Tag: West Bank, status


Contents: Editorial Introduction l Articles l Perspectives l Links


Editorial Introduction




Palestinian Member of Parliament and spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi posted a September 6, 2012 blog in the Huffington Post ( “Israel’s Cynical Definition of Refugee.”) accusing the Israeli government of being “cynical” and “hypocritical” in raising the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands within the international arena. Since Zionism views Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people, she asks, how can Jews who “immigrated or fled” Arab lands be considered refugees? “You can’t be returnees to one homeland and refugees from another,” she writes, further arguing that by equating Jewish and Palestinian refugees, Israel is cynically “undermining the legitimate rights of the Palestinians.”


Ashrawi also suggests a population exchange – Palestinians returning to Israel proper and Jews returning to their native Arab countries. Considering today's prevailing antagonism towards Jews in Arab countries together with Israel’s refusal to be bombarded with millions of disgruntled Palestinians, whose numbers would shift the religious-ethnic balance of power within democratic Israel, this is a proposal Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon calls “ridiculous.”


Rather, by asserting these claims and suggestions, Ashrawi reveals either an astonishing ignorance of international law that clearly equates one’s nationality with one’s place of birth ( “The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: An Examination of Legal Rights – A Case Study of the Human Rights Violations of Iraqi Jews.”, or she herself is cynically manipulating the issue. (In accordance with international law, the Palestinian refugee issue is itself exceptional, in that the UN considers refugees as those who lived in Palestine for a mere two years or longer, and not necessarily having been born there, and includes as well in this designation all their descendants in marked contrast to the generally accepted definition.)


Furthermore, refugees are generally defined as those forced to flee either their place of birth or naturalized residence. That is precisely what happened to Jews living in Arab lands. And, their expulsion had nothing to do with the Palestinians. So argues Ya’acov Meron in "Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries". He notes that there was a concerted effort on behalf of Arab countries to expel its Jewish populations a full five months before the Arabs left Palestine en masse and the matter of Palestinian refugees emerged. Indeed, Jewish emigration out of countries like Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen began well before the establishment of the State of Israel, the consequence of discriminatory laws as well as violence.


He further notes that a “strange silence” exists over the expulsion of Jews, both within Arab historical literature (for instance, there is little reference to the Farhud , a pro-Nazi uprising  considered by many to be the Middle East’s equivalent to Kristallnacht, that took place in Iraq in 1941) and in Israel, where Operations Magic Carpet that airlifted the Yemenite Jews to Israel and Ezra and Nechemiah that airlifted Iraqi Jews romanticize Jewish Arab emigration and gloss over the terrible hardships that it entailed.


Finally waking up to this issue, the Israeli government now asserts that international recognition as full-fledge refugees would not only entitle Jews from Arab Lands to financial compensation but, as Ben Sales writes in "Recognizing Jewish Refugees from Arab World", but would also serve as a “counterbalance to the Palestinian refugee issue in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations… and … be a part of any final-status deal.” Regardless of whether Oriental Jews feel disenfranchised from their countries of birth, their status as refugees must be acknowledged, as Danny Ayalon states, “All those Jews wanted to be part of the Jewish rebuilding of Israel. But the fact that they were harassed, they were killed; that they were robbed of their dignity as human beings, is something that never has been recognized.”


Jewish rights to refugee status must be recognized, Fouad Ajami, a Middle East scholar with Stanford’s Hoover Institute, asserts. He writes, "The Arab Jews became phantoms", whose stories were "edited out" of Arab consciousness. We are talking about the claims of the Palestinians? Fine, but there were 800,000 Arab Jews, and they have a story to tell." It is some of their stories that Egyptian-born author Lucette Lagnado poignantly recounts in her article "When Jews Fled Arab Lands". Focusing on the plights of individual families like the Abadie family from Syria, and others from Libya and Egypt, the particular suffering of the communities they represent is brought to light through their stories: not only the tortures and intimidation that forced Jews to abandon family and well-established businesses and communities, but the difficulties in integrating into new societies (e.g., the ma’aburot (Israeli refugee camps as one example).


Ultimately, Lagnado writes, mutual recognition of this double-victimization might even help bring about a rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians. She quotes Jewish Egyptian refugee Sir Ronald Cohen: "There are refugees on both sides, so that evens the scales, and I think that it will be helpful to the (peace) process. It shows that both sides suffered the same fate."


