A few days ago, the UN heard Israel make a case that had never been before the world body. Just as several hundred thousand Palestinians are recognized as refugees who were displaced in the course of Israel’s creation, Israeli officials say, so should the UN recognize the approximately 850,000 Jews from Arab countries who came to Israel during and after the War of Independence and the Six Day War.
Convening the first-ever conference on the issue at the UN, the campaign to gain refugee status for Jews from Arabs lands – spearheaded by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon – is grabbing headlines and generating debate.
But some of the most impassioned arguments are coming from the would-be refugees and their descendants who dismiss Ayalon’s move as political maneuvering at best, and at worst, a wholesale appropriation of the truth.
A group called the Committee of Baghdadi Jews in Ramat Gan said on Facebook last week that it is wrong to expect Jewish losses in Iraq be used to “offset” the losses Palestinians suffered in 1948 and 1967.
“If in future negotiations Israel will convince the Palestinians to offset claims of property between Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from the Arab world (and if this is not only an excuse to postpone negotiations), we expose the fallacy of this trade,” the group stated.
In an interview over Facebook, the group’s leader said that its members wanted to remain anonymous for the time being, because many of them teach in the Ramat Gan school system and municipality, and are concerned about their jobs in light of their criticism.
“We are refugees from Iraq, but we know that the government wants just to use this against the Palestinian refugees, without trying to give us and the Palestinian refugees compensation for our lost property,” the group’s moderator said.
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