UN: 40 Killed, 260 Wounded in Clashes in Yemen’s Aden

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT) 

 

UN: 40 Killed, 260 Wounded in Clashes in Yemen’s Aden

Sunday, 11 August, 2019 – 11:45
A member of the southern separatist movement rides an armored military vehicle in Yemen’s government-held second city Aden on August 11, 2019, following clashes between pro-government forces and separatists. – AFP photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
As many as 40 people have been killed and 260 injured in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden since Aug. 8, when the latest round of fighting broke out, the office of the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for the country said in a statement on Sunday, citing preliminary reports.

“It is heart-breaking that during Eid al-Adha, families are mourning the death of their loved ones instead of celebrating together in peace and harmony,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Lise Grande said, AFP reported.

“Our main concern right now is to dispatch medical teams to rescue the injured,” she noted.

“We are also very worried by reports that civilians trapped in their homes are running out of food and water,” Grande added.

“Families need to be able to move freely and safely to secure the things they need to survive.”

Grande further called on authorities to guarantee “unimpeded access” for humanitarian organizations.

5 Amazing Things You Should Know About Yemen

(This article is courtesy of travel trivia)

 

5 Amazing Things You Should Know About Yemen

Think fast! What do you know about the country of Yemen? Aside from its involvement in the socio-political event known as Arab Spring, you might be drawing a blank. And in all fairness, it’s not your fault. Compared to better known Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or even Iraq and Iran, Yemen is often overlooked. But we have a few amazing facts about “Arabia Felix” (the happy land) that will make you want to know more about this unique country.

It’s Home to One of the Oldest Occupied Cities in the World

Credit: Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

Yes, Yemen is that old. Sana’a is not only the capital city, but it’s also a city with ancient roots. Sana’a has served as a home to its people for over 2,500 years, is the country’s largest city, and it serves as a major transit hub for other popular stops within the nation. But the populous city is also the seventh-highest capital in the world, sitting at over 7,500 feet above sea level.

Socotra Island Is One of the Most Isolated Places on Earth

Credit: alex7370 / Shutterstock

Socotra island is a place so unique that you can’t find a third of the flora or fauna elsewhere in the world. It’s located in an archipelago off the coast of Yemen and has been dubbed Alien Island because of its unique wildlife. But Socotra is also called the pearl of the Indian Ocean. Archeologists, scientists and anthropologists have been visiting the island for years because of the unique biodiversity. But tourists are starting to recognize this untapped gem as well. Flights connect out of Sana’a and the UAE if you have your heart set on Socotra.

Yemen Is Home to the “Manhattan of the Desert”

Credit: Judith Liener / Shutterstock

When you think of skyscrapers, you probably imagine modern cities like New York or Tokyo. But the concept of urban planning is far older than both of these cities and their iconic histories. Shibam is a 16th-century city that first embraced the idea of “building up” rather than urban sprawl. And the ancient city is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The walled city features a variety of buildings as tall as seven stories, which is pretty impressive considering that the structures are made of mud bricks. It’s important to note that several buildings throughout the city date back as far as the ninth century during pre-Islamic times.

You Have to Try the National Dish “Saltah”

Credit: Judith Liener / Shutterstock

One of the best ways to get to know a culture is through its cuisine. And Yemen is a nation with plenty of unique dishes that help it stand out from other countries within the Arabian peninsula and the greater Middle East. Saltah is a shorter way of saying “salatah,” which further translates to “a combination of vegetables.” You might know that as a salad. The dish has its origins from the Ottoman Empire and was believed to be made from charitable leftover food donations from wealthy families and area mosques. Today, the dish features a meat broth base, fenugreek froth, a mix of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and garlic, and usually lamb or beef for the meat. However, some variations include potatoes and other ingredients.

Yemen Has Roots That Go Back to the Bible

Credit: Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock

Even if you’re not particularly religious, it’s still pretty awe-inspiring when you walk through ancient lands that figured prominently in well-known literary works. Before the country was known as Yemen, it went by a few other names. It was first known as Sheba when it served as the stronghold for the Queen of Sheba. But you might also know it as the “land of milk and honey” during Noah’s time. And the story of Jesus and the Three Wise Men with their gifts of frankincense and myrrh also took place in this ancient land.

