Hamas: 'Arab Jews' are not refugees, but criminals

Sami Abu Zuhri condemns Jewish refugee conference, adds Jews are responsible for Palestinian displacement.

Yemenite Jews 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yemenite Jews 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas on Saturday denounced the Israeli call to recognize the suffering of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and their material claims – the same way it acknowledges the plight of displaced Palestinians, the Ma’an News Agency reported on Sunday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder presented the recently launched diplomatic campaign to raise the issue of Jewish refugees, in a special gathering at the UN before Israeli officials, foreign diplomats, activists and journalists last Friday.
Following the gathering Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that, “those Jews are criminals rather than refugees.”
He added that, “Those Jews were not refugees as they claim. They were actually responsible for the displacement of the Palestinian people after they secretly migrated from Arab countries to Palestine before they expelled the Palestinians from their lands to build a Jewish state at their expense.”
Zuhri said it was the fault of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands who “turned the Palestinian people into refugees,” Ma’an reported.
Commenting on the conference, he said: “The Hamas movement views this conference as a dangerous, unprecedented move which contributes to the falsification of history and reversing of facts.”
Palestinian politicians like Hanan Ashrawi have argued that Jews from Arab lands are not refugees at all and that, either way, Israel is using their claims as a counter-balance to those of Palestinian refugees against it.
Ashrawi said that “If Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees’; they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision.”
“Arab Jews were part of the Arab region, but they began migrating to Israel after its establishment,” she said. “They did so in accordance with a plan by the Jewish Agency to bring Jews from all around the world to build the State of Israel.”
Ashrawi did, nonetheless, acknowledge that “some Arab countries at that time were ruled by tyrannical regimes,” but, she noted, “all citizens, regardless of their religion, were subjected to suffering.”
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat has also commented that there was no connection between Palestinian refugees and Israelis whose families are from Arab countries, but he supported their right of return.
“We are not against any Jew who wants to return to Morocco, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere. I believe no Arab state rejects the Jewish right of returning to their native lands,” he said.
The story of the Jewish citizens who left, fled or were expelled from Arabic-speaking countries while the Israeli-Arab conflict flared has been relatively neglected, a fact Ayalon acknowledged in his speech.Gil Shefler contributed to this report.