Resolution on rights for Jewish refugees from Arab lands voted by House Committee
Today, Congress moved one step closer to recognizing the 'forgotten refugees.'
In a unanimous bi-partisan decision, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved H.Res 185, a Resolution recognizing the plight and flight of over 850,000 from Arab countries. The Resolution now moves to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
The Resolution was introduced in the House by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) along with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-NJ).
"Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee recognized the suffering and terrible injustices visited upon Jewish refugees in the Middle East,” said Congressman Nadler. “It is simply not right to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees without recognizing the rights of Jewish refugees, who, in fact, outnumbered their Palestinian counterparts. By any definition, these displaced Jews are refugees, and we should recognize them as such."
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen stated "It is imperative that we recognize the history and plight of history's forgotten refugees, along with the circumstances surrounding their departure. Failure to do so only serves to perpetuate their suffering."
Jews and Jewish communities have existed in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf region for many centuries. Their lives changed in the 20th century, as witnessed by a consistent, wide-spread pattern of persecution and the mass violations of the human rights of Jewish minorities in Arab countries. Upon the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the status of Jews in Arab countries worsened dramatically as Jews were either uprooted from their countries of longtime residence or became subjugated, political hostages of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The result - from over 850,000 Jews resident in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf region at the turn of the century, it is estimated that less than 5,000 Jews remain to-day in Arab countries.
Stanley Urman, Executive Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) said the issue was first brought to the attention of Congress by JJAC and B'nai Brith International over three years ago. Since then, support has grown for this first formal recognition, by the U.S. House of Representative, of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
"This truth must be told - that Jews are an indigenous people of the region, having lived for 2,600 years in North Africa, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf" said Urman. "These Jews became victims of the Arab world's struggle against the state of Israel. This Congressional Resolution is necessary because any denial of rights to Jewish refugees from Arab countries will prejudice authentic negotiations between the parties and undermine the justice and legitimacy of any agreement."
The current Resolution urges the President to ensure that when the issue of Middle East refugees is discussed in international forums, any reference to Palestinian refugees be matched by a similarly explicit reference to Jewish and other refugee populations.
"The plight and injustices of Jewish, and other displaced, refugees in the greater Middle Eastern region must be recognized by the United Nations and dealt with in a fair and balanced manner," said Congressman Joseph Crowley. He added, "This recognition will fulfill a very necessary step in the effort to establish lasting peace and stability in a critically important and historic part of the world."
"This important resolution urges the international community to treat all refugees in the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf equally," said Congressman Ferguson. "All religions - including Judaism and Christianity - must be treated equally and fairly in any credible Middle East peace agreement."
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