WOJAC and the Palestinian problem
by Naim Dangoor
In November 1975, the World Organisation ( WOJAC ) established
by Mr. Mordechai Ben-Porat, held its first conference in
Before I left for Paris to attend that conference, I telephoned
the State Department in Washington in order to exchange
some views regarding the Palestinian refugees and their
comparison to a similar number of Jews who had to leave
Arab countries. The following is a transcript of that conversation
as recorded by me immediately after that telephone call:-
Thursday 13/11/75 3.15 p.m.-Washington 10/15
Called State Department 0101202 6329588
Mr. Saunders was at meeting ….. his number is 0101202
I asked to speak to his assistant. Mr. Abingdon his assistant
spoke to me.
I. I read of Mr. Saunders speech to the House sub committee
yesterday in which he said:" we are prepared to accept
any reasonable proposal from any quarter……
he- What is the name of your organisation ?
I. I speak for Jews from Arab countries. I should like to
make an appointment to see Mr. Saunders or yourself or whoever
wishes to see me at the State Department to exchange views
on the subject.
he- Are you coming to Washington in any case ?
I. No. Only if I can have an appointment.
he- Can you give a general idea of your views ?
I- Yes. Our view is that you must not equate the Palestinians
with Israel. You must equate them with us, the Jewish refugees
from Arab countries.
he- I don’t understand what you mean by "equate".
I. I mean that if the Palestinians will be invited to the
Geneva conference then the Jews from Arab countries should
also be there.
He- This is not a viable proposition. Most Jews from Arab
countries went to Israel and they should be represented
by Israel. Israel is quite capable to speak for them.
I. I don’t think so. There are many Jews from Arab
countries who did not go to Israel.
he- Israel would still be able to speak for them ?
I. No. Israel is very careful not to speak for Jews outside
Israel especially in view of the large number of Jews in
the U.S. and G.B. Israel is careful not to exceed her limits.
he- Your proposal is not viable. I have no statistics in
front of me but I would say 50% of Arab Jews went to Israel.
I. That is right — 50%. That leaves over 1m. Jews
outside Israel. There are large communities in the States,
Canada, G.B. and all over the world. There are over 300,000
N. African Jews in France alone. At the end of this month
we are having an international conference in Paris of Jews
from Arab countries.
he- ( alarmed ) Under whose auspices is this conference
being held ?
I. Nobody’s auspices. We are organising it privately.
he- We know that Jews from Arab countries have claims on
property but the Palestinians have a different claim. Everybody
is agreed that there must be a solution to the Palestinians’
problem. Even Israel agrees that there must be a solution
to the Palestinian problem.
I. We also agree that there must be a solution to the Palestinian
problem but only within a wider M.E. context. Our claims
are not just for property. We also have political claims
on our countries. The Palestinians say they want a democratic,
secular, binational state of Palestine. We say we want a
democratic, secular, multi-national M.E. Whatever the Palestinians
say with regard with Palestine, we say with regard to the
he- Mr. Saunders will think this is not viable. How can
we get in touch with you ?
I. I gave my number and address.
According to the Oxford Dictionary EQUATE means —
regard as equal or equivalent.
On my return to London after that successful WOJAC conference,
I wrote the following letter to the State Department :
Mr.Alfred A. Atherton 3RD December 1975
Assistant Secretary of State
For Near East Affairs,
Department of State,Washington, D.C.20520
I refer to my telephone conversation with Mr. Abingdon.
At a conference in Paris last week representatives of Jewish
refugees from Arab countries numbering over 2 millions (1.2m
in Israel and 0.8 elsewhere ) have constituted ourselves
into the World Organisation of Jews from Arab countries
Among other Resolutions , we authorised the Israeli Government
to represent us at the Geneva Conference this being in deference
to the Israeli view that PLO could be part of an Arab delegation.
However, it appears that the debate at the Security Council
on 12th January will bypass the Geneva Conference. If the
PLO will be invited to take part in the debate and as a
result Israel will boycott the proceedings then it would
be fair and constructive that Jews from Arab countries be
given the same hearing . If Israel will not attend then
they would not be in a position to recommend WOJAC . Likewise
the U.S. Government cannot at this stage recommend WOJAC
not having endorsed PLO’s participation . But in the
last resort you could veto PLO’s appearance unless
Jews from Arab countries got the same treatment . This would
be a statesmanlike measure and a positive step in the search
for peace .
We believe that the core of the problem in the Middle East
is not Zionism but Arab Imperialism .
We believe in an overall Middle East settlement "which
would preserve the legitimate rights of all concerned",
not a limited settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
We believe that the pursuit of the present policies would
only lead to the outbreak of yet another war in the Middle
East and that history will keep repeating itself until the
lesson is learned , namely , that for lasting peace there
must be a settlement involving the whole region and safeguarding
the rights of all refugees Arab and Jewish.
Yours very truly,
( signed )
Executive Council, WOJAC
Naim Dangoor writes:
In view of the current campaign to disarm Iraq it seems
to me that the above correspondence with the State Department
is still valid and that any attempt to solve thePalestinian
problem should be within the wider scope covering the whole
region including Iraq.
I have always maintained that peace in Iraq is the key to
peace in Israel.
As a matter of interest , we print the letter of the State
Department to the Chairman of WOJAC concerning the Jewish
and the Palestinian refugees of similar numbers who had
been obliged to leave their countries of residence .
Department Of StateWashington D C
June 23 , 1976
Mr. Mordechai Ben-Porat
Mr. Leon Tamman
World Executive Committee
World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries
3 Bograshov Street
Tel Aviv , Israel
Dear Messrs , Ben-Porat and Tamman :
I have been asked to reply to your letter of June 2 to the
President , in which you asked that the United States in
its contacts with Arab governments underline the importance
of a just settlement for the Jews formerly from Arab countries
as part of any lasting peace settlement in the Middle East
. I would also like to take this occasion to thank Mr. Ben-Porat
for his letter to me of May 13 along the same lines .
The Government of the United States is well aware of the
fact that large numbers of Jews from Arab lands found a
home in Israel in the period immediately following the establishment
of the State and that many of these persons have significant
property claims. In your letter you twice asserted that
Deputy Assistant Secretary Saunders in his testimony before
the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on International
Relations of the house of Representatives on November 12
, 1975 ignored this fact .
Naim Dangoor adds:
Nowadays we only hear of the Palestinian problem and the
various attempts to solve it at Israel’s expense.
The preferred future regime for Iraq appears to be a federal
government. Likewise, a confederation for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon,
Jordan, Israel and a Palestinian entity should be considered
as the ideal arrangement for that region.
Throughout history it was water that made Iraq the heavyweight
among the countries of the region, but now it is oil that
makes Iraq again so important. Water, in fact, may now become
Iraq’s weak point. For the Tigris and Euphrates rise
in turkey that may wish to make more and more use of that
water inside turkey itself.
Why should Turkey give Iraq all its water free of charge?
Iraq should pay for the water in the oil with in its borders.
Any regional arrangement for the Middle East could make
a start by arranging that water as well as oil should be
shared by all the countries of the region.
For 401 years between 1516 and 1917, the Middle East was
part of the Ottoman Empire. A new arrangement can again
be formed on similar lines. It would help to guarantee external
as well as internal peace
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