On Wednesday at the UN headquarters in New York, the Israeli Mission to the UN held an event to commemorate the Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, in coordination with JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa).
This public event was heavily attended by ambassadors from around the world, UN officials, and members of the community, and featured speeches by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, Elan Carr, the US State Department’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism Elan Carr, and Sarah Idan, the former Miss Iraq.
The event was held one day after the annual UN General Assembly plenary session that commemorates the passage of Resolution 181 “Partition Plan” on November 29, 1947. The day features resolutions that highlight the Palestinian refugees, but ignore the Jewish refugees.
In his remarks, Ambassador Danon stated that this custom of “denying the rights of Jewish refugees” is an attempt “to erase them from the narrative and an antisemitic historic injustice.”
To correct this, the ambassador is “going to propose a resolution that will reaffirm the Jewish refugees place in history and assure that their rights are recognized. I can see no legitimate reason for any member state to oppose the resolution. The choice to commemorate the national day of remembering Jewish refugees forced out of Arab countries and Iran in the 20th century on the 30th of November is no coincidence. It is the day after the important resolution of November 29th where this institution recognized the importance of forming a Jewish state in Israel.”
Ambassador Danon drew a connection between the initiation of hostilities against the Jewish people following the passage of Resolution 181 and the beginning of the Jewish refugee crisis.
“It was right after this announcement that pogroms and violence forced people to flee their homes. The hate, the anti-Semitism expressed by countries had nothing to do with borders. The idea of a Jewish state in Israel was enough to reignite the simmering flame of antisemitism and have countries turn on their own citizens,” he said.
Special Envoy Carr stated that “in order to fight antisemitism whether it be in Europe or anywhere else, it has to be acknowledged that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
He continued, “Jew hatred is Jew hatred whether it is focused on the Jew down the street or the Jew in the diaspora or the Jewish state.”
In her remarks, Sarah Idan spoke about visiting Israel following the revocation of her Iraqi citizenship after she posted a photo taken with Miss Israel. She went “to learn more about this tiny country that so many Arab states see as an enemy and threat. I was very surprised and especially touched by the experience of visiting the Babylonian Heritage Museum on Or Yehuda – which serves as a center to honor the heritage and history of Iraqi Jews. I was born in Baghdad…and felt very connected to the Iraqi Jews I met in Jerusalem who welcomed me with open arms and with so much love, even though my country treated them unfairly. I was overwhelmed when I saw pictures of Iraqi government stamps on their passport saying ‘one-way exit – not allowed to return’. I told them I was utterly ashamed.”
In her comments, she also stated that anti-Semitism served as a cause of the Jewish refugees: “Sadly, the 3,000-year chapter of Jewish life in Iraq, along with the larger Middle East and North Africa came to an abrupt and traumatic end – and much of this is the result of anti-Semitism.”
Nathaniel Malka spoke on behalf of JIMENA, saying, “Without remembrance, there cannot be truth; without truth, there cannot be justice; without justice, there cannot be reconciliation; without reconciliation, there cannot be peace. We are here today for remembrance. We recall the history of my ancestors and the rest of the million Jews who left North African and Middle Eastern lands under duress in the last century. Let me wish you all strength in your work toward reconciliation, enabled by the justice required for it, determined with truth and built over the remembrance we undertake today and increasingly all the other days of the year.”