Saudi: Ethiopian Migrants Die of Hunger, Thirst in Stranded Boat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Ethiopian Migrants Die of Hunger, Thirst in Stranded Boat: IOM

Wednesday, 31 July, 2019 – 10:15
(File photo: AFP)
Dubai- Asharq Al-Awsat
At least 15 Ethiopians died after the boat trying to smuggle them into Yemen broke down and left them stranded in the sea without food or water for a week, a UN migration agency said.

Survivors said some died from hunger and thirst and others drowned themselves, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. A number reached Yemen but died before they could get medical help, it added.

Yemen is more than four years into a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine.

But thousands of migrants mostly from the Horn of Africa arrive there every year in the hopes of moving on to other states and escaping poverty and unemployment at home.

“The migrants were traveling from Djibouti to Yemen when the smugglers’ boat broke down,” IOM said on Twitter late on Tuesday.

“Those on board reported that lives were lost due to hunger, thirst & intentional drowning, while some people died in Yemen, as they could not reach health facilities in time,” it added.

The boat, which was originally carrying 90 Ethiopians, arrived in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden on Monday, the agency said, without giving details on how it got there.

The whereabouts of most of the survivors were unknown, it added.

Saudi Arabia: Yemen: Houthis Endorse Compulsory Service for Students

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ ALAWSAT)

 

Houthis Endorse Compulsory Service for Students

Thursday, 25 July, 2019 – 10:30
A Houthi militant in Sanaa, Yemen. Reuters file photo
Aden – Ali Rabih
Yemen’s Houthi militias have approved a draft law to introduce compulsory military service for school and university students.

Observers said that the introduction of the service is aimed at compensating the shortage in the number militants, and to maintain the coup and the Wilayat al-Fakih rule.

Official Houthi sources revealed that the coup cabinet chaired by Houthi head of government Abdul Aziz bin Habtoor adopted the new bill on Wednesday.

It was submitted by Minister of Education Yahya al-Houthi, the brother of the group’s leader.

The Houthis claimed that the bill aims to benefit from the capabilities of Yemen’s youths and offer them the chance to serve their country in addition to developing their sense of responsibility in the community.

Houthi sources pointed out that the cabinet formed a seven-member committee to lay the organizational standards and procedures to manage the process.

The meeting came days after Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a militia commander, hinted in a tweet at the group’s intention to activate a two-year compulsory service on youths above the age of 18.

Reliable sources in Sanaa affirmed that Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi called two weeks ago for the swift adoption of the bill, which has been put on hold for 17 years.

The 1991 law on compulsory military service stipulates that every Yemeni male above the age of 18 should report to duty.

Yemeni activists warned that by adopting the law, the insurgents would guarantee tens of thousands of recruits and huge funds from those preferring to pay compensation instead of being forced into military service.

International and government reports have spoken of Houthis recruiting more than 25,000 children whether through intimidation, kidnapping or invitation.

UN: ‘Credible’ Evidence of Houthi Torture of Detainees

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

UN: ‘Credible’ Evidence of Houthi Torture of Detainees Sentenced to Death this Week

Friday, 12 July, 2019 – 10:45
A general view of the old city of Sanaa, Yemen November 19, 2018. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The United Nations human rights office appealed on Friday to the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen to review their death sentence against 30 prisoners, citing credible allegations that many were tortured during three years of politically-motivated detention.

It urged the Appellate Court in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa, which is due to review the ruling, to take into account the serious allegations and violations of their right to a fair trial and due process in the lower court.

The specialized first instance criminal court handed down the death sentences on Tuesday, UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

Most of the 30 men are academics, students and politicians.

“At no point were they given a proper chance to present a defense,” Shamdasani said.

“There is a high likelihood that many of these charges are politically-motivated. There are very credible allegations of torture and mistreatment, our teams have been able to speak to families,” Shamdasani added.

