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Monday, October 22, 2007

Awareness of Jewish refugees from Arab Countries - H. Res 185

This is an action item for American citizens, information for everyone else. Jewish refugees from Arab lands are often forgotten in discussions of the Middle East settlement and Arab Israeli peace. Anyone who is concerned about justice cannot forget that about 800,000 Jews left Arab lands as a result of the conflict. While some left willingly, many left under duress, losing their property and businesses, particularly in Iraq and Egypt.
For some more background on the issues, see
The forgotten Refugees
Jimena has posted the action alert below regarding House Resolution 185, which would call for inclusion of Jewish refugee rights on the agenda of the upcoming peace conference. While Congressional resolutions do not generally have a practical direct effect on foreign policy, they do help raise public awareness of the issue. It wouldn't hurt to make sure US presidential candidates are aware of this issue as well.  

Action Alert! -
Call Chairman Lantos and urge him to send H. Res 185 to the full house!
(202) 225-5021  

In a word association game, if people are given the words "Middle East refugees" – overwhelmingly most will respond – "Palestinians." Yet, there is another population that were made refugees from the Israeli-Arab conflict, a group usually not considered – the Jews from Arab countries. Chairperson, of the San Francisco-based Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa.

The Bush Administration will be hosting a Middle East summit in mid-November. Invited guests are the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian National Authority. There will likely be three main issues on the table -- refugees, Jerusalem, and borders. JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) is concerned that the "Forgotten Refugees" of the Middle East conflict, the almost one million Jews forced or compelled to flee from nine Arab countries, will again be forgotten. This is why we are urging Congressman Tom Lantos, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to send House Resolution 185 to the full House.

This bill states in part that, "any resolutions relating to the issue of Middle East refugees, and which include a reference to the required resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue, must also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees" from Arab countries.

No just, comprehensive Middle East peace can be reached without recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting of centuries-old Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa by Arab governments hostile to the State of Israel.

The international response to Middle East refugees was differential and disproportionate. Since 1948, over 101 resolutions have been adopted by the United Nations on Palestinian refugees. Not one of these 101 UN resolutions specifically mentions the plight of Jews displaced from Arab countries.

In all relevant international bilateral or multilateral agreements, (such as UN Resolution 242, the Road Map, the Madrid Conference, etc.), the reference to 'refugees' is generic, allowing for the recognition and inclusion of all Middle East refugees - Jews and Palestinians.

The call to secure rights and redress for Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees; nor is it about initiating legal proceedings to seek compensation. It is a legitimate effort to ensure that the plight of ALL Middle Eastern refugees be placed on the international political agenda as a quest for truth and justice and that their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity.

It would constitute an injustice were the United States to recognize rights for one population - Palestinian refugees - without recognizing equal rights for other refugees of that very same Middle East conflict - Jews from Arab countries.

The United States must ensure that all relevant bi-lateral and multi-lateral discussions, and documents, refer to the multiple refugee populations precipitated by the Arab-Israeli conflict and that any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees is balanced by a similar explicit reference to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

The U.S. brokered Middle East Summit in mid-November provides an historic opportunity to establish principles that should govern any negotiations. While it is unlikely that a substantive peace will come from the summit, it is important that discussions on all issues – refugees, Jerusalem, borders; – be based on principles of law and equity.

Congressman Lantos co-sponsored such a resolution during the last two sessions. His role now as Foreign Affairs Committee Chair is critical. He needs to now work for adoption by the committee, and passage by the House before the scheduled November Middle East summit. This would send an important message to the President that the principle of including Jewish refugees as part of the modern Middle East narrative is fair, equitable and indeed necessary for the integrity of any peace negotiations.

In a February 2007 resolution the Israeli Cabinet underscored the continuing need to document the losses of the Jews from Arab countries and appointed a Minister of Restitution and Human Rights to oversee the work of an inter-ministerial committee – including the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs – that would coordinate governmental efforts to secure rights for Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

We want to ensure that the resolution moves forward from the Foreign Affairs Committee to the full House. If adopted by November, it would send a strong statement to guide the U.S. approach to the issue of Middle East refugees.

Please call Congressman Lantos at (202) 225-5021 and let him know that this is an issue of urgency and importance to our entire community. Without the full and equal inclusion of all parties affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict there can be no lasting peace.
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries and B'nai B'rith International, worked with the Congressional Human Rights Caucus to plan the briefing.  JIMENA participated in the preparation and coordination of Ms. Bublil-Waldman's testimony.

In addition to the above, a JIMENA mailing informs us that Lantos's conditions for moving the bill out of committee have been met, with co-sponsorship by 25 representatives including 10 from the House Foreign Affairs committee. Here is the list:
Co-Sponsors for House Resolution 185 
Original Sponsors:
Rep Nadler, Jerrold (D-NY)
Rep Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL)
Rep Ferguson, Mike (R-NJ)
Rep Crowley, Joseph (D-NY)                                 

House Resolution on
Middle East refugees (H.Res 185)

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the creation
of refugee populations in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf region as a result of human rights violations

Subsequent  Sponsors:     
* - Foreign Affairs Committee member
Chairmain Tom Lantos -*
Rep Berkley, Shelley [NV-1] - 4/20/2007
Rep Berman, Howard L. [CA-28] - 3/7/2007 *
Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1] - 10/15/2007
Rep Burton, Dan [IN-5] - 2/27/2007 *
Rep Chabot, Steve [OH-1] - 5/17/2007 *
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] - 10/3/2007
Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] - 9/5/2007
Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17] - 9/4/2007 *
Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14] - 5/9/2007
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] - 8/3/2007
Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] - 3/5/2007
Rep Israel, Steve [NY-2] - 9/4/2007
Rep Kirk, Mark Steven [IL-10] - 3/1/2007
Rep Linder, John [GA-7] - 9/4/2007
Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] - 9/17/2007
Rep McNulty, Michael R. [NY-21] - 10/16/2007
Rep Pence, Mike [IN-6] - 6/12/2007 *
Rep Rothman, Steven R. [NJ-9] - 3/5/2007
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 3/5/2007
Rep Schiff, Adam B. [CA-29] - 7/27/2007
Rep Schwartz, Allyson Y. [PA-13] - 2/27/2007
Rep Sherman, Brad [CA-27] - 10/17/2007 *
Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33] - 9/4/2007*
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] - 4/16/2007
Rep Weiner, Anthony D. [NY-9] - 2/27/2007
Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19] - 9/20/2007*
Rep. Brad Sherman [CA-27] - 10/17/2007 *

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