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January 16, 2014 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-01-16

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34

January 16 • 2014

Israel and
Overseas

NEXTGer
Detroit

Commentary

redress Plights Of Jewish
And Palestinian Refugees

New York (JTA)

henever the issue of
the Middle East con-
flict is raised, people
invariably refer to the Palestinian
refugees. They almost
never refer to Jewish
refugees from Arab
countries.
The world has
long recognized the
Palestinian refugee
problem without rec-
ognizing the other
side of the story — the
850,000 Jewish refu-
gees of Arab countries.
Yet for any Middle East
peace process to be
credible and enduring, it must
ensure that all bona fide refugees
receive equal rights and treat-
ment under international law.
World Jewry hopes and
expects this principle will
inform American diplomacy as
it facilitates the current Israeli-
Palestinian negotiations and
works for peace and justice at
the United Nations.
The Jewish refugees of Arab
countries were expelled or fled
in waves starting in 1948 and
continuing until after the 1967
war. They were even more numer-
ous than Arab refugees from
Palestine; their losses of property
and institutions were far greater.
Jews lived in what came to
be known as the Arab world for
2,500 years. They were part of
the social fabric of the multina-
tional empires of the region and
contributed much to the culture.
They were sometimes persecut-
ed, but mostly tolerated.
But the rise of Arab national-
ism and the conflict in Palestine
changed all that. The new Arab
regimes orchestrated a campaign
of massive violations of the
human and civil rights of their
Jewish citizens. These states
expropriated the property of the
native Jewish populations and
stripped them of their citizenship.
Jews were murdered, arbitrarily
arrested, tortured or expelled by
government agents or by maraud-
ers who operated as governments
turned a blind eye.
The persecutions of Middle
Eastern Jews started even
before the establishment of

the Jewish state. The infamous
Farhud pogrom in Baghdad killed
or injured hundreds in 1941.
That is why I have called upon
U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon and all world leaders to
acknowledge the truth
and place the plight of
the Jewish refugees of
Arab countries on the
agenda with the rights
of Palestinian Arab
refugees.
Under international
law, the legal rights of
Jews displaced from
Arab countries are no
less legitimate than
those of other Middle
East refugees. As
Harvard Law School professor
Alan Dershowitz explained, the
rights of Jewish refugees of Arab
countries are, in fact, enshrined
in Security Council Resolution
242, which refers to the rights
of "refugees" in the Arab-Israel
conflict without specifying their
nationality.
In April 2008, the U.S.
Congress unanimously adopted a
resolution that granted first-time
recognition to Jewish refugees
from Arab countries. It declared
that no comprehensive Middle
East peace can be reached with-
out recognition of, and redress for,
the legitimate rights of Jewish
refugees from Arab countries.
Further, Congress said that all
bilateral and multilateral discus-
sions and documents should
refer to the multiple Middle East
refugee populations that arose
from the Arab-Israeli conflict.
At its core, the issue is not
about money. It is about recog-
nition - that Jews were victim-
ized and displaced from their
countries of birth; legality - that
under international law, Jews
were legally determined to be
refugees; and equality - that
all refugees must receive equal
rights and redress.
Now is the time to set the
historical, diplomatic and legal
record straight. Lasting peace
can only be built on historical
facts. The issues of the Jewish
refugees and the Palestinian
refugees must be addressed.



Ronald Lauder is president of World

Jewish Congress.

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