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Thursday, 8 December 2011

Recognising the Struggle of Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands

The predicament and fate of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from the Middle East – who fled or were expelled from Arab lands and Iran – cannot be ignored.
Irwin Cottler suggests nine points which will help to guarantee that their experience is not ignored or marginalised:
How do we rectify this historical – and ongoing – injustice? What are the rights and remedies available under international human rights and humanitarian law? And what are the corresponding duties and obligations incumbent upon the United Nations, Arab countries and members of the international community?
To answer these questions, I propose a nine-point international human rights action agenda.
• First, it must be appreciated that while justice has long been delayed, it must no longer be denied. The time has come to rectify this historical injustice, and to restore the plight and truth of the “forgotten exodus” of Jews from Arab countries to the Middle East narrative from which they have been expunged and eclipsed these 64 years.
• Second, remedies for victim refugee groups – including rights of remembrance, truth, justice and redress, as mandated under human rights and humanitarian law – must now be invoked for Jews displaced from Arab countries.
• Third, in the manner of duties and responsibilities, each of the Arab countries – and the Arab League, which has played a protective role in Libyan and Syrian aggressions – must acknowledge their role and responsibility in their double aggression of launching an aggressive war against Israel and the perpetration of human rights violations against their respective Jewish nationals. The culture of impunity must end.
• Fourth, the Arab League Peace Plan of 2002 – still held out as a blueprint for an Arab-Israeli peace – should incorporate the question of Jewish refugees from Arab countries as part of its narrative for an Israeli-Arab peace, just as the Israeli narrative now incorporates the issue of Palestinian refugees in its vision of an Israeli-Arab peace.
• Fifth, on the international level, the UN General Assembly – whose theme in the session in which I participated this past week was “political accountability” – and in the interests of justice and equity – should include reference to Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in its annual resolutions; the UN Human Rights Council should address, as it has yet to do, the issue of Jewish as well as Palestinian refugees; UN agencies dealing with compensatory efforts for Palestinian refugees should also address Jewish refugees form Arab countries.
• Sixth, the annual November 29 commemoration by the United Nations of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People should finally be transformed into an International Day of Solidarity for a Two-Peoples Two-State Solution – as the initial 1947 Partition Resolution intended – including solidarity with all refugees created by the Israeli-Arab conflict.
• Seventh, jurisdiction over Palestinian refugees should be transferred from UNRWA to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There was no justification then – and still less today – for the establishment of a separate body to deal only with Palestinian refugees, particularly when that body is itself compromised by its incitement to hatred, as well as its revisionist teaching of the Middle East peace and justice narrative.
• Eighth, any bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – which one hopes will presage a just and lasting peace – should include Jewish refugees as well as Palestinian refugees in an inclusive joinder of discussion.
• Ninth, during any and all discussions on the Middle East by the Quartet and others, any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees should be paralleled by a reference to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
The continuing exclusion and denial of rights and redress to Jewish refugees from Arab countries will only prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties and undermine the justice and legitimacy of any agreement.
Let there be no mistake about it. Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace – which we all seek.

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