The Arab media was up in arms this week over a plan spearheaded by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to hold a summit on the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries at the UN in September.
The summit\’s main purpose is to push forward the matter of property rights of Jewish refugees who were forced to flee Arab countries after the establishment of the state of Israel and to turn the Jewish refugee issue into a bargaining chip which would make it clear that if the Palestinians voice demands for refugee compensation – demands would also be made from the Israeli side.
Sky News\’ Arabia channel aired a feature on the issue under the headline: "Israel\’s campaign for property compensation for Jews from Arab countries." A senior official at the Foreign Ministry was interviewed in the feature and claimed that UN Security Council Resolution 242 which was made after the Six Day War focused on justice for refugees in general, and nor specifically Palestinian or Arab refugees.
Hanna Issa, a Palestinian expert on International Law shared his thoughts on the Israeli campaign: "The minute Israel felt there was a decision pressuring it to recognize Palestinian rights, it raised the Jewish problem at an international level so that the matter of Palestinian refugees would be put at the same level as the matter of Jewish refuges, but the issue is baseless.
The reporter behind the Sky News story said that the "Israeli campaign comes at a time when Palestinians are trying to achieve observer status in the UN."
Russia al-Youm, Russia\’s Arabic website dedicated an article to the issue and interviewed Palestinian officials including researcher Hamad al-Muad who has written dozens of articles and books on Israel and the right of return.
He believes that "Palestinian refugees are not responsible for the property of Jews from Arab countries. They didn\’t take control of it and the issues of Palestinian property and Jewish property cannot be exchanged."
He further explained that "Israel is trying to claim that Arab countries expelled Jews so they are responsible for compensating them for their lost property. The reality shows that Israel was the one encouraging them to emigrate and created gangs and movements in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco to ease Jewish immigration."
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon refuted the allegations, he told Ynet: "There is no basis to this fallacious claim that Jewish organizations pressured refugees into leaving, and even if they did do so, it does not mean they (the Jews) should have been forced to leave everything behind while having their citizenship revoked and being murdered in pogroms."
According to Ayalon, the State of Israel and other Jewish organizations called on the Jews to make aliyah after their citizenship was revoked. "One of the purposes (of the current initiative) is that there be no permanent agreement without refugee compensation – both Palestinian and Jewish."
Egypt\’s press has recently shown a great deal of interest in the matter. Several papers have written that following the July 1971 revolution in the country, Jewish property devolved to state ownership under law. The press estimated the property to be worth 1 billion Egyptian Lira.
The local Egyptian press also noted that at the beginning of the 1950s there were some 100,000 Jews in Egypt of which only 25 remain in Egypt today. They are claiming that Israel is demanding the rights to some $21 billion worth of property in the old Jewish quarter of Cairo, including the large Adly Street Synagogue.
Egyptian media also quoted Israeli reports on the campaign. The Al Youm al-Saba newspaper carried the headline: "Israel enlisting the world to recognize Egyptian Jews and Jews from Arab countries as \’refugees\’."
The story also caught the attention of Algerian newspapers who claimed that Israel was seeking compensation for Jews who fled Algeria. The opening paragraph claims that Israeli threats demanding that Algeria and the Arab nations compensate Jews have begun to sound serious.