U.N. conference urges more attention to Jewish refugees from Arab countries

(JNS.org) NEW YORK—Jewish and Israeli leaders on Thursday urged greater attention to the plight of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries during a conference on the issue at the United Nations.

Ronald S. Lauder (left), President of the World Jewish Congress, and Sivan Shalom, Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water, and Minister of Regional Cooperation, at a Nov. 21 conference at the U.N. on the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Credit: World Jewish Congress.

Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Silvan Shalom, whose grandfather was once the leader of the Jewish community of Gabes, Tunisia, said, “Over the last 65 years, the U.N. and its agencies have spent tens of billions of dollars on Palestinian refugees, but not a cent on Jewish refugees.” Ron Prosor, Israeli ambassador to the U.N., noted that since 1947 there have been 687 U.N. resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including 101 that speak specifically of Palestinian refugees, but no resolutions on Jewish refugees.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reiterated a recent statement by 42 groups on the fate of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, a collection of artifacts recovered from the basement of the Iraqi intelligence ministry and restored by the U.S. government that are currently on display in Washington, DC, but afterward are set to return to the Iraqi government despite the belief that Iraq stole them from the Jewish community.

“We urge our government not to send them back to an uncertain fate in Iraq, where hundreds of holy Torah scrolls remain in disuse and decay,” Hoenlein said.

Prosor told JNS.org regarding the Iraqi archive, “There were a lot of resources and assets put together in order to compile it the way it is; it was saved, and we don’t want it to be lost again.” Robert Singer, CEO of the World Jewish Congress, told JNS.org that the fact that 42 groups signed the statement about the need to protect the archives and make them accessible to Jews shows “a unified position of the Jewish community on this issue.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder praised the Canadian parliament’s recent recommendation that Canada officially recognize and encourage the need for justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries as part of any resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. 

“We hope that all countries follow Canada’s lead,” Lauder said.

Posted on November 22, 2013 .