This November will mark the 65th anniversary of the UN Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947. It is sometimes forgotten – and often not even known – that this was the first-ever blueprint for an Israeli-Palestinian “two states for two peoples” solution. Regrettably, while Jewish leaders accepted the resolution, Arab and Palestinian leaders did not, and by their own acknowledgment, declared war on the nascent Jewish state while also targeting the Jewish nationals living in their respective countries.

Indeed, had the UN Partition Resolution been accepted, there would have been no 1948 Arab- Israeli war, no refugees, and none of the pain and suffering of these past 65 years. The annual November 29 UN-organized International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People might well have been a day commemorating a Middle East peace, and the establishment of both the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

Yet the revisionist Middle East narrative – prejudicial to authentic reconciliation and peace between peoples as well as between states – continues to hold that there was only one victim population, Palestinian refugees, and that Israel was responsible for the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe) of 1948.

The result is that the pain and plight of 850,000 Jews uprooted and displaced from Arab countries – the forgotten exodus – has been both expunged and eclipsed from both the Middle East peace and justice narratives these past 65 years.

Indeed, the upcoming United Nations commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – celebrated on the anniversary of the Partition Resolution – will likely ignore, yet again, the plight of Jewish refugees, thereby indulging and encouraging this Middle East revisionism.

Moreover, this revisionist narrative has not only eclipsed – and erased – the forgotten exodus from memory and remembrance, but it also denies that it was a forced exodus, and one that resulted from both double rejectionism and double aggression. This is the real nakba – the real double catastrophe.

Simply put, the Arab countries not only rejected a proposed Palestinian state and went to war to extinguish the nascent Jewish state, but also targeted the Jewish nationals living in their respective countries, thereby creating two refugee populations – the Palestinian refugee population resulting from the Arab war against Israel, and the Jewish refugees resulting from the Arab war against its own Jewish nationals.

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.

And while the internal Jewish narrative has often referred to pogroms as European attacks on their Jewish nationals, it has often ignored Arab-Muslim attacks on their Jewish nationals. Moreover, as the report also documents, these massive human rights violations were not only the result of state-sanctioned patterns of oppression in each of the Arab countries, but they were reflective of a collusive blueprint, as embodied in the Draft Law of the Political Committee of the League of Arab States in 1947.

This is a story whose voices are only now being heard by many for the first time. It is a story whose painful testimony has been shared too often only among the victims themselves. It is a truth that must now be affirmed, acknowledged, and acted upon in the interests of justice and history.

Regrettably, the United Nations also bears express and continuing responsibility for this distorted Middle East and peace narrative.

Since 1948, there have been more than 150 UN resolutions that have specifically dealt with the Palestinian refugee plight. Yet, not one of these resolutions makes any reference to, nor is there any expression of concern for, the plight of the 850,000 Jews displaced from Arab countries. Nor have any of the Arab countries involved – or the Palestinian leadership involved – expressed any acknowledgment, let alone regret, for this pain and suffering, or for their respective responsibility for the pain and suffering.

How do we rectify this historical – and ongoing – injustice? What are the rights and remedies available under international human rights and humanitarian law? And what are the corresponding duties and obligations incumbent upon the United Nations, Arab countries, and members of the international community? What follows is a nine-point international human rights justice and action agenda.

FIRST, IT must be appreciated that while justice has long been delayed, it must no longer be denied. The time has come to rectify this historical injustice, and to restore the plight and truth of this forgotten – and forced – exodus of Jews from Arab countries to the Middle East narrative from which they have been expunged and eclipsed these 65 years.

Second, remedies for victim refugee groups – including rights of remembrance, truth, justice and redress, as mandated under human rights and humanitarian law – must now be invoked for Jews displaced from Arab countries.

Third, in the manner of duties and responsibilities, each of the Arab countries – and the League of Arab States – must acknowledge their role and responsibility in their double aggression of launching an aggressive war against Israel and the perpetration of human rights violations against their respective Jewish nationals. The culture of impunity must end.

Fourth, the Arab League Peace Plan of 2002 should incorporate the question of Jewish refugees from Arab countries as part of its narrative for an Israeli- Arab peace, just as the Israeli narrative now incorporates the issue of Palestinian refugees in its vision of an Israeli-Arab peace.

Fifth, on the international level, the UN General Assembly – in the interests of justice and equity – should include reference to Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in its annual resolutions; 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.

Sixth, the annual November 29 commemoration by the United Nations of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People should be transformed into an International Day of Solidarity for a Two-State – Two-Peoples Solution, as the initial 1947 Partition Resolution intended, including solidarity with all refugees created by the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Seventh, jurisdiction over Palestinian refugees should be transferred from UNRWA to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There was no justification then – and still less today – for the establishment of a separate body to deal only with Palestinian refugees, particularly when that body has been itself compromised by its incitement to hatred and violence, as well as its revisionist teaching of the Middle East peace and justice narrative.

Eighth, 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 joinder of discussion.

Ninth, during any and all discussions on the Middle East by the Quartet and others, any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees should be paralleled by a reference to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

SOME GOVERNMENTS have made welcome progress on this question, such as the US Congress in 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. I have a motion before the Canadian Parliament in this regard which I hope will soon be adopted. Legislatures around the world should hold hearings on the issue to ensure public awareness 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.

In sum, the exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from Arab countries continues to prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties and a just and lasting peace between them. Let there be no mistake about it – as I have said before and will continue to affirm: Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace – which we all seek.

The writer is a Canadian member of parliament and the former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada. He is a professor of law (emeritus) at McGill University. He has testified on this issue before parliaments in the US, the UK and Italy.

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