As the US hopefully initiates plans to dismantle the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East (UNRWA), it is an appropriate time for Israel to assess the amount of money that Palestinians are due for their lost property.
Part of the lure that the United Nations dangled before the Stateless Arabs from Palestine (SAPs) to register as refugees in the UN agency was that those people who remained in the immediate surrounding area (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, West Bank and Gaza) would not only be entitled to free schooling and healthcare, subsidized housing and business loans, but would ALSO have the opportunity to either move into Israel or be compensated for the homes that were left by parents, grandparents and great-grandparents long ago. This contrasts with relatives who left the region to have careers, homes and citizenship outside of Israel’s neighbors who gave up the right to move to Israel and/or be compensated for the lost property according to the UN.
That’s absurd. Lost property is lost property.
It is time for Israel to take a full accounting of the property which Arabs left in 1948 when five Arab armies came to destroy the reestablished Jewish State of Israel. Those Arab descendants who lost property should not be limited to those who registered with UNRWA to be wards of the world. There are Arabs who live in Chile, the United Kingdom and elsewhere who should also be entitled to compensation for a lost home.
The compensation should be paid directly to the Arabs still alive from 1948. In cases in which there is no survivor, the compensation should be shared ratably among all of the descendants regardless of where they currently live and whether they are registered as “refugees” with the UN.
Such approach is consistent with the founding resolution of UNRWA and UNGA Resolution 194 which states:
“that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;”
For 70 years it has been clear through wars, intifadas, car ramming and stabbing attacks and a leadership that continues to refuse to acknowledge the “Jewishness of Israel” and has laws for the death penalty for any Arab that sells land to a Jew, that the Palestinian Arabs are unwilling to “live at peace.” The chapter of “Right of Return” has closed. It is time to settle the issue completely with compensation.
Does that mean that third generation Palestinian Arabs living in Chile will have the same rights to compensation as the SAPs in Gaza? Absolutely. Why should they be treated differently? Just because Gazans have been living off of the world’s charity for 70 years, does not make them more entitled to compensation for lost property than Palestinians that established productive lives in new countries. A Palestinian-Canadian, Palestinian-Chilean and Gazan will all have to share from the same compensation fund.
850,000 Jews from Arab Lands
It is similarly time for the Arab countries that forced their native Jews to flee from their homes to pay compensation to them for lost property. These Jews were routed from their houses out of pure antisemitism, unlike the Arabs from Palestine that had launched a civil war over land. Each country should follow a similar program of compensating the direct party that was forced to leave their home, or their direct descendants.
- Algeria 140,000 Jews
- Egypt 75,000
- Iraq 135,000
- Lebanon 5,000
- Libya 38,000
- Morocco 265,000
- Syria 30,000
- Tunisia 105,000
- Yemen 55,000
This total of 850,000 Jews does not include the Jews who fled Iran and Afghanistan.
The fact that the Jewish survivors of the Arab expulsion and their descendants now have citizenship in Israel, France, Canada and elsewhere make them no less entitled to compensation for lost property, just like the Palestinians with citizenship in various countries.
For 70 years the Jews and Arabs from around the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have fought each other and routed people from their homes. It is time for just compensation to be made for all parties to forge a pathway to an enduring peace in the region.
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