Sunday, March 29, 2015

U.N. Declaring a unilateral Palestinian state would be illegal

U.N. Declaring a unilateral Palestinian state would be illegal

In September the Palestinian Authority, backed by the Arab League and over a hundred other countries, will try to have ‘Palestine’ declared as a state based on the ‘1967 borders’.
It will thus bypass several UN Resolutions and bilateral agreements and trigger a likely annexation by Israel of areas it will now claim as part of Palestine.
Whilst I have always conceded that a two-state solution is the only likely one to bring long-term peace, the only way this can be achieved is via negotiation.
The JCPA has published an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon signed by several international jurists and lawyers.
The core of this letter is reproduced below which explains the illegality of such a move:
    1. The legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel was the resolution unanimously adopted by the League of Nations in 1922, affirming the establishment of a national home for the Jewish People in the historical area of the Land of Israel. This included the areas of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem, and close Jewish settlement throughout. This was subsequently affirmed by both houses of the U.S. Congress.
    2. Article 80 of the UN Charter determines the continued validity of the rights granted to all states or peoples, or already existing international instruments (including those adopted by the League of Nations). Accordingly, the above-noted League resolution remains valid, and the 650,000 Jews presently resident in the areas of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem reside there legitimately.
    3. “The 1967 borders” do not exist, and have never existed. The 1949 Armistice Agreements entered into by Israel and its Arab neighbors, establishing the Armistice Demarcation Lines, clearly stated that these lines “are without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto.” Accordingly, they cannot be accepted or declared to be the international boundaries of a Palestinian state.
    4. UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) called upon the parties to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and specifically stressed the need to negotiate in order to achieve “secure and recognized boundaries.”
    5. The Palestinian proposal, in attempting to unilaterally change the status of the territory and determine the “1967 borders” as its recognized borders, in addition to running squarely against Resolutions 242 and 338, would be a fundamental breach of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in which the parties undertook to negotiate the issue of borders and not act to change the status of the territories pending outcome of the permanent status negotiations.
    6. The Palestinians entered into the various agreements constituting what is known as the “Oslo Accords” in the full knowledge that Israel’s settlements existed in the areas, and that settlements would be one of the issues to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. Furthermore, the Oslo Accords impose no limitation on Israel’s settlement activity in those areas that the Palestinians agreed would continue to be under Israel’s jurisdiction and control pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.
    7. While the Interim Agreement was signed by Israel and the PLO, it was witnessed by the UN together with the EU, the Russian Federation, the U.S., Egypt, and Norway. It is thus inconceivable that such witnesses, including first and foremost the UN, would now give license to a measure in the UN aimed at violating this agreement and undermining major resolutions of the Security Council.
    8. While the UN has maintained a persistent policy of non-recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem pending a negotiated solution, despite Israel’s historic rights to the city, it is inconceivable that the UN would now recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state, the borders of which would include eastern Jerusalem. This would represent the ultimate in hypocrisy, double standards, and discrimination, as well as an utter disregard of the rights of Israel and the Jewish People.
    9. Such unilateral action by the Palestinians could give rise to reciprocal initiatives in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) which could include proposed legislation to declare Israel’s sovereignty over extensive parts of Judea and Samaria, if and when the Palestinians carry out their unilateral action.
Even though the US and other countries, including the UK, will veto this on the UN Security Council. the intention of the resolution and a vote in favour in the General Assembly is intended to isolate Israel and give a kind of de facto respectability to the Palestinian claims.
A peace agreement was intended to end the conflict. This does not end the conflict. It leaves the Palestinians still claiming that millions of descendants of refugees from 1948 should be entitled to ‘return’ to Israel and that Jerusalem is the capital of ‘Palestine’.
The PA will claim a consensus legitimacy for its ‘Palestine’ whilst still removing Israel from its maps of ‘Palestine’.
Establishing ‘Palestine’  on the 1967 borders will do absolutely nothing to further the cause of peace; in fact, it will do the exact opposite.



By Jeff Share, Editor | January 2014, Vol. 241 No. 1
Israel is facing a quandary these days, one that nearly every country in the world wishes it had.
After many years of dreaming of having control of its own natural resources and being energy-independent, Israel now finds itself awash in natural gas reserves with the best yet to come. There are reports that Israel possesses the second-largest deposits of oil shale in the world outside of the United States. Underneath the ground near Jerusalem, into the southern part of Israel in the Negev desert there lies an estimated 400 billion tons of oil shale that contains reserves of unconventional oil which is more than even Saudi Arabia.
So perhaps some 3,500 years ago when Moses led his people out of Egypt and through the desert he had a grand plan in mind, albeit one that would not take shape until now: manna from heaven in the form of fossil fuels that could create the world’s newest energy powerhouse. But before this is realized, a myriad of issues must be confronted: economic, environmental and political.
The heart of this burgeoning energy business is located in the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean Sea about 60 miles west of Haifa. The discovery of offshore natural gas is not new; in fact, the government began planning for development in the 1990s. In 1999 Delek of Israel together with Noble Energy (then Samedan)of the U.S., were awarded an exploratory license and started making discoveries. The first to come online were the Mari-B field and the Noa field.
Their combined 30 Bcm of reserves were mere drops in the bucket compared with what was to come later, starting with development of the Tamar field. Tamar is estimated to hold about 254 Bcm of proven natural gas reserves, equal to about 9 Tcf. Beyond Tamar looms the monster field appropriately named Leviathan with its estimated 535 Bcm or 19 Tcf.
Together the two represent the two world’s largest natural gas discoveries of recent years. Tamar by itself is expected to provide enough gas to supply 50-80% of Israel’s domestic consumption, according to a report from World Review. As if is not enough, on Nov. 26 drillers announced another discovery called the Tamar Southwest which is estimated to have 19 Bcm.
israel photo 3.jpg
Noble Energy, an independent exploration and production company headquartered in Houston, is the operator for the offshore fields along with local partners Delek Drilling and Avner Oil Exploration. Noble took control of the Tamar drilling license in 2006 shortly after British Gas abandoned its stake. Reports indicated British Gas was frustrated about not being able to reach a deal with the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to sell the gas it discovered offshore Gaza in the Gaza Marine deposit, and decided to halt its activity in Israel prior to drilling Tamar.
Nevertheless IEC later reached a deal with Noble that spurred its $3-4 billion development of Tamar in 2010 with commissioning last spring. They have also signed other contracts that will utilize the rest of the capacity.
(According to Wikipedia, production is carried out by five wells connected by a 93-mile-long subsea double pipe tie-back to a gas processing platform located offshore Ashkelon. The total initial delivery capacity is 985 MMcf/d or 7.5 Bcm/a. An upgrade of the supply infrastructure from the processing rig to the onshore reception station in Ashdod is planned by 2015. In the first phase, capacity will be increased to 1,200 MMcf/d and later to 1,500 MMcf/d, with the latter upgrade possibly including the usage of the now-depleted Mari-B field, located nearby Tamar's processing platform, as a gas storage reservoir.)
Dr. Amit Mor is CEO of Eco Energy Financial & Strategic Consulting Ltd., and is an international expert on natural gas and energy who has worked with the World Bank, international oil & gas companies and with the Israeli government on various energy-related issues. In an interview with P&GJ, he talked at length about Israel’s energy potential and identified three major benefits to be derived from a growing energy base.
Dr. Amit Mor

