WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of six Congress members is sponsoring a bill that would ensure recognition of the plight of 850,000 Jewish refugees displaced from Arab countries since Israel's War of Independence in 1948.
Their bill in the US House of Representatives also would recognize other displaced populations, including Christians from countries in the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf.
The legislation specifically calls on the Obama administration to pair any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees with a similar reference to Jewish or other refugee populations.
“The suffering and terrible injustices visited upon Jewish refugees in the Middle East needs to be acknowledged,” said US Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-N.Y.), the lead sponsor of the measure. “It is simply wrong to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees without recognizing the rights of nearly one million Jewish refugees who suffered terrible outrages at the hands of their former compatriots.”
Joining Nadler as cosponsors are Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Howard Berman (D-Cal.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Bob Turner (R-N.Y.).
“Jewish refugees who were forced to flee Arab countries and Iran endured unimaginable hardships,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a news release sent to JTA. “Their plight has been ignored by the United Nations, other international bodies and many responsible nations. Any comprehensive Middle East peace agreement can only be credible and enduring if it resolves all issues related to the rights of all refugees in the Arab world and Iran, including Jews, Christians and others.”
Both B’nai B’rith International and the World Jewish Congress were among those who applauded the proposed legislation.
“We want to ensure that the United States makes the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab nations a priority in multilateral discussions about the Middle East conflict," said Eric Fusfield, B’nai B’rith’s international director of legislative affairs. "Any time refugee issues are discussed in the context of the peace negotiations, the rights of Jewish refugees need to be given their proper place.”
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries has been pushing the issue for many years and was instrumental in obtaining a House resolution on the matter in 2008. The resolution noted that for any “comprehensive Middle East peace agreement to be credible and enduring, the agreement must address and resolve all outstanding issues relating to the legitimate rights of all refugees, including Jews, Christians and other populations displaced from countries in the Middle East.”
A similar resolution is being considered by the US Senate.