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Canada Recognizes Experience of Jewish Refugees: Government of Canada, Mar. 26, 2014— Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement …
Reparations For Jews From Arab Countries Must be Included in Peace Talks, MKs Say: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2014 —The government is ignoring Jewish refugees from Arab countries in negotiations with the Palestinians, Knesset Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen said Wednesday.
The Other Refugees and the Path to Peace: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Mar. 27, 2014 — Today Canada’s foreign minister proved once again why the Great White North is one of the world’s outliers with regard to the Middle East.
Arab Refugees and Jewish Refugees – the Inextricable Link: Lyn Julius & Stanley A. Urman, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 9, 2014— Suddenly Jewish refugees from Arab countries have been catapulted into the headlines.
My Iraqi Jewish Heritage: What’s Left?: Robert Fattal, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 4, 2014 — Last month the National Archives in Washington unveiled an exhibit showcasing Iraqi Jewish artifacts recovered from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters.
What Made Canada Recognize Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries?: Vicky Tobianah, Ha’aretz, Mar. 24, 2014
A Page From Barker's Playbook: Sarah Honig, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 13, 2014
Battle Over Iraqi Jewish Archive Heads to US House: Times of Israel, Mar. 10, 2014
Government of Canada, Mar. 26, 2014
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement after the House of Commons concurred with the recommendations in the report by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to recognize the experience of Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa:
“I am pleased that the House of Commons agreed with the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, which is supported by the Government of Canada, and officially recognizes the experience of Jewish refugees who were displaced from states in the Middle East and North Africa after 1948. Fair and equal acknowledgement of all refugee populations arising out of the Arab-Israeli conflict requires the recognition of Jewish refugees. Such recognition does not diminish or compete with the situation of Palestinian refugees.”
“The Government of Canada agrees in principle with the committee’s second recommendation, that the experience of Jewish refugees should be taken into consideration as a part of any just and comprehensive peace deal, however, we believe that the peace process as it is currently structured offers the best hope for a positive solution. I thank the committee for its efforts and its continuing interest in the issues of human rights and religious freedom in the Middle East and North Africa…”
Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2014
The government is ignoring Jewish refugees from Arab countries in negotiations with the Palestinians, Knesset Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen said Wednesday. “We have to take our brothers from Arab countries into consideration. They don’t get any reparations from property worth billions of dollars, which they had to abandon because they were expelled,” Cohen (Shas) explained. Cohen pointed out that the government is disregarding a 2010 law requiring that reparations for Jews from Arab countries be included in any negotiations with the Palestinians.
However, US envoy in the negotiations Martin Indyk indicated earlier this year that a treaty could include such compensation. Cohen also called for Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach to prepare a report on the value of lost Jewish property to be used in the talks, as the topic falls under his jurisdiction, and to collect information previously gathered by the Justice and Foreign ministries on the matter. “Some justice ministers, like Tzipi Livni, aren’t interested in the matter, even though the UN recognized the legitimacy of Jewish refugees from Arab countries’ demands,” Cohen stated.
Orbach said collecting information “is important because of these people’s right to their lost property, but the chances of receiving compensation are small…. I don’t want to commit to missions that we may not be able to handle, but we will up the pace of the documentation.” However, Senior Citizens Ministry director-general Gilad Semama said that his budget is too low for the project. Still, by the end of 2014, Semama expects the ministry to gather testimony from 3,000 people. Finance Ministry representative Guy Harmati took issue with the complaint, saying that the Senior Citizens Ministry asked for a NIS 50 million budget, which is too high, and that he needs to see results before increasing funds.
Levana Zamir, head of the International Association of Jews from Egypt, said that 35,000 Jews were expelled from Egypt in 1956 and that the Foreign Ministry documented some of their abandoned property. According to Zamir, part of the peace treaty with Egypt said that Israel would demand compensation for the lost property, but it never happened. “Livni thinks that Jews from Arab countries are an obstacle to peace,” Zamir lamented. Meir Kahlon, representing Libyan Jews, said communal property should count, as well. “Palestinians document every tent, well and thicket they had here, but we left behind property worth billions of shekels,” he stated.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Commentary, Mar. 27, 2014
Today Canada’s foreign minister proved once again why the Great White North is one of the world’s outliers with regard to the Middle East. Foreign Minister John Baird said that the Canadian government stated that the fate of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries should be both recognized and taken into account in discussions about Middle East peace. The statement followed Canada’s parliament adopting a report on the subject and though Baird was careful to say that he didn’t want the issue to become a point of contention in the talks between Israel and the Palestinians sponsored by the United States, the mere raising of the topic is enough to cause some of Israel’s critics to claim the Canadians are trying to sabotage the negotiations. While the Israelis have repeatedly raised the issue of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who fled or were forced to flee their homes throughout the Arab world in the months and years following Israel’s birth in 1948, the Palestinians not only refuse to discuss the matter, they regard it as a distraction from the “nakba”—or disaster, as they refer to Israel’s creation. But in doing so they make it plain that this issue is central to understanding why peace has eluded the region.