Economic Benefits Of Israel’s Energy Base

The first benefit is economic. Mor noted that Israel continues to smash world records for the swiftness in which it is shifting to natural gas for power generation and heavy industry, albeit one limited in scope.
“Ten years ago Israel’s power generation mix was 80% coal, 20% fuel oil and diesel. Today we are already at 50% natural gas and 50% coal. In two years natural gas will increase to 70%, some even think 80%,” he said.
“Coal, most of which is imported from South Africa and Australia, is diminishing very quickly and renewable, notably solar energy, are penetrating slowly. Crude oil and oil products have also had to be imported.”
Therefore, the cost of power generation is about to drop significantly due to the relatively cheap cost of natural gas which, although more expensive than in the U.S. - at about $5.50-6 per million Btu - is still a relative bargain compared to European consumers who pay twice as much for natural gas piped in from Gazprom, the North Sea or Algeria. It’s also just one-fourth of the price of LNG in Asia, Mor said.
Taking it even further, compared to the cost of heavy fuel oil which is $20 per million Btu or diesel at $26-27 per million Btu, natural gas costs one-fourth or less than alternative fuels. So it’s no wonder that power generators and heavy industrial users are switching as fast as they can to gas from heavy fuel oil, gas oil, diesel, and LPG.
In terms of dollars and cents, the result is impressive. Economically, developing its energy industry also will create a sizable number of good-paying jobs.
“Industry will be able to improve its competitive advantage in exports vis-à-vis various goods in Europe and elsewhere as well as compete favorably with the importation of products. We estimate those benefits at more than $10 billion per year,” Mor said.
“The direct benefit to the nation is in the magnitude of about $6 billion per year just in direct fuel cost savings,” Mor said.
Environmentally, natural gas has the obvious advantage of being much less polluting than coal or fuel oil.
Energy Security Benefits Of Israel’s Energy Base
A second important benefit is energy security. Since most of the natural gas will be the primary source in its fuel mix, Israel will be able to drastically reduce its reliance on imported fuels, Mor said. For three years Egypt supplied Israel with some of its natural gas via a Sinai pipeline that was frequently the target of terrorist attacks. Israel no longer receives any gas from Egypt.
The Public Benefits Of Israel’s Energy Base
The public is a major partner in this process. Recent changes in legislation have increased the government’s take in taxation and royalties from 20% to 60% of the profits. This is comparable to most countries, Mor said, with the government (federal and state) take in the United States is between 50-65%; as high as 80-90% in Norway and Egypt.
israel photo 4.jpg
Legislation also mandates those profits be allocated to a growth fund for the use of future generations to be managed by the Bank of Israel. That could mean the accumulation of about $100 billion during the next 25 years, he said.
Unlike many other countries in which national oil companies represent the government’s interests, Israel is not a partner in resource development. As the major operator and developer Noble and its local partners assume all of the risks and costs of exploration and production. That carries a hefty price tag since they are working in deep waters at a mile depth and beyond; each well costs about $150 million to drill.
The government will regulate the market but has left open the question of controlling the price of gas. This could affect the competitive balance if other operators are to join in the development.
The Knesset sets transportation fees while a government subsidiary transports the gas in high-pressure pipelines from the shore to consumers and also sets safety and environmental regulations. Regional distribution companies are constructing the infrastructure to deliver the gas in low pressure to mid- and small-size industries and other consumers.
Keeping the energy infrastructure safe from Israel’s enemies is complicated and still under discussion because of the huge costs involved. Today the government maintains security over all facilities within the country while security on the offshore platform in Tamar is handled by the operators. How those costs will continue to be handled in the future is another topic of discussion.
Though the Tamar project was completed and commissioned within 30 months, the project was delayed because of heated public discourse about constructing a pipeline from Tamar to the northern part of Israel, then heading 100 miles south where plans were made to build a $2 billion treatment facility. That led to strong opposition from the public to the original plan so developers had to spend another $1.5 billion to build an offshore platform. They were able to utilize the existing pipeline to shore from the depleted Mari-B field.
The public did not get away scot-free as it took an additional year of delays to construct the offshore infrastructure. This came at a critical time – (2011-2012) - when Egypt cut off its flow of gas, creating a major shortage that forced Israel to pay premium prices for alternative fuels and led to electric bill increases of 35% that lasted until Tamar was commissioned and cheap gas became available.
Status Of Leviathan
Ideally, Mor said, the plan would be to develop neighboring Leviathan as soon as possible for domestic use while finding agreement on national security issues for entry of the additional supply. This could include a new pipeline that would demonstrate versatility in the nation’s supply network. The overriding political issue that will ultimately decide the viability of Leviathan concerns how much of that gas Noble and its partners will be allowed to export.
“Leviathan is an export project because the domestic market for the Tamar field can certainly supply most of Israel’s needs for the next 15 years, but for diversification, it is in the best interest of the country to have this developed as soon as possible,” Mor said.
The government recently decided to allocate 40% of future Leviathan production for exports; operators say that’s not enough, while some Israelis insist it is too much. The Supreme Court in October rejected appeals by opponents to block any gas exports.
The debate continues and Noble is getting noticeably edgy. CEO Charles Davidson told a presentation at a financial conference in New York City Nov. 20 that development of Leviathan has been set back a year by the lengthy legal process. Noble had earlier said Leviathan might have gas available for the domestic market in 2016 with exports possible in 2018. That’s now up in the air.
Davidson also was quoted as saying that Noble would prefer selling gas from Leviathan to neighboring countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, since the gas pipeline infrastructure already exists. This would be more economical than building an LNG terminal (most likely an FLNG terminal because of political and environmental opposition in Israel) for sales to the Far East, he said. South Korea has already had talks with Israel about acquiring LNG.
“We will be able to market more gas regionally at lower capital cost because all of these regional markets are basically using pipes, and in some cases, they’re connecting the pipes that already exist,” Davidson was quoted. “We still believe we’ll have a component of LNG in there, but it will probably not be as many trains. It could be floating LNG or it could be LNG over in Cyprus” where Noble is also an active participant.
Though Israel’s natural gas opportunities dwarf those of Cyprus, the country has had little luck inducing larger international companies to join in. Reasons vary, according to experts, and are speculated to include:
1. Israeli gas is found in deepwater reservoirs, creating costly production and transportation problems in getting the gas to shore;
2. the NIMBY issue where many Israelis in a tiny ccuntry governed by a democracy are adamantly opposed to an onshore LNG terminal;
3 Israel’s internal political machine, which has created too much uncertainty for industry executives, and
4. the risk of a boycott by their Arab clients if they sign contracts with Israel.
