Jewish refugee girl in a ma'abara camp, 1950 (photo: Robert Capa)
The history of the Middle East is not a competition of tragedies, but is it right to treat one side's suffering seriously while ignoring the other's? argues Zvi Gabay in a hard-hitting op-ed in the Israeli mass circulation Ma'ariv.
In the words
of Ambassador Martin Indyk, special representative of the secretary of
state John Kerry, the agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will
include reference to compensation of Jews from Arab countries for their property. This has surprised many.
The reason for the surprise is the long neglect of the issue and the focus on the Palestinian refugees and their ' right of return'.
The American reference to Jewish property
from Arab countries is a just and proper development, especially
as the debate on the subject is required under the law that was passed
in the Knesset in 2010. However, Israel has so far ignored the issue , while Arab refugees' rights are at the center of public discourse. It's time to remedy the situation.
Some may ask what interest to Palestinians is Jewish property in Arab countries?
With the establishment of Israel occurred two human tragedies: a
brutal uprooting of Jewish communities who lived in Arab countries for
thousands of years, and the Nakba of Israeli Arabs after the war in
1948. Two tragedies occurred with the support of their fellow Palestinians and Arab countries. No one can discuss one tragedy and not the other.
Although the rigours suffered by the Jews who left Arab countries endured for
several years in the tent camps in Israel, while the Palestinian Arabs
still live in difficult and deplorable conditions, is it justifiable for Jews to gain compensation for private property and community in
Arab countries? Justice must be done and be seen to be done. The Zionism which drove Jews to Israel should not detract from their refugee status.
Zionism is not meant to harm their rights.
Moreover, in 1957 the High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations declared
Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries were refugees, in accordance
with the UN Convention.
Arab delegates to the UN, Heikal Pasha of Egypt, Fadil al Jamali of Iraq and
Jamal Husseini, head of the delegation of Palestinian Arabs, declared
that the division of Palestine will put at risk Jewish
communities in Arab countries. And so it came to pass.
The UN General Assembly ignored this and passed dozens of resolutions
supporting Palestinian claims. It has also established a special relief
agency (UNRWA) for them, but had not passed even one resolution
concerning the Jews from Arab countries. One-sided reconciliation will only further the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.
Israel made no effort to shake off the charge of creating the
Palestinian refugee problem, even though the UN resolution 194 of 1948
did not make Israel responsible for it.
The history of Middle East is not a competition of tragedies - whether the event was a Nakba or an exchange of populations. However, it is not justifiable to treat only one side's suffering.
It is time for a comprehensive solution to the refugee problem: the
Palestinians scattered in Arab countries and the granting of
compensation to Jews in Arab countries for the property left by their
countries, as an essential step towards finding a solution for the
Israeli - Palestinian conflict.
Israel must show the overall picture of the refugees from the Middle East.
In 2000 suggested that former President Bill Clinton, the establishment
of an international fund that would compensate both the Palestinian
refugees and the Jews from Arab lands, in their current locations.
Clinton's proposal was supported by the U.S. House of Representatives
in 2008. It is assumed that international bodies will support the establishment of the fund.
Countries who help preserve the Palestinian refugee problem must
also support the fund, and help their community resettle in their current
locations, just as Jewish refugees from
Arab countries who came to Israel in the 50s were resettled. The Middle East refugee problem must be solved overall.
Recognizing the rights of Jews from Arab countries is essential to
finding a just solution to the human tragedy that occurred in the Middle
Read article in full (Hebrew)