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Leaders from all over the Jewish world will convene in Jerusalem for a summit meeting with government officials on Monday to officially launch a worldwide campaign for the registration and recognition of human rights abuses and property losses suffered by Jewish families who were expelled from Arab countries during the 1940s and 1950s.
The International Rights and Redress Campaign, which will be run by the Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) organization in partnership with several other American and international Jewish organizations, will focus on registering these families' claims against Arab states for losses and abuses sustained during the expulsions.
However, summit coordinator and JJAC executive director Stanley Urman told The Jerusalem Post that "this isn't primarily about seeking compensation." Rather, it is "about registration and recognition and Jewish history."
Yet while the JJAC seeks first and foremost to tell "the story of Jewish history before the memories [of the expelled Jews] fade," the campaign is also intended to prepare for the filing of compensation claims against Arab states.
"We have to also catalogue losses," Urman affirms. "There may be a time when Palestinians demand compensation, and we believe... it would be an injustice to provide rights to one victimized population [the Palestinians] without providing to the other."
This point - placing the Palestinian refugee issue in the context of the broader refugee phenomenon generated by the Arab-Israeli conflict - seems to be the campaign's central political message.
According to Urman, quoted in a JJAC press release, "Two, not one, refugee problems were caused by the strife in the region, and our campaign will insist that the world community recognize the appalling events that befell Jews from Arab countries."
Another press release tellingly noted that "In all relevant international bilateral or multilateral agreements (i.e. UN Resolution 242, the road map, the Madrid Conference, etc.), the reference to 'refugees' is generic, allowing for the recognition and inclusion of all Middle East refugees - Jews, Christians and other minorities."
Urman confirmed this goal to the Post.
"We're working to make sure [world] governments recognize that they [Middle Eastern Jews] were refugees and they have rights as well," he said.
In explaining the timing of the summit, Urman called the current period "our last chance," since "hundreds of these dispossessed Jews are dying every month with virtually no public recognition of either their tragic expulsion or their far-ranging individual and communal property claims."
While Urman declined to quote estimates as to the amount of compensation families of expelled Jews may seek from Arab states, estimates of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) put the figure at some $100 billion.
JJAC was founded in 2002 by a coalition of Jewish organizations, including WOJAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American Sephardi Federation. It works closely with the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the World Sephardic Congress.
While JJAC and WOJAC will coordinate the International Rights and Redress Campaign, it will operate in conjunction with Jewish organizations from 40 countries from South America, Europe, North America and Asia.