Mizrahi Jews as political cannon fodder?

The New York Times reports Nov. 5 on an initiative to win justice for Jews who fled Arab countries after 1948, and their descendants. But the first paragraph makes nearly explicitly clear that they are being exploited as bargaining chips against the claims of Palestinian refugees:

Group Spotlights Jews Who Left Arab Lands
UNITED NATIONS — With assertions of the rights of Palestinians to reclaim land in Israel expected to arise at an planned Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Md., a Jewish advocacy group has scheduled a meeting in New York on Monday to call attention to people it terms “forgotten refugees.”

The organizing group, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, says it is referring to the more than 850,000 Jews who left their homes in Arab lands after the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948.

“This did not occur by happenstance, as is sometimes said,” said Stanley A. Urman, executive director of the group, a five-year-old New-York-based organization. “In fact, we have found evidence that there was collusion among the Arab nations to persecute and exploit their Jewish populations.”

To back the claim, the group has reproduced copies of a draft law composed by the Arab League in 1947 that called for measures to be taken against Jews living in Arab countries. The proposals range from imprisonment, confiscation of assets and forced induction into Arab armies to beatings, officially incited acts of violence and pogroms.

Subsequent legislation and discriminatory decrees enacted by Arab governments against Jews were “strikingly similar” to the actions laid out in the draft law, Mr. Urman said.

In January 1948, the World Jewish Congress submitted a memo with the text of the draft to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It accompanied the submission with a warning that “all Jews residing in the Near and Middle East face extreme and imminent danger.”

At a meeting two months later, however, Charles Malik, the Lebanese ambassador and president of the council, succeeded in a parliamentary maneuver that ended consideration of the memo. Though the event drew news coverage at the time, it has apparently gone unnoticed since.

The Arab League draft law had been drawn up in response to the Nov. 29, 1947, vote in the General Assembly to partition Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish.

With the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the status of Jews in Arab countries changed dramatically, because most of those countries either declared war on Israel or supported the war to destroy the new state.

The group cites United Nations figures showing that 856,000 Jewish residents left Arab countries in 1948.

“This was not just a forced exodus, it was a forgotten exodus,” said Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian minister of justice who is scheduled to be the main speaker at Monday’s program to open the campaign on behalf of the Jewish refugees.

For that reason, he said, the main goal of the campaign was to raise public awareness rather than to seek compensation. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the other components of redress, recognition, remembrance and acknowledgment of the wrongs committed,” he said.

He said that a particular focus of the campaign would be the United Nations, where Palestinian concerns got regular attention and Israel was frequently the object of condemning resolutions. “The U.N. has participated in expunging this experience from the Mideast narrative and from the U.N. narrative,” Mr. Cotler said.

The campaign is aimed at assuring that mention of Jewish refugees is included in future General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions and commemorations.

The next opportunity would be Nov. 29, the 60th anniversary of the partition vote, which is officially recognized by the United Nations as the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People.

The United Nations says that 711,000 Palestinians left Israel-controlled territory in 1948 and 1949 and that today, along with their descendants, the number of Palestinian refugees is at least four million.

“There is mention, as there should be, of Palestinian refugees, but no mention of Jewish refugees,” Mr. Cotler said of the annual commemoration.

Another objective is to push for early passage of resolutions introduced in the United States Senate and House that say that any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees in any official document must be matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees.

The American-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis is planned to take place before the end of the year to address core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict like borders, the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees.

“We want to have this meeting now, in advance of the Annapolis conference, to ensure that this issue is front and center in the international awareness as it should be,” Mr. Urman said.

Daniel Carmon, an ambassador at the Israeli mission, said that while there ought to be a change in attitude at the United Nations, no one expected it to occur soon.

“This has not been forgotten because it does not exist,” he said. “It is a reflection of the dynamic at the U.N.”

Mr. Cotler said a change in perception would help bring the region’s antagonists together.

“I know this may sound Pollyannaish, but I believe that if we allow people to understand the truth of what occurred, then they will be able to recognize the other,” he said. “Right now the other is being demonized.”

Emphasis and link added. A nearly infallible indicator of dishonest propaganda these days is use of the word “narrative.” As we have noted, all but the most rigorous post-modernists use that word exclusively to refer to the other guy’s POV, while displaying no intimation that their own is similarly tainted by subjectivity. We anticipate the anti-Israel crowd will respond with the claim (which has been raised on this blog) that Zionist provocateurs were behind the pogroms and attacks on synagogues that shook the Arab world in the years after ’48.

The best-documented of such supposed campaigns of provocation was the notorious Lavon Affair (“Operation Susannah”) of 1954, in which Israel apparently recruited a group of Egyptian Jews to stage a series of bomb attacks in Egypt in a bid to discourage Britain from withdrawing from the Suez Canal zone—although the targets were British and American, not Jewish; and the degree of official Israeli direction of the terror cells is disputed. Defense Minister Pinhas Lavon was cleared by a Commission of Inquiry of authorizing the operation, but stepped down in the aftermath anyway. The Egyptian trial of the arrested ringleaders was widely criticized as a show trial. Distinct “narratives” on the Affair remain all too evident. For the Jewish Virtual Library, the story of Operation Susannah is “one of idealism and self-sacrifice,” with the only shame for Israel being its “abandonment” of the dozen arrested suspects. Meanwhile, for the conspiranoid WhatReallyHappened, the Lavon Affair was but the first in a long string of “‘False Flag’ operation[s] designed to trick the United States into attacking Israel’s enemies”—culminating (of course) in 9-11. The more overtly anti-Semitic Jew Watch has a folder on the Lavon Affair in their lugubrious archive of “Jewish Atrocities.”

It would be nice if the efforts of Justice for Jews brought this debate out into the open. We have noted that some Mizrahi Jews have actually made common cause with their fellow Arabs against Israeli aggression. But we’ve also noted that crypto-Jews from such unlikely places as Burma and Ethiopia are being used by the Israeli right as demographic cannon fodder to populate the West Bank. We hope the Mizrahi will not now be similarly manipulated as political cannon fodder.

See our last posts on Israel/Palestine, and indigenous Middle Eastern Jews.