“Any politically-motivated charges should be dismissed and international fair trial standards fully complied with,” she stated.

The government has pleaded with the international community to save the detainees.

Yemen’s Human Rights Ministry condemned in the strongest terms on Tuesday these verdicts that were based on confessions that were extracted after “brutal psychological and physical torture committed by the Houthis against the captives.”

“They culminated in a farce trial by an illegal court,” it added.

It urged the international community and organizations and United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths to intervene immediately to save them.

“The only crime they have committed is living in area held by the militias,” it said.

Amnesty International, in a statement this week, denounced what it called a “sham trial” where the 30 men faced “trump-up charges including espionage for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition”.

Yemen Urges Int’l Pressure to Curb Potential Oil Spill in Red Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Yemen Urges Int’l Pressure to Curb Potential Oil Spill in Red Sea

Wednesday, 26 June, 2019 – 08:45
A ship carrying a shipment of grain is docked at the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen August 5, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad
Aden – Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat
The Yemeni government renewed calls on the United Nations to pressure Houthi militias into allowing international teams to prevent the breakout of a potentially disastrous oil spill at the Safir offshore oil platform, which floats off Hodeidah’s northern coast.

In an address to the UN Secretary General, Yemeni Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdullah al-Hadrami stressed the need to get Houthis to grant the international body’s probing technicians access to Safir.

The facility contains more than one million barrels of crude oil pumped before Houthis staged a nationwide coup four years ago. The Iran-backed insurgents refuse allowing the internationally-recognized government from exporting that oil, and threaten blowing up the naval facility if they are not allowed to sell the oil reserves themselves.

Any explosion at Safir will cause a catastrophic oil spill with irreversible environmental damage.

Apart from Houthi threats of attack, Hadrami warned against the  Houthis’ continued blocking of assessment teams from examining the reservoir, which he said was in a corrosive condition that could lead up to a shocking environmental disaster that would contaminate Red Sea and regional waters.

Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, President of the Revolutionary Council, a body formed by the militants, had tabled an offer previously to sell the oil reserves stored in Safir and have the freely-elected government and insurgents split revenues.

Hadrami, for his part, stressed the government’s keenness to its long-standing demand for solutions on this particular issue. He underscored that the government has cooperated fully with the UN in this regard and is waiting for experts to evaluate the development of an effective strategy.

The Yemeni deputy foreign minister also placed blame on the militias for causing an environmental disaster in the Red Sea.

According to official sources, Hadrami stressed during a high-level meeting that the Yemeni government was – and still is – very keen on peace, and the full implementation of the UN-brokered peace agreement inked in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, last December.

“The government has made a lot of concessions to this end, despite the continued intransigence of the Houthi militias, their maneuvering to buy time at the expense of suffering Yemenis and the failure of the Swedish agreement,” he said.

Hadrami renewed the government’s condemnation of Houthis’ continued blackmailing of international organizations operating in Yemen and their militias looting of food aid and humanitarian relief.

He also appreciated the efforts and positions undertaken by the World Food Program (WFP) to put an end to such violations.

UN Welcomes Saudi, UAE Support for WFP in Yemen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

UN Welcomes Saudi, UAE Support for WFP in Yemen

Wednesday, 8 May, 2019 – 09:00
A man carries sacks of grain he received from a distribution center in Bajil, Yemen, December 13, 2018, 2018. (Reuters)
Hodeidah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has welcomed a $240 million contribution from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to support the food needs of vulnerable people in Yemen during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The generous contribution will greatly help Yemenis follow their practices and traditions during this important time,” WFP said in a statement.

“WFP plans to use this contribution to provide millions of families with monthly food rations of flour, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt.”

On the other hand, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande said Tuesday that it is a relief that the UN has finally been given the green light to use an existing corridor to gain access to the Red Sea Mills, adding that it is very positive that the parties have taken this step.

“Securing access to the Mills has been a long, difficult and frustrating process,” she said.

Grande also stressed the importance of doing everything possible to ensure that all humanitarian partners have free, unimpeded and immediate access to people who need and deserve assistance.

