Thursday, February 06, 2014

Jews were also refugees in 1948

 Burying the Jewish victims of riots at Oujda, Morocco, June 1948 (JDC archives)

 Disregarding the rights of Jews from Arab lands represents short-term thinking and a disrespect for Israeli law. That's why Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni's objections to a clause addressing the issue of compensation for Jews from Arab Countries in US secretary of State John Kerry's framework peace agreement must be overriden, argues Adi Schwartz in Haaretz (with thanks: Lily):

U.S. media reported over the weekend that in Secretary of State John Kerry’s pending framework agreement, the administration is considering adding a clause to address the issue of compensation for the tens of thousands of Jews forced to abandon their homes and assets in the Arab lands where they had lived. Peace process envoy Martin Indyk told American Jewish leaders that there is no final decision yet on the matter, but that it could be an important step toward recognizing the rights of these Jews, which the international community and Israeli society neglected for decades.

But surprisingly enough, it’s the chief Israeli negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who opposes including such a clause in the Kerry document. Livni believes that the financial claims of Jews who were expelled from Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and other countries have nothing to do with the bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, and must be dealt with in talks with the Arab countries. This was also her position several years ago, when she was negotiating with the Palestinians on behalf of Ehud Olmert’s government. She refused to raise the issue, claiming there was no chance that a demand for compensation would be accepted, and no point in putting any unnecessary spokes in the wheels of the peace process.

But this is a mistaken approach. It represents short-term thinking and a disregard for Israeli law. It’s immoral and in the end, wastes an enormous opportunity to achieve understanding and closer ties between Palestinians and Israelis. Even if Kerry’s framework agreement doesn’t lead to a peace treaty, such a clause could have a very positive impact on the chances of reaching an agreement in the future.

Historically, the Jews who lived in Arab lands paid a heavy price for the Arab world’s refusal to recognize the State of Israel when it was founded. The countries that expelled their Jews were the same countries that invaded Israel immediately after it declared independence. The reason given for the expulsion was the founding of the State of Israel. How, then, can one say that there is no connection? There is no Israeli-Palestinian conflict that isn’t part of the larger Israeli-Arab conflict. As such, the solution also has to be comprehensive, in the form of an international fund of the type suggested by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000, from which both the Palestinian refugees and the Jews forced out of Arab lands would be compensated.

The Knesset recognized the issue when in 2010 it enacted a law under which the government is obliged to include “the issue of compensation for loss of property to Jewish refugees from Arab countries” when conducting peace talks. How is it that the justice minister, who is charged with upholding state law, is ignoring this legislation?

But putting the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands on the agenda may make an even more profound contribution, because it would put the two decades of the Palestinian peace talks’ various permutations on a much healthier footing. Instead of the Palestinians seeing themselves as the ultimate victims and Israel as a state born in sin, highlighting the history of Jews in Arab countries will remind everyone that the essence of the Zionist enterprise was not dispossessing the Palestinians from their land, but realizing the concept of self-determination for a people that had been subject to oppression and humiliation.

The Palestinian narrative still sees the State of Israel as a foreign and unjust entity, and only the understanding that half of Israel’s residents were displaced from their native countries may lead to acceptance of Israel’s existence. A peace agreement that would end the conflict is not just a collection of legal clauses, but also an expression of recognition and reconciliation between the narratives of both sides – and only knowledge of the history of Jews in Arab countries can make this possible.

Read article in full (registration required)

Refugees: MK calls Livni to account


Anonymous said...

When Arabs give up their urge to push Jews into the sea, I will propose my mediation.
But their strong headedness makes it very UNLIKELY So i'll just go on being a teacher and correspondent oF your blog

R. Raphail said...

It is difficult that beauty will meet fairness at the same person nowadays.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Livni shows her stupidity and ignorance once again. The Arab Higher Committee for palestine, headed by the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, was part of the Arab League from the beginning and took part in calling for a joint war by Arab states on the yet to be declared Jewish state. The Arab Higher Committee also went along with Arab League plans to dispossess their own Jewish populations if a Jewish state were declared or even if the UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY recommended the partition plan. So the leadership of the palestinian Arabs was part of the Arab League and of its efforts against the not yet born Jewish state and the Jews living in Arab lands.

Anonymous said...

Losing all their battles is a hard pill to swallow
God grant that it will always be like this

Sylvia said...

Yes and no.

This is another case where it pays to know precisely what has happened in each country within its specific and wider history. These things didn't happen in a vacuum. Mentioning Haj Amin Husseini and the Arab League don't explain everything.

Let's take the Oujda 1948 example since the photo of the burial of the massacred Jews is included in this article.

Oujda is a town that sits on the Algerian-Moroccan border. It has been Ottoman, Moroccan, French Algerian, then Moroccan today.
Now these two countries, Morocco and Algeria, were not members of the Arab League until their independence, respectively 1955 and 1962.
Furthermore, the two countries were in 1948, one a French colony the other a French protectorate.

So who was responsible? The nationalists, you would say, who took their cues from Egypt and Haj Amin Husseini's propaganda machine. But which nationalists? The Algerians, or the Moroccans?

That's where it takes some digging. This digging is the homework that wasn't done because no one was seriously interested. And this is why Livni can say what she said and get away with that half-lie.

Anonymous said...