The argument about competing sets of refugees is not an abstract historical puzzle. To even talk about Jewish refugees with their own history of suffering undermines the narrative that the only result of Israel’s War of Independence was the dispossession of a Palestinian refugee population whose descendants continue to demand a “right of return” to the homes they left 66 years ago. For the same reason that the Palestinian Authority refuses absolutely to recognize that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, so, too, do they and their supporters close their ears to any discussion about Jewish refugees. Palestinians fear that both subjects undermine their sense of themselves as victims who must be compensated by the world. But while they believe that any diminution of that victimhood, either to recognize the claims of other refugees or the state where most of dispossessed Jews found a home, would deprive them of their identity as a people, the truth is just the opposite. Discarding this mindset is the only way that they—or the Israelis—will ever find peace.
The Canadian report will undoubtedly be ignored by the international press that tends to treat any mention of Jewish refugees as somehow an illustration of Israel’s lack of contrition about the suffering of the Palestinians. But the more that one learns about the topic, the easier it is to understand that there was no monopoly on suffering in this conflict. Just as hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled or, in a few cases, were told to leave their homes in the former British Mandate for Palestine, almost an equal number of Jews throughout the Arab and Muslim world experienced the same fate.
The difference between the two populations was that the Jews were taken in and resettled by their brethren, either in the newborn state of Israel or in Western countries. Though their journeys and adjustment to their new homes was not always easy, none were allowed to languish in limbo. Today, they and their descendants in Israel or in the United States and other Western countries are members of successful communities where they enjoy equal rights.
By contrast, the Arabs who left the territory that would become the State of Israel were deliberately kept in camps to this day and denied any resettlement or citizenship in the countries where they found themselves. The reason for this was that they were useful props in the Arab world’s ongoing war to reverse the verdict of that war. Their future was held hostage to the struggle to destroy Israel, and the refugees and their numerous progeny have been kept apart and in squalor in order to further that effort. Their plight merits the sympathy of the world. So, too, does the way they have been exploited and abused by their own leaders and other Arab countries.
Unfortunately, many of those who wish the Palestinians well, including many Jews, have accommodated their nakba narrative demands and sought to pressure Israel to apologize for winning the war of survival in 1948. But the Palestinian decision to cling to this narrative of suffering rather than embracing one of nation building in the West Bank and Gaza, where Israel has repeatedly offered them an independent state, is the primary obstacle to peace. As Rick Richman noted earlier this week, the point of insisting on the so-called “right of return” is not really the refugees but to keep the war against Israel’s existence alive. Not until they realize that they were not the only ones who suffered and that the war that led to their dispossession was the result of their own unwillingness to compromise and share the land will the Palestinians be prepared to accept the current compromise that has been on the table from Israel for many years, and finally move on.
Far from harming the cause of peace, the best thing those who wish to promote a resolution of the Middle East conflict can do is to remind the Palestinians that they were not the only ones who lost their homes and that the Arab world has as much apologizing to do as the Israelis. If one group of refugees must be compensated, so must the other. Just as two states for two peoples is the only possible formula for peace, let the Palestinians recognize that they aren’t the only 1948 refugees. Until they do and acknowledge the legitimacy of a state for those Jewish refugees, peace will be impossible.
ARAB REFUGEES AND JEWISH REFUGEES –
THE INEXTRICABLE LINK
Lyn Julius & Stanley A. Urman
Jerusalem Post, Mar. 9, 2014
Suddenly Jewish refugees from Arab countries have been catapulted into the headlines. The Kerry peace framework proposals will, it is rumored, contain a clause recommending compensation for both Jewish refugees and Palestinian refugees. This is music to the ears of us activists on behalf of Jewish refugees. It’s what we have been fighting for decades. At last, the rights of over 856,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries will be recognized and redressed. What’s not to like? Already discordant voices are being heard. In this newspaper, Sarah Honig’s February 13 column entitled: “Another Tack: A Page from Barker’s Playbook” suggested that a reported proposal to compensate Jewish refugees along with refugees from British Mandate Palestine is just a means for US Secretary of State John Kerry to sway the “hawks” of the Israeli electorate – Jews from Arab countries and their descendants.
