Writing in The Cable, Foreign Policy Magazine's blog, Josh Rogin writes about The Jewish Right of Return:
The right of Jews to return to the Arab and predominantly Muslim countries they fled from or were kicked out of over several decades could be "on the table" as part of the Middle East peace negotiations, according to a senior White House official.Whether Rogin is accurately describing what Ben Rhodes said is important.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for communications and President Barack Obama's chief speechwriter on foreign policy, talked about what's known as the "Jewish right of return"...
In response to a question asking why there is a great deal of focus on the Palestinian refugee issue but almost no focus on the Jews who departed Arab lands, Rhodes declared that the Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate on the Jewish right of return to Arab and Muslim countries and that the United States could play in role in mediating that issue.
Here is the relevant excerpt from the discussion during the conference call:
"While Palestinian refugees have concerns that are understandable and need to be dealt with in the peace process, there was no reference in the president's speech to the approximately one million Jewish refugees that emerged from the same Middle East conflict. I'm talking about Jews from Arab and Muslim countries who were forced out of their homelands where they had lived for centuries," said B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield.It seems that at no point was the issue of the return of Jewish refugees to their former homes in Arab countries was brought up. Their "rights and grievances" was mentioned by Fusfield and Rhodes referred to their concerns--bu the only one mentioning the actual return of Jews to those Arab countries is Rogin himself.
"The international community has never acknowledged their rights and their grievances," Fusfield continued, "[C]an the U.S., as the peace process move forward, play a role in advancing the rights and concerns of these Jewish refugee groups and help ensure that as refugee issues are dealt with... that the focus will not just be on one refugee group but on all refugee groups emerging from the same conflict?"
Rhodes responded: "Certainly the U.S., in our role, is attuned to all the concerns on both sides to include interests among Israel and others in Jewish refugees, so it is something that would come up in the context of negotiations. And certainly, we believe that ultimately the parties themselves should negotiate this. We can introduce ideas, we can introduce parameters for potential negotiation."
"We believe those types of issues that you alluded to could certainly be a part of that discussion and put on the table and it's something that we would obviously be involved in."
In fact, Rogin concludes his post with a quote from Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, who makes the point that this is not about Jews returning to their homes:
I would like to congratulate the administration for even-handedness, but in fact there are no Jewish refugees today. That's because the Jews who were expelled from Arab countries have been citizens of Israel for decades, where they live in freedom and prosperity
The point is not that Jews in the democratic state of Israel want to return to the repressive regimes inMuslim countries where they have the status of dhimmis. The point is that if the children and grandchildren of Arabs who left then-Palestine retain rights, then so too do the Jewish refugees as well. There are close to a million such refugees from Arab countries--and they deserve compensation for the land and property they lost.
In 2004, Jack Epstein wrote an article about what Jews forced out of their homes in Arab countries wanted:
Last year, House Resolution 311 called on the international community to recognize Jewish refugees who "fled Arab countries because they faced a campaign of ethnic cleansing and were forced to leave behind land, private homes, personal effects, businesses, community assets and thousands of years of their Jewish heritage and history. [full text of HR 311 here]"
The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, a group affiliated with Urman's coalition, estimates the value of the confiscated property at more than $100 billion.
If the descendants of those Arabs want to insist that they have rights, then the rights of the similar number of Jews, all of whom were repopulated in Israel if that was their wish, must be upheld as well.
Hat tip: JW
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