Mr. Fischbach is Professor of History, Randolph-Macon College and the author of Jewish Property Claims Against Arab Countries (Columbia University Press (August 2008).

Michael Fischbachs review of his own book is disturbing. Not so much because it has bias, or lacks factual data. It is disturbing because it brings to light another situation concerning the Jews from Arab lands which he does not touch upon. And that question is racism. He might have felt that the subject was not relevant to the book’s intent, however, since this matter has been nothing but “HUGE”  this year (just have a look at the related posts), it is primordial to bring to light how “why have the Arab Jews waited until 2002** to press for recognition, when they are not even seeking compensation”.

Mr. Fischbach however, is absolutely on the money when he intimates that the exiled Jews from North Africa are nothing but pawns on the  Israeli, dominantly Ashkenazi, chessboard as they position themselves against the Palestinians for “peace negotiations”. Fearing claims against the “right to return” to their land, and recovery for properties lost, it was essential to put something into play which would counterbalance such claims.

“But why had JJAC(acronym for Justice for Jews from Arab Countries), established relatively recently in 2002, suddenly become active on behalf of the rights of ex-Arab Jews – called Mizrahi or Sephardic Jews, although both terms are problematic – decades after most of them left the Arab world to build new lives in relative obscurity? And why did the Resolution fail to call explicitly for Jewish property compensation or restitution?

Furthermore, why did the Resolution, which JJAC helped to write, link the fates, rights, and avenues of possible redress of ex-Arab Jews with those of the Palestinian refugees from 1948, who were not responsible for the Jews’ dispossession in the first place? Were not the mass Jewish exodus from the Arab world and the resultant property losses important enough issues to merit congressional scrutiny on their own, without reference to the Palestinians?”

Even more disturbing is his calling to the table the fact that both U.S. and Israeli government representatives worked hard and long for remuneration for the Holocaust’s victims, – thus, why is it that Resolution 185* only calls for “equal time” rather than compensation for those Jews that were exiled from North African nations? When I had ventured to say to a fellow Sephardic Jew that we had not suffered the “ovens”, I was instantly labeled as anti-semitic. Yet, here is a professor raising the same question. But, missing from the book’s profile is any knowledge of the diminution of the Sephardic Jew’s standing in the Jewish world, and the centuries’ long dichotomy between the two sects.

“Unlike the demands for Holocaust reparations, compensation, and restitution that Jewish groups and the State of Israel alike have pursued with vigor over the decades, JJAC went out of its way to state that its campaign on behalf of Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent was not seeking monetary recompense for property lost at the hands of Arab governments. Why have JJAC and other groups such as the World Jewish Congress (WJC) adopted this stance toward the claims of Jews from the Arab world”

Most disturbing now to me, is the fact that the Head of the JJAC, Mr. Stanley Urman, is not Sephardic himself, but has apparently done much for the cause, I was told. Does that include the wording of the document? Does that include the terms under which “Arab Jews” are to be recognized? It has been estimated that, in today’s dollars, the cumulative value of the property abandoned by Jews of Arab Countries is estimated at US$30 billion.

Is this figure to be manipulated in negotiating the Palestinians right of return and compensation for the loss of their demolished homes? Let’s face it, Israel was never very interested in Sephardic Jews, and not terribly keen to absorb them into their fold after hostilities broke out in the Middle East in 1956 after the Suez Canal Crisis. To this day, Sephardim in Israel are second class citizens.

Yes, they have their token Sephardics in government and elsewhere. (No Prime Minister Yet). However, if one is to connect the dots as Fishbach has meticulously done, the JJAC/JIMENA/WJC and other groups are only there to serve as counterpoints to damages that may be demanded by the Palestinians at the peace negotiating table.

Is JJAC‘s campaign likely to benefit Mizrahi/Sephardic Jews who suffered property losses when they left the Arab world? Is this even its intent? An “even exchange of populations and property” would leave claimants on all sides with nothing, except perhaps the possibility of seeking compensation from an international fund that does not yet exist. In fact, few efforts have been made over the decades by Israel or Jewish organizations to press for Mizrahi/Sephardic property compensation.”

* Resolution 185 – US Congressional Resolution passed in May 2008 that essentially mandates that  Jewish refugees from Arab Countries must be part of any and all discussion which implicates the Palestians refugees of the Middle East.

**2002 was the second time that a body was formed for this purpose. Thirty or so years earlier, another committee was formed in Israel with the acronym of WOJAC that sought to redress the claims of Jews from Arab Countries. WOJAC had to close its doors from lack of support from the Israeli government.

Related Posts: Take Action! Senate Resolution on Jewish Refugees

What is there between the Mizrahi issue and Palestinian Nationalism

Why Sarah Fedida Matters


European Parliament Holds First-Ever Hearing on Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Cotler Speaks on Jewish Refugees in UK Parliament

Acknowledging the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries

British parliament briefed on Jewish refugees

BBC and Justice for Jews: Have Your Say

Please read the entire critique