Conference seeks to highlight Jewish refugees displaced from Arab lands
Posted by Ann Corcoran on September 7, 2012
Tired of hearing about those much maligned Palestinians, efforts are underway to educate the world that Arab countries forcibly removed Jewish people who had lived side by side with Arabs for centuries in now largely Muslim countries. Heck, the ethnic cleansing by Muslim countries is still going on—just look at the Christians being pressured out of Iraq.
At Israel’s founding, more than 800,000 Jews lived in the Arab and Muslim world. In the face of mob violence and government-sanctioned tyranny, virtually all of them fled. Many lost their lives.
Once-thriving ancient Jewish communities in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Tunisia drastically shrunk and, in most cases, disappeared.
In an effort to recognize the plight of those Jews, and to demand compensation for their lost property, the World Jewish Congress will host a conference in Jerusalem next week focused on justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
The Sept. 9-10 event will feature two speakers from the S.F.-based nonprofit JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa
“This is an opportunity for various organizations and Jews working on the subject to learn from each other,” said JIMENA director Sarah Levin, who will join the organization’s co-founder, Libyan-born Gina Waldman, at the conference.
Levin will participate in a workshop about online and student activism on behalf of Jewish refugees. Waldman will share her personal story of escaping Libya in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War.
JIMENA is “one of the only organizations working on this issue,” Levin added. “[The topic] is now getting recognition from the U.S. and Israeli governments. It’s time for a coalition to strategize together.”
Jewish refugee issue to serve as a counterbalance in future peace talks:
“It’s important that the world accept and recognize that most [Jewish refugees] were forcibly exiled and subjected to the worst kind of anti-Semitic assault,” said WJC Secretary-General Dan Diker. “This issue has been largely ignored by Jewish leaders over the past number of years.”
In addition to WJC efforts, the Knesset is slated to vote on a resolution to establish a day commemorating the history of Jews from Arab lands and to found a museum focused on that history. The U.S.-based Justice for Jews from Arab Countries also advocates for refugee rights.
While the campaign for the Jewish refugees ostensibly is aimed at winning recompense for Jews from Arab countries and their descendants — known in Israel as Mizrachim, Hebrew for “those from the East” — it’s also part of a political effort to create a Jewish parallel to Palestinian refugee claims from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.
Advocates want the Jewish refugee issue to serve as a counterbalance to the Palestinian refugee issue in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, and want recognition and compensation for Jewish refugees to be a part of any final-status deal.
“It restores parity to Arab-Israeli diplomacy,” Diker said. “That narrative has become distorted in advancing the narrative that the Palestinian Arabs are the sole aggrieved party in this conflict.”
Read it all, there is more.
Did you ever notice that Muslim countries—Saudi Arabia and Egypt come to mind—are completely Muslim-dominated and others, Christians and Jews, are not welcome, yet in every other country in the world we are supposed to welcome Muslims and revere diversity. No one ever asks (demands!) Saudi Arabia to welcome diversity! Why? What is that sound I hear?
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