“Everyone knows we need the food in the Mills. It’s now a race against time to salvage supplies that can feed 3.7 million people for a month,” she added.

The WFP, for its part, announced that a technical team led by it has gained access to the Red Sea Mills on the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah city as part of initial efforts to salvage a stock of 51,000 tons of wheat flour stored at the facility.

The Mills have been inaccessible for the last eight months due to intense fighting.

“The technical team will remain at the site to clean and service the milling equipment in preparation for the milling and eventual distribution of the wheat,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel explained.

“We will need to send more workers and technical experts to the mills in due course and send supplies to the team now working at the site.”

He noted that in order for works to continue, “ongoing safe access to the Mills, which lie close to sensitive frontline areas” is needed.

In March, the WFP distributed food to more than 10.6 million people in Yemen, the largest number ever reached in a single month.

“We are scaling up to support 12 million people in urgent need of food in the coming months. WFP Operations in Yemen are the biggest for WFP in the world,” the spokesperson added.

WFP explained on its official website that its Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla traveled to Yemen on a three-day mission.

He first traveled to Aden, where he met with the legitimate government of the country’s premier and other senior officials before heading to Sanaa, where he met UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and leaders from the Iran-backed Houthi militias, the statement said.

Yemeni Parliament Pledges Ending Houthi Coup, Bringing Peace

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Yemeni Parliament Pledges Ending Houthi Coup, Bringing Peace

Wednesday, 24 April, 2019 – 14:30
The new Cabinet’s session in the presence of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in Seiyun (Saba News Agency)
Riyadh- Asharq Al-Awsat
Yemen’s Parliament Speaker Sultan al-Borkani pledged to end the Houthi coup and bring peace to the war-torn country.

This came during his meeting in Riyadh with the Chinese and British ambassadors in light with the MPs’ move in the diplomatic circles to enhance the legitimate government’s position in the country.

The parliament resumed its activity on April 13 by holding an extraordinary session in the eastern city of Seiyun in Hadramaut after most deputies attended.

Official sources said Borkani and the members of the parliament bureau, deputies Mohammad al-Shaddadi and Eng. Mohsen Busra, have received British ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron to discuss the latest developments in the country.

Borkani praised the great role played by the United Kingdom and its keenness to implement UN resolutions and agreements, most recently of which was the Stockholm Agreement on Hodeidah.

He also referred to the arbitrary measures taken recently by Houthi militias against Yemeni deputies, saying they contradict with all values and ethics.

Houthis have earlier taken measures against deputies, who have attended the parliamentary session in Seiyun, on charges of treason. They issued judicial claims to confiscate the property of those deputies, seize their houses, and arrest their relatives.

Borkani pointed out that the humanitarian tragedy has exacerbated by the continuation of the coup and failure to respond to peace options, according to Saba.

The agency added that he vowed to work hard to end the coup, restore the state and its institutions, end the human suffering, support any political solutions to bring peace, take into consideration issues related to citizens’ life and play his legislative and supervisory role.

He shed light on the militias’ lack of seriousness in dealing with the peace process, citing the non-implementation of Hodeidah agreement.

“Any attempts or talks about a settlement without including Hodeidah agreement will neither be useful nor unreasonable,” he noted, adding that instead, this will prolong the war and increase the Yemeni people’s suffering.

He hoped the Quartet meeting, which is scheduled to be held soon in London, will bring positive outcomes and strict positions that would force the militias to implement the agreements and comply with peace in accordance with the three terms of reference.

The Quartet includes foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Aron, for his part, pointed to the cooperation between Yemen’s parliament and UK’s House of Commons, saying his country “will provide facilitation for the success of efforts to achieve peace and implement Stockholm agreement on Hodeidah”.

Houthis Use Mosques as Platforms to Spread Sectarianism in Sanaa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Exclusive – Houthis Use Mosques as Platforms to Spread Sectarianism in Sanaa

Monday, 15 April, 2019 – 09:00
A view of the old quarter of Sanaa, Yemen August 6, 2018. (Reuters)
Sanaa – Asharq Al-Awsat

The Iran-backed Houthi militias have imposed their sectarian ideology in Yemen in their attempt to introduce a culture that is alien to the local population.

