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Israel Outlines at U.n Its Stand on Compensation to Arab Refugees

November 29, 1960
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Israel today reaffirmed its willingness to compensate displaced Arab refugees for properties they left behind in Israel, if integration of the refugees “in the Arab world were actually carried out.”

The offer was made here before the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee by Ambassador Michael S. Comay, chairman of Israel’s delegation to the United Nations, in his first major speech before the committee, which has been discussing the Arab refugee problem for two weeks.

Mr. Comay referred in his one-hour address to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold’s report of two years ago, in which the UN Chief urged economic integration of the entire Middle East in such a manner as to make possible the integration of the Arab refugees in the Arab countries. He recalled that, in 1955, the late U.S. Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, proposed international financial aid to help Israel compensate Arab refugees for property they left behind them in Israel. Then he told the committee:

“My delegation is authorized to reaffirm the previous declarations of my Government that if a solution by integration in the Arab world were actually carried out, and if the international assistance offered in 1955 were available, Israel would be prepared to pay compensation, even before the achievement of a final peace settlement, or the solution of other outstanding problems.”

Ambassador Comay told the committee, however, that “in fixing the level” of such compensation, other factors would have to be taken into account compensating Israel for Jewish properties. “It would be necessary,” he said, “to take into account Jewish property in areas such as the Jewish quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Jewish villages in the Jerusalem and Hebron districts, as well as the claims of half a million Israel citizens for the property they have had to leave behind in various Arab countries, and for which no Arab Government has made any compensation offer at all.”


Mr. Comay opened his address by telling the committee that he would not stop at this point to reply to all the calumniations voiced during this year’s refugee debate by other spokesmen. He did not name either the Arab attackers or those belonging to the Soviet bloc, who have been hewing to the customary demands that the only solution of the refugee problem lies in the wholesale “repatriation” of “all the refugees” to Israel territory.

The Israel representative told the committee that Israel has already released to the Arab refugees $8,000,000 in frozen bank accounts, releasing those monies in foreign currency. He recalled that Israel has also handed over “a great number of safe-deposit lockers and valuables which were left behind by Arab refugees.”

Questioning the figures constantly cited here, which claim that there are more than 1,000,000 Arab refugees, Ambassador Comay called the UN’s attention to various neutral statistics and reports, including some United Nations documents, to prove that, at most, the bona fide refugees number less than 550,000. The refugees can be absorbed in the Arab lands, he maintained. “The fundamental question,” he said, “is whether something more than 100,000 Arab families can be absorbed in a region which contains about 45 million Arabs.”

The Israeli representative pointed to authentic studies showing there are gross in accuracies in all the relief rolls maintained by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Emphasizing that he does not blame UNRWA for these inaccuracies, he insisted, however, that no genuine cleansing of the relief rolls has been effected by UNRWA, in spite of many demands, including a demand for such cleansing made by a General Assembly resolution last year.


On the Arab insistence for “complete repatriation,” Mr. Comay told the committee: “As every disinterested observer knows, there is no realistic outcome, short of a war which would destroy the State of Israel, and resettle the refugees among the ruins, Such

Mr. Comay declared: “In saying that the future of the Arab refugees lies in the Arab world, my delegation says nothing contrary to any single United Nations resolution on this problem,” He pointed out that the Arab spokesmen and their Soviet backers–again without mentioning any country by name–insist on implementation of one single paragraph of a basic resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 1948. They ignore all other clauses in that same resolution, he reminded the committee. He recalled that the 1948 resolution was adopted by all of the Security Council’s permanent members “including the Soviet Union,”

Israel has done its full duty by the Arab refugees in Israel, Mr. Comay declared, so that, as early as 1952, UNRWA had to take no further responsibility for furnishing relief to Arab refugees in Israel. Today, he said, one Israeli out of ten is an Arab. “For reasons which have been made sufficiently clear,” he stated, “we cannot now contemplate a fresh influx of Arabs who have been nurtured in hatred toward Israel for 11 years.” However, he told the committee, “in the context of a solution by integration in Arab lands, we do not exclude further extension of the family reunion scheme.”

Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Musa Nasir, addressing the Political Committee, called for turning back the clock by wiping off the books the Palestine Partition resolution adopted by the United Nations in 1947. Only such a step, he said, would “amend the injustice” done to the Arabs. As “interim” steps, the Jordanian Foreign Minister proposed that further Jewish immigration to Israel should be forbidden; Israel should pay rents for Arab private and communal property in Israel; and UNRWA should shift its emphasis from relief to works programs, utilizing the rents paid by Israel.

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