By Ammar Awad / Reuters
Peace with Arab countries will not be possible if they do not compensate the Jews who were expelled after the State of Israel’s establishment, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said on Monday at a Knesset conference.
MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), whose parents were banished from Iraq, called the conference two years after the passage of his bill requiring any peace treaty to include reparations to Jewish refugees, in hopes of ensuring the law’s implementation. He also said he would form a Knesset caucus to promote the cause.
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“In negotiations, there are two sides,” Ze’ev pointed out. “The world – especially the US and Europe – must realize that [Jewish] refugees have rights.”
Rivlin said that Jews from Arab countries had been happy to immigrate to Israel, but that did not erase the humiliation of having their property confiscated as they left.
“We cannot have relations with a country that justifies stealing,” he explained.
“If there is a treaty between Israel and Arab countries, reparations must be included.”
The Knesset speaker demanded the same of Europeancountries, not only for victims of the Holocaust, but also for those who immigrated to Israel and lost property because of pogroms and anti- Semitism.
MK Einat Wilf (Independence) pointed out that the UN Relief and Works Agency, which deals only with Palestinian refugees, gives refugee status to a baby born in Gaza, not just to those who fled the 1948 War of Independence.
“There are 30,000 [Palestinian] refugees, not five million. The world only knows half the story,” she said. “There are Jewish refugees and there are Arab refugees. Both sides must be compensated, because there were victims on both sides.”
Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin focused on delegitimization of Israel, quoting from the Fatah faction’s platform, which calls to “eliminate the Zionist presence.”
“They say that the very establishment of the State of Israel is a sin that produced an evil,” Begin said. “They deny our affinity to our homeland.”
Fiorello Provera, vice chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, also addressed the conference, criticizing the EU for treating Israel like a “second-class country.” Provera also asserted that anti-Zionism was anti-Semitism, and lamented increasing harassment of Jewish communities in Europe.
He described a double standard in which Israel was judged far more harshly than other countries, saying that it “illustrates the new anti-Semitism, a by-product of Islamic fundamentalism.”