Journalist Shalom Yerushalmi: Time to Recognize the Suffering of Jewish Refugees

Friday, 05 Oct 2012 02:44 PM

By Henry J. Reske and Kathleen Walter

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It is time to recognize the suffering of Jewish refugees pushed from Arab lands 65 years ago when the state of Israel was founded, Israeli journalist Shalom Yerushalmi tells Newsmax TV.

His comments are part of a campaign launched by Israel calling for justice for those Jews displaced from Arab countries. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Israel's United Nations Ambassador Ron Prosor kicked off the campaign this month, hosting a U.N. Summit on Jewish Refugee.

Yerushalmi noted in the interview that his father came from Turkey and his mother from Damascus and suffered years of discrimination.

Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.

“They didn’t want to leave Damascus until the state of Israel declared it,” he said. “And they were forced to do it and they came to Israel penniless. They buy a donkey and they buy a horse over the day and night, they come to Israel. They are Jewish refugees. They are Jewish refugees because we left our home in Damascus. My grandmother had the key of the home, of this house, until she died.

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“She kept this key with her. We gave up everything. We gave up the house, we gave up the splendid synagogue, we gave up the land and we came, my family came here with, as I told you, penniless. That’s why we are refugees and we are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of families came to Israel in this way and we just wanted to make justice for them.”

Yerushalmi argued that it is not too late to bring justice to the situation and called for the creation of an international fund to compensate refugees.

“Look, the Palestinian refugees want money; want the international community to compensate them. We want the same,” he said.

But it's not that easy.  Palestinians see the program as an attempt to equate Israeli refugees with that of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who lhave lost homes in Israel. The campaign insists that both cases are part of the same core issue that must be addressed by any future peace talks.

According to Israeli government figures, 856,000 Jews left Arab countries during the four years after the state was created in 1948, and they claim billions were lost in property and assets.

"The problem of refugees is probably the most thorny and painful one. Everyone agrees without solving this we won't be able to achieve true peace nor normalisation in the Middle East," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said to the BBC recently.

"We have to, ahead of time, understand that refugees are not only on one side of the border but both sides. There are Arab refugees and there are also Jewish refugees and we should use the same yardstick for them all."

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