Sylvia, who cares who was legaly responsible. If you look at another city in Maracco, Fez. One hundred thousand Jews whre murdered there. Yes there is stil a synagoge and 15 Jewish families in Fez.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Sylvia, I was referring to the 1947-1949 Arab-Israeli war. That war was planned and proclaimed by the Arab League. The Arab Higher Committee, representing the Palestinian Arabs, was part of the Arab League from its beginning in 1945. So the AHC was responsible for the decisions taken by the League, those include both going to war with the Jews then in Israel [the war actually began in the early morning of 30 November 1947, within an hour or so of the UN partition plan recommendation vote] and the decision to harass and dispossess Jews in the Arab countries that were then more or less independent, albeit that the British still had great influence.

I am aware that Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya [?], the Persian Gulf sheikdoms etc were not yet independent in the 1945 to 1948 period.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Tsipi Livni's party, called haTnu`ah, has six members in the Knesset. Livni and Amir Perets are the party's two ministers in the cabinet. It so happens that Perets comes from Morocco. Maybe Peretz could be urged to pressure Livni to change her mind about compensation for the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

Sylvia said...

I was referring to the idea to hold the Arab League responsible for all Jewish refugees, which is the declared policy of the Pensionnaires' party in charge of the dossier.
If that's what Livni said to the Palestinian negotiators, you can be sure that their answer was that most Arab countries were not even members at the time and Livni being Livni, she had no answer to that because she went unprepared.

To be fair, there has also been a failure on the part of scholars and intellectuals to present correct historical data. Except for a few of them, they have wasted almost half a century agonizing over the sterile issue of whether we are Arab Jews or Oriental Jews, or on sensationalist drivel designed to make a name for themselves. And that's it.

Sylvia said...

But Peretz is much more to the left than Livni. Not a chance.

bataween said...

I think the Arab League policy to persecute their Jews is only half the story - the other half, as you say Sylvia, is the violence or threat of violence in those countries not yet independent (eg Oujda). Does the state remain responsible for what occurred under the previous regime?

Sylvia said...

In that specific example, the French were in charge on both sides of the border. The King of Morocco was under guard, and the future government of Algeria were just a band of unknown terrorists. Who is responsible for what could very well have been discussed in the agreements between the previous and the new governments.

And if the new state is to be held responsible, which state? Oujda is in Morocco, but at the time it was home to a great number of Algerian families who were extremely antisemites. Much of the Algerian leadership lived there or operated from there the present Algerian President Bouteflika was born in Oujda).

If the Moroccan nationalists were responsible, those were part of every government since the independence and until the last elections. But there too it's complicated because they split up and became two parties. To make the story short, those who left became more radicals, and as a result were jailed or fled to another country. Now which group is responsible?

In this case too, basic research could have brought the real story to light.

Another complication in just that same little corner of the world, is the fact that when Algeria took that large eastern territory from Morocco, it expelled 350 000 Moroccans (mostly Muslims) who also have never received compensation.

I am saying this just to give an example of the kind of complexities one can run into that should have been the object of thorough research and legal evaluation.

As to the Arab League, it holds absolutely no power at this point in time. Now the power is in the hands of the Islamic Conference with its 57 countries.

The only possibility is the Fund the Americans talked about.

Another possibility is that they'll tell the claimants on both sides to file their claims individually, which for Palestinians would be rewarding but for the Jews they know it will be futile. Who is going to go knock at the Syrian door?

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

I agree that the Islamic Conference [OIC] is now more powerful and more effective an enemy to us than the Arab League.

However, as to the Arab countries that did not belong to the League in the 1945-1949 period when the war against Israel was planned and going on, as I see it, they all eventually joined the Arab League and did not disavow past anti-Israel policies nor ongoing anti-Israel and anti-Jewish policies. Hence they thus became responsible for the past acts of the League.

Sammish said...

I am not sure the theme of responsibility for the Oujda massacre should be raised because it deals with the issue of causality. In the causal chain of things, one thing or effect always leads to another and another in the past with no end in sight. With the arab anti-jewish feeling, there is not chain but one certainty which is the incompatibility of islamic doctrine with that of the Jewish culture and creed. They nayhave their peaceful times but it will always end up with Jews being murdered en masse.

Using the causal chain argument or responsilibity,one might then claim that it was due for the creation of the state of Israel. Of course this was not the cause, but the trigger of the islamo arab anti-jewish pogrom. Whether it was the nationalists or the French colonial power does not solve the issue. The 1948 Oujda massacres were only one event among a oong recorded histiry of anti-semitism of the muslims. Prior pogroms in all the towns with substantial jewish population of MOrocco during the French colonial penetration from 1912 to 1914 were bloody and even worse than 1948.
My grandparents of my mother side suffered from those pogroms in the town of Taza, Guercif and Debdou and Oujda. They were pogroms all over Morocco (prefer to the seminal book by Andrew Bostom's Legacy of Islamic Anti-semitism for details). My grandparents ended up fleeing to Algeria which was much stable politically back then, only to turn bloody anti-jewish during the revolutionary of war of 1954.

Livni is a politician. She is not ignoring the facts about North African Jewish population of yesterdays. She simply does not think it would be beneficially and politically wise to use the jewish refugees card in peace negociations. I do not agree with her. She should at least use the refugee card to counter the claim of the right to return of the philistinians (sorry I cannot spell it right). I am not sure why, perhaps she is playing the role of a progressist in diplomacy which can further bolden her political career.