“We have abandoned our mission of delivering the peaceful message of Islam and its noble values after we realized that the Houthi agenda demands that we give up our principles and values to transform into a mouthpiece to stoke sedition and sectarianism among the people,” said Sheikh Abbas, an imam at a mosque in Houthi-held Sanaa.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat of the suffering and threats clerics and mosque imams have to endure at the hands of the militias that want to impose their ideology.

“Had I known the extent of the danger of the Houthi ideology on Yemeni society, I would not have quit the mosque and would have kept up my duty of guiding the people,” he lamented.

“The majority of the people are not aware that this militia harbors long-term goals. Its main purpose is to destroy the Yemeni identity, culture and social fabric to ignite a sectarian war,” said Sheikh Abbas.

Fortunately, he revealed that the Houthis are “at this moment facing monumental difficulties in convincing the people of their legitimacy.”

If they, however, continue to enjoy such liberties in delivering their hateful ideology, many people will be fooled into believing them, he warned, saying the high illiteracy rates among Yemenis is being exploited by the militias.

Among the lies they promote is the claim that heading to the battlefront to fight for their cause is a form of jihad.

Sheikh Abbas quit his mosque a year-and-a-half ago after he refused to comply with Houthi demands to promote their ideology during his Friday sermons.

Since capturing Sanaa, the militias sought to spread their sectarian ideology among the population. They took over the Ministry of Awqaf, which manages religious affairs, and transformed it into a platform to propagate their destructive Iranian agenda.

One mosque-goer recalled how the Houthis told worshippers that they should bring in their children to the mosque where they can benefit from “religious and cultural teachings, instead of wasting time on the streets.”

Most of the worshippers were angered by this last remark, saying they would rather spend their time on the street than attending sectarian lectures.

One Houthi official at a mosque in Sanaa follows up each prayer with sectarian sermons that incite the people to head to the battlefronts and fight the legitimate army and Arab coalition, describing them as “enemies of Islam.”

He even urged worshippers to abandon their prayers and head to battle.

A former Awqaf Ministry official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have adopted a systematic methodology at mosques to spread their Khomeinist ideology.

It sought to take control of the majority of the mosques in Sanaa, appointed its own imams and clerics and confiscated religious books that contradict with their Khomeinist teachings.

Moreover, he revealed that the Houthis force imams to attend sectarian courses to train them on spreading sectarianism that is aimed at tearing apart Yemeni society.

Some of the changes at mosques include altering the call to prayer according to Houthi ideology, organizing exhibits that display images of their sectarian symbols and posting posters of their slogans and dead fighters.

The Houthis exploited the poverty among the people “to buy the loyalty of several clerics and religious scholars to act as mouthpieces to spread the Khomeinist ideology in Yemen,” said the ministry official.

Yemeni rights groups said that the Houthis have seized more than 300 mosques in Yemen and used them as weapons caches. They have also forced the displacement of 1,300 religious scholars and arrested 180 preachers. They also smuggled in Lebanese and Iranian figures, whose purpose is to spread Iranian ideology among the people.

Moreover, the Awqaf Ministry said that between 2014 and 2016, the Houthis bombed and looted over 750 mosques, including 282 in Sanaa. Some 80 mosques were completely destroyed. They kidnapped 150 imams throughout Yemen and held them in secret jails where they are tortured for refusing to accept the Houthi sectarian agenda.

Israel Said Set To Seek $250b Compensation From Arab Countries Plus Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said set to seek $250b compensation for Jews forced out of Arab countries

After 18 months of research, first claims being finalized for reported $35b from Tunisia, $15b from Libya, for assets Jews left behind when kicked out after establishment of Israel

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Israel is preparing to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” Israel’s Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the Israeli government’s handling of the issue, said Saturday.

According to figures cited Saturday night by Israel’s Hadashot TV news, compensation demands are now being finalized with regards to the first two of the eight countries involved, with Israel set to seek $35 billion dollars in compensation for lost Jewish assets from Tunisia, and $15 billion dollars from Libya.

