Semha Alwaya, an attorney from San Francisco and former Jewish refugee from Iraq, wrote in March 2005 in the San Francisco Chronicle that the world is ignoring her story simply because of the "inconvenience for those who seek to blame Israel for all the problems in the Middle East."1 As she notes, since 1949 the United Nations has passed more than a hundred resolutions on Palestinian refugees and not a single one on Jewish refugees from Arab countries. The UN makes a clear divide between the "right of return" of millions of refugees even into Israel proper (the pre-1967 borders) and the rights of these Jewish refugees.

Although they exceed the numbers of the Palestinian refugees, the Jews who fled are a forgotten case. Whereas the former are at the very heart of the peace process with a huge UN bureaucratic machinery dedicated to keeping them in the camps, the nine hundred thousand Jews who were forced out of Arab countries have not been refugees for many years. Most of them, about 650,000, went to Israel because it was the only country that would admit them. Most of them resided in tents that after several years were replaced by wooden cabins, and stayed in what were actually refugee camps for up to twelve years. They never received any aid or even attention from the UN Relief And Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or any other international agency. Although their plight was raised almost every year at the UN by Israeli representatives, there was never any other reference to their case at the world body.2

Only at the end of October 2003 was a bipartisan resolution (H. Con. Res. 311) submitted to the U.S. Congress that recognized the "Dual Middle East Refugee Problem." It speaks of the forgotten exodus of nine hundred thousand Jews from Arab countries who "were forced to flee and in some cases brutally expelled amid coordinated violence and anti-Semitic incitement that amounted to ethnic cleansing." Referring to the "population exchange" that took place in the Middle East, the resolution deplores the "cynical perpetuation of the Arab refugee crisis" and criticizes the "immense machinery of UNRWA" that only "increases violence through terror." The resolution called on UNRWA to set up a program for resettling the Palestinian refugees.3

Typically, the issue of the Jewish refugees was not on the agenda of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a final settlement at Camp David in July 2000. The subject emerged only after the parties failed to reach an agreement on the issue of the Palestinian refugees. Only then did the Israelis raise the question of justice for the Jews from Arab countries.

In addition to the international constraints, there have been domestic political reasons for successive Israeli governments' suppression of the subject. Many Israelis regarded the immigration and later integration of the Middle Eastern Jews into Israeli society as an important element in the Zionist ethos of the ingathering of exiles, and there was a reluctance to describe it in terms of a forced expulsion or, at best, an involuntary emigration. The Zionist leadership of the newborn state chose the romanticized code-name Magic Carpet to describe the immigration from Yemen, and the biblical title Operation Ezra and Nehemiah - they were Jewish leaders who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon to build the Second Temple - for the exodus of the Iraqi Jews.

Before Camp David in July 2000, the conventional wisdom among both Israelis and international observers was that the issue of the Palestinian refugees should be left to the end of the peace process. It was believed that once the parties reached agreements on recognition, security, borders, water, normalization, and so on, the difficult refugee question would dissipate by itself. Indeed, it was never negotiated seriously since the abortive meetings of the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission in the early 1950s, which discussed a compromise on the refugees' return that the Arabs rejected.

From the very beginning, the Arabs treated the refugee issue as an instrument to achieve, through UN diplomacy, what they had failed to attain in the battles of 1948-1949 and the subsequent armistice agreements. The much-quoted General Assembly Resolution 194, which is adduced as legitimizing the Palestinian "right of return," was originally rejected by the Arab states and contains nothing that makes this "right" a principle of international law.4 The wording of 194 already compromised the basis of negotiation by establishing the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) with the aim of facilitating "indirect contacts between the sides," so as to overcome the Arab refusal to recognize Israel.

Subsequently, the General Assembly refused for many years to use the word peace in regard to settlements between the parties in the Middle East. This deletion from the UN vocabulary sharply contradicted the UN Charter and was a major failing for an organization that had mediated the armistice agreements after Israel's Independence War, for which its chief negotiator Dr. Ralph Bunche received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The conspiracy to exploit the human tragedy of the refugees against Israel was consolidated when the Arabs refused to accept the concept of resettlement, which appeared in 194 as an alternative solution. This approach was manifested in the establishment of UNWRA in December 1949 as the only agency of its kind to deal with a regional refugee problem.

On 14 December 1950, the UN again reiterated the principles of "repatriation or resettlement and compensation," and even voiced a concern that "the repatriation, resettlement, economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation have not been effected." The Arabs, however, rejected the conciliation efforts of the PCC and succeeded to convince the General Assembly to separate the refugee issue from the other contested matters of the dispute. This marked a turning point in the UN's attitude toward the refugee question; subsequently it took on a clear political dimension as needing to be solved in the framework of the "right of return" to an entity known as Palestine.5

The UN never discussed the plight of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries even though it had all the necessary information on their expulsion and even "ethnic cleansing" resulting in their resettlement mostly in Israel. From that point the refugee issue became an independent question, with no relationship to the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole and the hostile acts that had created the problem in the first place. Hence, the Arabs consistently rejected ideas such as the UN Security Council's 1949 proposals for an economic survey aimed at settling the refugees in different parts of the Middle East. Similarly, in June 1959 the Arabs reacted with fury when UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld presented multi year plan for the refugees' rehabilitation.

The crisis at Camp David in 2000 highlighted the disastrous impact of this approach. It became apparent that the gaps between the parties were unbridgeable. Both the Israelis and the Americans were shocked to discover the Palestinians' unwillingness to compromise on this matter. Even the pro-Palestinian Left in Israel felt betrayed and expressed the fear that the insistence on full implementation of the right of return is an attempt to destroy the Jewish state. It was only because of this crisis that the Israelis decided to present their own demands for the rights of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. As a result, President Clinton made a historic statement recognizing these refugees' entitlement to compensation: "the fund should compensate 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 predominately Arab countries who came to Israel because they were made refugees in their own land."6

This American commitment was not, however, entirely new. In a press conference held twenty-three years earlier, on 27 October 1977, President Jimmy Carter said in regard to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty: "Palestinians have rights...obviously there are Jewish refugees... they have the same rights as others do." Although both presidents' statements are critical for the historical narrative of the Arab- Israeli conflict and have serious implications for solving the Palestinian refugee problem, they remained tangential to the peace process. The matter of the Jewish refugees seems to lurk as a "secret weapon" or fallback position in case the Arab side refuses to compromise on the right of return.

Are Jews Refugees, Too?

On 11 October 2003, the New York Times printed a story whose title bore a question mark: "Are Jews Who Fled Arab Lands to Israel Refugees, Too?" In its evenhanded approach and politically correct sensitivity to Arab claims, the Times left the issue unresolved because, as the article's author Samuel G. Freedman asserted, the Middle East is "typified by clashes of narratives, different accounts of flight and dispossession that are used to justify political goals today."7 The Times, however, could have cleared up the confusion by consulting its own archives and checking the reports on the nine hundred thousand Jews who fled Arab states amid anti-Semitic riots and threats after Israel's creation in 1948. In those accounts there was no clash of narratives but only the "news that's fit to print" about the mortal danger these Jews faced.

On 16 May 1948, the day after Israel declared independence, the Times published a front-page story with the headline: "Jews in Grave Danger in All Moslem Lands."8 The paper noted that for nearly four months, "the UN had had before it an appeal for immediate and urgent consideration of the case of the Jewish population in Arab and Moslem countries." A sub-headline stated that: "Nine Hundred Thousand Jews in Africa and Asia Face Wrath of Their Foes," and the article cited reports of deteriorating Jewish security including violent incidents. The Times points out that according to a law drafted by the Political Committee of the Arab League, all Jewish citizens of these countries would be considered "members of the minority Jewish state of Palestine." This implies that there was a clear Arab strategy to expel their Jewish citizens while expecting that they would find refuge in Israel.

