UN must recognize Jewish refugees from Arab countries – opinion

Entire communities from Morocco to Iraq, from Egypt to Syria, Lebanon, Iran and more were effectively wiped out.

By GILAD ERDAN   NOVEMBER 30, 2020 09:59

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan at the 75 UN General Assembly, September  (photo credit: SPOKESMAN FOR MINISTER GILAD ERDAN)

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan at the 75 UN General Assembly, September (photo credit: SPOKESMAN FOR MINISTER GILAD ERDAN)

You won’t hear their stories in European Union meetings or see their photographs exhibited in the hallways of the United Nations. Their names cannot be found anywhere among the thousands of UN resolutions discussed and passed over the last seven decades. There is no special day dedicated to their communities or to their memory. They are the 850,000 Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries and from Iran following Israel’s creation.  For international bodies such as the UN, they are forgotten refugees. But for us Israelis, their struggle will go on. Read More Related Articles

There is no argument over the facts: In a display of anger, after failing to prevent the November 29, 1947, UN Partition Plan and the subsequent creation of the State of Israel, Arab countries waged war not only on the newly established Jewish state but also against the peaceful and thriving Jewish communities that lived among them.

Entire communities from Morocco to Iraq, from Egypt to Syria, Lebanon, Iran and more were effectively wiped out. Along with them thousands of years of Jewish heritage, history and culture was erased, too. The UN offered no help to those forced from their homes and has done little since to recognize the huge injustice they suffered. There was no international condemnation of the fact that these Jews were attacked and murdered, their property looted and their assets stolen, often by their neighbors and with the backing of the authorities.

In the decades since this treacherous expulsion, the UN has worked to only assist so-called Palestinian refugees. Billions of dollars have been handed over to UNRWA, which while caring for the welfare of families, simultaneously encourages terrorism and incitement through its school programs and, in the process, perpetuates a false narrative of the Palestinian’s “right of return.”

I see it as a moral obligation to right the wrong that was done to our brothers and sisters from Arab lands. As Israel’s ambassador to the UN, I am committed to ensuring that their stories will now become part of international consciousness.

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I will lead a diplomatic campaign to pass a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly to recognize their plight. I do not seek a quarrel with our neighbors, but to ensure that equality and justice is finally provided for the Jewish communities that have been scorned by the world for more than 70 years.

I have already formed warm relations with many ambassadors here and will build on these ties to garner wide international support for this proposal. We will rally foreign ministries worldwide and together, with the help of Jewish organizations, I believe we can put an end to UN ignorance on this issue.

Peace can only be reached through strength, mutual respect and recognition of the truth. If the international community is serious about promoting peace between us and our neighbors, then it must also recognize historical facts, including the trauma of Jews from Arab countries.

A new discourse will not change history, but it is time that their plight is recognized in the halls of the UN. The Abraham Accords are a source of light for thousands of Jews who still live in Arab countries today.

The normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain – and I hope soon with other Arab countries – will encourage Arab leaders to provide their Jewish communities with more support, allowing them to practice their culture proudly and without worry. We are all descendants of Abraham, and we must respect one another’s culture and heritage – and, no less important, our unique histories.

Gilad Erdan is Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and Israel’s incoming ambassador to the United States. He served in the Israeli government in various ministerial positions for more than a decade, including in the security cabinet and in Israel’s Knesset.

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