Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Have you heard of the Jews who fled Arab countries?
By WALTER BINGHAM
Are Arabs who live in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan or even in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority-administered areas refugees? Is the international financial support for UNWRA justified?
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) is an organization to publicize that more than 800,000 Jews had to leave Arab countries after Israel’s declaration of independence, because their safety was in danger and their livelihood was taken from them.
They fight for international recognition as refugees and therefore entitlement to restitution for their losses of property and business. The organization’s mission statement reads: “To ensure that Justice for Jews from Arab Countries assumes its rightful place on the international political agenda and that their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity.”
Yet all the world only talks about the approximately 700,000 registered Arab refugees who willingly left Israel during the 1948 War of Independence, in the hope of returning to a larger slice once the Jews have been driven out.
They have now multiplied to 5 million, because the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UN aid organization especially set up for them, considers all their descendants refugees, regardless of their present place of residence, nationality or economic situation. Thus, prosperous Arab-Americans whose grandfathers left the fledgling Israel are counted as refugees.
UNWRA’s official operational definition of a Palestine refugee is any person whose “normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.... and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition.”
That includes all those who came from far away places during the last two years of the British Mandate to seek work in Palestine either in British or in Jewish establishments. They therefore would have had a home to which to return.
Earlier this month, JJAC held its first large conference in Jerusalem, under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry, the Senior Citizens Ministry and the World Jewish Congress, to launch a long overdue worldwide campaign for their rights.
It was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who said: “It is time to correct an historic injustice and deal once and for all with the issues involving Jews who were forced out of Arab countries.
From today we are actively moving forward on an active diplomatic and political agenda. We are 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.”
International aid for Palestinian Arab refugees continues to flow into UNWRA’s coffers to this day. Since 1950 the US alone has contributed $4,119,000,000. All that, in addition to regular financial aid from European countries and NGOs. The total amount is staggering.
Yet UNWRA works hand in hand with the ruling Hamas in Gaza, that ensures all local UNWRA employees are Hamas members. It’s nothing more than “jobs for the boys,” both for UNWRA and Hamas.
Interestingly, all other refugees in the world are aided by the UNHCR, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Under his auspices, once a refugee has been accepted by a host country and has settled there, the refugee status is withdrawn, and with it any aid. Descendants are not considered to be refugees.
So, are Arabs who live in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan or even in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority-administered areas refugees? Is the international financial support for UNWRA justified? And should the descendants of those who left the then Palestine of their own accord and have been established for decades in the western world be counted as Palestinian refugees? Should my great-granddaughter, who lives in a well-established family in England, also be entitled to refugee status because I was driven out of Germany in 1939?
Walter Bingham is a veteran journalist and broadcaster who made aliya from England. His weekly radio program, Walter’s World, is archived and available on demand from www.israelnationalradio.com.