Two firsts: the issue of the Jewish refugees makes the lead story in the Jerusalem Post, and Congressman Gary Ackerman, chairing the first ever Congressional hearing on Jewish refugees, says Jews should not be penalised for their success in resettling their refugees.
In his conversation with the Post, Ackerman also criticized (…) the American government and Jewish community for not emphasizing the experience of Jewish refugees from Arab lands at the same time that the Palestinian refugee issue has gained such traction.
“We’ve not done a good job historically in pointing to their plight because we were realistic … and successful,” said Ackerman, who is himself Jewish. “We shouldn’t have a separate standard for Jews because of their success. That’s discrimination.”
Ackerman held a hearing on the subject of Jewish refugees from Arab Lands this week, the first such Congressional hearing, according to his staff.
In introducing the hearing, Ackerman declared that, “The reality is that an exchange of populations has taken place; that the Jews of Iran and the Arab countries are not going back to those lands; and that the Palestinian refugees will not be returning to homes in the State of Israel.”
Still, Ackerman questioned President George W. Bush’s decision to write a letter in 2004 [seeming to rule out] the Palestinian “right of return” to Israel, saying he had “deep concerns about the wisdom of the United States handicapping one party to a negotiation before the deal-making begins.”
A fellow Democratic representative from New York, Jerrold Nadler, however, would like to see Bush do more on the issue of refugees, including Jewish ones. He introduced a bill earlier this year urging 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 similar reference to other refugee populations.
“The suffering and terrible injustices visited upon Jewish refugees in the Middle East needs to be acknowledged,” said Nadler, who touted his bill at a B’nai B’rith breakfast held to honor Jewish members of Congress on Wednesday morning. “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.”
Ackerman said that just holding the hearing helped advance his efforts to bring greater attention to the experience of Jewish refugees, with many of his colleagues telling him they were unaware of the issue before this week.