Mor said Israelis are discussing exporting gas to Jordan and neighboring countries. Jordan also received about 3 Bcm/a from Egypt via the Sinai pipeline. The 2011-2012 interruption effectively put Amman in the dark for weeks and seriously damaged the nation’s economy until the kingdom could switch to fuel oil and gas oil.
“It would make economic sense for them to import cheap gas from Israel but it’s a political decision that has to be made by the king,” Mor said. He also suggested that the Sinai pipeline could be reversed to carry Israeli gas into Egypt, but officials there have already rejected that possibility.
Mor envisioned how gas could be shipped onshore with a pipeline taking the gas into Turkey where it could eventually tie into a grid bringing the fuel to Europe.
Another option is a gas pipeline to Cyprus for liquefaction. On Nov. 7 Cyprus announced an agreement with France’s Total to build an LNG plant. That plan is speculative since Cyprus has not yet developed its own natural gas resources, meaning that for the immediate future at least, it would have to rely on Israeli gas. This presents a political conundrum since relations between Turkey and Cyprus as well as Turkey and Israel are chilly.
Export Possibilities
Once an export policy is locked in place, Mor suggested there are three main options:
1. A pipeline to Turkey would be the most economic, about 400 km, $3 billion, to southeast Turkey in the Ceyhon area. There, a major petroleum port already includes the Baku pipeline which carries oil from Azerbaijan, while another pipeline brings oil from Kurdistan in northern Iraq. From here, an additional trunk line could be constructed for another pipeline being designed to take Azeri gas, and possibly gas from Iran, to markets in Turkey and Europe on a trans-Atlantic pipeline. The Turkish gas market is expected to rise from to 40-43 Bcm in 2012 to 60 Bcm by 2020. Turkey is anxious to diversify and decrease its reliance on Gazprom. Israeli gas could contribute from 8-10 Bcm/a, Mor said.
2. The previously discussed LNG regasification terminal in southern Cyprus, which could include up to five trains to produce the equivalent of 5 million tons of LNG per train (that require 7 Bcm/year per train). If the infrastructure was in place, it could act as a hub for Cypriot gas, Israeli gas, and possibly in the future natural gas from offshore Lebanon, Mor said.
3. The development of new technology using FLNG. This infrastructure could be used for other exploration activities in addition to Tamar and Leviathan, and would be similar to what is being used in offshore Australia. This could be developed by 2020 if proven viable. The technology is extremely costly. However, one big prospective customer is interested: Gazprom has signed a deal as part of a consortium that included the developers to take 3 million tons per annum from Tamar.
Mor said Israel is wise to consider a variety of options. In the best of all scenarios, Israel would export gas to Egypt and to Turkey via pipeline and send off its gas for liquefaction to Cyprus to meet the growing demand in the Far East.
“I really believe these huge deposits of natural gas are a blessing that can help promote, if not peace, at least co-existence in the region for the benefits of Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus and hopefully when things quiet down, Syria, and also Turkey,” Mor said.
The government had proposed allocating 50% of production for exports before agreeing to drop that to 40%, a minimum figure that Mor acknowledged does not provide any real incentive for companies to continue exploration. With the costs of new projects in the billions, Israel knows it must attract more operators with bigger pockets than Noble. Mor said the country offers attractive opportunities, particularly for mid-sized companies in Europe.
In an earlier interview with an Israeli news service Mor said, "I have no doubt that if we had another four or five companies like Noble, the gas reserves would be developed at a faster rate. The gas industry is still a sort of New Frontier, and stands in great need of companies with know-how and capital. This need will only grow as we enter the world of gas exports, which obliges us to construct liquefaction facilities.
“There are a handful of companies in the world that have the know-how and expertise required to build liquefaction plants. We are talking about massive sums of investment, of $8-15 billion for a plant, involving capital investment by the owners of 20-30%. Noble is the pioneer of the development of the gas industry in Israel and in Cyprus, but projects of that magnitude will be too big for it."
The Export Debate Lingers
Noble and other prospective operators waited anxiously for Israeli officials to decide on an export quota. Now they have a figure - 40% - but it is not what they hoped for in return for billions of dollars in investments. Oil companies are finding other countries much easier to deal with, experts say. Mor said in his earlier interview that if the government decides to set up an LNG project in Israel with an annual output of 10-15 million tons, it is possible that international companies like ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as Chinese and Indian companies, will move in.
“Our company did a major study for the government and under the most optimistic scenario through 2040 the domestic market will require about 450 Bcm of gas, and the rest, about 500 Bcm of what we know of proven reserves, could be exported. This is crucial for Israel because if they decide not to allow exports, exploration will immediately cease.
“There is a huge reserve base of natural gas for the next 50-60 years so there is no need to develop more gas for domestic use. If there are enough exports of gas there will be more explorations and the possibility of discovering another base of huge reserves,” Mor said.
“So,” he continued, “on the one hand we want to bring in international investors, but we need to provide them with wide-enough export possibilities; 40% can provide enough to move forward with two or three projects. Once the reserves increase you have more available for exports. In five years the government can review its decision and expand exports if more natural gas is being discovered by then.”
Oil Prospects 
The shale revolution represents a strange paradox for Israel. Companies worldwide have embraced the new technology being used to develop unconventional gas reserves onshore, making Israel’s offshore discoveries less attractive in a gas-rich world. Yet that same technology conceivably could help define Israel as a major player in the global oil market.
“It is not a joke; we’ve known this for many years,” said Mor, who in the 1980s served on the board of a government company that used some of the oil to create 18 MW of power and steam. What is now the Israeli Energy Initiative has been working with the Gas Technology Institute in the United States on ways to develop the unconventional shale oil. It is located in relatively shallow layers of rock 200-300 yards deep and can be developed with similar technology now being used in the Alberta oil sands.
Mor said studies have indicated that it would require $35-40 per barrel to break even. While proponents want to start a small pilot test that has already been approved by government agencies in order to prove the technology, they expect to face stiff opposition from local residents and environmental groups who fear that if the technology is proven and shown to be economically viable, a decision may be made for commercial utilization.
“We feel that the public should at least know whether this is technically and economically viable; then it’s up to them in two or three years after we’ve finished the pilot to decide that there might be a case in which there is such a huge resource available for local utilization or even for export,” Mor said.
And there’s an additional caveat: the possibility of developing the oil resource would likely attract some really big players with money left over for offshore gas development.
Ultimately, Israel’s “quandary” of monster energy finds is extremely beneficial for both the country and global industry in terms of economics, energy security and democratic participation in Middle Eastern policy.

