In recent days I have been exposed, like many others, to a campaign of the
Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council which is titled: “Restitution
of property to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”
according to the international campaign editors, is to compare in the eyes of
the world public opinion the loss of the property of the Palestinian refugees
with the loss of Jews who were forced to leave the Arab countries and came to
Israel. To compare the damages and the costs.
After I read about the
struggle for the “Jewish refugees from Arab countries” who live in Israel, it
sounded a little weird. Therefore, I searched through the Internet for
the meaning of the word “refugee.”
In the old days, I used to open the
Even-Shoshan dictionary, nowadays it’s a bit simpler. You just Google it, and
find what you looked for.
I searched in Wikipedia and checked in Babylon
dictionary and found the same definition there and everywhere else. A refugee is
a person who was forced to flee from his homeland. From his country and
from his land. Those who were forcibly evicted from their land are refugees by
definition as well. This is also the UN definition for a
I refreshed my memory, trying to figure out if people like
former cabinet minister Moshe Shahal, MK and former Defense Minister Binyamin
(Fuad) Ben-Eliezer, or even the family of my good friend Yossi Shem-Tov fled
their homeland Iraq? Are these and many others were driven from their land and
their country? Had they arrived to a strange country and had to live there?
Maybe it’s true for people who had to leave Syria, I thought to myself. Just two
days ago I heard an interesting lecture by Jacqueline Assis-Turgeman, of how she
and her family fled Aleppo (Halab) in the 1960s. Although they had to leave
their property there, they never saw themselves as forced to leave their
homeland. Quite the contrary, they were willing to leave everything to reach
their homeland, the same way as the Jews from Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco,
Algeria and other countries.
I do not know a single Jew who lives in
Israel and has not seen and does not see Israel as his true homeland. No one
thought of himself as a refugee here. The immigration to Israel is the
fulfillment of a dream of returning to the homeland, it is not a forced
abandonment of the homeland.
Is there a reason to claim compensation for
property that was forced to be left behind – maybe. Is it reasonable to
perform an offset with the Palestinian demand for compensation – could be. I’m
not sure they deserve compensation.
I think it is better to invest the
energy and intellect in an attempt to achieve peace.
The institutions of
the State of Israel that call the immigrants to Israel from the Arab countries
refugees are badly wrong. This is the opposite of Zionism and it may also,
inadvertently, to give reassurance to the foolish attitude of the extremists in
the Arab world who argue that all immigrants should return to their home
countries because Israel is not their country and their homeland.
friends in the government offices, remember: Every Jew in the world has only one
homeland – Israel. Since its establishment, there is not and will not be Jewish
refugees in the world, only Jews who use their right to return to their
The writer served for many years as spokesman of the World
Jewish Restitution Organization.