ideas • words • results

Justice for Jewish Refugees

Delivered by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 3 December 2014.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Before I became Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, I was Israel’s ambassador to the Court of St. James.  Shortly before leaving the UK, I made a promise – I promised to bring the story of the Jewish refugees to light in the United Nations.

 

You see, the history of the Jewish refugees is closely tied to this institution.  In 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181, more commonly known as the partition plan, which provided for the establishment of a “Jewish State” and an “Arab State.” 

 

The Jews welcomed the plan and joyously declared a new state in their ancient homeland.  The Arab leaders, on the other hand, rejected the plan.

 

Just two years after the Nazis murdered 6 million European Jews; Arab leaders stood in these very halls and threatened to massacre their own Jewish communities.  One Arab leader stood up and declared that, “The lives of one million Jews in Muslim countries will be jeopardized by partition.” 

 

He was right.  In the coming years, Jews living in Arab lands would become targets of their own governments.  Across the Middle East, Jewish-owned businesses and properties were confiscated. Jewish homes were burned to the ground. Synagogues were looted, graveyards desecrated, and scores of Jews were murdered.  Within a few years, Jewish communities that had existed in the Middle East for more than 2,500 years were destroyed and the majority of the Arab world's Jewish population had fled.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

When I look around this room I see grandparents, parents and children carrying the weight of history on their shoulders. 

 

I see the family from Alexandria that studied in Egypt’s celebrated libraries. Members of this family saw the Jewish quarter set ablaze and their homes reduced to rubble.

 

I see the family from Damascus that prayed on the site where the prophet Eliyahu anointed Elisha as his successor.   Members of this family watched in horror as their ancient synagogue was looted and torn apart.

 

I see the family from Baghdad that had been a part of the business community for hundreds of years.  Members of this family were beaten by mobs as the police turned a blind eye.  

 

I see the family from Tripoli that owned a fleet of fishing vessels.  Members of this family were cut down in a wildfire of pogroms and riots.

 

Eight hundred and fifty thousand Jews were forced to flee from Arab lands, and while they went on to raise families and have successful careers and give to their new communities, they never forgot the pain and humiliation of being torn from their homes.

 

They have carried the burden of injustice with them for decades - knowing that the world was silent as their communities were destroyed and families torn apart; knowing that the Arab nations had not been called upon to make amends; and, knowing that their stories were being lost in the shadow of history.

 

This injustice cannot continue.  The truth cannot remain hidden. 

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

It is time to right this historic wrong.  Today I stand before you and make another promise.  The history of the Jewish refugees is woven into the fabric of the Middle East - and I promise never to allow this history to be swept under the Persian rug. 

 

From this podium, in the heart of the family of nations, I call on the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative to establish a center of documentation. 

 

Collect the evidence to preserve history, document their firsthand accounts, and tell the story of the 850,000 Jews who were persecuted and expelled at the hands of the Arab nations.   

 

The United Nations cannot erase the pain and humiliation endured by the Jewish refugees, but it can help to make amends. 

 

Let there be no mistake. Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth.  And where there is no truth, there will be no justice.  

 

The Jewish refugees deserve justice – and we will not rest until they get it.  

 

Thank you.