Amongst other seemingly irreconcilable issues such as: water rights; Arab street incitement; demilitarization of a Palestinian state, the core impediments between the Palestinians led by Mahmoud Abbas and Israel are: recognized borders, sovereignty over Jerusalem, and the right of return of six hundred thousand Palestinians and their progeny dating back to 1948.
What's been lost over the years in this back and forth over Palestinian Arab refugees is the plight of approximately one million Jewish refugees that were disenfranchised throughout the Muslim world from the late 1940's into the 1950's.
In 1945, three years prior to Israel's War of Independence, 870,000 Jews were living in various Arab lands throughout the Middle East. It was not uncommon for Jewish families to trace their ancestry back 2500 years in Middle Eastern and North African countries such as: Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, and others. However, during the early years of Israel's rebirth their way of life was changed dramatically.
During 1947 and 1948, 820,000 Jews were inexorably persecuted and threatened with violence and expulsion by the governments of these countries if the U.N. voted for partition. It didn't take long for them to make good their promise when the world body did just that. Following severe anti-Jewish rioting in the aforementioned countries Jews were unceremoniously uprooted, their property and belongings confiscated, and most were ultimately imprisoned and then expelled.
Fortunately, unlike the surrounding Arab nations which refused to enfranchise the Palestinian refugees instead interning them in camps, Israel fully integrated their Jewish refugees from Arab countries, immediately granting them full citizenship. Nevertheless, being champions at propaganda the Palestinians have monopolized the discussion on refugee repatriation and/or compensation. Swept under the rug for decades are the conditions of destitute in which the expelled Jews arrived in Israel. That seems no longer to be the case.
For a change, and correctly so, Israel is dead set upon putting the Palestinians and the Arab world on the defensive. According to an article in the August 28, 2012 edition of the Jerusalem Post, Gov't Steps up Campaign for Jewish Arab Refugees, the Foreign Ministry along with the World Jewish Congress and the Pensioners Affairs Ministry is ramping up its campaign to bring the issue of Jewish refugee rights to public and diplomatic attention.
The State of Israel Foreign Ministry recently sent out the following memo to all departments and overseas representations: "Up until the present day, an injustice was done to the Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries. Their property rights and their historic justice were abandoned. During various efforts and talks in pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiators have overlooked an important element pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict -- the uprooting of around 850,000 Jews living in Arab nations, the loss of their assets and property, and the difficulties they underwent upon migrating to Israel and their absorption. Close to half of Israel's Jewish citizen's today, including their descendants, came from Arab countries. Thus during the attempt to resolve the conflict through a political process, which will resume at some point in the future, this issue should be expanded, raised to the forefront, and addressed from every angle."
The State of Israel Foreign Ministry: Jewish Refugees Document (2)
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post this past Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, "This is one of the core issues,"...."It is not separate and certainly, when it comes to negotiations, it will be part and parcel of the refugee issue as a whole." In denying this was an obfuscation of the "peace process," Ayalon went on to say: "Part of the proposals made in the Arab Peace Initiative suggesting that an Israeli settlement with the Palestinians should bring peace and normalization with the entire Arab world, meant that the Jewish refugee issue should be dealt with in this comprehensive manner." The Deputy Foreign Minister also pointed out that in 2010 the Knesset passed legislation obliging all Israeli governments conducting negotiations with the Palestinians to include the issue of compensation for Jewish refugees as part of any final status talks.
For her part, Deputy Pensioners Affairs Minister, Lea Nass stated that it was critical to record and document the stories of the refugees. Stories which for the most part have long been forgotten.
"The Jewish people left behind their property, their stories and their history," said Nass. "It's important in our religion to first of all tell the story. The story has disappeared, and when we meet these people they express great pain that it has not been told."
To emphasize and bring to the forefront of public consciousness the plight of the Jewish refugees, Minister Nass stated that the government was currently finalizing plans to institute a national day of recognition for Jewish refugees from Arab countries. It is also planning to build a museum to document the historical events of these communities, as well as their cultural heritage; collate testimony from thousands of refugees; and bring the issue front and center on the diplomatic stage.
To prove this effort is taking on legs. On July 31, 2012, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-8) introduced a bill, H.R. 6242 in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan bill, so far co-sponsored by 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans specifically directs the President to submit to Congress a report on the actions the executive branch has taken relating to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. It will be interesting to see the response the current Administration has to this legislation. At the very least it's a recognition on the part of the American people and their representatives that there is a lot more to peace negotiations; if they ever resume again, than the defunct "land for peace" paradigm.
Jerrold L. Sobel
Jerrold L. Sobel is a published author of over 40 years with articles published in Israpundit, American Thinker, The Jewish Press, and other cyber and hard media in addition to his own weekly blog of 10,000 subscribers.