Arabic media have been hysterical over this conference for the past month, with scores of Arabic articles have been written only in the past day. They are uniformly critical of the conference, claiming that there is no such thing as a Jewish refugee, or that any compensation to Jewish refugees is against international conventions, or even that "Zionist terror" is what caused Jewish refugees to flee Arab countries.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder presented the recently launched diplomatic campaign in a special gathering at the UN before Israeli officials, foreign diplomats, activists and journalists.
“Today’s event is about the past but more importantly about the future,” said Prosor.
“Our purpose is clear and simple: To give justice for one million Jews whose stories have been hidden and left untold.”
He added: “For 64 years the history has been distorted and whitewashed in the UN. Arab countries have never taken responsibility for creating more than 800,000 refugees.
Yet not a single syllable – and listen to this – can be heard in any of the 1,888 UN resolutions on the Mideast.”
Israel was founded on the ethos of being a safe haven for Jews in their historic homeland as a response to the persecution of Jews throughout history and the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe in particular.
The story of its citizens who left, fled or were expelled from Arabic-speaking countries while the Israeli-Arab conflict flared has been relatively neglected, a fact Ayalon acknowledged in his speech.
“For some reason this issue was never raised, never discussed, and without too much mea culpa, this was wrong,” Ayalon said. “But it’s never too late.”
But mostly they are claiming that this is a brand-new, contrived attempt to take attention away from Palestinian refugees.
So here is a brief survey of times that Israel or Jews brought the topic up to the attention of the UN:
The plight of the Arab refugees was the direct result of the hostilities launched by the Arab themselves against Israel to crush her out of existence at birth. The real claim of the refugees lay against the Arab Governments which had sent their armies to invade Israel, in cynical violation of their international obligations. For its part, the Israel Government was willing to make a contribution to the resettlement of the refugees, provided that such an arrangement be mutual. Israel had taken in some 200,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab Governments concerned. His delegation was willing to embark upon a discussion of the question with the Arab States, with a view to finding a constructive overall solution.
Israel was also willing to take up the question of blocked accounts, subject likewise to the understanding that any discussion would include the blocked accounts in Iraq and Jews who had left that country and been admitted to Israel.
Mr. RAMIN (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the representatives of the Sudan and the United Arab Emirates had referred to only one side of the refugee problem. A study published by the United Nations Department of International Economic and Social Affairs, entitled Trends and Characteristics of International Migration since 1950, dealt with the Palestine refugees as part of the broader phenomenon of international migration. According to that study, as a result of the partition of Palestine, about 700,000 Palestinian Arabs had left the territory that now constituted the State of Israel, while a large proportion of the Jewish population of the Arab States of Asia and North Africa had moved to Israel, the latter migration extending well into the 1960s. The study indicated that 578,000 Jewish immigrants from Arab-speaking nations had been received by Israel. Both the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were dealt with in the study under the same heading.
In an article published in May 1975 in the Lebanese daily paper Al-Nahar, a well-known Palestinian Arab scholar had stated that the Jewish refugees from the Arab States had been displaced in the most brutal manner after their property had been confiscated, and that their migration to Israel had had a very direct impact on the Palestinian problem. Lastly, in his memoirs published in Beirut in 1973, a former Prime Minister of the Syrian Arab Republic had admitted that the Arab leaders themselves had encouraged the Palestinians to leave their homes and lands, something which had had disastrous results for 1 million Palestinian Arab refugees.