When Jerusalem Was Divided

When Jerusalem Was Divided

When Jerusalem Was Divided

PROPOSING that eastern Jerusalem become part of a sovereign Arab state, President is urging not just a bad idea, but one that has already been tried -- with disastrous results.
Jerusalem was always one city before May of 1948, the month British rule in Palestine came to an end. It was supposed to remain one thereafter. Under the terms of a UN resolution, Palestine was to be partitioned into two states -- one Jewish, one Arab -- with Jerusalem belonging to neither. "The City of Jerusalem," Resolution 181 had ordained, "shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations."
The Jews of Palestine accepted the partition plan, reluctantly agreeing to the internationalization of Jerusalem as the price of statehood. But the Arabs flatly rejected partition. There would be no Jewish state, they said, and no UN supervision of Jerusalem. To keep Resolution 181 from taking effect, they vowed to fight the Jews. "This will be," exulted Azzam Pasha, the secretary-general of the Arab League, "a war of extermination and a momentous massacre."
By May 15, the day Israel was born, Jerusalem was a battleground. Within days, the Jordanian Arab Legion, spurred by King Abdullah to capture Jerusalem, was bombarding the Old City's Jewish quarter.
Badly outnumbered, poorly armed, the Jews of East Jerusalem didn't have a prayer. When the United Nations called for a cease-fire, writes the renowned historian Sir Martin Gilbert, Jordan, "poised to overrun the Jewish Quarter," ignored it. "That day an Arab-language broadcast from Ramallah described in lurid detail the first stage of the long-drawn out destruction of the Hurva Synagogue."
The Hurva, first built in 1705, had been one of Jerusalem's great landmarks. Its destruction was a grim taste of what lay in store for the Jewish holy sites of the Old City.
By May 28, the conquest of Jewish East Jerusalem was complete. The remaining Jews -- some from families that had lived there for centuries -- were expelled. "As they left," Gilbert relates, "they could see columns of smoke rising from the quarter behind them. The Hadassah welfare station had been set on fire and despite [a] curfew, the looting and burning of Jewish property was in full swing."
For the next 19 years, Jerusalem was divided. West Jerusalem became Israel's capital. East Jerusalem, its Jewish Quarter now judenrein, was annexed by Jordan, which proceeded to erase the evidence that Jews had ever been there. In an orgy of desecration, 58 synagogues -- the oldest dated to the 13th century -- were ravaged. Those that weren't razed were ransacked, turned into stables and chicken coops, used as garbage dumps. The city's foremost Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum.

The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, where the oldest tombs date from 1st century BCE, was devastated. Some 38,000 tombstones were ripped out and used to build military bunkers and pave latrines. An asphalt road was cut through the cemetery; a hotel was constructed at the top. When the Jews returned in 1967, they found graves gaping open and bones strewn on the ground.
Under Article VIII of the armistice agreement signed by Israel and Jordan in 1949, the Arabs guaranteed "free access to the Holy Places and cultural institutions and use of the cemetery on the Mount of Olives." But that proved to be a lie. For 19 years, no Jew was allowed to visit the Western Wall, the cemetery, or any other site in East Jerusalem. Israeli Arabs were likewise barred from the Old City's Muslim shrines. For 19 years, no Arab from Israel prayed at the al-Aqsa Mosque or set foot on the Temple Mount.
Of course today's Palestinian Authority cannot be blamed for outrages committed during the Jordanian occupation. But reasonable people must wonder what would happen to the Jews' holy places if the Old City were placed under Arab rule again. For the Palestinians have a record too.
Time and again Yasser Arafat and his aides have insisted that the Western Wall and the Temple Mount are purely Muslim shrines with no Jewish significance. Time and again they have claimed, as the Palestinian Ministry of Information puts it, that "the archeology of Jerusalem" reveals "nothing Jewish . . . no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces or remains." When Palestinian officials assert, "Jerusalem is not a Jewish city, despite the biblical myth implanted in some minds," it is hard not to worry about how they would treat Jewish sites if they ruled East Jerusalem, or whether they would permit Jews to visit them.
Nor is that all.
When the Palestinians signed the Oslo II agreement in 1995, they promised to "ensure free access to, respect the ways of worship in, and not make any changes to, the Jewish holy sites" on land given up by Israel. They made the same promise in the Gaza-Jericho accord in 1994 and the Hebron accord in 1997. Among the listed sites: the venerable "Peace Upon Israel" (shalom al yisrael) synagogue in Jericho and the yeshiva at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. Today, neither exists. In October, Palestinians burned down the synagogue. They smashed Joseph's Tomb to rubble and trampled its holy books, and announced that a mosque would be built on the site.
If this is how Israel's peace partners act in Jericho and Nablus, how would they behave in Jerusalem?
The sacred places of Jerusalem have never been safer, or open to more people, than in the 33 years since it was reunified. There is no reason to redivide it, and every reason not to.