In the same UN General Assembly, death threats were aired against Jews without much ado. The Egyptian delegate, Heykal Pasha, warned already on 24 November 1947 about the consequences of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine: "the United Nations...should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in Muslim countries...creating anti-Semitism in those countries even more difficult to root out than the anti-Semitism which the Allies tried to eradicate in Germany...making the UN...responsible for very grave disorders and for the massacre of a large number of Jews."9 The Palestinian delegate, Jamal Al-Hussayni, said the Jews' situation in the Arab world "will become very precarious. Governments in general have always been unable to prevent mob excitement and violence."10 Syrian UN representative Faris Al-Khuri is quoted in the New York Times as far back as 19 February 1947 stating that: "Unless the Palestinian problem is settled, we shall have difficulty in protecting the Jews in the Arab world."11 As reported by a Jewish publication: "With the entire Arabic press fulminating against the perfidy of Zionism, and with Arab politicians rousing their underfed and enervated masses to a dangerous pitch of hysteria, the threats were certainly not empty."12

In Iraq the threats were made publicly, and its Foreign Minister Fadel Jamail offered a similar statement in the UN.13 Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Sa'id pursued special efforts to expel his country's Jews and in different political venues raised the idea of a population exchange. Specifically, according to a diplomatic report he suggested "to force an exchange of population under UN supervision and the transfer of 100,000 Jews beyond Iraq in exchange for the Arab refugees who had already left the territory in Israel's hands."14 The case of the Jews of Iraq is a documented record of legislation and public executions as part an official government policy of ethnic cleansing of the Middle East's most ancient Jewish community.15

Expulsion as the Goal

The Arab statements in the UN General Assembly and the New York Times reports prove that the intention to expel these Jewish populations preceded the establishment of Israel and the plight of the Palestinian refugees. At the end of the war for Israel's independence, early in February 1949, Britain's ambassador to Transjordan Sir Alec Kirkbride was present at an exchange between the abovementioned Iraqi Prime Minister Sa'id and his Jordanian counterpart, Samir El-Rifa'i, regarding the fate of the Iraqi Jews. The former leader was planning mass killings of his Jewish countrymen to induce them to flee via Jordan. According to Kirkbride, Sa'id "came out with the astounding proposition that a convoy of Iraqi Jews should be brought over in army lorries escorted by armored cars, taken to the Jordanian-Israeli frontier and forced to cross the line." Sa'id spelled out his strategy:
Quite apart from the certainty that the Israelis would not consent to receive the deportations in that manner, the passage of the 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 Jews would have been massacred or their guards would have to shoot other Arabs to protect the lives of their charges.16
Kirkbride and El-Rafa'i turned down the plan, and Sa'id went back to Iraq to reinforce his anti-Jewish measures internally.

What, then, happened to the nine hundred thousand Jews of the Arab countries?17

In a few years, Jewish communities that had existed in the Middle East for more than 2,500 years were brutally expelled or had to run for their lives. The statements made in the UN were harbingers of what became a total collapse of these Jews' security. Following the Partition Resolution of November 1947, and in some countries even earlier during World War II, Middle Eastern Jews were the targets of official and popular incitement, state-legislated discrimination, and pogroms - again, all this before the massive flight of the Arabs from Palestine.

In Syria, anti-Semitism grew after the Nazis' rise to power in Germany. By the late 1930s, Syria already served as a headquarters for anti-Semitism and hosted Nazi officers. By 1945 the thirty thousand Syrian Jews already faced restrictions on emigration to Israel and some of their property was burned and looted, including the Great Synagogue in Damascus. In December 1947 there was a major pogrom against the Jews of Aleppo, the largest community with seventeen thousand; many were killed and seven thousand fled. Jewish bank accounts in the city were frozen and private property was confiscated; fifty shops, eighteen synagogues, and five schools were burned. Later, after Israel's founding, more Syrian Jews were killed and banks were instructed to freeze all Jewish accounts.

In Yemen, Jews were always treated as second-class citizens. As far back as the 1880s, 2,500 Jews moved from there to Jerusalem and Jaffa, and as conditions worsened another seventeen thousand left to Aden and Palestine between 1923-1945. Riots and massacres also occurred in Aden, which was in British-controlled Yemen. In three days of disturbances in December 1947, many Jews were killed and the Jewish quarter was burned to the ground, so that the community lost its business and economic base. Altogether in those three days, 82 Jews were killed, 106 shops looted out of 170, 220 houses destroyed, and four synagogues gutted.

The Iraqi Jews' condition deteriorated parallel to the rise of Nazism in Germany. Nazi ideology pervaded Iraqi society including the school curricula, which praised Hitler for his anti-Jewish policy and called the Iraqi Jews a fifth column. Hundreds of Jews were forced out of their civil service jobs in the 1930s, and during the 1936 Arab Revolt in Palestine, Jews were terrorized and murdered in Baghdad. That year the Chief Rabbi of Iraq, Sassoon Khaddouri, was forced to issue a statement denying any connection between Iraqi Jews and the Zionist movement, and in 1938 thirty-three Jewish leaders cabled to the League of Nations a strong condemnation of Zionism.18

The worst, however, came in June 1941 with the Farhud, a pro- Nazi uprising against the Jews. Beginning on the Shavuot holiday, in two days incited mobs murdered two hundred Jews, wounded over two thousand, looted more than nine hundred homes, and damaged shops and warehouses.

The Partition Resolution of November 1947 found Iraq's Jews in a state of fear. There had already been riots in the two preceding years, and Jewish children were no longer accepted in government schools. In May and again in December 1947, Jews were accused of poisoning sweets for Arab children and trying to inject cholera germs in drinking water. In 1948, Zionism was declared a crime, 1,500 Jews were dismissed from public service, and Jewish banks lost their authorization.19 Many Jews were imprisoned and some hanged on the same "charge"; in 1948 the richest Jew in Iraq, Shafiq Adas, received the death penalty for "Zionist and communist crimes." His execution by hanging was a clear message that Jews had no future in the country.20 Again in 1949, numerous Jews were injured in a new wave of riots. Hence, the evacuation of more than one hundred thousand Jews to Israel between 1949-1951 was precipitated by Iraqi anti-Semitism and echoed the calls of Iraqi leaders for expulsion and population exchange.

A similar wave of persecution took place in Egypt and Libya, where in 1945 there were riots and massacres of hundreds of Jews, with destruction of synagogues and other communal buildings. This recurred in 1948 with the arrest of thousands in Egypt, and deadly attacks in both countries along with synagogue burnings and confiscation of both communal and private property.

The North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia also saw periodic waves of anti-Jewish riots including mass killings, but they were less intensive and with fewer casualties because of the better protection offered by the French authorities, who were engaged in their own conflict with the Arabs. However, many testimonies express fears of sudden deterioration that were reinforced by developments in other Arab countries and in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Clash of Narratives or Deliberate Injustice?

The creation of the Jewish refugee problem in the Middle East was strongly intertwined with the establishment of Israel and the Arab rejection of a Jewish state. When, after successive wars, a peace process slowly emerged, the Palestinians expected that Israel would strongly pursue the issue of the Jewish refugees. In a 1975 article Sabri Jiryis, then director of the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut, accused the Arab states of expelling their Jews "in a mostly cruel manner after confiscating their possessions or taking control of them at the lowest price." Jiryis expected that the Israelis would claim, in future negotiations, that there had been a population exchange in the Middle East. Although Israelis indeed raised the issue in international forums and information material, it did not enter the peace talks as a clear and unequivocal demand. Jiryis, however, envisaged it differently:
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 negotiations that may in time be conducted over the rights of the Palestinians....Israel's argument will take approximately the following form: It is true that we Israelis brought about the exodus of 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 them 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.21
Why did this not materialize?

