Jewish refugees from Yemen cross desert 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Israeli National Photo Archive)
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
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.
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
“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
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.”
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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.
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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