Monday, April 14, 2008

Jews suffered more and were helped less

A groundbreaking report by the economist Sidney Zabludoff, quantifying refugee losses and calling for the issue to be de-politicised, has inspired two articles in the Jewish press:

Marc Perelman writes in The Forward:

In the first effort to methodically calculate the amount lost by Jews who fled Arab countries after the creation of Israel, a Holocaust restitution expert estimated that the losses amounted to $6 billion.

The study, performed by Sidney Zabludoff and published this month in a journal published by the conservative Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, estimated that Jewish losses were significantly more than the amount lost by Palestinian refugees from Israel.

Close to 1 million Jews were forced to leave Middle Eastern and North African countries after the creation of Israel — a fact that has become a political volleyball as Palestinian refugees have pushed for compensation for their own expulsion from Israel.

Zabludoff peppers his paper with political references and proposals, and it seems likely that his figures will encounter protest from Palestinian groups. He estimates that the 550,000 Palestinian refugees lost $3.9 billion.

Palestinian critics argue that speaking of restitution is an insidious way of ruling out the possibility of a return to Israel — and Zabludoff is explicit in his paper that there should not be a right of return for Palestinian refugees.

“This is an insidious argument, because the advocates of Jewish refugees are not working to get those legitimate assets back but are in fact trying to cancel out the debt of Israel toward Palestinian refugees,” said Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University’s Edward Said professor of Arab studies.

Advocates for Jewish refugees are already seizing upon the new data to advance their cause.

“Just as the issue of Holocaust restitution became a priority for Jewish advocacy a decade ago, this issue needs to become a priority now,” said Elan Steinberg, vice president of the gathering of American Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants, who worked with Zabludoff on restitutions at the Word Jewish Congress in the late 1990s.

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Hillel Fendel reports in Arutz Sheva:

(IsraelNN.com) Research by international economist Sidney Zabludoff shows that the Jewish refugees of 1948 suffered more and have been helped less than their Arab counterparts.

In a paper published by The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Zabludoff shows that many more Jews were forcibly displaced or expelled from their homes around the world than Arabs, that they lost significantly more property, and were helped over the years to a much smaller extent.

The number of Arabs displaced by the War of Independence in 1948 is estimated at 550,000, and another estimated 100,000 were displaced by the Six Day War in 1967. The number of Jews who were forced to move as a result of the Israeli-Arab conflict was between 850,000 and one million.

It is further estimated that the Jews, most of whom lived in cities, lost $700 million in lost and stolen property - worth some $6 billion in today's dollars. The Arabs of 1948 and 1967, on the other hand, lost an estimated total of $450 million, or $3.9 billion in today's money.

Zabludoff notes that the case of the Arab refugees is different than any other refugee crisis in world history, in that aid for their cause has never stopped, and has been ongoing for nearly 60 years. UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Works Agency, has poured $13.7 billion dollars into the Arab refugee concentrations. In addition, Arab and Western countries have given their own aid over the decades.

The Arabs have also done much better than the Jews in terms of repatriated assets. Israel returned more than 90% of blocked Arab bank accounts and most of the contents of safe deposit boxes, Zabludoff notes, while there have been only "a few cases where Jewish property was restored."

While many of the Arabs living in the Land of Israel left their homes voluntarily, goaded on by Arab promises that they would come back as victors and be able to displace the Jews, the Jews in Arab countries were generally expelled amidst violence, threats and confiscation of their property.

"Since 1920," Zabludoff writes, " all other major refugee crises involving the exchange of religious or ethnic populations, while creating hardships, were dealt with in a single generation. Meanwhile, issues such as the 'right of return' and compensation never were adequately resolved and were largely forgotten. The same pattern evolved for Jews who fled Middle Eastern and North African countries, even though their number was some 50 percent larger than Palestinian refugees and the difference in individual assets lost was even greater."

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Click here for the full report.

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