From a presentation to a Conference on Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, 11 September 2012, by Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon:
... For too
long [the story of Jewish refugees from Arab lands] was unknown, their history and suffering unacknowledged and
their rights ignored.
We can see that this truth has a great power by the extreme and babbling responses by Palestinian officials, who have no answer to this issue except to say that it simply doesn’t exist. However, the facts are well known to
many [despite] the Palestinian attempts at
In 1947, after centuries of
repression and sporadic violence, the situation of the almost one million Jews
living in Arab countries became untenable when the Arab League released a draft
law calling on its member states to consider the Jews in their countries as
members of an enemy state and to freeze their bank accounts. These monies were
then to be used to fight Jews in Mandatory Palestine and then the State of
This law was
prepared, and endorsed, by the Political Committee of the Arab League with the
agreement of each member state.
this was only the minimum each member state was supposed to do. Many states,
went above and beyond, sometimes appropriating all of the assets of Jews,
revoking their citizenship and forcing them, often through violence, from their
homes. State-sponsored pogroms and massacres, expulsions and the disappearance
of Jews became common throughout the region.
large scale Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa which
predated the Muslim conquest and subsequent occupation of the region by as much
as a millennium.
days I created a public diplomacy campaign titled “I am a Refugee” [also on Facebook] where I
called on those who suffered this fate, and their descendants, to place their
story online to set the record straight. Each of these stories, and many more,
are important, not just for the sake of memory, but to stand in opposition to
the Arab narrative which has been allowed to stand uncontested for too long.
The fact is
the Jews driven out of Arab countries have rights and justice already
established by the international community on their side.
Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which is the basis for all agreements
and peace discussions with our neighbours in the region, speaks of “a just
settlement of the refugee problem,” not “the Palestinian or Arab refugee
problem.” The history of the resolution demonstrates that it was intentional
and reflected recognition that the Arab-Israeli conflict created two refugee
populations, not one.
tried to restrict the term refugees to just the Arab side, former U.S. Justice
Arthur J. Goldberg, the American Ambassador to the UN who played a key role in
the ultimate language adopted, pointed out that the omission was intentional.
Over the years
other important actors in the international arena have also referenced the
situation of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, including United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees officials, and just more than a decade ago, by
former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
discussions at Camp David in 2000, President Clinton suggested an international
fund for both sets of refugees, both Arabs and Jews. This is in addition to a
US Congress resolution of 2008, Congressman promoted and sponsored by Congressman
Jerry Nadler, who is with us today.
legislation is in the works in Canada, thanks to another good friend and former
Canadian Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler who is also here with us. We also being
updated on moves in other parliaments around the world, and in this regard I
would like again to acknowledge the participation in this conference of French
MP Avi Assouly and Hungarian MP Pal Steiner.
last few years at the Foreign Ministry we have firmly and formally placed the
issue of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries on the national and
the assistance of our partners, Deputy Minister for Pensioners Affairs Leah Ness, the World
Jewish Congress, represented by Secretary General Dan Diker and the organizations
representing Jews from the Arab world, we are launching a new phase in our
From today we
are actively moving forward on an active diplomatic and political agenda.
instructing our embassies and consulates around the world to bring up this
issue with the governments and parliaments in their host states in any relevant
discussions or meetings. We are liaising with parliamentarians from around the
world who can bring forward a resolution on this issue.
later this month I will be travelling to New York, where we will hold a
conference at the United Nations in order to specifically call on the United
Nations Secretary General to place the issue of Jewish refugees firmly on the
Israel there still remains too little understanding and knowledge of this
issue. To this end, I have proposed an annual day on the national calendar to remember
the Jewish communities in Arab lands and their dismemberment. This proposal has
been approved in principle and I hope that it will be approved by the
All of this
will be bolstered with public diplomacy and awareness efforts to place the
issue where it belongs, on the public agenda.
refugees from Arab lands deserve their story being told, their history known,
their rights recognized and the justice of their cause accepted.
have justice and rights.