In total, the TV report said Israel will seek over $250 billion from those two countries plus Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a reception camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel, 1949. (Kluger Zoltan/Israeli National Photo Archive/public domain)

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries — the other two were Algeria and Lebanon — fled or were expelled in 1948 and after, while violent Arab riots left many Jews dead or injured.

For the past 18 months, utilizing the services of an international accountancy firm, the Israeli government has quietly been researching the value of property and assets that these Jews were forced to leave behind, the TV report said.

Immigrants from Iraq soon after landing at Lod Airport, summer 1951 (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

It is now moving toward finalizing claims as the Trump Administration prepares for the possible unveiling of its much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. A 2010 Israeli law provides that any peace deal must provide for compensation for assets of Jewish communities and individual Jews forced out of Arab countries and Iran.

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“One cannot talk about the Middle East without taking into consideration the rights of the Jews who were forced to leave their thriving communities amid violence,” said Gamliel, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“All the crimes that were carried out against those Jewish communities must be recognized.”

The Palestinian Authority has sought over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents of what is today Israel who fled or were forced to leave at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state, and presented documentation to that effect to the United States a decade ago, the TV report said.

The Palestinians have also always demanded a “right of return” to what is today’s Israel for the few tens of thousands of surviving refugees and for their millions of descendants. This demand would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state and has been dismissed by successive Israeli governments. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would become citizens of a Palestinian state under a permanent peace accord, just as Jewish refugees from Arab lands became citizens of Israel. It also argues that by extending refugee status to Palestinian descendants, the relevant UN agencies artificially inflate the issue, complicating peace efforts. The latter view is shared by the Trump administration, which last year announced it was halting funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Israel has never formally demanded compensation for Jews forced out of Arab lands and Iran, and although many of those Jews arrived in Israel with next to nothing, they did not seek formal refugee status from the international community.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon giving the opening remarks at an official UN event commemorating Jewish refugees from Arab lands, on December 1, 2015. (Shahar Azran)

At the time, the newly established Jewish state was struggling to attract migration from the world’s Jews and to project its legitimacy as a sovereign state, able to care for its own people. Its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, would not have wanted Jews returning to their “historic homeland” classed as refugees, according to Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran.

Monies obtained from the eight countries would not be allocated to individual families, the TV report said, but would rather be distributed by the state via a special fund. Gamliel is coordinating the process, together with Israel’s National Security Council, which works out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

In 2014, Israel passed a law making each November 30 a day commemorating the exit and deportation of Jews from Arab and Iranian lands, which involves educational programming and diplomatic events aimed to increase international awareness of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran, and of their right to compensation.

That year, at the first such events, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin issued calls for financial reparations.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. November 30, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“It is not for nothing that this day is marked on the day after the 29th of November,” Netanyahu said on November 30, 2014, in reference to the anniversary of the UN adoption of the Palestine partition plan in 1947. “The Arab countries, which never accepted the UN declaration on the establishment of a Jewish state, compelled the Jews living in their territories to leave their homes while leaving their assets behind… We have acted – and will continue to act – so that they and their claims are not forgotten.”

Read: The expulsion that backfired: When Iraq kicked out its Jews

In his address at that first ceremony, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon their arrival in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.

“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.

Kahlon said that “nearly 800,000 came here (in the years after the establishment of the state) and the rest (around 56,000) went to the United States, France, Italy and elsewhere.”

Kahlon himself came to Israel as a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.

Barber Rachamim Azar, a new immigrant from Baghdad, carries out his trade in the tent he shares with his wife and two children at a maabara (immigrant camp) in central Israel in summer 1951. He told a Government Press Office photographer that he intended to move to a kibbutz (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

In March 2014, Canada formally recognized the refugee status of the Jewish emigres who fled or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel’s founding.

Some of the migrants to Israel say privately that the issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card in negotiations with the Palestinians, to set against Palestinian compensation claims for property and assets left behind in what is now Israel.

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