At its core, advocating for the rights of Jews from Arab countries is not about money. Recognizing rights and redress for Jewish refugees is a quest for truth and justice, the prerequisite for true reconciliation between and among peoples in the region. While under international law the legitimate rights of Jews forced to flee Arab countries are neither identical to, nor symmetrical with, those of Palestinian refugees, there is significant linkage between these two refugee populations, underscoring the need to deal with both simultaneously: Both refugee populations were created by the Arab countries’ refusal to accept the 1947 UN Partition Plan and attacking Israel; both became refugees during the same period in history; and both were declared to be bona fide refugees, under international law, by the appropriate UN Agencies – UNHCR and UNRWA.
In the international, political arena, Jewish refugees have been inextricably linked to Palestinian refugees. The historic United Nations resolution 242 on the Arab-Israeli conflict stipulates, that a comprehensive peace settlement should necessarily include “a just settlement of the refugee problem,” language that, according to the expressed intent of the UN Resolution’s co-authors, would be inclusive of Arab refugees and Jewish refugees. The 1991 Madrid Peace Conference created a Working Group on Refugees whose mandate was to “…consider practical ways of improving the lot of people throughout the region who have been displaced from their homes” – generic language applicable to both Palestinian and Jewish refugees. The 2002 Road map to Middle East Peace also refers in Phase III to an “agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue,” language applicable both to Palestinian and Jewish refugees. The intention in all of these seminal blueprints for peace is for both refugee populations to be addressed in tandem.
Rights for Jewish refugees have been enshrined in legislation, as a matter of government policy, for years, both in Israel and in the United States. In 2008, the US Congress’ House Resolution 185 proclaimed that, in Middle East peace negotiations, “any explicit reference to the rights of Palestinian refugees must be matched by a similar reference to the rights of Jewish refugees.” In 2010, Israel’s Knesset passed a Law which requires that: “As part of negotiations to achieve peace in the Middle East, the government will include the subject of providing compensation for the loss of assets of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”
So who will pay? There are those who pessimistically believe that compensation for Jewish refugees will never materialize. Surely it won’t come from the Palestinians. And Arab states in the throes of internecine warfare won’t want to pay. Even President Barack Obama may be loathe to pay out from the US’s depleted coffers. Compensation for Arab and Jewish refugees is not a new idea. The concept, which was first proposed by president Bill Clinton in 2000, was for the creation of an international fund to which many states would contribute, including the United States. But Uncle Sam should not foot the bill alone. Multilateral involvement would provide the legitimacy and commitment – as well as financial support – to cement the peace. The G-8, the EU, the Arab League, Arab countries, Israel and others as well – should all participate and contribute.
Arab participation is paramount; a genuine peace can only be achieved when all culpable Arab states accept responsibility and express regret for the injustices they perpetrated on their Jewish citizens. Some believe it illogical that such an International Fund could be created, with a mandate to provide compensation to both sides involved in the same conflict. In fact, in 1991, the United Nations established just such a precedent for the victims of the first Gulf War, by creating a unique Compensation Commission that can serve as a model for providing restitution equitably to both Jewish and Palestinian refugees. The responsibility to create an International Fund, and the lion’s share of its endowment, would have to be borne, of course, by the United States. The cost of compensating refugees on both sides with a few billion dollars is a drop in the ocean compared to the $6 trillion that the US has expended on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a small price to pay for the ultimate prize – a permanent end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Jerusalem Post, Dec. 4, 2014
Last month the National Archives in Washington unveiled an exhibit showcasing Iraqi Jewish artifacts recovered from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters. The controversy surrounding the find and whether the US should live up to its commitment and return the historic materials to Iraq has made me reflect on my own identity. Or rather, I should say, on my lack of any true Iraqi Jewish identity.
