Cotler urges Congress to recognise Jewish refugees

NEW YORK — Former justice minister Irwin Cotler and other Canadian scholars presented the U.S. Congress on Thursday (19 July) with its first testimony on Jews driven from Arab lands following Israel’s creation in 1948,The Vancouver Sun reports. (With thanks: Frank B, nannette)

“The time has come to rectify this historical injustice,” Cotler told members of the congressional human rights caucus in Washington in a written statement.

The witnesses were among experts helping U.S. lawmakers decide on a pair of bills that would oblige the Bush administration to actively oppose the Arab-led practice in Middle East peace efforts to speak only of Palestinian refugees.

While key Arab voices continue to push for a “right of return” for descendants of some 600,000 Palestinians whose pre-1948 homes are now inside Israel, the general discourse for decades has all but ignored the tens of thousands of Jews, Christians and other minorities who were similarly turned into refugees.

Cotler charged that the United Nations bears “express responsibility for the distorted narrative.” Arab countries have mustered majority backing from Muslim and developing states to pass 101 UN resolutions that refer only to Palestinian refugees.

Jews in Arab lands totalled almost 900,000 in 1948, but there are fewer than 8,000 in 10 Arab countries today, Cotler said. Arab countries counter that 3.7 million Palestinians remain in refugee camps in the region, whereas Jewish refugees moved on to new lives in Israel and elsewhere.

Cotler is considered a leading expert on the issue, having helped produce a 2003 study entitled Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress.

Co-authored by fellow Canadian Stan Urman, who also testified in Washington, the study spoke of new evidence that Arab states reacted to the creation of Israel by orchestrating the persecution of their Jewish citizens.

“Today, we cannot allow a second injustice, namely for the international community to recognize rights for [only] one victim population,” said Urman, executive director of New York-based Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.

The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to vote before the end of the year on the bills that prompted the hearing.

The Senate bill urges President George W. Bush to ensure that the peace process acknowledges that the Arab-Israeli conflict has created “multiple refugee populations.”

The House document would ensure that any peace agreement addresses the rights of all refugees, “including Jews, Christians, and other populations displaced from countries in the region.”

The legislation is significant because the U.S., along with Russia, the UN and the European Union, is one of the four international powers seeking to restart the stalled Middle East peace process.

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Debka article (with thanks: Mark)

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The American Spectator

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

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