Remembering Jews expelled from Arab countries

December 4, 2015 by J-Wire Staff
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The World Jewish Congress has co-sponsored an event at the United Nations in New York, organised by Israel’s Permanent Mission to the UN, to commemorate the expulsion of 850,000 Jews from Arab countries and Iran in the wake of Israel’s independence in 1948…a similar event was held in Sydney.

WJC CEO Robert Singer lamented the fact that world body focuses only on Palestinian refugees, and not on Jews expelled from Arab lands. Singer said: “This is part of an ongoing distortion of the truth that, sadly, has become a mainstay of this international body. It has always been in the interest of those who continue to deny Israel’s legitimacy to focus on Palestinian refugees and ignore the Jewish refugees, tossed out by the very same Arab states that time and again have refused to help refugees among their own.

Dr Racheline Barda

Dr Racheline Barda Photo: Giselle Haber

“The anti-Israel narrative repeated in the United Nations has extended the conflict in the Middle East,” Singer added, “The Israeli-Palestinian crisis that has lasted for decades will continue for years to come unless people begin to speak honestly about what happened.”

The event at the UN headquarters was organized by Israel’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations and also co-sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Israel’s Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel was the guest of honor.

Gamliel said: “The history of the Jewish refugees is an almost untold chapter of the Middle East. I stand here in the heart of the Family of Nations to declare that our story be brought to light in this institution so that at long last, justice shall finally be served. Over the last 65 years, the UN and its agencies have spent tens of billions of dollars on Palestinian refugees, but not a cent on Jewish refugees.

“And since 1949 the United Nations has passed more than a hundred resolutions on Palestinian refugees and not a single one on Jewish refugees from Arab countries,” she charged.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon told the guests: “Next week we will celebrate Hanukah, when we light candles next to our windows, and proudly identify as Jews. We must remember the Jews who lit Hanukah candles for generations in countries across the Arab world, and where the light of these candles have been all but extinguished. We must ensure that others see the light, and hear these stories, so that the plight of the forgotten refugees will become known across the world.”

Lynda Ben-Menashe

Lynda Ben-Menashe Photo: Giselle Haber

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents, told the guests: “The refugee crisis in the Middle East today underscores the plight of the almost one million Jews who were driven from Arab countries as a result of the deliberate campaign. It underscores the heroic effort of the fledgling government of Israel to absorb refugees equal to their existing population under dire circumstances of meager resources and war.

“We cannot, we must not forget the events and lessons of that period. And the world must remember this refugee population, which it is has for too long sought to forget and make invisible.”

In Sydney the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies held its own inaugural annual commemoration with over 370 people at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Keynote speaker Dr. Racheline Barda provided an overview of the history of these communities. Personal experiences from Iraq, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, Kurdistan, Egypt and Syria were shared by Dr Myer Samra, Shalom Labi, Helene Cadry, Nina Ben-Menashe, Rabbi Michael Chriqui, Yuval Avrahami, Betty Schlesinger and Maurice Cohen.

Other program elements included Egyptian and Iraqi music and Yemenite dance. Board of Deputies Community Relations Manager Lynda Ben-Menashe said in her closing remarks, “Like non-indigenous Australia generally, our Jewish community was built by waves of immigration. The stories of our immigrants from Arab lands and Iran have not been told or heard in the mainstream and we thank all of you here tonight, especially so many guests from the wider NSW community, who have come to listen to them.”

Lynda Ben-Menashe told J-Wire: “This will become an annual event.”

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