It is some of these stories that are now being recorded for posterity.  According to Adi Schwartz in "Sephardi Stories, on the Record," leading the effort is University of Miami professor Henry Green who is assembling these live testimonials into an audio-visual history, named Sephardi Voices, instituted along the lines of the Spielberg Foundation’s USC Shoah Foundation Institute. (““The Forgotten Refugees Collection”. is another organization doing similar work.) Begun in 2009, with a working budget of $250,000, Green has already assembled 250 testimonials and hopes to gather a total of 5,000 within five years.  “The end goal,” says Green, “is to create an extensive, international, digital archive of testimonies and photographs and thus ensure the preservation of the history and heritage of Sephardi Jews for generations of scholars, educators, and the general public.”


Machla Abramovitz





1. Meron, Ya’akov. “Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries.” Middle East Quarterly. Vol. II. No. 3. September 1995.


In a key address before the Political Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on November 14, 1947, just five days before that body voted on the partition plan for Palestine, Heykal Pasha, an Egyptian delegate, made the following key statement in connection with that plan:

The United Nations . . . should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in the Moslem countries. Partition of Palestine might create in those countries an anti-Semitism even more difficult to root out than the anti-Semitism which the Allies were trying to eradicate in Germany. . . If the United Nations decides to partition Palestine, it might be responsible for the massacre of a large number of Jews…


2. Ben Sales, “Recognizing Jewish Refugees from Arab World.” Jewish Forward. September 4, 2012.


Naim Reuven was only 8 when he left Baghdad more than 50 years ago, but he still remembers going with his father to catch fish in the Tigris River.

His dad worked in a laundromat, a middle-class father of six and one of Iraq’s more than 100,000 Jews. Baghdad’s Jewish community suffered a pogrom in 1941, but Reuven, born a year later, has only fond memories of his childhood there – until Israel declared independence in 1948.


3.. “Lucette Lagnado: When Jews Fled Arab Lands.” Wall St. Journal. October 12, 2012.


Fortunée Abadie is still haunted by the day in 1947 when mobs stormed the Jewish Quarter of the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo, shortly after the United Nations vote that laid the groundwork for the creation of Israel.

Aleppo, a city where Jews and Muslims had lived together for centuries, exploded with anti-Jewish violence. Mrs. Abadie, now 88, remembers watching attackers burn prayer books, prayer shawls and other holy objects from the synagogue across the street. She heard the screams of neighbors as their homes were invaded. "We thought we were going to be killed," she says. The family fled to nearby Lebanon. Mrs. Abadie left behind all she had: clothes, furniture, photographs and even a small bottle of French perfume that she still misses, Soir de Paris—Evening in Paris…


4.  Adi Schwartz.  “Sephardic Stories, on the Record.”  The Tablet.  May 1, 2013.


“Sometimes I still have nightmares,” says Juliette Glaser to her interviewer, as she sits in front of a video camera in her Miami living room, recalling in a confident voice her childhood memories from Cairo—where she was born in 1941 and which she fled 15 years later. “They were putting the city on fire during the revolution of 1952. They were getting rid of King Farouk. The city was black, and there was fire everywhere. I remember Egyptians walking in the streets, holding big knives, saying, ‘We’re going to kill the Jews, where are the Jews? Any Jews around here?’ And we would hide in the basement, turn all the lights off, just shivering, shaking of fear.”…





1.“The Untold Story of the Middle East: Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries” – Panel Discussion. 21 Sep 2012.


Panel discussion on “The untold story of the Middle East: Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries” (organized by the Permanent Mission of Israel)



2. Eli E. Hertz,. “Arab and Jewish Refugees: the Contrast.” 2007.


How and why did Palestinian Arabs leave and who was responsible?


It is important to set the historical record straight.  The overwhelming majority of Palestinian refugees left what was the newly-established State of Israel on their own accord due to structural weaknesses within Palestinian society and their leadership …



3. Carole Basri.  “The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: An Examination of Legal Rights – A Case Study of the Human Rights Violations of Iraqi Jews.” Fordham International Law Journal. Vol 26, Issue 3 Article 6. 2002.


Although the issues surrounding the Palestinian refugees are frequently addressed at the
United Nations (”U.N.”), in the news media, and in legal journals, very little has been written
about the Jews displaced from Arab lands. In light of the little known fact that approximately 50%
of Israelis are Jews from Arab lands or their descendents, this Article will use Jews from Iraq as a
case study in examining the history and rights of Jews from Arab countries, who were expelled or
forced to seek refuge elsewhere. Part I of this Article examines the historical legal status of Jews
in Iraq and the discriminatory and prosecutorial events that triggered the expulsion of Jews from
Iraq. Part II demonstrates that actions taken by Iraq against Jews violated international law stan-
dards and other laws applicable now and at that time. Part III addresses the question of whether
Jews from Arab lands currently have any available remedies for these violations of their rights.
Finally, the Article concludes that a full accounting of the rights of Jews from Arab lands must
accompany any discussions aimed at providing a regional peace agreement for the Middle East, if

such an agreement is to have strength and legitimacy under international law ..



