While serving as a Canadian delegate to the annual inter-parliamentary hearing
at the United Nations, I came across an exhibit marking the annual International
Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The central theme of the exhibit
is the Nakba – catastrophe – suffered by the Palestinian people, due to the
establishment of the State of Israel.
Once again, the United Nations
commemorated the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on
November 29 – the 64th anniversary of the Partition Resolution – by continuing
to ignore the plight of Jewish refugees. Turning history and law on its
head, the world body once again failed to note that the Arab countries not only
rejected a Palestinian state and went to war to extinguish the nascent Jewish
state, but also targeted the Jewish nationals living in their respective
Two refugee populations were created by that decision – the
Palestinian refugee population resulting from the Arab war against Israel, and
the Jewish refugees resulting from the Arab war against its own Jewish
Indeed, evidence contained in a report titled “Jewish Refugees
from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights And Redress” documents a 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
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.
This is a story
that needs to be heard. It is a truth that must now be
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
acknowledgement, 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?
To answer these questions,
I propose a nine-point international human rights action agenda.
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 the “forgotten exodus” of Jews from Arab
countries to the Middle East narrative from which they have been expunged and
eclipsed these 64 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
• Third, in the manner of duties and responsibilities,
each of the Arab countries – and the Arab League, which has played a protective
role in Libyan and Syrian aggressions – 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 – still held out as a blueprint for an Arab-Israeli
peace – 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
• Fifth, on the international level, the UN General
Assembly – whose theme in the session in which I participated this past week was
“political accountability” – and 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 form Arab countries.
• Sixth, the annual November 29
commemoration by the United Nations of the International Day of Solidarity with
the Palestinian People should finally be transformed into an International Day
of Solidarity for a Two-Peoples Two-State 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 is itself compromised by its incitement to
hatred, as well as its revisionist teaching of the Middle East peace and justice
• Eighth, any bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations –
which one hopes will presage a just and lasting peace – should include Jewish
refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in an inclusive joinder of
• 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.
continuing exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from
Arab countries will only prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties
and undermine the justice and legitimacy of any agreement.
Let there be
no mistake about it. 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.