Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Knesset sets up Jewish refugees lobby

 (Top) Shimon Ohayon MK, chairman of the new lobby. (Middle) Iraq-born Ambassador Zvi Gabay with head of the UN unit at the MFA Daniel Meron on the right. (Bottom) The meeting was attended by politicians from all parties and addressed by Foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Update: a report by the Ramallah correspondent of the London Arabic newspaper Sharq al-Awsat has appeared under the heading: Liberman calls for rights and properties of Jews of Arab descent. It demonstrates the concern with which Arabs view the raising of the Jewish refugee issue. See link below.

For the first time, the Knesset is establishing an official body to speak up for the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab lands who migrated to Israel. The Knesset Lobby for Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands was inaugurated by MK Shimon Ohayon (Yisrael Beytenu), who will chair the committee. One of its main aims will be to encourage the Knesset to pass legislation establishing a day to recall the exodus of Jews from Arab countries on 17 February. Arutz Sheva reports:

As the date for Israel's independence edged closer throughout the 1940s, Jews who had lived for centuries in Arab-majority countries such as Egypt, Iraq, and Libya found themselves increasingly persecuted by their Arab co-nationals.
When Israel was established, approximately one million Jews from Arab countries were forced to leave their homes due to pogroms, state discrimination and persecution. In many cases, such as the former Jewish community of Libya, entire Jewish populations were simply expelled in one go by the government.
With nowhere else to go, most of them fled to the nascent State of Israel. Almost none received any kind of compensation for the substantial assets they were forced to leave behind.

Despite the lack of money and resources, Israel made great efforts to absorb these immigrants, and despite the many problems of poverty and discrimination they initially faced, the country was able to successfully absorb most of them. Few, if any, expressed a desire to return to their countries of origin, but polls show that the vast majority want their property back.

Today, Jewish refugees from Arab countries and their descendants account for more than 50% of Israel's Jewish population. The assets they left behind have been estimated at around $4.4 billion.

Successive Israeli government have been criticized by refugees and their descendants for their near silence on the issue - much of which stemmed from the fact that few Jews wanted to go back to Arab lands due to rampant anti-Semitism, and that the prospect of any Arab country agreeing to compensate expelled Jews was considered too remote to even consider. But in recent years, as the Palestinian Authority continues to demand a “right of return” for the significantly fewer Arab refugees from the 1948 War of Independence, many in Israel have begun to assert the rights of compensation for Jews expelled from Arab countries.

Ohayon commented on the way that Arab states and the Palestinian Authority have worked to prevent Arab refugees and their descendants from restarting their lives, as a way of perpetuating the so-called "refugee problem".

“The Palestinians preserve their refugees, unlike Israel, which absorbed them properly,” he noted.

The PA and Arab countries care little about Arab refugees, using them only as a weapon against Israel, he continued. “In the refugee camps in Syria tens of thousands of Palestinians are being killed, and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas remains silent.”

As the representative of the expelled Jews, Israel had an obligation to stand up for their rights, said Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who also attended the event.

“We must, with all our might, demand their rights and property. We began working on this several years ago, and we plan on addressing this in all international forums. There is a wide political consensus on this among all Zionist parties, regardless of the differences between them,” he declared.

In a statement, MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) said that Israel should not look at the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands as its “answer” to demands by the PA that Arabs be repatriated to their original homes in Israel.

“The property rights of the Jews were taken from them without any issues of national sovereignty,” Feiglin said. “As representative of these Jews, Israel must speak up for them,” because Israel is the state they live in.

However, unlike the Arabs, Feiglin says Jews from Arab lands needed to be compensated as individuals for their property, contending that by "allowing" the Arab countries to hijack their refugee status for their national struggles destroy Israel, the Arab refugees had lost the right to make individual demands for compensation.

Read article in full

Jerusalem Post  article

Sharq al Awsat article (Arabic) English version (Google translate)
ليبرمان يطالب بحقوق وأملاك اليهود من أصول عربية


Linda said...

I was thrilled yesterday to be present in the knesset while launhing the new lobby with 3 Israeli ministers and many other MK/ The new Ethipian MK Pnina spoke eloquently and I thoguth its time to approach her.
Its true that there were many journalists there who normally have interest in the subject but now we have now to press the ministry of Education who is key to the future of the subject at least inside the educational system.
thnx to all those who dedicated time and energy . Remeber another tool now : the film shadow in baghdad. check it out

Anonymous said...

The phrase "Jews of Arab descent" contains connotations that may mislead,so I hope that's just a translation error.

bataween said...

Not an error, this is how the Arabic media see 'their' Jews - as Arabs of the Jewish religion, although we obviously would not agree.

Anonymous said...

they had better hurry up before we Jews from Arab lands go to heaven.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Arabs often see Jews from Arab lands as their property, which is why Israeli victories over Arab forces are intolerable. Jews as dhimmis --even upstart, rebellious, ex-dhimmis-- are seen as property. And the Jews' property is collective Arab property [fay, waqf]. I recently saw a TV film about the Iraqi Jewish archive, which showed --inter alia-- an Iraqi Arab woman living in the US who had visited the exhibit of the "archive" in Washington. She said, roughly recalling her words: "I feel that this belongs to me as an Iraqi. It should be returned to Iraq as part of our national heritage."
Of course to us Jews, that sounds like great hhutspah. But it seems that that is how Arabs think.