They never forgot thee, O Jerusalem

They never forgot thee, O Jerusalem

PRESIDENT proposed last week that Israel surrender the eastern half of Jerusalem, including most of the Old City and the Temple Mount, as part of a final peace plan with the Palestinians. To the dismay of Israel's friends the world over, Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to accept Presidents scheme as the basis for new talks. Barak has spent his brief tenure as prime minister trying to appease Israel's enemies, but even for him this was a shocking departure.
"Only one who does not understand the depth of the total emotional bond between the Jewish nation and Jerusalem," Barak had avowed just seven months ago on the 33nd anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification, "only one who is totally estranged from the legacy of Jewish history ... could possibly entertain the thought that Israel would concede even a part of Jerusalem. Only one who does not understand that Jerusalem has been intertwined with the souls of our ancestors for 3,000 years ... could demand that we turn our backs on it."
Perhaps Barak has truly had a change of heart. Perhaps this is just a cynical political ploy. It doesn't much matter. Israel's parliament will never agree to carve out the heart of Jerusalem and hand it to Yasser Arafat. Polls show Israelis rejecting the Clinton proposal by a margin of nearly 20 points. And if the rest of the world's Jews, in whose name Barak spoke so emphatically last May, could be surveyed, the results would be even more lopsided.
Slicing up Jerusalem will no more lead to Arab-Israeli peace than slicing up Cairo or Damascus would. Arafat's object is not sovereignty in a state next to Israel with East Jerusalem as its capital. It is sovereignty in a state that used to be Israel with all of Jerusalem as its capital. And as the last seven years have made clear, territory ceded to the Palestinians soon becomes a staging area for new attacks on Israel. "Land for peace" has proven a deadly hoax; the more land Israel has yielded to the Palestinian Authority, the more violence and bloodshed it has reaped.
To whom should Jerusalem belong? Arafat speaks of al-Quds, as it is called in Arabic, as if the Islamic attachment to the city is ancient, overwhelming, and self-evident. "Al-Quds is in the innermost of our feeling, the feeling of ... all Arabs, Muslims, and Christians in the world," he said in August. "It is the essence of the Palestinian issue." Journalists routinely describe Jerusalem as Islam's "third-holiest city," and identify the Temple Mount as "sacred to both Jews and Muslims."
But the Jewish and Muslim claims to Jerusalem are not remotely comparable.
The bonds of loyalty and love that bind the Jews to Jerusalem are without parallel. For three millennia, Jerusalem has been central to Jewish self-awareness. Since the time of King Solomon, Jews have turned toward Jerusalem in prayer -- and Jewish prayer is replete with remembrances of the holy city.

"And to Jerusalem Your city," religious Jews have implored the Almighty three times daily for the past 20 centuries, "may You return with compassion." Jerusalem is remembered in the grace after every meal, at the conclusion of every Passover seder, at the end of the Yom Kippur fast. The saddest date on the Jewish calendar is the 9th of Av, the day when both the First and Second Temples were destroyed and on which observant Jews sit in mourning to this day. Jerusalem is mentioned by name 657 times in the Hebrew Bible, nowhere more hauntingly, perhaps, than in the 137th Psalm:
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand wither,
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.
Jews have always lived in Jerusalem, except when they have been massacred or driven out. There has been a nearly unbroken Jewish presence in the city for the past 1,600 years, and at least since the early 1800s, the population of Jerusalem has been predominantly Jewish.
To Muslims, by contrast, Jerusalem is far less important. Mohammed never walked its streets, for the Arabs didn't conquer Jerusalem until six years after his death. Over the centuries, various Islamic dynasties controlled the city, but none ever made Jerusalem its capital or treated it as a vital cultural center. Often they neglected it outright, allowing it to sink into stagnation and decay.
From 1948 to 1967, when East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were under Muslim rule, they were ignored by the Arab world: No foreign Arab leader ever paid a visit, not even to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinians placed so low a priority on Jerusalem that the PLO's founding charter, the Palestinian National Covenant of 1964, makes no reference to it. Only when the Jews returned after the Six Day War did the Arabs grow passionate about Jerusalem. Throughout Islamic history, that has been the pattern. "Jerusalem has mattered to Muslims only intermittently over the past 13 centuries," the Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes has written, "and when it has mattered, as it does today, it has done so because of politics. Conversely, when the utility of Jerusalem expires, the passions abate and its status declines."
Nowhere in the Koran is there anything like the 137th Psalm with its aching love of Jerusalem. Indeed, nowhere in the Koran is Jerusalem even mentioned. For it is Mecca, not Jerusalem, that Islam venerates above all other places; Mecca, not Jerusalem, to which Muslims turn in prayer. Not for all the world would Muslims agree to divide Mecca -- least of all with their enemies. Nor would the world ever think of demanding such a thing of them. To call upon the Jews to sacrifice part of their eternal city is no less outrageous, and should be just as unthinkable.

Why are Americans so pro-Israel?

Why are Americans so pro-Israel?

Of all the ways in which the United States marches to the beat of its own drummer, few are more striking than the American people's consistent and deep-rooted support for the Jewish state. In a recent nationwide survey, the Gallup organization asked Americans: "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?" For the fourth year in a row, 59 percent -- nearly 6 in 10 -- said their sympathies were with Israel, while just 18 percent sided with the Palestinians. When respondents were asked for their opinion of various countries, 63 percent said they had a favorable view of Israel (21 percent said very favorable), compared with just 15 percent who thought highly of the Palestinian Authority.

Conversely, only 29 percent of Americans told Gallup that their opinion of Israel was negative, even as a whopping 73 percent expressed a negative attitude toward the Palestinians.

This overwhelmingly positive feeling for Israel is normal for the United States, but it puts Americans sharply at odds with the rest of the world. At the United Nations, for example, nothing is more routine than the castigation of Israel. Similarly, any time Israel is forced to use its military power in self-defense, it comes under the harsh glare of the international media, which subject it to a scrutiny far more unforgiving than any other country receives. It was only a few years ago that a poll commissioned by the European Union found that a plurality of Europeans regarded Israel as the greatest threat to world peace -- more menacing than even North Korea or Iran. So what makes Americans different?

Foreign policy "realists" could certainly suggest reasons why close friendship with Israel is not in America's interest, beginning with the fact that most of the world doesn't share it. There are 300 million or more Arabs in the world, and they sit atop a vast share of the world's oil supply. Why endanger American access to that oil by maintaining such close ties to a nation with only 6 million people and no petroleum to export? Why risk incurring the wrath of Islamic terrorists by supporting Israel, a nation most of them detest? Surely it would make more sense -- so a "realist" might argue -- for Americans to distance themselves from the world's lone Jewish state, and tilt instead toward the much greater number of nations and governments that are hostile to Israel.

Yet most Americans instinctively reject such advice. The national consensus in support of Israel is longstanding and durable, and it isn't grounded in economics, energy policy, or a quest for diplomatic popularity. Nor, as some conspiracy-minded critics have claimed, is it because a "Zionist lobby" in Washington routinely hijacks US foreign policy, manipulating America into serving Israel's ends. The roots of America's bond with Israel lie elsewhere.

First, Americans stand with Israel because in it they recognize a liberal democracy much like their own: a nation in which elections are lively, fair, and democratic; in which freedom of speech and the press are core values; in which the political rights of minorities are respected; and in which a commitment to civil liberties and justice is woven into the very fabric of society.

