Jewish and Israeli leaders cited the UN for ignoring the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries while focusing solely on the Palestinians.

The United Nations (UN) held a special event at its headquarters in New York on Tuesday to commemorate the tragic mass expulsion of some 850,000 Jews from Arab countries in the years surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel.

The event, which was held for the third consecutive year, was organized by Israel’s Permanent Mission to the UN and co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

Israel’s Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, who spearheaded the commemorative initiative in Israel, was the guest of honor.

“The history of the Jewish refugees is an almost untold chapter of the Middle East. I stand here in the heart of the Family of Nations to demand that our story be brought to light in this institution so that at long last, justice shall finally be served,” she told the gathering.

“Over the last 65 years, the UN and its agencies have spent tens of billions of dollars on Palestinian refugees, but not a cent on Jewish refugees. And since 1949, the United Nations has passed more than a hundred resolutions on Palestinian refugees and not a single one on Jewish refugees from Arab countries,” she charged.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon, whose father came to Israel from Egypt as a refugee, told the guests about the lost culture and heritage of the expelled communities. “Next week we will celebrate Hanukah, when we light candles next to our windows, and proudly identify as Jews. We must remember the Jews who lit Hanukah candles for generations in countries across the Arab world, and where the light of these candles have been all but extinguished. We must ensure that others see the light, and hear these stories, so that the plight of the forgotten refugees will become known across the world.”

The UN’s Biased Approach to Jewish Refugees

WJC CEO Robert Singer lamented the fact that the UN has focused solely on the Palestinians, and not on Jewish refugees. “This is part of an ongoing distortion of the truth that, sadly, has become a mainstay of this international body. It has always been in the interest of those who continue to deny Israel’s legitimacy to focus on Palestinian refugees and ignore the Jewish refugees, tossed out by the very same Arab states that time and again have refused to help refugees among their own.”

“The anti-Israel narrative repeated in the United Nations has extended the conflict in the Middle East,” said Singer. He added that ”the Israeli-Palestinian crisis that has lasted for decades will continue for years to come unless people begin to speak honestly about what happened.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents, told the panel that “the refugee crisis in the Middle East today underscores the plight of the almost one million Jews who were driven from Arab countries as a result of the deliberate campaign. It underscores the heroic effort of the fledgling government of Israel to absorb refugees equal to their existing population under dire circumstances of meager resources and war.”

“We cannot, we must not forget the events and lessons of that period. And the world must remember this refugee population, which it is has for too long sought to forget and make invisible, he concluded.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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