Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The double 'Nakba' - by Irwin Cotler

Irwin Cotler, former Justice minister in the Canadian Liberal government, restates the truth about Jewish refugees from Arab countries, one of two nakbas for which Arab states bear responsibility (with thanks: Lily):

"I recently addressed an annual meeting of Quebec lawyers on the topic "The Genocide Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights Sixty Years Later: What have we learned? What must we do?"

"Following the speech, a lawyer asked why I did not refer to "Palestinian suffering" and the lesson of the "Nakba" of 60 years ago. I told her, "You're right, the Palestinian people - have - and are - suffering; and, you are correct, they did endure a Nakba 60 years ago, and there is an important lesson there. But the lesson to be learned is not that the Nakba was the result of the creation of the State of Israel. Rather, it was the result of the Palestinian and Arab leadership rejecting the UN resolution calling for the establishment of both a Jewish state and a Palestinian-Arab state.

"The Jewish leadership accepted the resolution, but the Palestinian and Arab leadership did not, which they had a right to do. What they did not have a right to do was attack the nascent Jewish state with the objective - as they acknowledged at the time - of initiating a 'war of extermination.' The result was, therefore, a double Nakba: not only of Palestinian-Arab suffering and the creation of a Palestinian refugee problem, but also, with the assault on Israel and on Jews in Arab countries, the creation of a second, much less known, group of refugees - Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

"It is tragic to appreciate that had the Partition Resolution been accepted 60 years ago, there would have been no Arab-Israeli war - no refugees, Jewish or Arab - and none of the pain and suffering since. Indeed, we would have been celebrating the 60th anniversary of both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

"Moreover, this "double rejectionism," where Arab leadership was prepared to forgo the establishment of a Palestinian state if it meant countenancing a Jewish state in any borders, not only found expression 60 years ago, but has underpinned the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever since.

"Yet the revisionist Mideast narrative - prejudicial to authentic reconciliation and peace between peoples as well as between states - continues to hold that there was only one victim population, Palestinian refugees, and that Israel was responsible for the Palestinian Nakba of 1948.

"The result is that the pain and plight of 850,000 Jews uprooted and displaced from Arab countries - the forgotten exodus - has been both expunged and eclipsed from both the Middle East peace and justice narratives these past 60 years.

"Yet the United Nations once again commemorated the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947, and continued to ignore the plight of Jewish refugees on this commemorative occasion, thereby indulging and encouraging this Mideast revisionism.

"Moreover, this revisionist narrative has not only eclipsed - and erased - the forgotten exodus from memory and remembrance, but it also denies that it was a forced exodus, and one that resulted from both double rejectionism and double aggression. This is the real Nakba - the real double catastrophes.

"Simply put, the Arab countries not only rejected a Palestinian state and went to war to extinguish the nascent Jewish state, but also targeted the Jewish nationals living in their respective countries, thereby creating two refugee populations - the Palestinian refugee population resulting from the Arab war against Israel, and the Jewish refugees resulting from the Arab war against its own Jewish nationals.

"Indeed, evidence contained in a recent report entitled "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights And Redress" documents for the first time a pattern of state-sanctioned repression and persecution in Arab countries - including Nuremberg-like laws - that targeted its Jewish populations, resulting in denationalization, forced expulsions, illegal sequestration of property, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and murder - namely, anti-Jewish pogroms. And while the internal Jewish narrative has often referred to pogroms as European attacks on their Jewish nationals, it has often ignored Arab-Muslim attacks on their Jewish nationals.

"Moreover, as the report also documents, these massive human rights violations were not only the result of state-sanctioned patterns of oppression in each of the Arab countries, but they were reflective of a collusive blueprint, as embodied in the Draft Law of the Political Committee of the League of Arab States.

"This is a story that has not been heard. It is a story that has not yet even been told. It is a truth that must now be acknowledged.

Read article in full

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a vastly different Middle East we would have today if Arab governments had accepted the UN -offered "homeland" in 1947. Sixty years and countless rivers of blood later, the lamentably-missed opportunity truly became a "nakba."
The parallel "nakba" of the removal of 800,000 Jews from Arab lands has to be equally compensated for in any just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict.