From The new York Time, by WARREN HOGE, November 5, 2007:
UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 2 — With assertions of the rights of Palestinians to reclaim land in Israel expected to arise at an planned Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md., a Jewish advocacy group has scheduled a meeting in New York on Monday to call attention to people it terms “forgotten refugees.”
The organizing group, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, says it is referring to the more than 850,000 Jews who left their homes in Arab lands after the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948.
“This did not occur by happenstance....” said Stanley A. Urman, executive director of the group, a five-year-old New-York-based organization. “In fact, we have found evidence that there was collusion among the Arab nations to persecute and exploit their Jewish populations.”
To back the claim, the group has reproduced copies of a draft law composed by the Arab League in 1947 that called for measures to be taken against Jews living in Arab countries. The proposals range from imprisonment, confiscation of assets and forced induction into Arab armies to beatings, officially incited acts of violence and pogroms. Subsequent legislation and discriminatory decrees enacted by Arab governments against Jews were “strikingly similar” to the actions laid out in the draft law, Mr. Urman said.
In January 1948, the World Jewish Congress submitted a memo with the text of the draft to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It accompanied the submission with a warning that “all Jews residing in the Near and Middle East face extreme and imminent danger.” At a meeting two months later, however, Charles Malik, the Lebanese ambassador and president of the council, succeeded in a parliamentary maneuver that ended consideration of the memo. Though the event drew news coverage at the time, it has apparently gone unnoticed since.
....The group cites United Nations figures showing that 856,000 Jewish residents left Arab countries in 1948. “This was not just a forced exodus, it was a forgotten exodus,” said Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian minister of justice who is scheduled to be the main speaker at Monday’s program to open the campaign on behalf of the Jewish refugees.
....He said that a particular focus of the campaign would be the United Nations, where Palestinian concerns got regular attention and Israel was frequently the object of condemning resolutions. “The U.N. has participated in expunging this experience from the Mideast narrative and from the U.N. narrative,” Mr. Cotler said.
The campaign is aimed at assuring that mention of Jewish refugees is included in future General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions and commemorations. The next opportunity would be Nov. 29, the 60th anniversary of the partition vote, which is officially recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People.
....“There is mention, as there should be, of Palestinian refugees, but no mention of Jewish refugees,” Mr. Cotler said of the annual commemoration.
Another objective is to push for early passage of resolutions introduced in the United States Senate and House that say that any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees in any official document must be matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees.
The American-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis is planned to take place before the end of the year to address core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict like borders, the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees.
“We want to have this meeting now, in advance of the Annapolis conference, to ensure that this issue is front and center in the international awareness as it should be,” Mr. Urman said. ...
Mr. Cotler said a change in perception would help bring the region’s antagonists together.
“I know this may sound Pollyannaish, but I believe that if we allow people to understand the truth of what occurred, then they will be able to recognize the other,” he said. “Right now the other is being demonized.”