Irene Novak's letter {"Sen. Inouye's School in France," Jan. 7} is yet another example of the ignorance of the U.S. taxpayer as to who is a refugee and who is funding the refugees in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

For the past 40 years, we have heard only about the Arab refugees. Little is known of the 856,000 Jews who lived in Arab countries before 1948, indeed, long before the dawn of Islam. Of these, 830,000 were forced to leave their countries of birth and find refuge in Israel, Europe and the Americas. These Jews left behind incalculable assets in property and cultural and religious patrimony accumulated from more than 2,000 years of living in these countries.

Most of these Jews arrived destitute to their new homes. Unlike their Arab counterpart, Jews did not benefit from funds of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. Yet these Jews are the other side of the coin of the Middle East refugee problem. Between 1949 and 1974, the United States and Israel contributed $582,339,802 to UNRWA's budget, which was allocated to provide relief assistance for all refugees of the Near East. This should have included Jews from Arab countries as well. Instead, more than $1 billion to date has gone to the rehabilitation of Palestinian refugees alone, who were refused resettlement by their Arab brethren in the vast land of the Arab nation extending from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean.

Therefore, Irene Novak and others should not feel distraught by the allocation of a meager $8 million for children of Jewish refugees from North Africa, which has been allocated for learning and not for political or military ends.

Perhaps the time has arrived for Congress, the White House and the American public to recognize the other refugee problem that has been neglected over the past 40 years. In acknowledging their plight as well, we will discover the missing part of the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.


College Park

The writer is a professor of political science and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Maryland.