Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Give equal treatment to Jewish refugees

 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 East.

Read article in full (Hebrew) 

1 comment:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

" Israel has so far ignored the issue , while Arab refugees' rights are at the center of public discourse"

If the issue was deliberately ignored, then Tsipi Livni is likely to blame. But Zvi Gabay ought to know that Livni is very dumb, too dumb for words, so she is probably manipulated by others behind the scenes. She just gave another demonstration of her stupidity today in moronic and dishonest criticism of PM Netanyahu.
So Zvi Gabay ought to direct criticism against Livni and her handlers.

As to an international fund, don't count on anybody rushing forth to volunteer to provide the funds.