Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 17:09 UK

London summit on Jewish refugees

Yemeni Jewish boys (15/06/08)
Conference organisers say inadequate attention is paid to Jewish refugees

Jewish groups from around the world are meeting in London to highlight the plight of Jews who left their homes in Arab nations after Israel was founded.

The conference organisers, Justice for Jews, say they want to ensure the story of Jewish refugees is told, alongside that of Palestinians.

The American-based group says around 850,000 Jews lived in Arab nations before Israel was founded in 1948.

It says most were forced to flee due to hostility when Israel was created.

Justice for Jews, which campaigns for compensation for Jewish refugees from the Middle East, says the international community has always focused on Palestinian refugees and never given due attention to Jewish refugees.

The BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says the subject is highly controversial as the numbers of Jews who left, and the conditions under which they left, are disputed.

He says one undisputed fact is that many Jews were part of Arab societies for centuries, although not with equal rights, until Israel was established.

Some left because they were Zionists, others because of growing hostility towards them after the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1967, and there were also those who were encouraged to leave by the new Israeli state, our analyst adds.

He says not all of them went to Israel - many went to France and America, where some of them still feel very passionately about the Arab cultures they grew up in.

Correction 19 January 2009: This story originally said Jews were "fully integrated" into Arab societies. Following a ruling by the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, it has been changed to take into account laws and policies which might have affected their status.

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