4. David Mattas and Stanley A. Urman, prepared by. “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress.” Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. 2012.


Historically, Jews and Jewish communities have existed in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region for more than 2,500 years.


Jews in substantial numbers resided in what are today Arab countries over 1,000 years before the advent of Islam.  Following the Muslim conquest of the region, for centuries, while relegated to second-class status, Jews were, nonetheless, permitted limited religious, educational, professional, and business opportunities …


"Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries – Background and Guidelines for Action."  The State of Israel.


To:  All departments and overseas representations

Cc:   Foreign Minister’s Office

Prime Minister’s Office

National Security Council

Ministry for Senior Citizens

National Council for Jewish Restitution

Ministry of Justice

From: Deputy Foreign Minister Bureau


Subject: Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries – Background and Guidelines for Action






1. Ashrawi, Hanan. “Israel’s Cynical Definition of Refugee.” Huffington Post. September 6, 2012.


2. “Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands.” Jewish Virtual Library. September 2012.


3. “Middle East Refugees.”  Israel Science and Technology Homepage


4.. “Arab-Jewish Refugees: The other Middle=Eastern Refugee Problem.” Eretz Yisroel.org


5.. “The Forgotten Refugees Collection”.


6. “A Challenge to opponents of Jewish refugee status.” Video. September 25, 2012.


7.. “Arab Jews: A Forgotten Exodus.” Heart and Soul. BBC. October 15, 2012. Audio.


8.. “Justice for Jews from Arab Lands: Official Website.”


9. Cotler, Irwin, David Matas and Stanley A. Urman. “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress.” Justice for Jews from Arab Lands. November 5, 2007.


10.. Sharon, Jeremy. "Cotler to Canada:  Recognize Jewish Refugee Rights.". Jerusalem Post. November 11, 2012.


11. “Justice for Middle East Refugees.” The David Project. Israpundit. Videos. July 25, 2012.


12. "Exodus:  The Jews of Yemen." Yemen Post. January 21, 2013.





1. Wolfe, Gregory. “Whispers of Faith in a Post-Modern World.” Wall St. Journal. Jan. 11, 2013.


2. Day, Anna Therese. “Memories of Jews Linger in Rubble of Syria’s Second City.” Jewish Daily Forward. Nov. 27, 2012.



















Israel’ Levy Report – Clarifying the Misconceptions

Contents: Editorial Introduction l Articles l Perspectives l Links


Editorial Introduction

The West Bank is not “occupied territory” and outposts considered illegal should be immediately legitimized.  These were two of the findings of the Levy Commission headed by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy. English   As expected, the Levy Report came under immediate fire – not only from US Ambassador Susan Rice and various EU government spokespeople who declared that its conclusions violated international law, but also from within certain American Jewish quarters. The very next day, the Israel Policy Forum, consisting of leading US rabbis and community leaders, penned a pointed response to Prime Minister Netanyahu Israel Policy Forum asserting that the report imperils Israel’s international standing.  Instead of “political maneuvering”, the letter stated, what was needed was “diplomatic and political leadership” to assure the international community of Israel’s stalwart commitment to a two-state solution.  By affirming Israel’s legal and historic rights and claims to the West Bank, they wrote, the Levy Report undermines that commitment. Prime Minister Netanyahu, therefore, must prevent its adoption.


Taking umbrage with the tone and content of the letter, Ambassador Alan Baker, former Israel Ambassador to Canada, former legal advisor to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a member of the three-person Levy Commission, accused the Forum of not reading the report and, instead, basing its conclusions on “selective media reports”. Alan Baker Response The report, he claimed, does not imperil the two-state solution.  On the contrary – despite Israel’s legal right to retain and settle all public lands in the West Bank (as long as it’s done in conformance with the governing rules and regulations),   the land’s final status,  clearly acknowledged in the report, will be negotiated within the context of a peace agreement.  The bulk of the report, he pointed out, comprises of administrative recommendations concerning settlement issues that have plagued the courts for years.  The report, in fact, stresses the need to respect the genuine land-ownership rights of the Palestinians “in accordance with all accepted humanitarian norms and principles of justice and due process,” Baker writes.


