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Monday, August 13, 2012

Arabs keenly interested in Israeli initiative on Jewish refugees

In the past day there have been numerous Arabic articles about a new Israeli initiative, spearheaded by Danny Ayalon, to have the international community recognize the plight of Jews from Arab countries and to compensate them for the property they have lost.

As Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote in the Huffington Post last month:
Forging a peaceful future in the Middle East will require Arab governments to finally learn the lessons of their pasts. They must build inclusive societies that protect minorities and offer everyone a seat at the decision-making table.

The first steps toward true pluralism will come when Arab countries acknowledge the history of persecution and intolerance in their own lands. They should start by unearthing the 850,000 untold stories of Jews ripped from their ancient homes.

The historic Jewish presence in the Arab World must be recognized. The grave injustices inflicted upon them must be acknowledged. The crimes committed against them must be rectified.
The Israeli government recently agreed to set aside a day to remember the Jews of Arab countries, probably on the anniversary of the Farhud pogrom in Iraq.

The campaign is making inroads in the US, as the Forward reported yesterday:
In a rare show of pre-election bipartisanship, lawmakers from both parties are sponsoring a bill that would link the plight of Palestinian refugees with that of Jews from Arab countries.

The legislation would require the administration to include mention of the need to resolve the issue of Jews who were expelled from their homes in Arab countries in diplomatic discussions about Palestinian refugees. The bill specifically cites talks that take place within the framework of the so-called Middle East Quartet, made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the U.N.
Arabic articles are saying that Israel plans a conference on September 10 in Jerusalem on the issue, and plans to push it at the UN General Assembly on September 21.

Naturally, the Palestinian Arab press is taking a keen interest in what they feel is a cynical way to deflect the world's conversation from their own dominant refugee narrative.

But the worldwide Arabic press is noting these initiatives as well.

A British law firm is said to have written a letter to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office formally asking for Yemen to compensate Yemenite Jews for huge amounts of property confiscated from them starting in 1947.

The Egyptian press is talking about Israel demanding the rights to some $21 billion worth of property in the old Jewish quarter of Cairo, including the large Adly Street Synagogue (Shaar Hashamayim, built in 1905). They note that in 1971, a law was passed nationalizing all Jewish-owned property in Egypt.

The initiative is some sixty years overdue.