Palestine envoy: Jewish refugee meeting at UN aims for confusion
Published Sunday 23/09/2012 (updated) 24/09/2012 15:11
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestine's UN envoy said on Sunday that while Israel had the right to hold a panel discussion at the United Nations asserting the claims of Jews who fled Arab countries after 1948, the only purpose of the meeting is to distract attention from Palestinian refugees.
Riyad Mansour told Ma'an that all Arab countries with the exception of Egypt boycotted the meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday. Arab envoys at the UN lodged unsuccessful protests to call it off.
"The Israeli ambassador has the same right as any other member to hold a meeting at the UN," Masour said.
But he accused the conference of aiming to cause confusion and pull attention away from Palestinian refugees.
On Saturday Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said: "Those Jews are criminals rather than refugees. They are the ones who turned the Palestinian people into refugees, and for that reason, the Hamas movement views this conference as a dangerous, unprecedented move which contributes to the falsification of history and reversing of facts."
But Israeli leaders considered it a victory for a population that is increasingly being linked to the peace process with the Palestinians.
"Between the walls of the UN we are starting to bring justice to the Jewish refugees who were tortured, persecuted and driven away, and whose rights were revoked," said Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister, according to Israeli media.
"We are 64 years late, but it's never too late to bring justice and discuss the historic facts."
Hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern Jews left predominantly Arab countries amid growing hostility following the establishment of Israel in the late 1940s.
Israel had also drafted a "Law of Return" that granted instant citizenship to anyone who can claim Jewish lineage. Most immigrants had no modern ties to the land.
At the same time, over 700,000 Palestinians were driven from or fled historic Palestine and today make up the largest refugee population on earth.
Israeli media reported a week earlier that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was preparing to add compensations for Jews who came from Arab and Muslim countries as a condition for any future peace deal.
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in response that there was no connection between Palestinian refugees and Israelis whose families are from Arab countries, but he supported their right of return.
"We are not against any Jew who wants to return to Morocco, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere. I believe no Arab state rejects the Jewish right of returning to their native lands," he said.