Seeking reparations for Jewish refugees from Arab countries

With a final vote on a key bill due next week, MK Nissim Ze’ev holds planning meeting.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
February 17, 2010 00:00
2 minute read.

 
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With a final vote on a key bill due next week, MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) held a planning meeting Monday involving community and international leaders working to secure compensation for Jews forced to flee Muslim lands following the establishment of the State of Israel.

During the meeting, which was attended by government officials from both Israel and the United States, as well as former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) lashed out at the Arab Peace Initiative for engaging in “selective historical justice” and said that the Right of Return could not be discussed without also discussing compensation for Jewish refugees.

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“This is the first step in a long process of raising awareness both in Israel and overseas regarding the fate of Middle Eastern Jewish communities,” Ze’ev told The Jerusalem Post Monday. He added that in the future he would conduct further meetings, and has drafted a bill that would require schools to teach the travails that faced Jews from the Middle East in the last century, both prior to and following the establishment of Israel.

Ze’ev said that Monday’s meeting was designed to increase public and international awareness of the near-total destruction of hundreds of ancient Jewish communities throughout North Africa, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Almost one million Jews became refugees in the years following the establishment of the State of Israel after they were expelled from many Muslim-controlled countries.

A bill sponsored by Ze’ev that would require tabling compensation for Middle Eastern Jews in any final status talks where Palestinian compensation is on the table is expected to pass its final readings on the Knesset floor next week with the support of the coalition.

“While Israel is being unremittingly attacked internationally with claims regarding Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians, the world must remember that historical justice can be neither selective nor one-way,” said Rivlin during the conference. “Following 1948, Israel absorbed over a half-million Jewish refugees from Arab states, refugees who also have rights and historical and financial claims, and this issue must be inseparable from any future regional negotiations.”

Rivlin emphasized that particularly in light of the Palestinian claims of right of return, awareness of the historical and financial rights of those Jewish refugees must be raised.



“Even if we accept the estimates regarding the number of Palestinian refugees, which range from 500,000 to one million, then it is clear that before 1948, over one million Jews lived in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Rivlin argued that while the value of Palestinian claims has been estimated at approximately four billion dollars, the value of the Jewish refugees’ property has been assessed at six billion dollars.

The Knesset speaker accused the Arab Peace Initiative – which is based on a Saudi-sponsored peace plan – of engaging in selective historical memory for focusing only on “finding a just solution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees.”

In conversations outside the conference, Rivlin said that the key difference was that in the years after the establishment of the state, Israel worked to absorb and normalize the Jewish refugees “rather than keeping them in poor conditions to use as a political tool.”

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