Although the repression of painful memories by the Jewish refugees themselves is understandable, it is harder to grasp the silence of Israel's government and society on an issue that touches the very heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Drawing an analogy between the stories of the Jewish and Palestinian refugees enables presenting a moral argument against the Palestinian demand for a right of return. For different reasons, however, both the Israeli Left and Right have been reluctant to make that analogy.

The Left, for its part, has trouble with an argument that tends to emphasize the morally superior approach of the Jewish side, which absorbed and rehabilitated its refugees whereas the Arabs worked to perpetuate the Palestinian refugees' suffering as an anti-Israeli tool. For the Left, the Zionist ethos involves much guilt over Israel's having allegedly caused the Palestinians to flee. The radical Left has even made sweeping and false accusations that Israeli forces committed systematic massacres and deportations. According to the New Historians and post-Zionists, the state of Israel was born in sin. These notions have found their way into the public discourse, and have been adopted in academe and among the tone-setters in the Israeli culture and media.

The Israeli Right and Center have inhibitions of a different kind. These circles, which represent the mainstream ideology, believe the term "Jewish refugees" should be avoided so as to diminish the social tensions between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. In their view, it is better to stress that most of the Jews from Arab states were drawn to Israel by Zionist ideals and did not come as refugees. Indeed, many Israelis from Arab countries prefer that interpretation. The truth, however, is that the vast majority of Israelis, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim, came to the Promised Land as persecuted or deported refugees; the voluntary, pioneering leadership was always a small minority.

For ideological reasons, as part of its Zionist mission, the Israeli government did not retain the term refugees for the Jews who came from Arab countries. Because it refers to someone without a home or a shelter, the state of Israel "abolished the term from the Jewish historical lexicon," aiming to show that its door was open to Jewish immigration according to its Law of Return.22 However, these Zionist principles concealed the fact that almost all the Jews from Arab countries were indeed refugees who had suffered a great deal as individuals and as a community. They had undergone persecution, official and unofficial discrimination, and daily political, social, religious, and economic restrictions. They also were refugees because they arrived penniless after all their property and bank accounts were confiscated or looted.

As for the Zionist motives of these immigrants, they were reflected in their religious life in their Diaspora countries where they had prayed for their homeland in Israel and for the welfare of Jerusalem. But like their brethren in Europe, their strong ties to Zion, which were kept and nourished for two thousand years, were never translated into a voluntary, massive immigration to the Land of Israel. What prompted that were the riots and massacres that had been threatened and incited by the Arab leaders even from the rostrum of the UN.

The Role of the UN and UNRWA

The UN clearly played a central role in constructing the Arab narrative and ignoring and later delegitimizing the Jewish-Israeli one. The world body gave the Jews only a short grace period after the Holocaust and up to the establishment of their state. When the UN voted to partition Mandatory Palestine into two states on 29 November 1947, most Jews around the world were ecstatic. Yet even this historic decision was achieved only because of a sudden shift by the Soviet Union and its satellites motivated by political expediency. The Soviets, already engaged in the Cold War, wanted first and foremost to speed Britain's departure from the Middle East.23 They later reaffirmed Israel's establishment in the Security Council resolutions of 15 July 1948, which blamed the Arab League for rejecting calls for a ceasefire, and in Israel's admittance to the UN in May 1949.

The approval of Israel's UN membership has both political and legal significance, beyond the recognition itself. The passing of the resolution by the General Assembly, against the Arab will, can be considered an ex post facto acknowledgment of the armistice agreements, and a confirmation of the realities created by the Arab rejection of partition: the territorial changes and the need to resettle the Arab refugees in their new areas of residence. Such resettlement of refugees was the regular practice in numerous cases after World War II, and was referred to regarding the Arab refugees in two other General Assembly resolutions: 194 of December 1948, and 394 of December 1950.

The strategy of delegitimizing Israel was based from the beginning on the tragedy of the Palestinians. The Arabs exploited their distress in seeking to make Israel a pariah state. UNRWA was established as the only UN agency devoted to a specific group of refugees. Unlike the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an agency that deals with all other refugees throughout the world, the Arabs opposed rehabilitation plans for the displaced Palestinians. UNRWA's political objective was clear: to create a permanent reminder of alleged Israeli misdeeds so as to keep the Palestinian issue alive. In August 1958, the former director of UNRWA in Jordan said: "The Arab States do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die."24

In 2000, more than fifty years after UNRWA's establishment, an official PLO document reaffirmed the Arab strategy to perpetuate the refugees' distress by keeping them in the camps: "In order to keep the refugee issue alive and prevent Israel from evading responsibility for their plight, Arab countries - with the notable exception of Jordan - have usually sought to preserve a Palestinian identity by maintaining the Palestinians' status as refugees."25

The UNRWA system has largely enabled the corruption of the Palestinian Arab leadership, who have never displayed a real concern for the refugees but only exploited them for political-financial interests. Although UNRWA has carried out laudable humanitarian work, this cannot atone for its generally destructive role. The way in which UNRWA's mandate is defined plays into the hands of militant groups, including those in the camps. The literature on humanitarian aid refers to the camps as a "refugee-warrior" community, meaning they serve as military staging grounds.

Indeed, the link between refugee camps and terror in general was recognized by the UN Security Council in 1998 when, in discussing refugees in Africa, it declared the "unacceptability of using refugee achieve military purposes." Later that year Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his report to the Security Council, demanded that "refugee kept free of any military presence or equipment." But such strictures were never applied to the UNRWA camps, where suicide-bomb belts are prepared, car bombs are constructed, and terrorists are trained.

The Myth of Arab Tolerance

Both Jewish and Arab writers, in different times and for different reasons, have contributed to the myth about the interfaith utopia between Jews and Arabs under Islam. In the nineteenth century, among Jewish authors, this reflected frustration over the failures of European emancipation, and in the twentieth century it figured in Arab accusations that Zionism and Israel had spoiled hundreds of years of pleasant coexistence. Specifically, the myth of Arab tolerance is used to deny the allegations that Jews were expelled from Arab states or faced threats and persecution there. Arab and Palestinian leaders have claimed that the Jews who left those countries can return and resume their peaceful lives.

The historical record of Jewish life under Arab rule, however, is mixed and much less encouraging. Maimonides, the greatest Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages, was close to power in Islamic society and conversant in the Arab language and culture. In his classic "Epistle to the Jews of Yemen" (1172), which he wrote to bolster the Yemenite Jews in the face of oppression and attempts at forced conversion, he wrote:
You know, my brethren, that on account of our sins God has cast us into the midst of this people, the nation of Ishmael, who persecute us severely, and who devise ways to harm us and to debase us. This is as the Exalted had warned us: "Even our enemies themselves being judges" (Deut. 32:31). No nation has ever done more harm to Israel. None has matched it in debasing and humiliating us. None has been able to reduce us as they have.26
For Maimonides, who knew about the Crusaders' depredations against the Jews of Europe, this was an emphatic historical judgment. It may reflect his own family's experience of fleeing Spain after the deterioration in the Jews' conditions there and the death threats they faced from Muslim extremists, or it could be a great thinker's religiocultural assessment and anticipation of the future Muslim-Jewish confrontation.

