Sunday, April 09, 2006

What happened to the Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern countries?

In the years following Israel's independence in May 1948, 600,000 to 800,000 Jews from Arab North Africa and the Middle East (approximately as many as the number of Palestinian refugees who left Israel in 1948) arrived in the new state, as a direct result of official and popular anti-Semitic actions against them. Israel received them as returning countrymen, granted them citizenship and helped them begin new and productive lives. There is currently no visible sign of their being "refugees," since they have long since been absorbed into Israeli society.

Nevertheless, they still have substantial claims against those countries which forced them to flee, often penniless, and these must be addressed in any comprehensive resolution of the refugee problem.

Throughout Arab lands, 1948 Jewish populations have been decreased to next to nothing. To where did these Jewish refugees vanish? The majority went to Israel, often living in tent camps for up to 12 years, just as the Palestinian refugees. However, they got citizenship in Israel and did not remain permanent refugees.

Jewish refugees from Arab lands have received no compensation for expropriated property, while Arabs who lost property in Israel are eligible to file for compensation from Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property.

Sources and additional reading on this topic:
The Refugee Issue
The Forgotten Refugees
History of the JDC
Who Were the 1948 Refugees?
The Jewish Dispossessed
The Jewish Refugees
Invisible Natives... and Occupied Lands