Second, Americans know that Israel is a stable ally in one of the world's most critical and volatile regions. Its intelligence service is perhaps the world's finest, its military is the best in the Middle East, and its painfully acquired expertise in counterterrorism is invaluable -- all the more so as we wage our own war against jihadi terrorists.

Third, Americans sympathize with Israel because they understand that the enemies of Israel state hate the United States as well. The suicide bombers who revel in the death of innocent Jews, the fanatics who chant "Death to Israel," the Iranian- and Syrian-backed forces that launch rockets from Gaza or Lebanon with the aim of shedding Israeli blood -- they are steeped in the same murderous ideology as Osama bin Laden and the Islamists who slaughtered so many Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

And fourth, there is a deep religious bond between American Christians and the Jewish people, a bond that stretches back to the earliest era of American history. More than a century before the Revolutionary War, the Puritan leader Increase Mather taught his followers to anticipate the day when the Jews would return to their homeland and establish "the most glorious nation in the whole world." In 1819, former President John Adams wrote of his wish to see "the Jews against in Judea an independent nation." Today, tens of millions of American evangelicals passionately support -- even love -- the Jewish state, and consider it nothing less than their duty as Christians to stand with Israel and her people.

Why are Americans so pro-Israel? For reasons practical and idealistic, religious and strategic. They are linked by the kinship of common values -- an affinity of strength and decency that reflects the best of both nations, and sets them apart from the other nations of the world.

Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine.

Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine.

Author's Preface
AN uncommon degree of interest has been excited in modern times towards Palestine, to an extent scarcely ever before attained. It issues forth, as it were, out of its devastation of more than eighteen centuries standing; and people seek to reanimate it through their investigations and discoveries. The learned contend for the prize of contributing the most to its elucidation by discovering and tracing out the vestiges of antiquity which it offers; and it is therefore constantly visited and travelled over by the well-informed of all nations. How much more ardently, then, must the erudite man belonging to the house of Israel feel on the subject! For should not Israel march in the advance, and serve in this matter as an example to other nations? or shall it, to whose ancestor God said (Gen. 13. 15), “For the whole land which thou seest I will give unto thee and thy seed for ever,” receive an account of its possessions—for its property the land remains, long as the time may be that its claim is not acknowledged, and its rights usurped by the hand of power from the mouth of others?

As I now happened to live in contentment in the Holy City, this thought became the more active in me, since I had the opportunity to furnish much, more indeed than any other in this respect; because I was constantly on the spot, and had a knowledge of the languages which are necessary to carry on the discoveries and investigations, and was tolerably familiar with Hebrew literature, the most extensive and reliable source in this field of inquiry; and I was thus in a position which promised me much assistance in my labours.
I call Hebrew literature the most extensive and reliable source; and, in truth, it is this in every respect; and whoever cannot draw his information out of it in his investigations, must remain unacquainted with much, even the most interesting matter, and will therefore fail in his discoveries. It hence results, that, despite the sagacity of so many travellers, much has remained unknown; for instance, no one could hitherto indicate where to look for the Mount Hor, in Northern Palestine; Riblah, Kadesh-Barneä, Azmon, Katath, Nahallal, Shimron, Rakkath, &c.; since all the learned were unacquainted with the circumstance, that all these names were changed at a later period, as we see mentioned in Talmud Yerushalmi, and since the names into which they were changed are existing to this day. In this way, therefore, being able to draw from the source indicated, I have been permitted to discover nearly a hundred names which had hitherto remained unknown. It farther struck me, that we had no manual which could aid us in elucidating the book of Joshua, either in reading or teaching it; so that several chapters are almost left unread, and not explained in instructing. Farthermore, I found that several passages are incorrectly translated; and bow, in good faith, can one expect from the learned of the West a correct explanation of the nature of the Orient? and who should feel more interested in the matter than one belonging to the house of Israel
I therefore applied myself to compose a new geography, and I can freely flatter myself that this work does not resemble the many modern journals of the constantly augmenting visits to Palestine, in which are repeated, again and again, the old and already known facts, which are only dressed up with a somewhat changed fashion; but rarely do you find a new discovery, only some entertaining particulars, which have no value to the scholar; and all the author exhibits to the world is, that he too has travelled through the Holy Land. This work, however, is at the same time instructive, and may be viewed as a commentary on the geographical passages of the Bible, and by no means as a description of a journey of three or four months’ duration,—but as the result of investigations and discoveries continued for many years with the greatest care, with many sacrifices, and not rarely with much personal danger.
I have likewise not lost sight of the labours of all preceding scholars; since I am acquainted with nearly all the works concerning Palestine, from Flavius Josephus to the books of the most modern times; especially the celebrated work of Réland, who cites accurately the description of Palestine by Eusebius and Hieronymus.
I have also derived much information from the Arabic version of the celebrated Saadiah Gaon, edited at Constantinople in 5306 (1546), and the Persian version of Rabbi Jacob bar Joseph Tawas; likewise from another unknown edition of Saadiah of the whole Bible canon, all of which enabled me to elucidate several geographical names. I may say the same of the very rare work, Caphtore Vapherach, of Astori Pharchi, in which he gives a description of Palestine.
Having now undertaken to describe the geography of the Holy Land, it struck me that it might be advisable to give a brief account of the physical nature and history of the country, as also my studies with regard to many names beyond Palestine occurring in the Bible and Talmud, many of which are quite unknown, whilst others are shrouded in a great deal of obscurity; and I trust that I have rendered some little service in this department.
In conclusion, I cannot avoid blaming my fellow-Israelites for their neglect of this beautiful science, since they display so little interest in our country, even in a scientific point of view; and whilst they are so careful to instruct their children so accurately in the situation and nature of strange and distant lands, for instance Siberia, Australia, South Africa, &c., they appear ashamed to impart to them any information concerning Palestine and Jerusalem. But God has said: “I will heal thee again, and cure thy wounds, because they called thee the forsaken, and it is Zion for which no one careth.” (Jeremiah 30. 17.)
I, therefore, hope that my laborious efforts may attain their aim, by exciting interest and love for the Holy Land and its inhabitants, in the hearts of my brothers.
Jerusalem, in the month of Sivan, 5605.
A Descriptive Geography of Palestine.
Title Page


