Saturday, July 21, 2007

what the hell is a refugee?

Of the million-strong, 2,500-year old Jewish communities of the Middle East, only 8,000 remain in 10 Arab countries, said former Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada Dr. Irwin Cotler in his briefing to the bipartisan Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington co-headed by Frank R. Wolf (R.-VA) and Tom Lantos (D-CA), Thursday, July 19. Yet against the 101 UN resolutions passed on the Palestinian refugees since 1947, not one addressed the forcible expulsion of Jews from Arab countries by state-orchestrated oppression, persecutions and pogroms.
This raises serious questions about the appropriateness of the United Nations having a role in the Middle East Quartet meeting in Lisbon Thursday, said Cotler, counsel to former prisoners of conscience Andrei Sakharov and Nelson Mandela. he whole question of refugees and refugee claims is at the forefront of the Peace Process, and integral to the Roadmap. Rights for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, 600,000 of whom were absorbed in Israel, have to be part of any peace process with a claim to integrity.
The Caucus, after hearing four speakers on behalf of the Justice for Jews from Arab Countries organization, decided to promote two Middle East refugee resolutions already before Congress. They would instruct the President to ensure that in all international forums dealing withMiddle East refugees, US representatives must ensure that reference to Palestinian refugees is matched with explicit reference to Jewish, Christian and other refugees expelled from Arab lands.
Stanley Urman, Executive Director of JJAC said, "When the issue of 'refugees' is raised within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer to 'Palestinian refugees', virtually never to the plight and flight of Jews, Christians and other minority populations from Arab countries.
As a matter of law and equity, history records two refugee populations – not one - created as a result of the longstanding dispute in the Middle East.
Regina Bublil-Waldman, whose family escaped Libya in 1967, said that forgetting the nearly one-million Jews who were indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa means that we have a distorted view of the Middle East Refugee Problem today.
Prof. Henry Green noted that the Jewish legacy in Arab lands is eight times older than American Jewry, going back 2,800 years and including periods of Jewish sovereign statehood in the Babylonian and Roman eras. The campaign to secure rights and redress for Jews forced to flee Arab countries is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees but a quest for truth and justice.
It is also a call for other minorities to be recognized and addressed. Today, Christians are exiting the Middle East in greater numbers than ever before.

reported by