Israel’s Stand on Compensation to Arab Refugees Outlined at U.N.
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Israel’s Stand on Compensation to Arab Refugees Outlined at U.N.

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Israel is willing to consider compensation for Arab refugees, but the Arab states will have to lift their economic boycotts, and foreign loans to help pay the Arabs will have to be arranged, according to Michael S. Comay, a member of Israel’s delegation here.

Mr. Comay, who is Israel Ambassador to Canada and acting chairman of the Israel delegation to this year’s General Assembly, discussed the Arab refugee problem Friday before the Assembly’s special political committee. A resolution fixing the next year’s budget for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, and extending the life of UNRWA another five years, is pending before the committee.

While Israel did not “create” the Arab refugee problem, it “can not be insensitive to the human tragedy involved,” Mr. Comay declared. “We have done and will do what we can to alleviate it.”

The Israel delegate pointed out that Israel had already undertaken to unfreeze blocked Arab accounts in Israel banks, and called attention to official Israel Government statements which answered inaccurate Arab reports put before the committee. Furthermore, Mr. Comay said, the statistics presented to the Assembly by the UN’s own director of UNRWA shows what Israel has done to settle the refugee problem within its own borders. Those figures show that 48,500 Arab refugees in Israel had been taken off the UN relief rolls because they have been integrated in Israel’s economy.


As for compensation to refugees, Mr. Comay went on, Israel will consider such compensation; “provided the necessary funds become available, we are willing in principle to incur these heavy obligations.” He added, however, that the Arab League blockade of Israel’s economy has cost Israel approximately 100,000,000 pounds “which is probably not less than that of the value of abandoned Arab property.” The Arabs property.” The Arabs suffer losses too, he continued and “nobody gains from this wasteful situation.”

Mr. Comay then appealed to the Arab countries where the refugees live–Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt–to drop their anti-Israel boycott if they want compensation for the refugees. “It would not make sense,” he told the UN committee, “if Israel were to pump large sums of precious foreign currency into the economies of countries which were at that very time doing their very best to ruin Israel’s economy. The host governments must choose which is most important to them–carrying on a war against Israel in the economic field, or making it possible for compensation to be paid.”

As for the problem of “repatriation,” Mr. Comay declared Israel could not possibly permit re-entry of the Arab refugees who, in the words of Arab spokesmen, are committed to “a hundred year’s war” against the Jewish State. He called attention to the fact that the refugees could find homes and integration among the eight Arab states where “they are not foreigners.”

Another concession was voiced by the Israeli delegate. Last week, Israel was asked by the British delegation here if it would not agree to readjust some of the borders in cases where the frontiers cut across Arab villages. Mr. Comay declared that Israel would be willing to negotiate directly with the Arab governments on such border alterations.

Dr. Mohammed Fadil Al-Jamali, chairman of the Iraqi delegation, challenged Mr. Comay about the treatment given the Arab minority in Israel. The Israel delegate invited Mr. Jamali to visit Israel and see for himself how the Arabs there are treated–but the Iraqi delegate said he would defer a visit to Israel until “peace and justice had been restored there.”

Mr. Jamali also challenged the position of the United States whose delegate in the special committee, James J. Wadsworth, said last week that the Arab refugees should be considered “citizens” and permanent residents by the “host” governments. The Iraqi delegate accused America of giving Israel the choice between repatriating the refugees or compensating them. Mr. Wadsworth, answering Mr. Jamali, said that the choice between repartriation and compensation should be left to the refugees, and not to Israel.

At the conclusion of his speech, Mr. Comay implied that Israel would vote in favor of the extension of UNRWA for another five years, but expressed the hope that the Arab refugee problem would be fully settled by that period.

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