I want to welcome all of you to Jerusalem, the eternal and united capital of Israel. I want to thank Deputy Foreign Ministers Danny Ayalon and Leah Ness, as well as the World Jewish Congress. I want to thank you for organizing a very important conference.
It is about time that the Jewish refugee issue is put back on the map. For too many, when it comes to the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, the refugee issue is only about the Palestinians. The 850,000 Jewish refugees, those who were expelled from Arab lands, have all but been forgotten. But Israel will never forget them.
After the establishment of Israel, these Jews were brutally thrown out of the countries that they had lived in peacefully for centuries, even millennia. Yet the contrast between how Israel treated Jewish refugees from Arab lands and how the Arab world treated Palestinian refugees, that contrast could not be starker.
With vast lands and vast resources, the Arab world neglected the Palestinian refugees. They simply used them as a battering ram in their struggle against the Jewish state.
But tiny Israel, on a speck of land, with no natural resources, with no oil (yes, we did find gas, now, very recently), without any of these resources, without the land, we absorbed Jewish refugees into our society and we integrated them into Israeli life.
The Arab world turned the Palestinian refugees into pawns. Israel turned Jewish refugees into productive citizens.
And these citizens, and their children and their grandchildren, made and continue to make an enormous contribution to securing Israel's present and securing its future.
The government of Israel is fully committed to ensuring that the Jewish refugee issue is not forgotten. That is why we decided in 2009 to implement a nation-wide program to document the stories of these refugees and their families. This is why I have raised this issue everywhere from here in Jerusalem, to Washington, to just about every capital that I’ve been to. This is why we will continue to work to ensure that justice is done for the Jewish refugees.
So I want to thank you all for coming to this conference. I want to thank you for standing up for Israel. I want to thank you for standing up for justice. And thank you for standing up for the truth.