First MFA conference on Jewish refugees from Arab countries

First MFA conference on Jewish refugees from Arab countries

Dep FM Ayalon opened the conference by recognizing the historic wrong and the perversion of justice done to the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries starting in 1948.

                                            DFM Ayalon addressing the conference (Photo: MFA)
On Tuesday (April 3, 2012), the Foreign Ministry hosted a special conference headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and presented for the first time a special ministry report titled „The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.” The conference was attended by representatives from the organizations of Jews from Arab countries and by correspondents from the Israeli and international media; and was broadcast live to all the Israeli missions abroad.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon opened the conference by recognizing the historic wrong and the perversion of justice done to the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries starting in 1948. Ayalon then appealed directly to the Arab League, on this the tenth anniversary of the Saudi Initiative, and demanded they acknowledge their historic guilt and assume responsibility for expelling the Jews from Arab countries, thereby turning them into refugees, and simultaneously acknowledge their responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugees by going to war against Israel. Ayalon emphasized, „Particularly at this juncture in time I call upon the Arab League to assume responsibility and admit it was they who caused the Jews from Arab countries to become refugees.”

Ayalon stated that the issue of compensation for the Jewish refugees from Arab nations will be an integral part of any future negotiations or settlement. Financial restitution will be based on the „Clinton fund” principles of 2000, according to which the Jewish refugees would be recompensed, as would the countries that took them in, such as Israel and Jordan.

Ayalon made it clear that Israel would insist on the Palestinian refugees being integrated into the Palestinian state when it is established, just as the Jewish refugees were absorbed into Israel.
                                „Today some 50% of Israel’s residents are the same refugees from Arab countries and their progeny, who were fully integrated and who contributed to the establishment and development of the State of Israel. Just as the State of Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, so the Arab refugees who left Mandatory Palestine should receive the same treatment, all the more in light of the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the existence of which renders the continued existence of the Arab refugee camps unjustified.”

Ayalon instructed all of Israel’s missions abroad to persuade the world’s parliamentarians to adopt a resolution recognizing the Jewish refugees from Arab states, just as the American Congress did by passing House Resolution 185 in 2008.

„I call upon all the world’s enlightened nations to adopt moral, just resolutions like the United States’ resolution 185 and thereby help bring an end to the conflict. Acknowledging and taking care of refugees is not just a matter of historic justice but also one that is valid based on UN Resolution 242.”

The main points of the report and of the Deputy FM’s guidelines for action gained overwhelming support from the organizations’ representatives, who also spoke at the conference. The representatives were grateful and excited that the State of Israel, led by the Foreign Ministry, is finally recognizing their refugee status and working to get the subject onto the Israeli and international agenda.

Zvi Gabay (former ambassador, and activist on the subject): „I congratulate the deputy foreign minister for his goodwill and his willingness to take action on this issue. For years I served in the Foreign Ministry under various ministers, and this is the first time that anyone has brought up the subject.”

Meir Kahalon (chairman of the organizations of Jews from Arab countries and Iran): „The Jews from Arab nations are entitled to help and support, and I congratulate Danny Ayalon for taking the initiative after all these years that it didn’t happen.”

Levana Zamir (on behalf of Egyptian Jewry): „I support your raising the subject at the United Nations and I urge you to call upon them not only to return the property but also to restore custody and ownership over the Jewish heritage sites and holy places. Your success is our success.”

This report, which was specially prepared by the Deputy FM’s political staff in cooperation with the National Security Council, is part of a whole array of operations being spearheaded by DFM Ayalon to raise international awareness of the issue. About six months ago, Ayalon submitted Israel’s demands for recognizing the Jewish refugees from Arab states, based on Resolution 242, to the UN Council and also protested the UN refugee agency UNRWA’s mandate, which perpetuates refugee status for the Palestinians rather than resolve it. At a press conference in Geneva, Ayalon launched the informative film clip, „The Truth about the Refugees,” which garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

An international conference on the subject is slated to take place this coming summer, in collaboration with the Jewish organizations in Israel and worldwide, and all other parties involved in this subject.