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Discrediting Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries, Official Arab "Invitation" for Jews to return

A strange and unlikely invitation was extended through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1975. Farouk Kaddoumi, then the PLO political department head, declared that all the Jews who had fled from Arab states since 1948 were welcome "to return and exercise their full rights."[1]

One day later an Iraqi broadcast from Radio Baghdad echoed the PLO offer to "retum," particularly to the 140,000 Iraq-born Jews who are now in Israel.[2] The Iraqi government underscored its invitation two weeks afterward, with paid advertisements in selected newspapers around the world. Readers of the New York Times, the Toronto Star, or Le Monde would have found the ad difficult to overlook; in half-inch boldface letters, "Iraqi Jews" were "invited to return to Iraq."[3] The invitation excluded Jews who were Zionists, because "the latter is... racist... directed against Palestinian Arabs..."[4]

The day after the ad appeared, the New York Times reported that the Arab offer "was scoffed at" by the Jews "as a propaganda move." The Toronto Star expressed disdain for the ad's "ostensibly generous invitation." In its editorial, entitled "Iraq's Phony Invitation," the Star observed that "the militantly anti-Israel" dictatorship "knows that the vast majority of Jews... support Israel and are therefore Zionist in sympathy." According to the Toronto paper, the "real purpose" of the ad was to emphasize the "Zionism-is-racism" United Nations resolution and "to deny the validity of Israel's existence." The editorial concluded that "Iraq's 'come-home'... hypocritical gesture... won't fool any Jews in Canada, and it shouldn't mislead any other Canadians...."[5]

The Arab invitations* were not simply a sales device to convince Israeli sympathizers that Zionism is guilty of the evils alleged by the Arabs and by the Arab-inspired United Nations resolutions. Most knew little or nothing about even the existence of such a Jewish community. Neither were the invitations designed to fool the Jews. The PLO's Kaddourni has never pretended to hospitality toward them. In fact, almost simultaneously with his invitation, Kaddoumi had told Newsweek, "This Zionist ghetto of Israel must be destroyed."[7]

These invitations were orchestrated for quite a different purpose. They were in all probability an attempt to offset little-known facts that were gradually emerging-facts with the potential to discredit one of the central themes relating to the "right" of the Palestinian refugees to "return."

1) The vast majority of Palestinian refugees left of their own free will, (see Palestinian Refugees, invited to leave in 1948)

2) The vast majority of Jews left fleeing religious persecution

3) The Palestinian Refugees were on the whole stateless, citizenshipless, migrant workers who regularly roamed throughout the Middle East - not based in what is now the state of Israel

4) The Oriental Jews were forced to flee their homes where they had lived, sometimes for thousands of years.

Thus it is the Jews, NOT the Palestinians who are the true refugees.

[* Among others, Libya in 1970 and 1973, Sudan in 1975 (although the number of former Sudanese Jews now in Israel is "minute"), and Egypt in 1975.[6]

1. November 24, 1975, Beirut.

2. Revolutionary Command, Radio Baghdad, November 25, 1975.

3. New York Times, Le Monde, Toronto Star, December 11, 1975.

4. New York Times, December 11, 1975. The Iraqi Minister of Justice in 1941 stated that "Judaism"-not Zionism-was "a threat to mankind." He did not attempt disguise the Iraqis' anti-Jewish sentiments, which exploded that year into an old-fashioned Cossack-style pogrom, long before Israel's statehood. Further, the killing of the Jewish Dutch citizen, whom the Iraqis hanged as a "Zionist spy" the same year they extended their "welcome," gave lie to Iraq's extensive promises of "full rights" to its Jews. See Sylvia Haim, "Arabic Anti-Semitic Literature," in Jewish Social Studies, vol. 17 (1955), pp. 307-12.

5. Toronto Star, February 3, 1976.

6.Libya's Major Abdul-Huni, Council Commanding the Revolution, to ex-Libyan Jewish refugees then in Italy, May 29, 1970. Libyan leader Qadaffy invited former Libyan Jews living in Israel to return, November 24, 1973; see Chapter 7. Also, Sudanese President Numeiry, in a speech at a rally celebrating Independence Day, E-Damar, January 1, 1975. Also Egyptian President Sadat to Jews who fled or were expelled since 1948, filing the caveat that Egyptians "are against the racial policies of the Zionists." The invitation and its qualification occurred in September 1977, interestingly, just weeks before President Sadat's Jerusalem peace pilgrimage. See Chicago Daily News, September 10-11; also see The Oregonian (Portland), July 18, 1977.

7. Newsweek, November 17, 1975, interview; also see Chicago Daily News: - December 30, 1975; see also Newsweek, March 14, 1977.

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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Source: "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters, 1984
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Portions Copyright © 1984 Joan Peters, Portions Copyright © 2001 Joseph Katz
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