With astounding gall, Israel is now claiming that more Jews "fled" Arab countries than Palestinians fled Palestine, writes Saleh Al-Naami
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The mother of Ehab Abu Nada holds a photograph of her son as she reads the Quran at her house in Gaza; a pro-Palestinian activist flashes the victory sign after being detained by Jordanian police during a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy in Amman
Jawla Levy, 78, who lives in Arad settlement in southern Israel, still remembers the four Jewish Europeans who visited her family that lived in Baghdad in the summer of 1949. Levy told Israel Radio Sunday this group of Jewish men who spoke fluent Arabic did their best to convince her father -- a leading figure in Iraq's Jewish community at the time -- to help convince Iraqi Jews to emigrate to Israel. Israel was still a nascent state, barely one year old, established in Palestine after the original inhabitants were chased out by Zionist guerrillas.
Levy said her father found it very hard to persuade many Jews to leave Iraq to go to Palestine, and she accused Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, of executing a careful plan to force Jews to leave Iraq by firebombing Jewish synagogues and businesses. This resulted in a mass exodus by Jews from Iraq to the erstwhile Palestine. She added that Mossad recruited Iraqi groups to carry out the attacks to convince Jews that Iraq was not a place they want to be.
Levy's account corresponds with what is stated in books examining Jewish presence in Iraq that documented bombings by Mossad that convinced the Jews to leave. Her testimonial is especially relevant because it comes at a time when the Israeli government launched a broad campaign to rally international support to demand recognition of Jews who emigrated from Arab countries to Israel as refugees -- just as Palestinian refugees. The testimonials of Levy and others confirm that Israel initiated plans to bring Jews into Israel and did not hesitate in using terrorism to achieve this goal.
It is evident that the campaign proposed by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman fundamentally aims to strip Palestinian refugees of their right to return to the lands they were expelled from. Also, according to Security Council Resolution 194, demanding reparations for losses incurred as a result of the expulsion schemes by Zionist guerrillas before and after the declaration of the Israeli state.
Israel's move is based on painting Eastern Jews who left Arab states after the creation of Israel as "refugees" who were "expelled and dispossessed", which requires the world community to support Israel's position demanding compensation for these "refugees". Israel's former foreign minister and ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon was appointed to lead the campaign, who suggested it should be called "I am a Jewish refugee." Three Israeli institutions -- the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Pensioner Affairs and the World Jewish Congress -- will cooperate in documenting and gathering data on the properties of those who lived in the Arab world and then immigrated to Israel.
So far, 20,000 cases of migrant Jews have been documented as the three institutions prepare to hold news conferences and international seminars beginning this month to coincide with the UN General Assembly gathering. To make it more believable, the Knesset will also issue laws and regulations obligating Israeli negotiators to include the issue of Jewish "refugees" from Arab states in final negotiations, as a precondition to finalise any peace plan or signing any agreements. This augments a law issued by the Knesset in 2010 stipulating that any final agreement should be linked to resolving the issue of possessions of refugee Jews and their rights as refugees.
Further still, the move also aims to embarrass the "moderate" camp in the Arab world since it demands linking the issue of Jewish "refugees" with the Arab Peace Initiative sponsored by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in 2002. That plan proposes the creation of a Palestinian state inside 1967 borders and a return of refugees as prerequisites for normalising relations with Israel. The campaign would mean settling the rights of Jewish immigrants as part of normalising relations, along with targeted moves to integrate the issue of Jewish refugees in talks with all countries as well as the UN, and demanding that countries around the world adopt this issue in new laws and stipulations.
More worrying is that the campaign links the issue of immigrant Jews from Arab countries with the Holocaust and considers their deportation from Arab countries as "genocide," and thus they should be commemorated as victims at Israel's Holocaust and Heroism Memorial. The campaign further claims that the number of Jewish "refugees" exceeds the number of Palestinian refugees, and that they suffered losses worth more than $100 billion. Meanwhile, Israel's publicity machine claims that the land owned by Jewish "refugees" was far greater than the size of Palestine itself.
Supervising these fabricated facts is a US Jewish organisation concerned with the affairs of immigrant Jews that recently claimed that it would create "Justice for Jews in Arab Countries (JJAC)". It has recently established a fund to protect graves, rehabilitate synagogues and recover copies of the Torah located in Arab countries, as well as granting academic scholarships for the study of Jewish presence in Arab countries.
Tawfiq Abu Shumar, a Palestinian researcher and writer, describes the comparison of the issue of Palestinian refugees with Jewish refugees from Arab states as "invalid and baseless". Abu Shumar retorts: "Palestinians left their motherland and possessions and continue to live in exile and Diaspora, while the Jews of the Arab world have seized our homes and possessions and returned to their alleged homeland. What possessions they left behind are far less than the possessions and land they stole from us."
He continued: "Linking Jewish emigration with the Holocaust is provocative to the mind of all humanity; historic documents do not report any massacres of Jews in the Arab world. In fact, many of them still live in several Arab states as respectable citizens. Meanwhile, Arab Jews who immigrated to Israel still have fond memories of the Arab world which hosted them for many years, and did not deport them."
He explained that "many Jews in Israel still hang the portrait of Morocco's King Mohamed V; I have seen it with my own eyes. The Jews of Iraq and Egypt are still sentimental about these two countries and listen to Arabic music and speak Arabic, not Hebrew, at home, and promote Arab culture and arts."
Israel's campaign spurred Abu Shumar to criticise Palestinian institutions responsible for documenting the dilemma of Palestinian refugees. "The multitude of Palestinian refugee institutions, organisations and societies are still incapable of forming comprehensive archives with audio and video footage of the rights of refugees and their descendants, and the ramifications on life and education based on these rights," he said, noting that all these institutions and societies are good for is publishing papers on anniversaries, distributing booklets, maps, portfolios and hot meals. Sometimes they would hold a conference without any centralised effort to boost cooperation among refugee bodies to document all the rights of Palestinians with audio, video and document records.
Abu Shumar believes that this a much more worthy endeavour than empty political rhetoric, repetitive party slogans, and disputes over forming governments and ministries on which factions on the Palestinian arena differ.
Israel's fabrications are shamelessly provocative, foolish and superficial because official Zionist records confirm that there was no Jewish "refugee" problem. Zionist records state that the first Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, decided to bring in Jews from Arab states although the Zionist movement had ruled it out. These documents also state that the founders of the Zionist movement planned to establish the Zionist entity by relying on Western Jews only, but after World War II and what happened to Jews before and during the war, the Zionist movement decided it needed to displace Jews in Arab states in order to enhance the demographic presence of Jews in confronting the Palestinian population.
To this end, Ben-Gurion gave the following orders: First, sending Jewish Orientalists to Arab countries where Jews are present to gather information about them and then convince them to emigrate. Second, when it became apparent to Ben-Gurion that these missions were not as successful as he had hoped, he ordered Mossad to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews in the Arab world, such as booby-trapping and firebombing synagogues and assassinating Jewish leaders in order to terrorise Jews living there to persuade them to escape to the Zionist entity.
Israel is trying by all means to invent ways to justify its noncompliance with the demands of reaching a just political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and more importantly recognising the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homeland they were expelled from. "I am a Jewish refugee" campaign is one such attempt.