Thursday, September 27, 2012
Dershowitz weighs in, but media stay mum
Adding his considerable weight to the campaign for Jewish refugees, leading lawyer Alan Dershowitz (pictured) has been writing in Haaretz: there he challenges Hanan Ashrawi, and others who dispute that Jews in Arab countries were indeed refugees, to a public debate. When Dershowitz sneezes, the mainstream media rushes in to write about it. But apart from an article in The Washington Times, the US press and media, says the watchdog CAMERA (see link below), have been curiously silent about Israel's historic UN meeting on Jewish refugees on 21 September. (With thanks: Lily)
Historical evidence conclusively establishes that the forced exile of Jews from Arab countries was part of a general plan to punish Jews in retaliation for the establishment of Israel. There were organized pogroms against Jewish citizens. Jewish leaders were hanged. Jewish synagogues were torched. Jewish bank accounts and other property were confiscated. Jews remained in Arab lands at risk to their lives.
Yet Hanan Ashrawi and others dispute the applicability of the label of “refugee” to these Jews. Their argument is that since they are not seeking a right to return to their native lands, they do not qualify as refugees. Under that benighted definition, Jews who escaped from Germany and Poland in the early 1940s would not have been considered refugees, since they had no interest in returning to Berlin or Oświęcim.
In 1967, the United Nations’ Security Council took a different view of this matter. I know, because I worked with Justice Arthur Goldberg, who was then the permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, on the wording of Security Council Resolution 242, on which the Middle East peace process has long relied. That resolution dealt with the refugee problem. The Soviet Union introduced a draft which would have limited the definition of refugee to Palestinian refugees. The United States, speaking through Justice Goldberg, insisted that attention must be paid to Jewish refugees as well. The American view prevailed and the resulting language referred to a “just settlement of the refugee problem.” Justice Goldberg explained: “The Resolution addresses the objective of ‘achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.’ This language presumably refers to both Arab and Jewish refugees, for about an equal number of each abandoned their homes as a result of the several wars.”
Accordingly, the Jewish and Arab refugees have equal status under international law. There is now pending in Congress H.R. 6242, a law which would grant Jewish refugees from Arab countries equal status under American law. The time has now come, indeed it is long overdue, for these refugee problems to be granted equal status in the court of public opinion, and in the realm of morality.
If Hanan Ashrawi really believes that Jews who were forced to leave their homes are not refugees, let her defend her views in a public forum. I hereby challenge her to a debate on that issue.
If there are those who doubt the historical accuracy of the Jewish refugee narrative, let an international commission of objective historians take testimony from living refugees. Indeed, it would be useful for an archive now to be created of such testimonies, since many of those who were forced to flee from Arab lands are now aging.
There are some who argue that the issue of Jewish refugees is a makeweight being put forward by cynical Israeli politicians to blunt the impact of the Palestinian refugee narrative. But this is not a new issue. I and many others have long been concerned about this issue. Since 1967, I have consulted with Iranian, Iraqi, Egyptian and Libyan families who lost everything—life, property and their original homeland—as the result of a concerted effort by Arab and Muslim governments. What is cynical is any attempt to deflect attention from the real injustices that were suffered, and continue to be suffered, by hundreds of thousands of Jews and their families just because they were Jews who were born in Arab lands.
Read article in full (registration required)
Where's the coverage, asks the media-monitoring blog CAMERA:
On September 21, 2012, Israel hosted an event at the United Nations highlighting the stories of Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries in the last century. What? You thought all refugees in the Arab-Israeli conflict were Palestinian Arabs? Nope.
The event, "Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries," featured firsthand accounts from Jewish refugees, along with remarks by Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor, former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Normally, when Alan Dershowitz sneezes, there's an article in the press. He's been mentioned in The New York Times on literally thousands of occasions.
But, when Israel tries to tell the story of the 850,000 Jews living in Arab countries who were dispossessed and forced out between 1947 and 1972, there is virtual media silence.
While CAMERA has covered the story of Jewish refugees from Arab countries extensively (see here, here, here, and here), few major media outlets cover the issue and fewer covered the symposium. There was an article in The Washington Times but, other than that, only Jewish and Israeli media covered the meeting.
Read article in full