That war had caused a large-scale movement of Arabs out of Israeli territory and an increased exodus of Jews from the Arab States where their families had lived for centuries. At that time, there had been about 1 million Jews in the Arab countries, the majority of whom had since found refuge in the Jewish State and within a relatively short time had become self-supporting citizens. With the acquiescence of the Arab Governments, there had been a virtual exchange of population between Israel and the Arab countries, somewhat similar to that between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s and between India and Pakistan in the late 1940s. The search for a possible settlement could not be based on reversing those two parallel movements of large masses of people but must be guided by the successful integration of refugees in other parts of the world.1991:
There had been no discussions in the United Nations about the plight of the Jewish refugees and no relief agencies established to help in their rehabilitation. The Arabs who had left Israel had also found refuge among their own kin, the great majority merely moving from Jewish-controlled areas of Palestine to those under Arab control. Yet they had become wards of the United Nations, and UNRWA had been set up to assist in their rehabilitation. The most striking difference between the treatment of the two groups of refugees, however, had been the attitude of the Arab Governments towards their own brethren. Their misery was to be perpetuated and exploited in the campaign of unabated political and military hostility against Israel. Development plans to resettle them and provide work had been rejected by the Arab Governments, which had also barred emigration to receptive third countries. Attempts by refugees to become self-supporting within the host countries were discouraged. Those facts had been recognized in the January-March 1957 bulletin of the Research Group for European Migration problems, which had stated that the Arab Governments were seeking to prevent any sort of adoption and integration because the refugees were seen as a political means of pressure to obtain the greatest possible number of concessions. A former head of UNRWA in Jordan had said in 1958 that the Arab States wanted to keep the refugee problem as an affront to the United Nations and a weapon against Israel.
Significantly, the sponsors of this resolution have not suggested at any time that similar steps be taken regarding the confiscated Jewish property in Arab countries. As a result of the 1948 War, approximately 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries were resettled in Israel. The property left behind by these Jewish refugees (estimated to be worth billions of dollars) was expropriated by the governments of the Arab countries in which they lived. There can be no difference in law, justice or equity between the claims of Arab and Jewish property owners. By doing so, the sponsors of resolution 45/73 H are suggesting that Israel's sovereignty is limited or restricted by some provision that does not apply to other Member States of the United Nations.
DAVID LITTMAN, of the World Union For Progressive Judaism, addressed the question of Jewish refugees from Arab countries in 1947. After the proclamation of independence of the State of Israel, the armies of five Arab countries, with the support of the Arabs of Palestine under British mandate, had invaded the new State. This war was a pretext for the intensification and legitimization of a settling of accounts in Arab countries. The leaders of these countries had forced Jews to abandon their homes and property and take the path to exile. The State of Israel constituted a natural refuge for the great majority of these refugees from the Arab world. These Jewish refugees had been the victims of waves of pogroms and humiliation. These refugees, unlike the Arab refugees of Palestine, did not receive any compensation from the international community, and had not even requested any compensation.
2003, written statement submitted by World Union for Progressive Judaism to the UN:
During the first half of the 20th century thousands of Jewish men, women, and children, the young and the old, were brutally massacred in Arab countries in North Africa, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Aden — even under French and British colonial rule — and also in Palestine by lawless gangs soon after the British conquest in 1918, and throughout the Mandate period.
Already in Iraq (1936, and especially the Baghdad farhud of 1941), Syria (1944, 1945), Egypt and Libya (1945), and Aden (1947), murderous attacks had killed and wounded thousands. All these events occurred before Israel’s independence. Here is a description from the official first-hand report in 1945 by Tripoli’s Jewish community president Zachino Habib on what happened to Libyan Jews in Tripoli, Zanzur, Zawiya, Casabat, Zitlin on 4-5 Nov. 1945: “The Arabs attacked Jews in obedience to mysterious orders. Their outburst of bestial violence had 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.” (6)
A recent example of such terrorist acts was perpetrated on 11 April 2002 when the jihadist bombing of the ancient al-Ghariba synagogue of Djerba in Tunisia killed 17 and badly wounded many others, most of them elderly German tourists. A spokesman for Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing. Tunisia’s remaining Jewish community of about 1,000 — a remnant of an indigenous community with roots in the country’s Phoenician past — will probably soon seek security in Israel and elsewhere, as have 99 percent of their co-religionists since the late 1940s.
