Exiled Jewish Refugees of Yemen make the long journey to Israel. Exiled Jewish Refugees of Yemen make the long journey to Israel. (Photo: World Jewish Congress)

For the first time, Israel officially commemorates the persecution and forced expulsion of one million Arab and Iranian Jews from their countries of origin during the era of Israel’s independence.

From this year onward, November 30 marks “Exit and Deportation of Jews From Arab Lands and Iran Day” in Israel. The commemoration represents a demand for reparations for hundreds of thousands of Jews from disparate countries throughout the Middle East, including Iran, Iraq, the Maghreb (Northwest Africa), Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Turkey, among others. In each country, Jews were attacked, killed, and exiled, transforming entire Jewish populations into refugees overnight. The Jewish communities of the region were forced to leave behind nearly everything they owned.

Earlier this year, the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) passed a law recognizing that Arab countries began persecuting their Jewish populations and expelling them en masse following the UN Partition Plan of November 29, 1947.

‘Double Nakba’: Arabs Expel Jews and Create Their Own Refugee Problem

In 2011, Canadian Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler remarked on the tragedy of the “Double Nakba.” First, Arabs in the region didn’t accept the land designated for their state following the UN’s November 1947 Partition Plan, leaving their population unsettled. Second, Arabs prioritized their genocidal attempt to eliminate the Jewish State, which became more important to them than establishing their own state, resulting in the exile of nearly a million Arab Jews.

Had the Arabs accepted their state in 1947, there would be no Palestinian refugees, and the much graver plight of Jewish refugees may have looked very different, Cotler argues.

At the ceremony, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu similarly noted,

“There’s a good reason why this day is commemorated a day after the 29th of November – Arab states that did not accept the United Nations resolution on the establishment of a Jewish state forced the Jews living in their territory to leave their homes, leaving their property behind. In some cases, the expulsion was accompanied by riots and violence against Jews.

Israeli President: Reparations for Jews Now

In his speech concerning the plight of Arab and Iranian Jews during the past seven decades, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called on the governments of Iran and Syria, among others, to compensate the Jews they drove out. “This day, which marks the expulsion and exile of Jews from the Arab countries and Iran, is an opportunity to start a historical justice,” he said. The president also highlighted the extreme sacrifice and hardship suffered by Mizrahi (Eastern) Jewish immigrants to Israel, and thanked them for bringing the State of Israel to its fruition.

Netanyahu also reflected on the significance of the commemoration, remarking, “We have worked and will continue to work so that [Jewish refugees] themselves and their property will not be forgotten.” Economist Sidney Zabludoff estimates the total losses for these Jewish refugees at nearly $6 billion.

 

Few Jews Remain in Arab World

Once one of the largest and most vibrant populations in the Middle East, Arab nations and Iran retain only small vestiges of Jewish life. Currently, the largest community of Jews in the Middle East outside of Israel resides in Iran, at around 20,000, and its numbers continue to dwindle. Though these communities tell the press they enjoy a life of free religious worship, they generally live in secluded Jewish neighborhoods, are stripped of basic civil rights, and are not allowed to advance in influential professions, from politics to academia. They are also often made to renounce any allegiance to Israel, and are forced to observe Muslim holidays as opposed to their own.

 

You Can Help Israel and Jerusalem

Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem, its capital and home to Jewish refugees from Arab lands, has come under increased attack in past weeks. Supporters need to stand together and show the world that Jerusalem is not a bargaining chip in border negotiations or a convenient yet meaningless rallying point for terrorists. Jerusalem is a Holy City that provides a beacon of light to all nations under the sovereignty of Israel.

Help us to ensure that Jerusalem stays unified. Click HERE to sign The Jerusalem Declaration.

Author: United with Israel Staff