CHICAGO – A Canadian parliamentary committee has called upon Ottawa to recognize the Jewish refugees of the Arab-Israeli conflict, eliciting praise from the country’s Jewish community.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development began studying the issue of Jewish refugees from Arabs lands in May and heard testimony from several Jewish advocacy organizations.

The committee’s report cited a correlation between spikes in anti-Jewish measures and “crisis moments” in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and said Middle Eastern Jews had faced discrimination, the revocation of citizenship, pogroms and expulsions, resulting in a mass exodus from countries where they had lived for millennia.

There are 4,315 Jews in the Arab Middle East, down from 856,000 in 1948, according to figures Justice for Jews from Arab Countries presented to the parliamentary committee.

Jewish refugees, many of whom were forbidden to bring property with them when they emigrated, lost $6 billion in assets as a result of the conflict, Dr. Stanley Urman, the organization’s executive vice president, told the legislators.

“Some two-thirds, or nearly 650,000 Jews, immigrated to Israel, while roughly one-third, or over 200,000 Jews, found a safe haven in countries other than Israel, including Canada,” Dr. David Bensoussan, past president of Communauté sépharade unifiée du Québec, told the committee last week.

Recognition of the two-way nature of the refugee problem, the report said, “should be addressed as part of contemporary efforts to achieve lasting reconciliation in the Middle East,” as well as to repair the situation in which the history of the region is “incomplete.”

“The committee recommends that the government of Canada officially recognize the experience of Jewish refugees who were displaced from states in the Middle East and North Africa after 1948,” the report concluded, adding that “the government of Canada [should] encourage the direct negotiating parties to take into account all refugee populations as part of any just and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts.”

It cautioned, however, that recognition of Jewish rights “does not diminish or compete with the situation of Palestinian refugees.”

“We applaud the committee for its ground-breaking and multi-partisan report, which calls on the government to formally recognize the experience of Jewish refugees from across the Middle East,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada.

“Peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved without mutual understanding, including recognition of the historic suffering of Jewish and Arab refugees alike. While Canada’s current policy on the Middle East acknowledges the plight of Arab refugees, it makes no mention of nearly one million Jews forced to flee Arab countries in the years after Israel’s founding,” Fogel said.

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