Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Jewish refugees from Arab countries demand compensation

According to a report by Orly Halpern in the Jerusalem Post of 21st September, 28 Jewish leaders from eight countries met Monday in London to strategize an international campaign to "assert the rights of former Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

"Stanley Urman, president of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), told The Jerusalem Post that the ultimate goal of the campaign is to link Jewish refugees with Palestinian refugees in peace talks.

"Our aim is that, every time there is a Middle East discussion on refugees, instead of discussing only Palestinian refugees they will talk about Jewish refugees who are a result of the Middle East conflict," he said. "We are interested in ensuring that whatever rights and compensation are received by Palestinian refugees will be given to Jewish refugees of the conflict [as well]."

"The meeting was said to be organized by the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) and JJAC, though WOJAC president Heskel Haddad was not actually involved in its preparation, nor did he attend the event.

"In an article printed in the Post, Haddad said he planned to attend the meeting because he approved of the political ramifications, but "I don't think anything will come of it."

My comment: it is churlish of Orly Halpern to quote someone who was not at the meeting say 'I don't think anything will come of it'. Halpern's account is also somewhat misleading: it is true that where Palestinian refugees are mentioned in resolutions, etc, the campaign will try to get Jewish refugees mentioned as well. However, it was decided that the campaign, being primarily about the rights of Jewish refugees, will not go out of its way to mention Palestinian refugees. The situation of both refugee populations is not symmetrical. The former, peaceful citizens of countries where they had been settled for milennia, fled as a result of persecution; the latter fled war. Furthermore, the object of the campaign is not simply to demand compensation. It is also to memorialise these largely extinct Jewish communities - the loss of an entire civilisation.

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