JCRC: Jewish Community Relations Council
JCRC: Pursuing a Just Society and Secure Jewish Future

About JCRC
Year of Civil Discourse
Calendar of Events
Community Outreach
Consensus Building
Domestic Affairs
World Affairs
Israel and MEP
Social Action
News & Media
JCRC Projects
Donate Now

Jews of the Middle East
JCRC's Position on Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries


"Right of return"
We reject the demand that all Palestinian 1948 war refugees and their descendants have a right to immigrate to the State of Israel, the so-called "right of return." Any resolution of the Palestinian refugee question must be practical, reasonable and equitable as determined by negotiations between the relevant parties and that it is the Palestinian state that will be the home for Palestinian refugees and their descendants seeking to live under Palestinian sovereignty.

Jewish refugees from Arab states
The Palestinian refugee issue is intertwined with a parallel Jewish refugee issue, given that as a result of repressive policies enacted by Arab governments fully 99% of the Arab world's Jewish inhabitants - nearly one million people - were either expelled or otherwise compelled to flee from their homes in ten Arab countries, and most of these refugees settled in Israel where today they and their descendants are full citizens. Arab governments confiscated their properties without compensation. Some of these Jewish communities were over two thousand years old, but no longer exist.

We therefore call upon the United States, countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the international community and all fair-minded people to recognize that two refugee populations were created as a result of the years of turmoil in the Middle East. We strongly support redress for the Jews displaced from Arab countries.

Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Source: Justice for Jews from Arab Countries

For over 2,500 years, Jews in substantial numbers resided in areas that are today Arab countries - fully 1,000 years before the advent of Islam

The history of the 20th century records a consistent pattern of widespread persecution of longstanding Jewish populations and other minorities in Arab countries;

From over 1,000,000 Jews resident in the Middle East and North Africa at the turn of the century, it is estimated that fewer than 5,000 Jews remain today in Arab countries;

On two separate occasions the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ruled that Jews fleeing from Arab countries were indeed 'bona fide' refugees who "fall under the mandate of my (UNHCR) office".

When the 'refugee issue' is discussed within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer to Palestinian refugees - virtually never to Jewish refugees from Arab countries;

Neither the mass violations of human rights nor the mass displacement of Jews from Arab countries has ever been adequately addressed by the international community;

It would constitute an injustice to recognize rights for one victim population - Palestinian refugees - without recognizing rights for other victims of that very same conflict - Jewish refugees from Arab countries; and

For any peace to be durable and enduring, no just, comprehensive Middle East peace can be achieved without recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting of centuries-old Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa.

1. Mr. Auguste Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Report of the UNREF Executive Committee, Fourth Session - Geneva 29 January to 4 February, 1957; and Dr. E. Jahn, Office of the UN High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Document No. 7/2/3/Libya, July 6, 1967.

Links & Resources:

Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (San Francisco)

JIMENA is a human rights organization seeking to educate and advocate for the plight of Jewish refugees from the Middle East. Prior to 1948, approximately 850,000 Jews lived in Muslim countries of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf. Today, 99 percent of these ancient Jewish communities no longer exist due to Arab and Islamic government actions that directly led to their displacement...

The vanishing Jews of the Arab world
Baghdad native tells the story of being a Middle East refugee
By Semha Alwaya
San Francisco Chronicle
In discussions about refugees in the Middle East, a major piece of the narrative is routinely omitted, and my life is part of the tapestry of what's missing. I am a Jew, and I, too, am a refugee. Some of my childhood was spent in a refugee camp in Israel (yes, Israel). And I am far from being alone...

'Jews are our dogs'
By Joseph Wahed
New York Sun
The effects of this "education" are seen and felt even in San Francisco, where a crowd of young Arab men and women feel perfectly free to chant "Al Yahud Kelabna." As long as Palestinian and other Arab children are taught such dehumanizing hatred of Jews, there is no hope for them, and there is no hope for us. Peace in the Middle East will not come with the next ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, but only when tolerance, compassion, understanding, and respect for religious freedom become the dominant value in Arab society. When Arab young people honestly feel too ashamed to chant about Jews being "our dogs," then there will be real hope...

