Photo Credit: DS Levi
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, June 20 2017

Seventy years after the mass expulsion of nearly a million Jews from Arab nations in the Middle East and Iran, those communities are now demanding official recognition by the United Nations.

The heads of those communities — including Dr. Shimon Ohayon, director of the Dahan Center at Bar-Ilan University and chairman of the Alliance of Moroccan Immigrants — this week sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, asking the international body to officially recognize the past suffering of the 850,000 Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab states and Iran.

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Some scholars say the number is closer to one million, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the North African region, 259,000 Jews fled from Morocco, 140,000 from Algeria, 100,000 from Tunisia, 75,000 from Egypt, and another 38,000 from Libya. In the Middle East, 135,000 Jews were exiled from Iraq, 55,000 from Yemen, 34,000 from Turkey, 20,000 from Lebanon and 18,000 from Syria. Iran forced out 25,000 Jews.

The lost Jewish communities of the Arab world

“While the UN organizes events to mark the departure of 450,000 Palestinians from Israel upon the establishment of the state following a war imposed on Israel, we do not see recognition of the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries,” they wrote.

“We believe the UN strives for justice for all refugees around the world, including Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab lands. We therefore seek to establish a memorial day for the Jews’ expulsion from Arab lands.”

The State of Israel is set to commemorate the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands this year on November 30, and a symposium was scheduled Nov. 28 at Bar-Ilan University on the subject.

“The descendants of these immigrants from Arab countries now account for a majority of Israel’s Jewish population,” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website marking the National Day last year. “The Jewish exiles who were forced to flee their homes overcame personal and communal tragedy and not only persevered, but thrived; many have risen to important positions in the national government and in the public and private sectors. They have made an invaluable contribution to the fabric of Israeli society, and their vibrant cultures are an integral part of the colorful mosaic of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.