At a press conference Tuesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced a new state
policy regarding dispossessed Jews who were forced to flee from their
homes in Arab countries.
Sitting at the dais were
representatives of the National Council for
Jewish Restitution, part of the Ministry for Senior Citizens (a
portfolio held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), as well as
organizations representing Jewish refugees from Arab countries. At
times the conference became very emotional.
Most people only
think about the 600 thousand Arabs who became
refugees after the Arab nations attacked the State of
But in fact, between 1948 and 1967, at least 850
thousand Jews were
forced to leave Arab countries—where their ancestors had lived for
thousands of years.
Threatened by street mobs and governments
following the declaration
of an independent Jewish state, the Jews in many Arab countries were
given a deadline to escape, often with only the clothes on their
backs, abandoning assets and property. Today, only a few thousand
Jews live in all the Arab countries combined.
Jewish refugees from Muslim countries and their
descendants now make up close to 50% of Israel’s
Danny Ayalon himself is the son of one of these
Jewish refugees, who
was forced to flee from Algiers.
“A true solution to the issue of
refugees will only be possible when
the Arab League will take historic responsibility for its role in
creating the Jewish and Palestinian refugee problem, as documented,”
He suggested that, based on President Clinton’s suggestion in 2000,
an international compensation fund should be created to solve the
refugee problem. The fund should be based on the size of the assets
at the time (It is common knowledge that Jews in Arab countries owned
a great deal more assets than their Palestinian counterparts).
2008 study indicates that Arabs lost 450 million dollars in
property and assets ($3.9 billion in today’s numbers).
Jewish counterparts lost 700 million dollars ($6 billion in
The Arab nations, led by the Arab league
perpetuated the Arab refugee
problem, which is being cultivated to this day by United Nations
Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near
Ayalon pointed out Tuesday that until now, the issue of
refugees from Arab countries has been sidelined, despite the fact
that Israel absorbed these refugees at a huge financial cost, and
perhaps the issue has been ignored because Israel absorbed them so
Ayalon also stated that Security Council
Resolution 242 makes no
differentiation between Arab and Jewish refugees. According to the
effective criteria set by the UN regarding the refugees, Jews who had
been forced to leave their former Arab homelands are full-fledged
The US House of Representatives Resolution 185 of
Apr 1, 2008,
determined that one refugee problem should not be resolved without
resolving the second refugee problem.
In February of 2010, the
Knesset passed a law “for preservation of
the rights to compensation of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and
Each side should rehabilitate their refugees where they
are, was Ayalon’s message. Indeed, in agreement with the Prime
Minister and other ministries, from now on it will be government
policy to make sure that the issue of Jewish refugees, and their due
compensation, are part of any peace deal, negotiation, and even
discussions about regional peace. “Truth and Justice for the Jewish
refugees” is required for a real “End of Conflict,” according to
But this wasn’t simply some boring press conference
stating some new
government policy, there were tears and drama too as individuals got
up to share their experiences as members of the generation of
refugees who are dying out – after having lost everything, from
assets and property, and even family members.
One lady broke
down in tears as she talked about her father’s legacy
And it wasn’t without its controversy either. At one
point, a man in
the audience blamed Israel for not wanting peace, and not pursuing
the Saudi Peace Initiative, that Ayalon had mentioned earlier in his
Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon said he was personally and
by Ariel Sharon to see if there is a basis for discussion and
negotiations with the Saudis. They refused to talk to him.
guest continued to blame Israel, until Ayalon berated him loudly
and vociferously, telling him he should stop listening to nonsense
and rumors. He [Ayalon] had been there, as Sharon’s representative,
and he was rebuffed by the Saudis.