Dr Heskel Haddad
The World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries disassociated itself from JJAC and the campaign for Jewish refugees some six years ago - for reasons still unclear. This letter to The Jewish Voice from Heskel Haddad, WOJAC president, reflects his decades-long frustration with both Israeli and Arab leaders at their inability to recognise Jews fleeing Arab countries as refugees. But now that Israel is pushing for recognition of these Jews as refugees, it is less easy to understand why Haddad is tilting at windmills, taking up the mantra of the campaign's critics: he is accusing the government of 'cheating' Jews from Arab countries by attempting to 'offset' their claims against Palestinian claims. Has Haddad not heard that the Israeli government is advocating an international fund, as proposed by President Clinton in 2000? This fund would compensate both Jewish and Palestinian refugees.
"Soon after my arrival to Israel as a stateless person, i.e. refugee,
from Iraq, in 1951, I met with Israeli ministers and politicians, even I
had interview with the late Mr. Ben Gurion, the prime minister then,
the minister of health, and the late Mr. Begin the leader of Herut. (...) I tried to convince them that the Jews of Arab
countries, almost one million of them, who arrived to Israel penniless,
were refugees. The response was NO, they were Zionists. I challenged
that assertion time and again, by asking audiences whom I addressed, if
any of them would leave all their properties and assets and go to Israel
because of the Zionist ideal.
"Not a single person ever responded affirmatively.
"WOJAC was established as an organization, by Mr. Mordekhai Ben Porat,
then minister without portfolio, in the early seventies. I was one of
the principal organizers, as I represented WOJAC in the USA. As such, I
tried to block the PLO from appearing before the UN Security Council,
when Israel boycotted that meeting, I served to save Jews from hanging
in Iraq and to get Jews out of Iraq of the Ammash-Baker regime, by the
help of the High Commissioner of Refugees, the late Prince Sadrudin Agha
Khan, and UN Secretary General Mr. U Thant and his successor Mr.
Waldheim, and the Canadian government with the wheat deal. All this was
done without fanfares and publicity. WOJAC was instrumental in blocking
Israel from offsetting the oil Israel used from Sinai by the property
and assets of Egyptian Jews.
"I pressed the issue of the rights of the Jewish refugees from Arab
countries before the UN Security Council after the Six Day War, with
Judge Goldberg, and then US representative at the UN, to include, though
indirectly, the issue of the Jewish refugees in resolution 242, by
mentioning refugees and not Palestinian refugees, thus indirectly
including the Jewish refugees.
"Arab leaders and diplomats repeat the lie of the Israeli government
that the Jews left of their own volition and will. As a matter of fact
President Sadat told me “the Jews came to us and wanted to leave and we
told them they are free to leave,” the same I heard from the Moroccan
foreign minister. Yet when you confront them with the history of their
persecution of the Jews they nod their head.
"Besides the Farhood
(pogrom) of June 2, 1941 in Baghdad, Iraq, there were 27 major pogroms
in the major Arab cities, in Casablanca, Rabat, Marakish and Fass in
Morocco, in Constantine in Algeria, in Jerba and Tunis in Tunisia, in
Tripoli and Bengazi in King Sanusi’s Libya, in Cairo and Ismailia of
Egypt, in Allepo, Damascus and Kamishli of Syria and of course Baghdad,
Mosul and Basra of “Royal pro- Western” Iraq.
"The turning point for the Jews in Iraq was not the Farhood, as it is
wrongly assumed. It was May 15, 1948 after Israel’s declaration of
independence. A dark curtain fell on the Jewish community of Iraq,
because military rule was imposed: 10,000 Jews were jailed and another
10,000 were interned in detention camps in Amara. All Jewish government
employees were fired. Jewish merchants could not do business without a
Muslin partner. A tax to ‘liberate Palestine’ was imposed on the Jews.
The real turning point for Iraqi Jewry was the hanging of the late Mr.
Shafik Adas in the summer of 1948, after a sham trial. This sole event
created the greatest of fear among the Jews of Iraq that their lives
were in danger in Iraq, because there was no Jew wealthier and more
ingratiated by the Iraqi royalty and politicians than Mr. Adas. Just few
days before he was arrested, I met with him with my father, who was the
contractor to build Mr. Adas’ palace in Basra. He voiced his opposition
to the creation of Israel, because he feared it will just a ghetto of
Jews and can be easily annihilated. He was no Zionist.
"Thus my answer to Israel’s governments and to the Arab leaders and
diplomats is ‘when your house is on fire you try to escape at all
costs’. Besides, the Arab League had a resolution of 1949 ‘to facilitate
the exodus of the Jews from the Arab countries,’ an aphorism for their
I pressed the issue with President Sadat before the Camp David and
the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt, when President Sadat
invited me to meet with him in Ismaelia as what I was called ‘president
of the Arab Jews’ (“Raees El Yahood El Arab”). This resulted in the
special item of the peace agreement dealing with compensation issues.
"I pressed with the Arab League, meeting with Mr. Ismat Abd el Mageed,
when he was secretary general of the league, and most recently with Mr.
Amr Musa, to rescind the Arab League’s resolution, of 1949 prohibiting
Arab governments from granting citizenship to the Palestinian Arab
refugees. I was told that I was trying to dilute the Palestinian
problem. Of course my main purpose was to facilitate peace by reducing
the impact of the Arab refugees and their demand of return, which has
blocked every effort to make peace, whether the Oslo accords, the River
Wei agreement and camp David II.
"Now the Israeli government, through the
Israeli foreign office, and supported by the World Jewish Congress and
JJAC an organization seeking so called justice for the Jews from Arab
countries, is trying to rename these Jews from Arab countries as
refugees, no longer Zionists, for its own purposes of ‘kizzuz,’ i.e.
offsetting the demands of the Arab refugees with the rights of the
Jewish refugees in terms of reparations.
"Yet the same government not only refuses to cooperate with me and
WOJAC, but blocking every effort I am working on to recover some of the
Jewish assets which were frozen in the banks, usually foreign banks,
which functioned in the various Arab countries. Two prominent Israel
lawyers and I have communicated with officials of the Ministry of
Justice, the Ministry of Retirees, the Prime Minister’s office, etc.
etc. with no avail.
"The Israeli government with the help of the WJC and JJAC is trying to
cheat the Jews of Arab countries of their legitimate rights, by falsely
championing their cause.
Prof. Heskel M. Haddad, M.D
Read letter in full
Flight from Babylon by Heskel Haddad - book review