Shimon Oyahon MK, the bill’s proponent
The silence over the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Arab countries is ending, says Shimon Ohayon MK. The bill proposed by Dr Ohayon designating a date in the calendar to commemorate these Jews has just passed its first reading. It is expected that it will pass its second and third reading without great difficulty. Here is the text of a Foreign Ministry press release:
Monday, 3rd February 2014) – Today, the Knesset passed the first reading of a new law which would designate November 30th as a national day for the commemoration of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
“For too long the issue has not been properly dealt with, either nationally or internationally,” MK Dr. Shimon Ohayon, the initiator of the law said on its passing. “Thanks to great efforts like this law and the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Minister Avigdor Liberman, the silence is ending.”
“The fact that the issue of redress for the Jewish refugees from Arab lands will be raised in the Kerry framework agreement demonstrates that this issue of rights and justice is finally receiving the attention that it deserves. These Jews, numbering around 850,000, left behind assets around double that of those Palestinians who left their homes in Israel before and during the War of Independence, and above all, were not involved in any conflict or any theatre of war. These important factors should be front and center of any discussion relating to a future peace agreement.“
The law places the responsibility for the day of commemoration with the Minister of Pensioners Affairs, the responsibility for the introduction of related activities in the educational curriculum with the Minister of Education and the responsibility for international and diplomatic activities with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“Around half of all Jews in the State of Israel are descended from refugees from Arab lands and their exodus and expulsion, from lands they inhabited long before the Islamic conquest and Arab occupation of the Middle East and North Africa must become known to all citizens,” MK Ohayon continued. “Especially when the Arab world is talking about peace and reconciliation, an important first step would be the acceptance of responsibility for what was done to these ancient Jewish communities.”
“This law will ensure that Israelis will remember what took place in this tragic chapter in Jewish history long after many of those who suffered are no longer with us.”
The Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Lily):
The proposal, by MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud Beytenu) would allow the
senior citizens minister to hold an official ceremony, education
minister to instruct schools to discuss the history behind the day and
foreign minister to hold events around the world on the matter.
Ohayon, chairman of the Knesset Caucus for Jewish Refugees from Arab
Countries, referred to US Envoy Martin Indyk’s comments that a
framework for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would
mention compensation for such refugees.
“I was happy to hear Indyk’s declaration recognizing the rights of
Jewish refugees and that they deserve compensation for their private
and communal property, which was taken from them,” Ohayon said.
Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach, in charge of pensioners’ affairs,
said Monday that the bill does not use the word “refugees,” because
many Jews from Arab countries are proud to have come to Israel out of
Zionism and not because they were chased out.
However, there was rampant anti-Jewish sentiment in the Middle East,
Orbach said, pointing to the Farhud, a pogrom in Bagdhad in 1941.
This month, Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, is marking the initiative to commemorate the flight of Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries with aspecial evening at a prestige London Hotel.