Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jewish refugees: Israel must do more

Irwin Cotler at Monday's meeting in Jerusalem (All photos: Andras Lacko)

Israel must do more to raise the issue of Jewish refugees in its dealings with international bodies, declared Irwin Cotler, ex-Canadian minister of Justice and international human rights advocate at a World Jewish Congress/Israel Council of Foreign Relations meeting in Jerusalem on Monday. If the UN does not launch a day, or now a year, of solidarity with the Jewish people, the Jewish people must do it themselves. Jerusalem Post report by Sam Sokol:

The “Arab League should incorporate the question of Jewish refugees as part of its framework for an Israeli- Arab peace in the same way that the Jewish narrative incorporates the Palestinian refugees,” and (...) the government of Israel (must)insist that in “any and all discussions between the negotiating parties, any reference to Palestinian refugees must also include express reference to Jewish refugees.”

It is “high time that the forced exodus of Jews from Arab lands be introduced to the international agenda after the unconscionable neglect of the issue for six decades,” he declared.

This is not the first time that Cotler has called for the end of UNRWA or for recognition and redress for the 850,000 Jewish refugees of the Israeli-Arab conflict; he said so in almost identical words in an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post three years ago.

Israel, Cotler insisted, must do more to raise the issue of Jewish refugees during its dealings with international bodies.

“The [UN’s} annual November 29th commemoration [of the Palestinian defeat in 1948] and the 2014 Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People must be an annual day and now a year of solidarity with the Jewish people as well as with the Palestinian.

If the UN is not going to do it, then the Jewish people, in conjunction with men and women of goodwill, must launch our own year of truth and justice and solidarity.”

In response to Cotler’s comments, MK Shimon Ohayon told the Post that he hoped to soon pass a law “to create a day of commemoration and education about the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”

“The Foreign Ministry under Avigdor Liberman has pressed the issue on the international stage, creating a now annual event at the UN in New York devoted to the issue which is attended by foreign ambassadors, and communiques were sent to all our foreign-based representatives to raise the issue with their interlocutors where relevant,” the lawmaker said.

While a 2010 law mandates that the Jewish refugees be brought up during any negotiations with the PLO , Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of the current talks, reportedly told World Jewish Congress officials that she would not raise the issue.

Also during Monday’s meeting, Dr. Harold Rhode, the former Middle East analyst at the US Defense Department who found a large collection of documents in Baghdad confiscated from the now exiled Iraqi Jewish population, insisted that his discovery not be returned to Baghdad later this year as agreed by the US government.
Edwin Shuker, whose school leaving certificate was found in the archive.
Harold Rhode

“Sending the material back to Baghdad would be comparable to the US returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis,” Rhode insisted.

The documents, which the Hussein regime confiscated from the Jewish community, were discovered by coalition forces in the basement of the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, or secret police, in 2003 and document centuries of life in Mesopotamia. A portion of the documents, which are being restored, are on display at the US National Archives in Washington, and are due to be returned to Iraq within months.

World Jewish Congress report (with thanks: Jeremy)

Video film by Eli Freedman of talk by Harold Rhode,
Edwin Shuker, Irwin Cotler

Middle East Online


Anonymous said...

I feel less lonely after reading this

Edgar Davidson said...

Interesting (but not surprising) to see that Livni refused to raise the issue of the Jewish refugees. There is a guy called Noam Leshem who apparently was 'advising' the Israeli government on this issue and his view was that the Jewish refugee issue must never be raised. The problem is that Leshem is an extreme lefist who is also a revisionist anti-Zionist. How he ever came to be an advisor to people like Livni I will never know (it was leshem himself who said he was an advisor so I have no reason not to believe him). But he was also working in London for BICOM which is also a complete mystery. See the following articles:

bataween said...

I have to admit I have never heard of Noam Leshem, but with friends like that Israel certainly does not need enemies. I hope he belonged to the previous BICOM regime - the current staff are much more sympathetic to the Jewish refugee cause and we are even working with them on joint events.