The particular myth about the Golden Age and interfaith utopia in Spain was popular in Jewish historiography in the nineteenth century. The Jews' traumatic expulsion from Catholic Spain in 1492 and the fact that they found refuge in Muslim Turkey reinforced the longing for the better periods when Jews were somewhat economically and culturally integrated in Muslim Spain. Moreover, nineteenth-century Jewish historians were frustrated by their people's tortuously slow acceptance by European society in what was supposed to be a liberal age. As the greatest of these scholars, Heinrich Graetz, put it in his History of the Jews:
Wearied with contemplating the miserable plight of the Jews in their ancient home and in the countries of Europe, and fatigued by the constant sight of fanatical oppression in Christendom, the eyes of the observer rest with gladness upon their situation in the Arabian Peninsula. Here the sons of Judah were free to raise their heads, and did not need to look around them with fear and humiliation....Here they...were allowed to develop their powers in the midst of a free, simple and talented people, to show their manly courage, to compete for the gifts of fame, and with practiced hand to measure swords with their antagonists....
The height of culture...was reached by the Jews of Spain in their most flourishing period.27 (emphasis added)
Bernard Lewis, however, offers a more balanced assessment of the fourteen centuries of Jewish life under Islamic rule:
The Jews were never free from discrimination, but only rarely subject to persecution;...their situation was never as bad as in Christendom at its worst, nor ever as good as in Christendom at its best. There is nothing in Islamic history to parallel the Spanish expulsion and Inquisition, the Russian pogroms, or the Nazi Holocaust; there is also nothing to compare with the progressive emancipation and acceptance accorded to Jews in the democratic West during the last three centuries.28
Unlike Christianity, Islam had no tradition of deicide and Muslims did not blame Jews for the demise of their prophet Mohammed, who died a natural death. However, Muslims' attitudes toward contemporary Jews were influenced by biographical accounts of Mohammed and by hadith concerning Jewish attempts on the Prophet's life, and when the Islamic world was threatened from within or without, its leaders became harsher toward the other religions leading to discrimination and violent persecution.29

Since the late nineteenth century both theological and racist European anti-Semitism, including the innovations of the Nazis, have been internalized in the Muslim world. This includes themes centering on Jewish "chosenness," with wide dissemination of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Lewis observes that hatred of Israel is the only grievance that can be freely and safely expressed in the Arab totalitarian societies; Israel serves to deflect anger about economic conditions and lack of political freedom.30

Yehuda Bauer notes that the study of Islam is important for Holocaust scholars because the same patterns and threats have arisen and a second Holocaust is perfectly possible: "In radical Islam there are forces which are mentally prepared - given the power - to carry out genocide against others." Whereas in the past traditional Islamic sects like the Saudi Wahabists did not focus on Jews, they now speak explicitly of eradicating them: "Their language is a mixture of that of the Nazis and the Qur'an."31

Denial of History and Justice

The denial of history has become an important tool in the Arab- Palestinian narrative. The obfuscation of the Jewish exodus from Arab countries is part of a larger revisionist endeavor. For instance, the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida quotes Muslim writer Safi naz Kallan's statement that: "there is no people or land named Israel, only Zionist thieves unfit to establish a nation or have their own language and religion." These Jews are "Shylocks of the land, busy emptying Palestinian pockets."32 At the Camp David talks in July 2000, Yasser Arafat denied any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, thereby contradicting the Koran, the hadith, and other Islamic sources. His representative Saeb Erekat said the very idea of the Temple is a Jewish invention with no historical basis. President Clinton replied: "it is not just all the Jews around the world who believe that the Temple was there but the majority of Christians as well."33

The Arabs' claim of a right of return for the Palestinian refugees relies on false premises: that there is such a right under international law, that it was granted to the Palestinians in UN resolutions, and that Israel is responsible for creating the refugee problem.34 The case of the Jewish refugees highlights the Arabs' unwillingness to recognize the Jewish right to a homeland and calculated policy of exploiting the conflict to pursue their goal of an "ethnic cleansing" of Israel. This policy has long and consistently been practiced by the Arabs. Today almost no Jews live in the Arab world, and Christian communities have dwindled sharply there.

In launching their war against the Jewish state in 1948, Arab countries were basically responsible for both the Jewish and Arab refugee problems. During this eighteen-month confrontation, in which Arab armies invaded Israel and battles raged in almost every city and settlement, there were instances in which Israeli troops forced the local Arab population to leave their homes. These were acts of self-defense in a war that killed six thousand of the six hundred thousand Jews then in the country, and it is clear that Israel did not, as alleged, mastermind a large-scale expulsion of Palestinians. According to their own testimonies, most of the Palestinians left because of the threats and fear-mongering of Arab leaders.

In his memoirs the former prime minister of Syria, Khalid Al- Azm, placed the entire blame for the refugee problem on the Arabs:
Since 1948 it is we who demanded the return of the refugees...while it is we who made them leave....We brought disaster upon...Arab refugees, by inviting them and bringing pressure to bear upon them to leave....We have rendered them dispossessed....Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson, and throwing bombs, women and children - all this in the service of political purposes.35
In March 1976, in the official PLO journal in Beirut, Falastin Al- Thawra, current Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas wrote:
The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from Zionist tyranny, but instead they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe....36
The Arab demand for a right of return is a formula for destroying Israel as a Jewish state and reflects the unwillingness to seek a realistic settlement. Open discussion of the Jews' flight from Arab countries will encourage a more objective scrutiny of the myths about the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab and Palestinian responsibility for the population exchange that occurred weakens their argument for a "return" and highlights the double standard the UN has consistently applied to the conflict.

The case of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries and their harsh expulsion is a critical element in transforming the refugee question from a political-military tool to a humanitarian issue and helping to set the Middle East narrative straight.

* * *

1. Semha Alwaya, "The Vanishing Jews of the Arab World: Baghdad Native Tells the Story of Being a Middle East Refugee," San Francisco Chronicle, 6 March 2005.

2. For more on the subject, see Avi Beker, "Perpetuating the Tragedy: The United Nations and the Palestinian Refugees," in Malka Hillel Shulewitz, ed., The Forgotten Million: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Countries (London: Cassell, 1999), pp. 142-52; on the absorption in Israel, see Yehuda Dominitz, "Immigration and Absorption of Jews from Arab Countries," in Shulewitz, ibid., pp. 155-84.

3. Itamar Levin, "Move in US Congress on Jews from Arab Countries...Also Calls on UNRWA to Resettle Palestinian Refugees," Globes, 30 October 2003 (Hebrew); Melissa Radler, Jerusalem Post, 31 October 2003.

4. Ruth Lapidoth, "Legal Aspects of the Palestinian Refugee Question," Jerusalem Letter No. 485, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, September 2002.

5. Avi Beker, The United Nations and Israel: From Recognition to Reprehension (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1988), p. 49; Shabtai Rosenne, "Israel and the United Nations: Changed Perspectives, 1945-1976," American Jewish Yearbook, 1978, pp. 33-34.

6. "Israeli TV Interviews Clinton," 27 July 2000.

7. Samuel G. Freedman, "Are Jews Who Fled Arab Lands to Israel Refugees, Too?" New York Times, 11 October 2003.

8. Mallory Browne, "Jews in Grave Danger in All Moslem Lands," New York Times, 16 May 1948; George Barret, "Protection of UN Sought for Jews," New York Times, 17 May 1948.

9. United Nations, Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly, Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, Summary Records of Meetings, 25 September-25 November 1947, Lake Success, NY, p. 185.

10. Ibid.

11. Quoted in S. Landshut, Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East: A Survey, for the American Jewish Committee and the Anglo- Jewish Association (London: Jewish Chronicle, 1950).

12. Ibid., p. 26.

13. United Nations, Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly, Verbatim Record of the Plenary Meeting, Vol. 2, 110 - 28th meeting, 16 November 1947, p. 1391.

14. For the sources, see Ya'akov Meron, "Expulsion of Jews from Arab Countries," in Shulewitz, Forgotten Million, pp. 88-89.

