After the creation of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from the Arab lands.
When the media and the UN speak out about refugees in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they usually only refer to the so-called Palestinian refugees.
Much can be said about the Palestinian refugees and their controversially unique and privileged refugee status (the Palestinians are the only population in the world for whom refugee status is inherited from generation to generation)
The international media and organizations have virtually no focus on the nearly one million Jewish refugees who, after thousands of years of presence in the region, were forcibly deported from their homes and communities in the Middle East and North Africa in the mid-20th century.
Unlike most Palestinians who first came to Israel in the previous century, Jews have lived in countries like Iraq for more than 2,500 years.
The Jews already lived in the Middle East 1,000 years before Islam arose and Arab conquest, occupation and colonization of the region.
In the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 850,000 Jews living in the Arab world. Today, there are only a few thousand Jews left in the region – it was one of the most horrific cases of ethnic cleansing in modern times.
In 2014, the Israeli Knesset decided that November 30 should be the official day of remembrance for Jewish refugees from the Arab countries and Iran. The status of Jewish refugees from Arab countries remains unclear, despite international law and UN resolutions recognizing their need for assistance.
On two separate occasions, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) decided that Jews who had fled Arab countries were bona fide refugees – that is, real refugees and therefore should fall under the UNHCR’s mandate. Many of the most crucial and relevant resolutions on the conflict that refer to refugees – including UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and UN Security Council Resolution 242 – do so without defining the type of refugee. This means that whether reference is made to compensation or help – this should also apply to the Jewish refugees.
Meanwhile, there have been 172 decisions specifically concerning Palestinian refugees, 13 UN agencies and organizations mandated to provide protection and emergency assistance to Palestinian refugees, and many billion dollars that have been paid by the international community to provide services and assistance to Palestinian refugees.
During the same period, the UN offered no help, no support from UN agencies or financial assistance from the international community to reduce the suffering among Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Unlike the Palestinians, Jews from Arab countries were not involved in fighting, Jewish leaders did not call for the destruction of the lands the Jewish refugees had lived in or the destruction of the inhabitants of those countries – the Jews were by no means warlike – on the contrary. The Jews lived as law-abiding citizens and as oppressed dhimmi (second-class citizens) – a particularly discriminatory legal system for Jews. The Jews had to pay special anti-Semitic taxes and endure pogroms and massacres.
From one day to the next in 1946 – two years before Israel was established as a modern state, the Arab League decided that all Jews in the member states were enemies. Their citizenship was revoked, their bank accounts were confiscated, thousands of Jews were removed from certain professions and many Jews were imprisoned – solely because they were Jews.
According to a study conducted by an international auditing firm, the total assets of Jewish refugees have a value of about 250 billion dollars.
The Jewish refugees were forced to flee their homes without much other than the clothes they were wearing.
In 2009, the US Congress passed a bill recognizing the situation of Jewish refugees, adding that for a “comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East to be credible and lasting, the overall situation must be addressed and all outstanding issues concerning the legitimate rights of refugees – including Jews, Christians and others” populations displaced from countries in the Middle East must be resolved. “
The US decision called on the president and the administration to mention Jewish and other refugees when mentioning Palestinian refugees in international forums.
This was followed by a law in the Knesset which also required the Israeli government to raise the issue of the Jewish refugees when raising the issue of refugees.
At least 70 percent of Israeli Jews in Israel are Mizrahim – that is, they come from the Middle East and North Africa. They were thrown out of their homes with virtually nothing, many were murdered or died during their escape.
Israel, the national homeland of the Jewish people, welcomed them as they have done with all Jews who have fled persecution. In Israel, they were helped to integrate into the land of their ancestors and they created a new life for themselves and their family.
The core of the conflict, as well as the reluctance of the media and international bodies to tackle the problem, is about recognizing the Jews as a nation, an indigenous people who recreated their national homeland in their original homeland – Israel. The attacks and the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Arab countries were one of the worst examples of Arab leaders’ violent denial of Jewish human rights.
Certain steps have been taken to help the Jewish refugees – for example with the Clinton Parameters – guidelines for an end to the conflict presented by then-President Bill Clinton in 2000 – the guidelines referred to an international fund for Arab and Jewish refugees displaced by the conflict, but since then nothing has happened on that front.
There have also been proposals to set up an international compensation fund or a fund funded by the Arab countries that persecuted and expelled the Jews.
Whatever measures are put in place, the recognition of the ethnic cleansing of the Jews in the Arab countries is crucial to resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.