My parents, newly arrived Iraqi Jewish immigrants to Canada, sent me to Jewish school. Like most Hebrew day schools in North America we were basically taught the Ashkenazi Zionist worldview. Essentially, that Ashkenazim built and founded the State of Israel, and that Sephardi Jews generally didn’t contribute very much to Judaic heritage or Israel. For all intents and purposes, we were made to feel that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, King Solomon and other biblical figures might have all hailed from the Levant, but their true descendants came to Israel by way of Eastern Europe and the Ashkenazi tradition. Overall, I admit I was satisfied with the education I received. I became somewhat fluent in Hebrew, and compared to my parents, whom I would describe as secular and very traditional, I was definitely more religiously informed than they were. However, being one of the few if not the only Middle Eastern Jew in my school, I was sporadically taunted, labeled a camel jockey or worse. Granted, the instances of bullying were very few and far between, but the ultimate result was that I had a sense of alienation that I couldn’t really get around.
My parents, content that other Iraqis had also immigrated to Montreal, hardly felt compelled or rarely felt welcome getting to know my classmates families. Looking back, perhaps it was a combination of my father trying to establish a successful business and my mother simply trying to help build a safe home that contributed to my segregated identity. It goes without saying that today my closest friends are children of Iraqi immigrants like myself. It wasn’t until recently that I began to ask serious questions about my heritage, any remaining legacy, and what I could potentially pass on to future generations. Sadly, I can’t say I can contribute very much. I certainly don’t want to sound like I am looking to cast blame, but it is true that a confluence of three independent interests conspired to discriminate against me and deny me my heritage.
I’ve already alluded to the first, Ashkenazim downplaying any Iraqi or Middle Eastern contribution to Jewish consciousness. It is well known that Israel’s Ashkenazi leadership constantly downplayed the history and suffering that Arab Jewish immigrants went through. It is well documented that the new citizens were discriminated against when they settled in Israel. To the Ashkenazim, it was as if Arab Jews should have been thankful to leave their 2,600-year-old traditions for the tents of the Ma’abarot. Forgotten refugees; their sole usefulness being to serve as a bargaining chip to counter Palestinian claims against the State of Israel. Lost in all these calculations is the fact that today there is no Jewish community in any Arab country.
Nor is there a movement or desire to promote their history or traditions. At this point preservation is the best we can hope for. It is difficult to illustrate this profound loss, however, when I visit the Wailing Wall on any religious holiday, the plaza is overwhelmed with haredi men wearing typical Ashkenazi religious attire: three-piece suits with furry black hats or fedoras. Where are the traditional Mizrahi religious haredim?
It is a pity that many observant Middle Eastern Jews have adopted the symbols of a 200-year-old tradition over their own, much older ones. I have to ask, which tradition should the Jews of Israel wish to preserve? Eastern European attire and customs of the 1800s, or those of a rich, over 2,000-year-old Middle Eastern Jewish tradition? Witnessing the black suits and furry hats, etc., what many would consider alien phenomena, is it any wonder that accusations stigmatizing Israelis as outsiders from Europe gain so much traction? Obviously, Arab governments themselves were ultimately responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from their countries, and erasing their history. To this day they refuse to acknowledge any responsibility or remorse for their actions.
In fact, the massive exodus depleting the Arab world of its millennial Jewish character is blamed solely on the victims themselves, and Israel. It was the Arab Jews themselves, it is argued, that wanted to leave, and for those that preferred to stay it was Israel that threatened them with violence if they didn’t leave. To add insult to injury Arab pundits advocate that “Arab countries… offer to take the Jews back.” This is a bad joke; one need only witness the exodus of Christians from the Middle East, and the violence they face if they stay, to realize this is nothing but a pathetic attempt to whitewash past misdeeds and culpability. One can only shudder at the fate of any Jews accepting such an offer….
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]
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What Made Canada Recognize Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries?: Vicky Tobianah, Ha’aretz, Mar. 24, 2014— As a Jew growing up in Iraq, Gladys Daoud had an ordinary life. Her father served in the Iraqi army as a colonel and had a medical practice in Baghdad.
A Page From Barker's Playbook: Sarah Honig, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 13, 2014 —It’s a safe bet that John Kerry hasn’t heard of General Evelyn Hugh Barker, GOC (General Officer Commanding) of British forces in Palestine (Eretz Yisrael).
Battle Over Iraqi Jewish Archive Heads to US House: Times of Israel, Mar. 10, 2014 —A new House resolution urges the State Department to renegotiate the terms for the return to Iraq of an archive of Iraqi Jewish texts.
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