15. Carole Basri, "The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: An Examination of Legal Rights - A Case Study of the Human Rights Violations of Iraqi Jews," Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 26, No. 3, March 2003, pp. 656-720.

16. Alec Kirkbride, From the Wings: The Amman Memoirs, 1947-1951 (London: Frank Cass, 1976), pp. 115-16.

17. The survey of the Jewish condition in Arab countries is based on Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991); Martin Gilbert, The Jews of Arab Lands (London: British Board of Jewish Deputies, 1976); Ya'akov Meron, "Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries," Middle East Quarterly, September 1995, pp. 47-54; Raphael Patai, The Vanished Worlds of Jewry (New York: Macmillan, 1980).

18. Stillman, Jews of Arab Lands, p. 116, n. 32; Moshe Gat, The Jewish Exodus from Iraq 1948-1951 (London: Frank Cass, 1997), p. 7.

19. Levin, "Move in US Congress," p. 13.

20. Gat, Jewish Exodus, pp. 38-39.

21. Quoted in Meron, "Expulsion of Jews," p. 96.

22. Dominitz, "Immigration and Absorption."

23. Beker, United Nations and Israel, pp. 32-36.

24. See Terrence Prittie, "Middle East Refugees," in Michael Curtis, Joseph Neyer, Chaim I. Waxman, and Allan Pollack, eds., The Palestinians: People, History, Politics (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1975), p. 71.

25. "The Palestinian Refugees," in Factfiles (Ramallah: Palestine Liberation Organization, 2000), p. 22.

26. "Maimonides' Epistle to the Jews of Yemen," in Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: History and Source Book (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1979), p. 241.

27. Quoted in Marc R. Cohen, Under the Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 3-4.

28. Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites (London: Phoenix, 1997), pp. 121-22.

29. Cohen, Under the Crescent, p. 24; Lewis, ibid., p. 128.

30. Lewis, ibid.

31. "From Propagating Myths to Research: Preparing for Holocaust Education - An Interview with Yehuda Bauer," Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, No. 3, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1 December 2002.

32. Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, 5 November 1997 (Arabic).

33. Shlomo Ben Ami, A Front without a Rearguard: A Voyage to the Boundaries of the Peace Process (Tel Aviv: Yediot Aharonot, 2004), p. 219 (Hebrew).

34. Ruth Lapidoth, "The Right of Return in International Law, with Special Reference to the Palestinian Refugees," Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Vol. 16 (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1986).

35. Quoted in Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial (Chicago: JKAP Publications, 1984), p. 16.

36. "Abu Mazen Charges that the Arab States Are the Cause of the Palestinian Refugee Problem," Wall Street Journal, 5 June 2003.
* * *
O Israel
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Asymmetric Warfare It’s not just for the “Other Guys”

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Arrow Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries

Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries

by Ya'akov Meron
Middle East Quarterly
September 1995

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.


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


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


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.
O Israel
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Asymmetric Warfare It’s not just for the “Other Guys”

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Arrow Arab Refugees Versus Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries

Arab Refugees Versus Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries
H. Maverik
Posted on Netanyahu's Website

The following is well-known : One will not be able to change a warped mind... and, one cannot straighten a bent tree... The Arabs by nature, are an incited/deluded lots from womb to maturity! Apart from the words of their Qur'an who orders them to kill the non believers, myths, chimeras and exaggerations are most of the information they get from their respective elders who in turn, have received it from their elders... This continuous hate generated at the crib will never end towards the Jews until THE TWO PEOPLES ARE SEPARATED FOREVER! Now as far as the refugees is concerned‚_ One has to understand that the existence of these refugees is a direct result of the Arab States' opposition to the partition plan of 1947 and the reconstitution of the State of Israel. The Arab states adopted this policy unanimously, and the responsibility of its results, therefore is theirs. There is no more apt expression than this on the origin of the Palestinian Arab refugee problem in 1948.

These are the words of Emil Ghory, secretary of the Arab High Council, in an interview published on 6 September 1948 in the Lebanese daily Al-Telegraph, soon after the events occurred and before this topic became an important theme of Arab propaganda‚_

The flight of Arabs from the territory allotted by the UN for the Jewish State began immediately after the General Assembly decision at the end of November 1947. This wave of emigration, which lasted several weeks, comprised some thirty thousand people, chiefly well-to-do-families.

They knew that a war was imminent; they didn't doubt that the Arab armies would quickly win a sweeping victory, and they wanted to be as far as possible from the battlefield. The second wave of emigration came in the spring of 1948, after fighting had erupted between Arab irregulars and Jewish defense forces. This time the urban population was involved, and in far greater numbers - for example, some seventy thousand from Jaffa and sixty thousand from Haifa. An estimated total of over two hundred thousand Arabs emigrated in this wave, despite strenuous efforts of the Jews in various parts of the country to dissuade them from leaving. The Haifa Workers' Council, for example, published, on 28 April 1948, the following plea: "...our city flourished and developed for the good of both Jewish and Arab residents ... Do not destroy your homes with your own hands; do not bring tragedy upon yourselves by unnecessary evacuation and self-imposed burdens. By moving out you will be overtaken by poverty and humiliation. But in this city, yours and ours, Haifa, the gates are open for work, for life, and for peace, for you and your families." This appeal, however, and many similar ones, were of no avail. Most of the local Arab leaders had already managed to take flight, and directly or indirectly, they encouraged the Palestinian population from across the border to "temporarily" leave their homes.

But the largest wave of Arab refugees, three hundred thousand or more, followed the massive Arab invasion of 15 May 1948, the day after Israel's declaration of independence. The large majority of these emigrants were of the poorer strata of the Arab population, both urban and rural, the former group including day laborers such as the thousands of port workers who had come to Palestine from Syria. John Bern Castle, chief assessor in the mandatory government, in a report to the Conciliation Commission (comprising representatives of the United States, France, and Turkey) appointed by the UN in the fall of 1948, assessed the property abandoned by the refugees at 200 million pounds sterling -considerably less than the value of the property the nine hundred and fifty thousand Jewish refugees from Arab countries had left behind.

In a discussion of the Arab refugee problem in the UN Security Council on 4 March 1949, the Soviet delegate virtually confirmed the words of the secretary of the Arab High Council previously cited. He said: "Statements have been made on the Arab refugee question, but why should the State of Israel be blamed for the existence of that problem? When seeking to determine responsibility for the existence of the problem of the Arab refugees, we cannot fail to mention the outside forces ... They pursue their own selfish interests which have nothing in common either with the cause of peace and international security or with the interests of the Arab and Jewish peoples, and which only correspond to the aggressive designs of the leading circles of some states." The fact is that the Arab attack on Israel created two parallel refugee problems - one Arab and the other Jewish.

Analogous to the approximately four hundred and fifty to six hundred thousand Palestinian Arabs who fled in 1948 and found refuge in parts of Arab-controlled Palestine and in various Arab countries was a somewhat larger number of Jews who emigrated from Arab countries to the Jewish State in the first years of its existence.

Thus the Middle East saw, at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s, what amounted to a population exchange between the Arabs who left Israel and the Jews who emigrated there from the various Arab countries. These two phenomena are bound together historically, politically, and ethically, and we cannot deal with one problem (and its solution) without the other, although one of the problems has virtually been solved.

The Jewish refugees never received any compensation from the Arab countries they were forced to leave and which confiscated all their property when they fled. Nevertheless, their social and economic absorption in Israel is a fait accompli, since this absorption was the clear desire and goal of the Jews of Israel and their government. In theory and in practice, these immigrants were never treated as refugees but rather as fellow members of the same people. With a sense of common national fate, rescue and assistance were extended to the immigrants, and the Jews of Israel granted the newcomers the same rights they themselves enjoyed. Such was not the attitude toward the Arab refugees from Israel in most of the Arab world.

Jordanian King Hussein described this attitude in an interview with an Associated Press correspondent in January 1960: "Since 1948 Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible manner. They have not looked into the future. They have no plan or approach. They have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, criminal."

Hussein is perhaps the only Arab leader who had the right to express such judgment. His artificial country, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan which is in reality 77% of the "Mandate for Palestine", is the only one of the Arab states which not only granted the Palestinian refugees citizenship, but also absorbed them socially, economically, and politically, allowing them to work and become integrated into all aspects of the national life. The attitude of the other Arab states toward the Palestinian Arab refugees was, as noted, completely different. This attitude was succinctly described by Ralph Galloway, a former head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in Amman, capital of Jordan, in August 1958: quote:-

"The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die." Unquote...

In a study of the refugee problems by the British writers Terrence Prittie and Bernard Dineen (The Double Exodus: A Study of Arab and Jewish Refugees in the Middle East), this aspect of the problem was summarized as follows: "In general, one can say that Arab governments regarded the destruction of the State of Israel as a more pressing matter than the welfare of the Palestinian refugees. Palestinian bitterness and anger had to be kept alive. It was clear that this could ensuring that a great many Palestinians Arabs continued to live under sub-normal conditions, the victims of hunger and poverty, do best. No Arab Government preached this as a defined policy; most Arab Governments tacitly put it into practice."

850,000 fled Arab states: $1-billion in property confiscated, Jewish study finds (24.6.03)
Steven Edwards (email), National Post
CanWest News Service

UNITED NATIONS - Newly discovered documents show Arab states orchestrated the persecution of their Jewish citizens after the creation of Israel, then kept more than US$1-billion in property belonging to the 850,000 who left, Canadian experts said yesterday.

The study, carried out for a Jewish rights group, is published as Arab countries launch a new push for the "right of return" of millions of descendants of up to 600,000 Palestinian refugees to lands now inside Israel, or a deal that will compensate them generously.

It argues Jews who left the Arab lands deserve equal redress and their plight should be recognized, as efforts to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict unfold.

Canada chairs the Refugee Working Group established under the peace process launched in Madrid in 1991, but the group has never counted the displaced Jews as refugees.

The new study was produced by the group Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), whose honorary chairmen are Irwin Cotler, a Liberal MP, and Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"We now need a more inclusive, equitable and fair approach to the issue of refugees," Mr. Cotler said in New York yesterday as he joined Mr. Holbrooke at the study's launch.

Arab demands to resettle millions of Palestinians in Israel remain a major potential stumbling block on the road map for peace, which calls for an "agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue."

Israel, whose Jewish population is six million, says admitting so many Palestinians would be tantamount to creating a fifth column that would destabilize the Jewish state.

The JJAC study, Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress, aims to show Palestinian refugees are not the only "victim population" of the conflict. It cites newly collected Arab government decrees and reports that point "to collusion against Jews" after Israel was created in 1947.

Jews had never been more than "second-class citizens" under Arab rule, the report says, but their life became "simply untenable" after Israel appeared.

"Jews were either uprooted from their countries of residence or became subjugated, political hostages of the Arab-Israeli conflict," it says.
For example, in 1947, pogroms in Syria drove 7,000 of the 10,000 Jewish residents of Aleppo from their homes. In Iraq, "Zionism" became a capital crime, while bombs in the Jewish quarter of Cairo killed 70 Jews.

After Algeria gained independence from France, it "issued a variety of anti-Jewish decrees prompting nearly all of the 160,000 Jews to leave the country." In Aden and Yemen, at least 82 Jews died in pogroms.

"If we look at the concerted pattern of state sanctioning of repression, and of systematic legislation which criminalized and disenfranchised Jews and sequestered their property, then what happened belongs in the annuls of ethnic cleansing," Mr. Cotler said.

In 1948, there were 856,000 Jews living in Arab countries; this number was halved within 10 years and has continued to fall, most noticeably after periods of conflict or tension between the Arab world and Israel. Today there are only 7,800 left, mainly in Morocco (5,700) and Tunisia (1,500).

The study does not estimate the number who left primarily because they wanted to help build the world's first and only Jewish state.

Arab countries attacked Israel in 1948, leading to the exit of 475,000-600,000 Arab residents of the former British mandate of Palestine, which the United Nations divided into Jewish and Arab areas.

They and many of their descendants, who now number about four million, have lived ever since in refugee camps, often in squalor, and devoid of national rights.

Arab countries hosting camps have refused to address the refugees' plight independently of other issues in their dispute with Israel.

A Canadian government official explained yesterday the Refugee Working Group of the Madrid peace process never had a mandate to place the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries on par with that of Palestinian refugees.

"It was not considered relevant because the Jewish refugees were not seeking to return in numbers that would markedly affect economies and population structures," the official said.

David Matas, a Winnipeg lawyer and one of the report's authors, agreed descendants of many of the displaced Jews had prospered elsewhere despite losing the equivalent of US$1-billion.

"That's why this is not primarily about money," he said. "It is about looking for the truth, about righting history and about acknowledging the failure to recognize these people."

Mr. Matas wrote the report with fellow Canadian Stanley Urman executive director for the New York-based Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Co-operation.

The Forgotten Jewish Refugees

What happened to the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab lands?

by David G. Littman,
Courtesy of National Review Online

Last Thursday, a new terrorist group calling itself, "The Government of Universal Palestine, the Army of Palestine" claimed responsibility for a murderous jihadist terror attack against Kenyans and Israelis in Kenya. The attacks were timed to mark the eve of the anniversary of the November 29, 1947 decision by the United Nations to partition Palestine and allow the creation of the Jewish state.

The next day, in New York and Geneva, the United Nations hosted its annual "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" -- without a hitch
Amid this ongoing savagery and carnage worldwide, some basic truths need to be reaffirmed about the Middle East tragedy. Aside from the thorny Jerusalem issue, the major stumbling block has always been the question of the return of -- or compensation for -- Arab refugees from Palestine in 1948 and 1967. But Israel's steadfast refusal by the Arab Palestinian leadership and Arab countries since the 1920s also led to another great refugee tragedy.

In 1945 there were about 140,000 Jews in Iraq; 60,000 in Yemen and Aden; 35,000 in Syria; 5,000 in Lebanon; 90,000 in Egypt; 60,000 in Libya; 150,000 in Algeria; 120,000 in Tunisia; and 300,000 in Morocco, including Tangiers. That comes to a total of about 960,000 -- and more than 200,000 in Iran and Turkey

Jordan covered 78 percent of Palestine as designated by the League of Nations in 1922. Turning a blind eye to article 15 of the League of Nations Mandate, Great Britain decided in 1922 that no Jews would be authorized either to reside or buy land in what was now the Emirate of Transjordan. This decision was ratified by the kingdom of Jordan in its law No. 6, sect. 3, of April 3, 1954 (reactivated in law no. 7, sect. 2, of April 1, 1963), which states that any person may become a citizen of Jordan if he is not a Jew. Even when Jordan made peace with Israel in 1994, this Judenrein legislation remained.

In these ancient Jewish communities, which date from Biblical times, less than 40,000 Jews remain today -- and in the Arab world there are fewer than 5,000, one-half of one percent of their number at the end of World War II.

During the 20th century, thousands of Jewish men, women, and children, young and old, were brutally massacred in the Maghreb, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Aden -- even under French and British colonial rule -- and also in Palestine after the British conquest and during the Mandate (1918-48).

"Jews in Grave Danger in all Moslem Lands. Nine Hundred Thousand in Africa and Asia Face Wrath of Their Foes".