In asserting Israel’s legitimate claims and rights to land the international community, for the most part, avers to be “occupied” how far afield did the Levy Report go from previously held Israeli positions?  According to BESA’s Prof. Avi Bell, it has remained within the ballpark.  In his article “Levy Report:  Reinvigorating Debate on Israel’s Rights” he notes that the Levy Report, whose prime purpose was to examine the status of building in the West Bank and Samaria and nothing more, merely endorses the “traditional Israeli position that the Fourth Geneva Convention [that addresses the responsibilities of an occupying state towards its conquered populace] does not apply de jure to the "West Bank", and, in any event, does not bar Israeli settlements.”


Equally inapplicable, for a variety of reasons, are the rules of “belligerent occupation” generally attributed to Israel’s status within the West Bank.  A recent International Committee of the Red Cross Conference affirmed that belligerent occupation only applies to territory that was sovereign upon capture – clearly not the case here.  As well, the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel and agreements between Israel and the Palestinians has done away with a state of belligerency between them – namely war.  As such, Bell concludes, settlement-building is not in violation of international law.


David Kretzmer, in his article “Bombshell for the settlement enterprise in Levy Report” disagrees.  He writes, “In reaching this conclusion the report totally ignores both the position that the governments of Israel have taken before the Supreme Court for 45 years and the hundreds of judgments of the Court on this very question.” He cites a 2005 ruling wherein 10 judges, upon affirming the legality of the Gaza disengagement, state, “According to the legal outlook of all Israel’s governments as presented to this court – an outlook that has always been accepted by the Supreme Court – these areas are held by Israel by way of belligerent occupation….The legal regime that applies there is determined by the rules of public international law and especially the rules relating to belligerent occupation.”


According to Kretzmer, the judges, that included Chief Justice Aharon Barak, went even further asserting that the territories are not a part of Israel. Israel can’t have it both ways, Kretzmer argues.  If the territories are not part of Israel, they can only be settled by right of belligerent occupation.  If they are part of Israel, Israel breaches international law by not conferring upon the Palestinians social equality and citizenship.


Ambassador Baker vigorously disputes Kretzmer’s assertions by raising subtle, yet significant distinctions regarding the legalities associated with belligerent occupation. Alan Baker Letter  He writes,   “The legal situation has been summarized by the international lawyer Prof. Nathan Lerner in an article on “Human Rights, Humanitarian Law and the Occupied Territories” published in the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture in 2003 as follows:


“The official Israeli position in this regard was first stated in 1971 by the then Attorney General Meir Shamgar, who took the view that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to what was then called the “administered territories” because of the character of those territories.  Still, the attorney-general announced that the Israeli government would act, de facto, in accordance with the humanitarian rules of the Hague Regulations and the conventions.  The IDF forces were required to act accordingly. “In other words, although the courts never acknowledged Israel’s status within the territories as that of belligerent occupation, it treated the territories, under its own volition, as if it did in accordance with “the accepted humanitarian norms of international law.”


Furthermore, he continues, because Israel never annexed the territories it never conferred Israeli citizenship upon the Palestinians.  Until the territory’s future is definitively settled (within the context of a negotiated peace agreement) “Israel’s Supreme Court … (will continue to monitor) the conduct of Israel's security authorities in the territories in light of the humanitarian provisions of the convention – but, the court has not determined that Israel's status is that of a belligerent occupant pursuant to that convention,” he writes.


Israel’s legal and historical rights to the West Bank stand on “firmer ground” than its dependence upon the Fourth Geneva Convention that outlaws the forced transfer of populations into occupied territory Kenneth Levin writes in “The Levy Report:  A Vital Beginning.”  Of greater significant was the Arabs’ rejection of the original League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations charter that called for “close settlement of the Jews on the land, including State land” which left “the land devoid of any successor government.”  Jordan’s subsequent annexation of the territory was not internationally recognized.  As well, its 1994 peace treaty with Israel established an international boundary between the two countries relinquishing any claims to the territory.

Furthermore, Levin points out, UN Security Council Resolution 242 rejected the pre-’67 armistice lines as untenable.  He writes, “Although Resolution 242 does not in itself strengthen the already strong legitimacy in international law of Israeli settlements,” its underlying contention that Israel must procure defendable borders reinforces Israel’s “claims to key strategic areas in Judea and Samaria, those most germane to providing Israel with defensible borders in the context of a peace agreement. In addition, Resolution 242 does underscore the status of Judea and Samaria as disputed territory, whose ultimate disposition is to be decided by negotiations between Israel and its neighbors.”


Levin goes further.  Not all of the West Bank is, in fact, disputed territory. The Oslo Accords divides the land into three territories:  Areas A, B, and C – the latter falling exclusively under Israel’s jurisdiction and control.  The disputed settlements all lie within Area C.


