Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Forgotten Refugees

Many people have heard of the Palestinian refugees of the Middle East. Few, however, think to reference another group of Middle Eastern refugees whose stories deserve recognition: these are the Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Such was the topic of Stanley Urman, director of a group called Justice or Jews from Arab Countries, when he recently came to speak at UC Berkeley. Having suffered terrible human rights violations, including pogroms and other officially sanctioned violence, confiscation of property, beatings and imprisonment, most of these refugees were ultimately forced to flee their countries of origin to the land of Israel. Indeed, statistics show that while there were about 856,000 Jews living in Arab countries as of 1948--up to the founding of the modern state of Israel--in 2001 there were only 7800. As such, Urman's group and others, including JIMENA (Jews Indgenous to the Middle East and North Africa) are undertaking an "International Rights and Redress Campaign" for these immigrants, which seeks to "record the family histories of Jews diplaced from Arab countries and document the loss of individual and communal assets [so as to] compile the legal and factual basis necessary to assert the rights of the Jewish refugees displaced from Arab coutries." In his speech, Urman also advocated two new bills to be voted upon in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Remarkable for their bipartisan nature, having been drafted by politicians from both sides of the political spectrum, the bills urge the President that any "explicit reference to the Palestinian refugees is matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity."
If you are a Jew whose family suffered human rights violations at the hands of an Arab government, click here to register your family's history for the International Rights and Redress Campaign:
To read the House and Senate resolutions, click here:

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