Call for Europe to recognize the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries
European Jewish Press

After the launch of a campaign in Britain, an organization calling for international recognition of the rights of Jews displaced from Arab countries made this week an appeal in the European Parliament in Brussels.

"We have no hatred, no bitterness, we want only justice, " Moise Rahmani, who was born in Egypt and is now living in Belgium, told a conference in Brussels jointly organized by B'nai B'rith and European Friends of Israel (EFI). "Our history was concealed during 60 years," said Rahmani, who is the author of a book in French on this issue sub-titled "The forgotten exodus." ...

Recognizing the Jewish 'Nakba'
By Lyn Julius
The Guardian (UK)
This week, before an audience of peers and MPs, an 80-year-old Jewish refugee named Sarah told the story of her traumatic departure in 1956 in the wake of the Suez crisis. Her husband lost his job. Taken ill, she had remained behind in Egypt with her new baby, while he left to look for work in Europe. She departed with nothing - along with 25,000 other Jews expelled by Nasser and forced to sign a document pledging that they would never return. In a final act of spite, the customs officers ransacked her suitcase and even her baby's carrycot...

Jews who fled Arab lands now press their cause
Refugees' advocates link issue to Palestinians' claims on Israel
San Francisco Chronicle
Jews were stripped of their citizenship in Egypt, Iraq, Algeria and Libya; detained or arrested in Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Egypt; deprived of employment by government decrees in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Algeria, and had their property confiscated in all of the Arab lands except Morocco, according to Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. Anti-Jewish riots were widespread...
Legal Resources:

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries
Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress
Co-authored by: The Hon. Irwin Cotler, David Matas, Stanley A. Urman

This Legal Report is intended to document, and assert, the rights of Jews displaced from Arab countries. Justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries must assume its rightful place on the international political agenda, as a matter of law and equity...

State Sanctioned Persecution of Jews in Egypt
From Research conducted at the UNHCR Archives in Geneva
By Stanley A. Urman
These two nationality laws made it very easy for Egypt to take away the citizenship of any Egyptian Jew. Provision both in the 1956 and 1958 laws permitted the government to take away citizenship of persons absent from UAR territory for more than six consecutive months. That this provision is aimed exclusively at Jews is shown by the fact that the lists of denaturalized persons published time and again by the Official Journal contains Jewish names only, despite the fact that there were many non-Jewish Egyptians who stayed abroad for over six months...

State Sanctioned Persecution of Jews In Iraq
From Research conducted at the UNHCR Archives in Geneva
By Stanley A. Urman
Beginning in 1948, Iraqi authorities took discriminatory measure against their Jewish citizens by enacting a number of legislative and other decrees.

Law No. 1 of 1950, entitled "Supplement to Ordinance Canceling Iraqi Nationality", in fact deprived Jews of their Iraqi nationality. Section 1 stipulated that "the Council of Ministers may cancel the Iraqi nationality of the Iraqi Jew who willingly desires to leave Iraq for good pending putting his signature on a special form in the presence of an official whom the Minister of Interior designates" (official Iraqi English translation)...

Jewish Property in Iraq, Egypt and Syria: Can it be Retrieved in Court?
By Itamar Levin
In The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Summer 2003
It seems that partial compensation for Jews from Arab countries can only be achieved within the framework of a comprehensive agreement in the Middle East. President Bill Clinton already suggested in the Camp David summit of summer 2000 the establishment of an international fund which would pay compensation to both Arab and Jewish refugee claimants. The U.S., the European Community, Israel, the Arab countries, Japan and other countries would be expected to contribute to the fund. Great significance is attached to the establishment of such a fund. It would render historic and personal justice; it could serve as a very reasonable substitute for the Palestinian claim to the right of return, an issue at the core of the current Arab-Israel conflict...

Jewish Community Relations Council    121 Steuart Street, Suite 301, San Francisco, CA 94105

phone: 415.957.1551    fax: 415.979.0981    info@jcrc.org

Copyright © JCRC 2011. All Rights Reserved.
JCRC is a beneficiary agency of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay.
Site Design by Olio Arts