In 1945 about 140,000 Jews lived in Iraq; 60,000 in Yemen and Aden; 35,000 in Syria; 5,000 in Lebanon; 90,000 in Egypt; 40,000 in Libya; 150,000 in Algeria; 120,000 in Tunisia; 300,000 in Morocco, including Tangiers – a total of roughly 940,000 (and approximately 200,000 more in Iran and Turkey). Of these indigenous communities, less than 50,000 Jews remain today – and in the Arab world their number is barely 5,000, one-half of one percent of the overall total at the end of the Second World War.
Pogroms and persecutions — and grave fears for their future — regularly preceded the mass expulsions and exoduses of these indigenous Jews, whose ancestors had inhabited these regions from time immemorial, over a millenium before the successive jihad waves of Arab invaders from the seventh century. Beginning in 1948-49, more than 650,000 of these Oriental Jewish refugees, stripped of everything, were integrated into Israel's sparse area of 20,000 km2 – even as the new State was being threatened with extinction by neighbouring Arab States. A further 300,000 or so Jewish refugees found asylum elsewhere, in Europe and the Americas.
About half of Israel's 5.2 million Jews — from a population of about 6.5 million, of whom roughly 20% are Arab, Druze, and Bedouin Israelis — is composed of these forgotten refugees and their descendants, who received no humanitarian aid from the United Nations and did not ask for it. It was Israel alone, with the help of Jewish communities just emerging from the Shoah, which achieved their humanitarian survival and integration into a nascent society.
Similar statement from WUPJ to the UN, 2010:
The transfer of populations on a large scale has been a characteristic of human history, particularly in the Orient – deportations, expropriations and expulsion of dhimmis (Jews, Christians and other indigenous peoples) was a constant factor over a long history of dhimmitude – after the Arab jihad-wars of conquest, expropriation and occupation. This policy continues, while a historically-flawed memory systematically spotlights only Arab refugees from a part of Mandatory Palestine as a result of war while forgetting others – particularly dhimmi Jews in their ancestral homeland, expropriated and expelled over the centuries, and their numerous brethren in the Arab-Muslim dar al-Islam. Jews were forbidden to reside in Arabia since the advent of Islam (except for Yemen and a part of the Gulf region), and in the eastern part of Palestine since 1922, when it became the Hashemite Emirate.It isn't that the issue of Jewish refugees has never been mentioned at the UN before. The issue is that for 65 years, the issue of Jewish refugees was deliberately ignored by the UN.
The hardship endured by the great majority of these indigenous Jewish refugees from Arab countries has never been examined by UN bodies, nor the loss of their inestimable heritage dating back two and three millennium – nor their vast personal and property rights. This great injustice should be addressed at the United Nations and elsewhere, all within the context of an equitable global solution for a peaceful, international recognition of a two-State solution. A noteworthy document – with references to specific references to Jewish refugees by both President Jimmy Carter and President Bill Clinton was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives as Resolution 185 on 1 April 2008.
...It should also be allowed under international law for Jews to live in the whole League of Nations area of Palestine (within both the Arab Kingdom of Jordan and the future Arab State of Palestine), just like Arabs, Druze and other non-Jews do in Israel, either as Israeli citizens or foreign residents.
By the way, here is a chart of the disappearance of Jews from Arab countries since 1948:
1948 1958 1968 1976 2001 Aden 8,000 800 0 0 0 Algeria 140,000 130,000 1,500 1,000 0 Egypt 75,000 40,000 1,000 400 100 Iraq 135,000 6,000 2,500 350 100 Lebanon 5,000 6,000 3,000 400 100 Libya 38,000 3,750 100 40 0 Morocco 265,000 200,000 50,000 18,000 5,700 Syria 30,000 5,000 4,000 4,500 100 Tunisia 105,000 80,000 10,000 7,000 1,500 Yemen 55,000 3,500 500 500 200 TOTAL 856,000 475,050 72,600 32,190 7,800 (Roumani 83) (AJY 58) (AJY 69;Yemen: AJY 70) (AJY 78) (AJY 01;AJY 88)
 Estimates based on UN document “Trends and Characteristics of International Migration since 1950 – Refugee Movements and Population Transfers” (UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs, Demographic Study No. 64 ST/ESA/Ser. A/64).