UNITED NATIONS – For the first time since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, a symposium at the United Nations has focused on the plight of Arab Jews forcibly expelled from their native lands.
The gathering drew hundreds, but few diplomats, especially from Arab nations.
Those who did come to the event, held by Israel’s U.N. mission, mostly were from the American Jewish community.
The speakers included Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor.
Called “Justice For Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries,” the event lasted several hours and was received by a largely attentive and quiet audience.
Dershowitz complained about a legal “double standard” between Jewish Arab refugees and the well-publicized plight of the Palestinians.
“Why have you not heard more about the plight of Jewish refugees? Because they had a homeland that would accept them, Israel.
“Never again would we allow a Jew to wander after World War II. We Jews remember,” Dershowitz said.
Those sentiments were echoed by Prosor, the Israeli ambassador.
“Today we break 64 years of silence. … Arab countries have never been held responsible for their actions,” he said.
According to Israel’s U.N. mission, more than 850,000 men, women and children were forcibly expelled from more than a dozen Arab nations between 1947 and 1972.
None has ever received compensation or relief from any international agencies, say the Israelis.
It all stems, they say, from Arab League legislation drafted just prior to Israel’s birth in 1948 which labeled Jews as “enemies of the state.”
In more than 1,000 U.N. resolutions on the Middle East, not one has been on the issue of Jewish refugees, claimed Dershowitz.
“Never again,” he insisted.
“The U.N. has a clear duty to take responsibility for this,” added Prosor, the ambassador.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose office was nearby, passed on attending the event, but he did find enough time to personally greet Burmese human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
Afterwards, the Israeli deputy foreign minister Ayalon told WND that he was pleased with the symposium.
“Unfortunately, this issue was not picked up in earlier years because there was no leadership until now,” he said. “When I heard the stories first hand of the Jewish refugees, I decided almost 2 1/2 years ago that we could no longer remain silent. And that is why we are doing this today. It should have been done 65 years ago. But, it is never too late to bring about justice.”
Ayalon added: “The symposium here today presents a great opportunity to not just correct a wrong, but to also be forward looking. If Arab leaders, Palestinian leaders will depart from the path of denials, of lies, of incrimination, of discrimination and would look at the truth and be honest with their own people then I believe we will achieve something.”
Both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to New York City to address the United Nations next week.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, there were some 870,000 Jews in various Arab states in 1945, but persecution arose during 1947 and 1948 and their property and belongings were confiscated.
Riots erupted against Jews in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt and Iraq made Zionism a capital crime.
Almost 600,000 of these Jews resetlled in Israel without any compensation from the Arab governments that took their property.
“The mass displacement of the Jews from Arab countires [was] a breach of international law,” the site reports. “The 1945 Nuremberg Charter made wartime mass deportation a crime against humanity, and the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Civilians in Time of War also prohibits deportations and forcible transfers, whether mass or individual.”
The site reports that the Jewish population from 1948 to 2004 dropped from 8,000 to zero in Aden, from 140,000 to fewer than 100 in Algeria, from 75,000 to fewer than 100 in Egypt, from 135,000 to about 35 in Iraq, from 5,000 to fewer than 100 in Lebanon, From 38,000 to zero in Libya, from 265,000 to 5,500 in Morocco, from 30,000 to fewer than 100 in Syria, from 105,000 to 1,500 in Tunisia and from 55,000 to 200 in Yemen.