A Foreign Ministry advocacy campaign set to be launched online this week — “I am a refugee” — seeks to raise awareness about Jewish refugees from Arab countries at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel.
“It is time to correct a historic injustice and deal with the Jews who were forced out of Arab countries,” reads the campaign’s Facebook page, which had garnered 38,000 likes at the time of writing.
The project, spearheaded by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, focuses on the personal stories of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, termed “a little-known refugee group” by the ministry, who were expelled from their homes and their countries, without their belongings, by their rulers.
The campaign calls on the Jewish descendants from Arab countries to upload videos, text, documents, and pictures to the Facebook page in order to tell the story that is an “inseparable part” of the establishment of the State of Israel.
“The time has come to correct an ongoing historical injustice affecting half the population of Israel,” Ayalon said, according to the ministry. “We started 64 years late, but it’s not too late. For the sake of true reconciliation with our Palestinian neighbors, the issue of the Jewish refugees must be resolved.”
Between 1948 and 1952, the Foreign Ministry says, approximately 850,000 Jews from Arab countries became refugees. Some 600,000 found refuge in Israel, while the other 250,000 fled to Europe or the US.
The launch was originally planned to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York at the end of the month.
But news of the campaign hit a nerve in the Arab world, and Arabic media has already paid the advocacy project sizable attention.
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member, wrote in an article that was published in several Arabic media outlets that Jews who came to Israel from Arab countries are not “refugees” because they left for “their ‘homeland'” of their own volition. She called it “deception and delusion” that Jews would see themselves as “uprooted” from their Arab homelands.
Ashrawi also accused Israel of working for years, in conjunction with key members of the US Congress, to debunk UN Resolution 194 — which calls on the two sides to find a suitable, peaceful solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees. “The [Palestinian] refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date…” the resolution states.