Friday, November 30, 2007

The forgotten exodus - by Irwin Cotler

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the UN Partition Resolution of Nov. 29, 1947. It is sometimes forgotten that this was the first ever blueprint for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution. Regrettably, while Jewish leaders accepted the resolution, Arab leaders did not, and by their own acknowledgement, declared war on the nascent Jewish state. Now it is time for a sea change in the conflict's narrative, writes Irwin Cotler, human rights lawyer and ex-Canadian minister of justice in the Canadian National Post (with thanks: Jerusalem Posts):

Had the Partition Resolution been accepted, there would have been no Arab-Israeli war, no refugees and none of the pain of these last 60 years. Annapolis could now be the site of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Yet the revisionist Mid-East narrative continues to hold that there was only one victim population, Palestinian refugees, and that Israel was responsible for the Palestinian naqba (catastrophe) of 1947.

The result was that the pain and plight of 850,000 Jews uprooted and displaced from Arab countries -- the forgotten exodus -- has been expunged from the historical narrative these past 60 years. Moreover, the revisionist narrative has not only eclipsed the forgotten exodus, but denies that it was also a forced exodus, for the Arab countries not only went to war to extinguish the fledgling Jewish state, but also targeted the Jewish nationals living in their respective countries. The United Nations is preparing, yet again, to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on this 60th anniversary of the UN Partition Resolution, but will ignore the plight of Jewish refugees.

Indeed, evidence contained in a recent report, Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights And Redress, documents for the first time a pattern of state-sanctioned repression and persecution in Arab countries -- including Nuremberg-like laws -- that targeted Jews, and resulted in denationalization, forced expulsions, illegal sequestration of property, arbitrary arrest and detention and the like.

These massive human rights violations were reflective of a collusive blueprint, as embodied in the Draft Law of the Political Committee of the League of Arab States. This is a story that has not been heard. It is a truth that must now be acknowledged.

The UN also bears express responsibility for this distorted narrative. Since 1947, there have been 126 UN resolutions that have specifically dealt with the Palestinian refugee plight. Not one of these resolutions makes any reference to the plight of the 850,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries. Nor have any of the Arab countries involved expressed any acknowledgement, let alone regret. What, then, is to be done?

The time has come to rectify this historical injustice, and to restore the "forgotten exodus" to the Middle East narrative. Remedies for victim refugee groups -- including rights of remembrance, truth, justice and redress -- must now be invoked for Jews displaced from Arab countries, as mandated under human rights and humanitarian law. In particular, each of the Arab countries and the League of Arab States must acknowledge their role in the perpetration of human rights violations against their respective Jewish nationals.

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