Map of Palestine

The Boundaries of Palestine

The Boundaries of Palestine as Given in Numbers 34:3

The Boundaries of Palestine in the Time of Ezra and Nehemiah

Division of Palestine Among the 12 Tribes

Division of Judah

Towns of Judah

The Lowland, or the Valley

The Towns in the Mountains

The Towns in the Desert

The Towns Mentioned in the Maccabees

Towns in the Land of the Philistines



The Cities of Benjamin


The sons of Joseph


Names of the Towns of the sons of Joseph

Ramah in the Mountain of Ephraim

The Possession of Menasseh





The Seas, Rivers, Mountains and Valleys of Palestine

The Seas

The Rivers

The Mountains



The Valleys

Palestine Beyond Jordan


The Gates

The Walls

The Temple Mount

The Springs and Pools

The Fort Kallai

The People

Former and Present Conditions

The Family Pharchi




History of Palestine

Period I : From the Destruction of the Temple by Titus to the Mahomedan Conquest

Period II: From the Mahomedan Conquest to the First Crusade

Period III: From the Reign of the Europeans to Sultan Seliman

Period IV: 1520 to 1850

Jews and Muslims in Palestine

Chapter 1.
It is difficult to determine, with any degree of accuracy, the former limits of Palestine, especially as there are apparently several contradictions in this respect in the holy Scriptures. For instance, it is said in Genesis 15:18, "Unto thy seed have I given this land from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." Again, in Exodus 23:31, "and from the desert unto the river" (Euphrates); and again "from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be." So, also, Joshua 1:4, "From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, and all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast." In Numbers 34., however, where the precise boundary of Palestine is laid down by divine authority, we do not find that it was to extend from the Red Sea to the Euphrates; the most southerly points are עצמן Azmon, and קדש ברנע Kadesh-Barnea, and the most northerly, the Mount Hor הר ההר, and no mention is made of the Red Sea on the one or the Euphrates on the other side.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

When the Arab Jews Fled

When the Arab Jews Fled

A new movement insists that the founding of Israel created more than one set of refugees

Fortunée Abadie is still haunted by the day in 1947 when mobs stormed the Jewish Quarter of the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo, shortly after the United Nations vote that laid the groundwork for the creation of Israel.
Aleppo, a city where Jews and Muslims had lived together for centuries, exploded with anti-Jewish violence. Mrs. Abadie, now 88, remembers watching attackers burn prayer books, prayer shawls and other holy objects from the synagogue across the street. She heard the screams of neighbors as their homes were invaded. "We thought we were going to be killed," she says. The family fled to nearby Lebanon. Mrs. Abadie left behind all she had: clothes, furniture, photographs and even a small bottle of French perfume that she still misses, Soir de Paris—Evening in Paris.
A group of Yemenite Jews, newly arrived to Lod, Israel, in 1948 after being airlifted en masse.ENLARGE
A group of Yemenite Jews, newly arrived to Lod, Israel, in 1948 after being airlifted en masse. HULTON-DEUTSCH COLLECTION/CORBIS
The Abadie family's story is moving from the recesses of history to a newly prominent place in the debate over the future of the Middle East. Arab leaders have insisted for decades that Palestinian refugees who fled their homes following Israel's creation should be allowed to return to their former homes.
Now Israeli officials are turning the tables, saying the hardships faced by several hundred thousand exiled Arab Jews, many forced from their homes, deserve as much attention as the plight of displaced Palestinians. "We are 64 years late," says Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister. "The refugee problem does not lie only on one side." Mr. Ayalon, whose father is an Algerian Jew, led a U.N. conference last month sponsored by Israel and dubbed "Justice for Jews From Arab Countries."
Before the establishment of Israel in 1948, an estimated 850,000 Jews lived in the Arab world. In countries across the Middle East, there were flourishing Jewish communities with their own synagogues, schools and communal institutions.
Life changed dramatically by 1948 as Arab governments declared war on the newly created Jewish state—and on the Jews within their own borders. At the U.N., an Egyptian delegate warned that the plan to partition Palestine into two states, one for Jews and one for Palestinians, "might endanger a million Jews living in the Muslim countries."