As to why and how these countries became Judenrein ("cleansed" of Jews), the heading of an article from the New York Times of May 16, 1948 -- a day after Israel declared its independence -- says it all: "Jews in Grave Danger in all Moslem Lands. Nine Hundred Thousand in Africa and Asia Face Wrath of Their Foes".

On January 18, 1948, the president of the World Jewish Congress, Dr. Stephen Wise, appealed to U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall: "Between 800,000 and a million Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, exclusive of Palestine, are in 'the greatest danger of destruction' at the hands of Moslems being incited to holy war over the Partition of Palestine... Acts of violence already perpetrated, together with those contemplated, being clearly aimed at the total destruction of the Jews, constitute genocide, which under the resolutions of the General Assembly is a crime against humanity."

Already in Iraq (1936 and 1941), Syria (1944-45), Egypt and Libya (1945), and Aden (1947) -- all before the state of Israel's founding -- murderous attacks had killed and wounded thousands. Here is a description from the official report in 1945 by Tripoli's Jewish community president, Zachino Habib, describing what happened to Libyan Jews in Tripoli, Zanzur, Zawiya, Casabat, Zitlin, Nov. 4-7, 1945: "The Arabs attacked Jews in obedience to mysterious orders. Their outburst of bestial violence has no plausible motive. For fifty hours they hunted men down, attacked houses and shops, killed men, women, old and young, horribly tortured and dismembered Jews isolated in the interior... In order to carry out the slaughter, the attackers used various weapons: knives, daggers, sticks, clubs, iron bars, revolvers, and even hand grenades." (1)

A recent example of such murderous acts was seen on April 11, 2002 when the jihadist bombing of the ancient al-Ghariba synagogue of Djerba in Tunisia killed 17 and badly wounding many others, most of them elderly German tourists. A spokesman for al Qaeda claimed they had been behind the bombing. Now Tunisia's remaining Jewish community will seek security in Israel and elsewhere -- like 99 percent of their coreligionists before them.

Pogroms and persecutions, and grave fears for their future, regularly preceded the mass expulsions and exoduses of the Jews, whose ancestors had inhabited these regions from time immemorial, a millennium and more before the successive waves of Arab conquest and occupation from the 7th century. Beginning in 1948, more than 650,000 of these Oriental Jewish refugees were integrated into Israel -- even as the country was being threatened with annihilation by neighboring Arab League states, which, for over 40 years, refused the U.N.'s 1947 Palestine Partition Plan. Approximately 300,000 more Jews found refuge, and a new homeland, in Europe and the Americas.

Roughly half of Israel's 5 million Jews -- from a population of 6.2 million, of whom roughly 20 percent are Arab, Druze, and Bedouin Israelis -- is now composed of those refugees and their descendants, who received no humanitarian aid from the United Nations, and who indeed did not ask for it. It was Jews worldwide, just emerging from the Shoah, who worked together with Israel to achieve this integration.

Yet it was this defiance of international legality by the Arab League in 1947-1948 -- maintained decade after decade in unsuccessful attempts at politicide -- that led to the ongoing Arab-Palestinian catastrophe. A parallel commitment on behalf of the less numerous Arab refugees of Palestine (in 1948 they numbered about 550,000, although a figure of 750,000 is often claimed) for their integration into some of the 21 Arab states (covering 10 percent of the world's land surface) was considered too great a symbolic and monetary sacrifice, even despite their immense oil resources.

George Orwell's remark about everyone being equal -- but some being more equal than others -- could well be applied to refugees since the 1940s: Apparently some refugees are considered more equal than others. But the forgotten million - Jewish refugees from Arab lands -- were not helped by the U.N. , nor were they kept for over half a century in refugee camps, breeding hopelessness, frustration, and -- under U.N. auspices -- a culture of hate and death, in which jihadist bombers thrive today.

One should question today the real motivation of a selective, historically flawed memory which systematically spotlights the Arab-Palestinian refugees but conveniently forgets the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

The transfer of populations on a large scale, as a consequence of war or for political reasons, has always been a characteristic of human history, particularly in the Islamic Orient. Deportations, expropriations and expulsions of dhimmis -- Jews, Christians, and other indigenous peoples -- recurred throughout the long history of dhimmitude, including in Palestine. One should question today the real motivation of a selective, historically flawed memory which systematically spotlights the Arab-Palestinian refugees -- suffering from the Arab League's own policy -- but conveniently forgets the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967 -- also adamantly refused then by the Khartoum Arab League Summit Conference with the formula: "No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel, no concessions on the questions of Palestinian national rights" -- refers to "a just solution to the refugee problem". This term applied implicitly also to Jewish refugees from Arab countries -- who had been obliged to seek security outside their native lands -- and not only to the Arab-Palestinian refugees who are not specifically referred to in the resolution.

The dire hardships endured by the great majority of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries have never been considered by the United Nations, nor has the loss of their inestimable properties and heritage dating back over 3, 000 years. The time has surely come for this great injustice to be addressed seriously, within the context of a just and equitable global solution to the ongoing Middle East tragedy, once the Palestinian leadership ends its jihad-war of attrition and takes the democratic path to peace.

On April 24, 2002, at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, we referred to this matter as a representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Speaking in a "right of reply," the delegate of Iraq (Saad Hussain) stated, unashamedly, that he was "responding to the lies that we heard in the statement of the gentleman called David Littman, known for his animosity toward the Arabs, Muslims, and Islam. The Arab history, the Arab and Islamic history for fourteen centuries, has not witnessed any harm to the Jews -- quite the contrary. The Jews have lived, and continue to live in peace, and their sacred places and their property have been protected until today (...) They live in Arab countries today in perfect safety, despite the events -- the horrible events taking place in Palestine." (2)

Not surprisingly, the truth is very different. Jews have always been forbidden to reside in Saudi Arabia and Jordan; there are now no Jews in Libya; under 100 in Egypt and Syria; and only 17 remain in Iraq! We shall again briefly raise the question of the forgotten million Jewish refugees from Arab countries at the next session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights -- when the chairperson will be the lady ambassador from Libya! At the last six-week session (March-April 2002), more than 50 percent of the commission's time was taken up by Palestinian issues -- to the dismay of very many observers.

(1) Renzo di Felici, Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835-1970 (University of Texas, 1985, pp. 193-94., n. 19, p. 365)
(2) U.N. English interpretation, as recorded verbatim from the statement delivered in Arabic.
Link & Sources: Benyamin Netanyahu's Website. - a division of CanWest Interactive Inc.
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Exclamation The Right to Return: Jewish Refugees Ignored

The Right to Return: Jewish Refugees Ignored

Opinion Columnist Michael Gryboski

Few modern repatriation disputes evoke as much emotion in global politics as the Palestinian Right to Return. It began in 1948 with approximately 750,000 refugees who fled the Levant during the first Arab-Israeli War and it continues to be a situation to the present day, with as many as four million refugees and their descendents scattered mostly in other Middle Eastern nations and North America. Many organizations have been founded with the intention of getting the whole population of refugees into the country they abandoned 60 years ago. For many, it is that easy to solve the problem. After all, Israel has already absorbed 850,000 refugees of Middle Eastern descent. However, that piece of information deserves clarification, for those 850,000 Middle Easterners were given refugee status when they entered Israel, having fled Arab nations due to violence that was often state-sponsored. These are the forgotten refugees. The acknowledgement of Jewish refugees in the Arab-Israeli conflict creates a new perspective on the Right to Return.

Important to stress regarding the Arab refugees is that contrary to what some believe Israel’s creation did not require their removal. When Zionist communities were first organized in the Levant during the Victorian Era, the influential leader Emir Faisal stated, “The Jewish Movement is national and not imperialistic. Our movement is national and not imperialistic, and there is room in Syria for us both.” The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, ratified May 14, 1948, calls for cooperation between the two: “We appeal . . . to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.” During the initial violence of the 1948 war, British and Jewish officials urged Arab communities to remain in Israel Proper.