Despite the West Bank’s unique status – not having been under the recognized ownership of a sovereign country upon capture and further complicated following the Oslo Accords that assigned shared governance to the territories – Dore Gold notes in “The Levy Report and the ‘Occupation’ Narrative,” the international community continues to refer to Israel’s presence there as “occupation”.


It doesn’t do so, he points out, in other, more clear-cut cases. Turkey’s annexation of Northern Cyprus, as an example, has not been internationally recognized; still, the international community has never referred to this territory as “occupied”. The same applies to Western Sudan as well as numerous other contentious territories. Gold writes, “The decision to use the term “occupation” appears to emanate as much from political considerations as it does from any legal analysis …“occupation” is a term of opprobrium.”


Although Gold acknowledges Israel will not succeed in convincing the international community, or even some Israelis, that it is not “occupying” Palestinian land in a legal sense, the Levy commission’s conclusions can go a long way towards strengthening Israel’s bargaining position when it comes to a future peace settlement.  He writes,  “there is a huge difference in how a compromise will look if Israel’s negotiating team comes to the peace table as “foreign occupiers,” who took someone else’s land, or if they come as a party that also has just territorial claims. The Levy Report is first of all for Israelis who need to understand their rights which unfortunately have been forgotten since the days of Abba Eban and Chaim Herzog.”


Machla Abramovitz




  1. Bell, Avi.  “Levy Report:  Reinvigorating Debate on Israel’s Rights.”    BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 176, July 31, 2012

The Levy Report has reinvigorated the issue after years of Israel's silence about its legal rights in Judea and Samaria: The rules of belligerent occupation do not apply to an agreed-upon peacetime presence. Prof. Avi Bell …

  1. Kretzmer, David.  “Bombshell for the settlement enterprise in Levy Report.”  Haaretz.  July 10, 2012.

The far-reaching consequences of the Levy report mean Israeli must either recognize that the legal system in the West Bank resembles apartheid – or extend political rights for all …

  1. Levin, Kenneth.  “The Levy Report:  A Vital Beginning.”  Jerusalem Post.  October 5, 2012.

Some have argued that Israel is not obliged to maintain its giving up of these areas as the Palestinian Authority has never fulfilled its obligations under the relevant Oslo Accords…

  1. Gold, Dore.  “The Levy Report and the “Occupation” Narrative”.  The Algeimeiner.  July 20, 2012.

Looking back over the last two weeks, what appeared to hit a raw nerve with critics of the report of Justice Edmond Levy’s committee was not what it had to say about the specific issues for which it was appointed, like zoning and planning in the West Bank, but rather with how it dealt with the broader narrative for describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This became evident in how the reaction focused on the report’s conclusion that “the classical laws of …



  2. “English translation of the legal arguments in the Levy Report (updated)”.  The Elders of Zion.  July 12, 2012.
  3. “Israel Policy Forum Letter to Netanyahu Concerning the Levy Report.“ Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.  July 13, 2012.
  5.  Baker, Alan.  “Alan Baker Letter in Response to the Israel Policy Forum.”  Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.  July 18, 2012.
  1. Baker, Alan.  “Response to David Kretzner’s article; “Bombshell for the settlement enterprise in Levy Report.”  September 2, 2012.
  3. “Levy Report Debate Continues.”  Conservative News and Views.  July 12, 2012.



  1. “Radio Excerpt:  Breaking Down the Levy Report.”  YishaiFleisher.com. July 15, 2012.
  1. Lazaroff, Tovah.  “PM asks AG to finalize opinion on Levy Report.” Jerusalem Post.  October 21, 2002.

      Ronen, Gil.  “Government Showdown on Levy Report Next Month.”  Arutz Sheva.  Aug.   24, 2012.

  2. Levinson, Chaim.  “Netanyahu set to bury Levy Report on Legalizing Illegal West Bank Outposts.”  Haaretz.  Aug. 15, 2012.
  4. Jones, Ryan.  “No Jews in Judea and Samaria.”  Israel Today Magazine.  October 16, 2012.
  6. Orfi, Orit.  “American Jewish Leaders Urge Netanyahu to sign Levy Report.”  JewishJournal.com.  Aug. 20, 2012.
  8. Tobin, Jonathan S.  “Does the Levy Report Doom Israel?”  Commentary Magazine.  July 17, 2012.
  10. Greenberg, Joel.  “Migron:  The Storm that Wasn’t.”  Haaretz.  September 3, 2012.
  12. Gordis, Daniel.  “Sinning Against Each Other.”  Israel Policy Forum.  July 26, 2012.