Jews began fleeing—to Israel, of course, but also to France, England, Canada, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Yemen was home to more than 55,000 Jews; in Aden, scores were killed in a vicious pogrom in 1947. An airlift dubbed "Operation Magic Carpet" relocated most Yemenite Jews to Israel. In Libya, once home to 38,000 Jews, the community was subjected to many brutal attacks over the years. In June 1967, there were anti-Jewish rampages; two Jewish families were murdered—one family clubbed to death—and schools and synagogues were destroyed, says Vivienne Roumani, director of the documentary "The Last Jews of Libya." "We were there for centuries, but there is no trace of Jewish life," she says.
Among the Jews forced out of their homes was my own Egyptian-Jewish family, departing on a rickety boat in the spring of 1963. Egypt had once been home to 80,000 Jews. My parents, both Cairenes whose stories I chronicled in two memoirs, were especially pained at leaving a country they loved, without being allowed to take money or assets.
Within 25 years, the Arab world lost nearly all its Jewish population. Some faced expulsion, while others suffered such economic and social hardships they had no choice but to go. Others left voluntarily because they longed to settle in Israel. Only about 4,300 Jews remain there today, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia, according to Justice for Jews From Arab Countries, a New York-based coalition of groups that also participated in the U.N. conference.
Many of the Palestinians who fled Israel wound up stranded in refugee camps. Multiple U.N. agencies were created to help them, and billions of dollars in aid flowed their way. The Arab Jews, by contrast, were quietly absorbed by their new homes. "The Arab Jews became phantoms" whose stories were "edited out" of Arab consciousness, says Fouad Ajami, a scholar of the Middle East at Stanford's Hoover Institution. "We are talking about the claims of the Palestinians," he says. "Fine, but there were 800,000 Arab Jews, and they have a story to tell."
Palestinians bristle at the effort to equate the displacement of Arab Jews with their own grievances. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, says Mr. Ayalon "opened up a can of worms for political purposes" with the U.N. conference. She says that Israeli officials are trying to use a "forced and false analogy…to negate or question Palestinian refugee rights." The Palestinians, she says, "have nothing to do with the plight of the Jews or other minorities who left the Arab world." Still, Dr. Ashrawi recently proposed that Arab Jews should also have a "right of return" to the countries they left.
At the U.N. conference, Mr. Ayalon called Dr. Ashrawi's suggestion to have Jews return to Arab countries "totally ridiculous." Mr. Ayalon and the Israeli government are pushing ahead with efforts to raise the profile of Arab Jews. Israel has pledged to establish a national day in honor of Arab Jews and build a museum about their lost cultures. Mr. Ayalon has decided to make the Arab-Jewish refugees part of any negotiations, which has never been the case before. Looking ahead to a settlement, he would like to see both Palestinian and Jewish refugees compensated by an international fund. Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, has called on the U.N. to research the refugees' history.
Mrs. Abadie attended the conference with her son Elie, now a physician and rabbi who leads Congregation Edmond J. Safra, a Manhattan synagogue attended by Lebanese and Syrian Jews. Until 1947, Syria had an estimated 30,000 Jews living in Aleppo and Damascus. But like Mrs. Abadie, many departed in the wake of the violence that left 75 dead and synagogues in ruin.
The Abadies were refugees twice. After leaving Aleppo, the family ended up in Beirut, Lebanon. For a time, life was good in the cosmopolitan city. But by 1970, the climate had turned hostile. Armed militants appeared in the streets. Rabbis, including Elie's father, Abraham, had their pictures posted in the city's mosques, identifying them as "Zionist-Jewish leaders," an act the family took as a death threat. The Abadies decided once again it was time to move.
Some Jewish refugees, like Sir Ronald Cohen, find hope in the new initiatives to call attention to Arab Jews. Mr. Cohen, a London-based businessman, was a student at a French Catholic school in Cairo in 1956, friendly with his Muslim and Christian classmates. His father owned an import-export firm that specialized in appliances, and "Ronnie," then 11, loved to visit him and play with the radios.
Then in October 1956, Israel, France and England waged war against Egypt over the Suez Canal. Mr. Cohen's parents pulled him out of school after another Jewish boy was injured. His mother, a British citizen, was placed under house arrest. His father's business was "sequestered"—effectively taken from him—and he wasn't welcome at his own office. In May 1957, the family left on a plane bound for Europe. Mr. Cohen still remembers his father crying on the plane. "There is nothing left here," he recalls his mother saying. "It is all over."
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jews continued to pour out of the Muslim countries. When Desiré Sakkal and his family left Egypt as stateless refugees in 1962, he says, "there were very few Jews left." Stranded in Paris in a hotel, Mr. Sakkal's little brother was diagnosed with cancer, and he still remembers how his parents went to the hospital every day. The brother died a year later in New York, at the age of 10. Mr. Sakkal went on to found the Historical Society of Jews from Egypt, which seeks to recall the life left behind.
The Six-Day War of June 1967 brought some of the most violent anti-Jewish eruptions. As Arab countries faced defeat by Israel, they turned their rage on their own Jewish residents—what remained of them. In Egypt, Jewish men over 18 were rounded up and sent to prison. Some were kept for a few days. Others, like Philadelphia Rabbi Albert Gabbai, a Cairo native, remained imprisoned for three years. Rabbi Gabbai was only 18 when he was thrown in jail, along with three older brothers. He still remembers the cries of his fellow prisoners—Muslim Brotherhood members who were being tortured—echoing through the jail. He and his brothers feared that they were going to be killed. After three years of "despair," he says, they were driven to the airport and escorted to anAir France flight.
Mr. Cohen, who left Egypt in 1957,grew up to become a pioneer in European venture capital and private equity. In recent years, he has worked to develop the Palestinian private sector. He believes that the focus on Jewish-Arab refugees could spur the Arabs and Israelis toward peace. "There are refugees on both sides, so that evens the scales, and I think that it will be helpful to the process," he says. "It shows that both sides suffered the same fate."

While the plight of Palestinian refugees is widely known, it is less well recognized that 950,000 Jewish refugees were expelled from the Middle East and North Africa after the Jewish state was founded in 1948
it is less well recognized that 950,000 Jewish refugees were expelled from the Middle East and North Africa after the Jewish state was founded in 1948.

It’s true that no Jewish equivalent of Aida exists, but that does not detract from the experience of Jews like Lisette Shashoua, who fled to Canada from her home in Baghdad after the 1967 war.

She testified before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee last year, recalling 14 men who were hanged in public in 1969, including 10 Jews accused of being Israeli spies.

“They were hanged in the public square and the population was given the day off and invited to gather and dance in celebration underneath the dangling corpses. I still have nightmares about being back in Baghdad,” she said.


In a report released in November, the committee recommended that Canada formally recognize the experience of those refugees in its foreign policy — something that the Harper government did Tuesday adding natural growth it should amount to over 7 million Jews.

In a brief statement, a spokesman for John Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister, said: “Fair and equal acknowledgement of all refugee populations arising from the Arab-Israeli conflict requires the recognition of Jewish refugees.”

It’s not yet clear what that will mean in practical terms but at the very least it will be written into Canada’s official policy on the refugee issue and the impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The move makes Canada only the second country outside Israel to recognize the plight of Jews in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, who were often expelled and their property confiscated without compensation.

The U.S. Congress passed a similar resolution in 2008 but it appears to have had limited influence on U.S. foreign policy. In the Canadian case, the government response to the all-party committee recommendation reflects a Cabinet decision, which may make it more influential in policy terms.

Jewish groups have lobbied for the change for some time, pointing out that many historical accounts ignore the story of Jewish refugees. While there have been 172 UN resolutions over the Palestinian refugee issue, none have addressed Jews expelled from countries where they had lived for centuries.

Adoption of the recommendation was key to completing, not rewriting, the historical record, they argued.

But this is not just about correcting an historical injustice. With the deadline for a framework agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians looming next month, the issue of “right of return” is a hot political topic in the current U.S. peace initiative.

The chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, David Koschitzky, said the government’s support should be integrated into Canada’s policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “on the premise that peace can only be achieved through a balanced and honest examination of Jewish and Arab refugees alike.

“Addressing the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is an important step toward achieving a comprehensive, negotiated two state peace with an absolute end to the conflict and all claims,” he said.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, who has been in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama this week, has been unequivocal on the right of return issue. “There is no room for manoeuvre,” he said.

Addressing the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is an important step toward achieving a comprehensive, negotiated two state peace with an absolute end to the conflict and all claims
Behind the rhetoric, it seems there may be more flexibility than the public statements would suggest. Mr. Abbas has been quoted as saying that no refugees will return without Israel’s consent but he expects Israel to provide a quota of refugees to absorb each year.

In this light, with the details still to be negotiated, Canada’s renewed support will be welcomed in Israel.

While the Palestinians can point to the “land theft” that took place when Israel was founded, the Israelis can refer to a growing international recognition that Jews were displaced too and 46,000 sq. km. of land was confiscated 5 times the size of Israel. The committee report refers to an Arab League plan to persuade Jews to leave by forcing them to declare willingness to join Arab armies at war with Israel. The result was an exodus that saw Jewish populations across the Middle East and North Africa shrink from 986,000 in 1948 to just 4,315 in 2012.

The formal recognition of this fact in Canadian foreign policy will further fortify a relationship with Israel that is already as strong as Samson.