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Irwin Cotler

Danny Ayalon

Entrance to UNWRA's Aida Palestinian Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, with key representing the right of return that says "not for Sale"
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, September 12, 2012

Former Minister of Justice and Liberal MP Irwin Cotler has written an important article which Jewish communities in Canada need to read, entitled Justice Delayed is Justice Denied . Cotler has a motion before the Canadian Parliament involving an issue that will be essential to ever solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

 He is calling on the Canadian Parliament to adopt legislation recognizing "the plight of Jewish refugees and requiring that the issue be raised in any and all talks on Middle East peace." As he has written, " any bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – which one hopes will presage a just and lasting peace – must include Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in an inclusive joiner of discussion."

On November 29, 1947, Jewish leaders accepted the he UN Partition Resolution calling for a Jewish state and Arab State.  Regrettably, Arab and Palestinian leaders did not accept the partition plan, but instead Arab states declared war on the nascent Jewish state and targeted the Jewish citizens living in their midst.
The United Nations and the world has recognized that the 1948 war created Palestinian refugees, and that any future peace agreement will need to consider this issue. However, the world has forgotten about the fact that 850,000 Jews were uprooted and displaced from Arab countries, and that this was in essence a forced exodus. Point of No Return  gives extensive evidence that Jews wre persecuted, interned, intimidated, and expelled from Arab states, housed in makeshift camps. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s new Facebook page  “I am a Refugee“ shows documents forbidding Jews from returning to their countries of birth. It also shows shipfuls of refugees from Libya, and video testimonies from Jews expelled from Egypt and Iraq.]
In 1975, Sabri Jiryis, director of the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut, said that the Arab states were partially responsible for establishing Israel, for they expelled the Jews “in a most ugly fashion, and after confiscating their possessions or taking control thereof at the lowest price:”
"Clearly, Israel will raise the question in all serious negotiation that may in time be conducted over the rights of the Palestinians…. Israel’s arguments take approximately the following form: “It is true that we Israelis brought about the exodus of the Arabs from their land in the war of 1948… and that we took control of their property.  In return however you Arabs caused the expulsion of a like number of Jews from Arab countries since 1948 until today. Most of these went to Israel after you seized control of their property in one way or another. What happened, therefore, is merely a kind of ‘population and property transfer,’ the consequences of which both sides have to bear. Thus Israel gathers in the Jews from Arab countries and the Arab countries are obliged in turn to settle the Palestinians within their own borders and work towards a solution of the problem.”
As Cotler has written, "Indeed, evidence contained in the report entitled “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights And Redress” documents in detail the 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."

Only when one looks at the total picture, does it become clear that if the State of Israel was able to absorb the 850,000 Jewish refugees (and their descendents), then justice will require that any future Palestinian state be the destination for Palestinian refugees.

Since 1948, while there have been more than 150 UN resolutions that have specifically dealt with the Palestinian refugee plight, not one of these resolutions makes any reference to the plight of the 850,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries.
The US Congress has recently adopted legislation recognizing the plight of Jewish refugees and requiring that the issue be raised in any and all talks on Middle East peace. It is imperative that this issue be raised by as many countries as possible, such that the United Nations is pressured to finally include reference to Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in its annual resolutions. Similarly, as Cotler has written, "the UN Human Rights Council should address, as it has yet to do, the issue of Jewish as well as Palestinian refugees; UN agencies dealing with compensatory efforts for Palestinian refugees should also address Jewish refugees from Arab countries."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is set to go to  the United Nations General Assembly and request that it admit Palestine as a member . At the same time, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, is stepping up his campaign to raise awareness of the Jewish refugee issue. He held a conference this past weekend in Israel and he will be taking the issue to New York for the next UN General Assembly meeting on September 21. This is an important initiative, as it will be necessary for arriving at a true reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians [a press release about the event follows] Winnipeg's international human rights lawyer  David Matas was at the conference.
As Cotler has concluded, " Legislatures around the world should hold hearings on the issue to ensure public awareness [on the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands] and action, to allow for victims’ testimony, and to right the historical record – an effort in which I trust that Canada will be engaged this fall."
The US Congress has recently adopting legislation recognizing the plight of Jewish refugees and requiring that the issue be raised in any and all talks on Middle East peace. Canada should follow Congress's lead.

As Canadian Jews, we ought to raise our vocies in support of Cotler's initiative and encourage Canada's adoption of Cotler's motion. Such a statement by the Canadian Parliament will supports the initiative now afoot in the Israeli Foreign Ministry to ensure that the UN finally address the issue of Jewish refugees uprooted from Arab countries, and promotes its inclusion as part of any fair and just proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace and an Israeli- Arab peace.


Press Release: Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu: "The Arab world has
neglected Arab refugees for decades and has used them as a battering ram
against Israel"

In a filmed greeting, Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu gave remarks at
the international conference "Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab
Countries" hosted by the World Jewish Congress, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and the Ministry for Senior Citizens.

Netanyahu added that this government is determined to bring justice to the
Jewish refugees from Arab Countries. The Arab world has neglected Arab
refugees for decades and has used them as a battering ram against Israel,
while Israel who was just born as a nation-state, has managed to absorb and
resettle the Jewish refugees from Arab countries and turn them into
productive citizens. This government has decided to promote the issue and
therefore I raise this issue as well everywhere I go".

Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon stated "The Israeli government has
decided to put its full force behind this issue, of which there are
political implications, in particular regarding peace negotiations. It is
not intended to put obstacles in the way of negotiations - a true peace
negotiation process must have an historical base of truth in order to
survive. The issue of refugees from the Middle East has two sides, granted
there are Palestinian refugees but there is a larger number of Jewish
refugees from Arab countries.

MK Ayalon also added that "It is never too later, the story we will tell
today has to be told to each and every Israeli student and to every student
in the world."

Remarks also made by the Secretary General of the World Jewish, Dan Diker
stated that "Pushing this issue forward in efforts to bring justice to the
Jewish refugees will succeed due to the unity that exists around the matter.
This is not an Israeli issue, but rather an issue of the the Jewish people.
For the first time, there is an Israeli government that works hand in hand
with Jewish organizations in order to promote right for refugees. Unity of
our effort and willingness of the Jewish communities around the world, which
the World Jewish Congress leads, along with the Israeli leadership, will
bring success".

Diker added that "Until this very day, Israeli governments have always said
that it is not the right time to raise the issue of refugees. No more.
Finally there is a government that states if not then when?".

Opening remarks were made by Secretary General of the World Jewish
Congress, Dan Diker and Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon. Throughout
the conference tomorrow, the three will outline past and future initiatives
taken to address the issue.

Additional speakers include Canadian Parliament Member, Prof. Irwin Cotler,
US Congressman, Jerrold Nadler, British Parliament Member, Robert Halfon,
Deputy Minister Gila Gamliel, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress-Israel,
MK Shai Hermesh, Chairman of Israel's National Student Union, Itzik Shmuli
and others.

Throughout the day tomorrow, speakers will present and outline past and
future initiatives taken to address the issue. The conference aims to bring
the Jewish refugees' story to light. It will feature personal testimonies by
the refugees, as well as extensive discussions on the legal, political, and
historical aspects of the phenomenon.

Picture caption: From right to left USA Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Deputy
Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, Secretary General, Dan Diker, Secretary
General of the Ministry for Senior Citizens, Aharon Azoulay.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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