The Knesset plenum on Tuesday marked the national day for the commemoration the flight of Jews from Arab lands and Iran, in accordance with legislation that had been introduced by former MKs Shimon Ohayon and Nissim Zeev.

Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Likud) opened the session by saying that ”despite the subject`s great importance in the ongoing debate on the Israeli-Arab conflict, it has usually been pushed to the sidelines, and maybe this is not a coincidence.”

”In almost every debate on the proper way to settle the dispute between us and the Arab or Palestinian population in Israel, the element of refugees keeps coming up: those Arabs who lives in cities and villages inside Israel in the past, mostly before the War of Independence, and ran away or were driven out,” he said.

”The Palestinian leadership does not let go of its demand that they be recognized – a demand that has made all negotiation impossible until now, even when governments were in place that made very far-reaching offers. Exaggerated as it may be, this demand is also unjust in that it ignores the other side of the equation – the Jewish refugees who lived in the Arab countries and were driven out of there.”

Edelstein presented data according to which over 850,000 Jews lived in the Arab counties of the Middle East and North Africa in 1948, and by 1967, these communities were all but gone.

”Most Jewish refugees were uprooted, therefore, from the homelands in which they had lived for hundreds of years – before the Muslim conquest. That is, before the Arabs came to these places in the 7th century CE,” he said.

”When we set forth on a serious and wide-ranging discussion about historical and natural rights, when we speak of displacement and refugees, this cannot come from just one side. The Palestinians are not the only ones with refugees.”

Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) said that ”just as we demand the restitution of the property of Germany`s Jews, irrespective of Israel`s Arabs, we also demand the property of Jews from Arab countries.”

Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud) noted that the UN has passed ”hundreds of resolutions regarding the Palestinian refugee issue. UNRWA was established, and significant funds were invested. The education system has failed. These topics (related to Jewish refugees) are not studied in the State of Israel, and we are going to change this. There is ignorance within Israeli society, which is not aware that during the Holocaust Jews – from Egypt to Greece – suffered from the attempt to annihilate the Jewish nation.”

”When we see the gaps in our society and that most of the economic potential of people of Arab descent has not been fulfilled, it is incumbent upon the Israeli government to demand that their ownership rights be upheld,” she said.