Regardless, the reasons for the mass exodus, the fact remains that the Arab refugees were never allowed to return. Yet neither were the 850,000 Jewish refugees, a population much larger and much more ignored. Whole Middle Eastern Jewish communities, many which had existed for millennia by the time the Arabs first entered the Levant, were destroyed by hostile regimes and ethnic violence between the Israeli War of Independence and the Six Day War. Aden had virtually every native born Jew either driven out or killed by the time the Israeli military occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Iraq, once an epicenter for Mizrahi culture, had its Jewish population decrease by 130,000 between 1948 and the Yom Kippur War. These are just samples of what was a trend found throughout the Middle East. Compensation of any kind for these refugees has yet to be seriously considered by the United Nations. They do not even get name recognition; when people think of Right to Return, Jews do not come to mind, Palestinians do.

So why then are these Jewish refugees overlooked and in particular when it comes to the debate over right to return? Because they present the most effective and least popular solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis: assimilation. Few believed in the 1950s that the Jewish refugees fleeing to Israel would ever return home, so what ended up happening over time was an arduous but successful absorption of these refugees. This is significant, since Israel, a country smaller than the Commonwealth of Virginia, incorporated 850,000-plus into its society while the neighboring Arab states did no such service for Palestinian Arab refugees. As historian Cyril Falls recorded in 1964, “It has been calculated that Syria alone could absorb all the refugees in the Jordan Valley, but the Arab states together still admit only a trickle.” Rather than aid their Arab brethren, Middle East nations like Jordan and Syria exploited the poor conditions of the refugee camps in order to further their political bashing of Israel. Breaking from the fold, the late King Hussein of Jordan admitted the reality of the situation: “Since 1948 Arab leaders have approached the Palestine problem in an irresponsible mannerthey have used the Palestine people for selfish political purposes. This is ridiculous and, I could say, even criminal."

Four million additional citizens would increase Israel’s population by about 50 percent and definitely put a strain on their economy, especially if the pro-Palestine movement succeeds and Israel loses billions of dollars through divestment. Countries like Jordan and Syria, who have had to deal with instability issues because of their camps, would finally resolve the problem. A program of assimilation would have to include removing refugees from their squalid conditions and giving them homes and jobs, something that the Jordanian monarchy certainly could afford to fund. It would be harder for Lebanon to do the same. Certainly if all the wealthy intellectuals who say they want the Palestinians to have decent living standards combine their monetary efforts, their international charity would alleviate that problem area as well.

Assimilation is the best and most realistic solution for the Palestinian refugees, just as it was the best and most realistic solution for the Jewish refugees. Maybe that is why no one ever talks about them: the success of incorporation into Israeli society was such that it was as though they had never suffered the tragedy of being driven from their birthplaces. Just because the scars healed fast does not mean they were never inflicted. After 60 years, it should be realized that it is the obligation not of Israel but of Jordan et al to end the camps and welcome their Arab brethren to their new homes just as Israel did the same for the forgotten refugees, who get no recognition by those involved in this regional dispute.
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Arrow Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress

Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress
Co-authored by:
The Hon. Irwin Cotler
David Matas
Stanley A. Urman

NOVEMBER 5, 2007

To view this E-book Click Here:>>
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A Sensible Solution
to the Refugee Problem

by Carlos

April 17, 2007 - No issue in the Israel/Palestinian conflict is more controversial than the question of the Palestinian refugees. Each side considers the other's position to be a deal-breaker. The Palestinians demand a "just solution" to the refugee problem, which to them would take the form of compensation plus a "right of return" of all Palestinians to the homes they (or actually their ancestors) lost, which would now be situated within the State of Israel. Israel objects that such an arrangement would upset the demographic balance and turn Israel into a de facto Palestinian state. This would defeat the whole purpose of partition, which is to allow self-determination for both Jews and Palestinian Arabs.

I recently came across a proposed solution to the refugee dilemma that struck me as so sensible that I thought it worth quoting extensively. Here is how it begins:
It is patently obvious that uprooting the descendents of the refugees from their current homes in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and other countries, and returning them to Israel, to the West Bank, and to Gaza is a utopian ideal and [a recipe for] anarchy. More than that - it is an idea that cannot be implemented, not only because it will upset the demographic [balance] in a dangerous and destructive manner, and will have [far-reaching] political, economic and social ramifications in such a small and constrained geographical area, but [mainly] because the return [of the refugees] stands in blatant contradiction to Israel's right as a sovereign [state], while the Palestinian Authority lacks the infrastructure to absorb such a large number of immigrants as long as the peace process... is not at its peak.
The writer clearly recognizes the difficulties. The major population shift that the right of return would create would overwhelm both Israel and the new Palestinian state.

But what about the problem's origins?
Clearly, the refugee problem is mainly the result of cumulative mistakes made by the countries where [the refugees] live... such as Syria and Lebanon, which have isolated the refugees in poor and shabby camps lacking the most basic conditions for a dignified human existence. Instead of helping them to become fully integrated in their new society, they let them become victims of isolation and suffering... Later, the worst of all happened when Arab intelligence agencies used the Palestinian organizations as a tool for settling scores in internal Arab conflicts that probably have nothing to do with the Palestinians.
We can leave aside for now the fact that the refugee problem resulted from the war in 1948, which was initiated by the Palestinian Arabs themselves and the armies of five Arab states. The countries in which the refugees now live did not integrate them into their societies and make them citizens with equal rights. Instead they maintained them in refugee camps, where the living conditions are very poor.

The Jews also had a refugee problem, as the number of Jews expelled from Arab countries was roughly equal to the number of Palestinian refugees. Israel's response to the Jewish refugee crisis was very different:
The Israelis, on the other hand, were civilized and humane in their treatment of the thousands of Jewish refugees who had lost their property, homes and businesses in the Arab countries, and who were forced to emigrate to Israel after the 1948 war. The Israeli government received them, helped them, and provided them with all the conditions [they needed] to become integrated in their new society.
Israel accepted the Jewish refugees and made them full citizens. Therefore the Jewish refugees do not demand a right of return.

So what should be done to solve the Palestinian refugee problem?
The Arab countries where the Palestinians live in refugee camps must pass the laws necessary to integrate the inhabitants of these camps into society. [In addition, they must] provide them with education and health services, and allow them freedom of occupation and movement and the right to own real estate, instead of [continuing] their policy of excluding [the refugees] and leaving the responsibility [of caring for them] to others, while marketing the impossible illusion of return [to Palestine].
It seems right and just that the host Arab countries do no less for the Arab refugees than Israel did for the Jewish ones. It is not right that those refugees be kept in substandard living conditions, exploited by their hosts for political purposes. Israel did not do that. Israel already shouldered its share of the burden. It is time for the Arab countries to do likewise. This is what justice demands:
There is a growing necessity for a realistic, unavoidable and bold decision that will provide a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees by naturalizing them in the host countries, such as Syria, Lebanon, and other countries.... By every conceivable and accepted criterion, naturalizing the refugees [in the Arab countries] is the inevitable solution to [this] chronic humanitarian problem.
The problem of the Palestinian refugees has been a major stumbling block in the peace process for many years. This plan to solve the refugee problem is fair and just. It deserves to be taken seriously. It deserves international backing.

The author of this plan? Saudi columnist Yousef Nasser Al-Sweidan, writing in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, March 5 and March 16, 2007.


"Saudi Columnist: 'The Right of Return Is an Illusion'." Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 1540, April 12, 2007.
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Old 02-19-2010, 09:18 PM
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Thousand thanks, Paparock for this information.
I´m really glad and proud to learn so much from all of you
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