JEWISH REFUGEES FROM ARAB COUNTRIES
International Campaign for Rights and Redress
When the “refugee issue” is discussed within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer to Palestinian refugees, not Jews displaced from Arab countries. Neither the mass violations of human rights nor the displacement of Jews from Arab countries has ever been adequately addressed by the international community.
It would be an injustice to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees without recognizing equal rights for former Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
On two separate occasions the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ruled that Jews fleeing from Arab countries were ‘bona fide’ refugees who “fall within the mandate of (the UNHCR) office”. Yet, there was virtually no international response to the plight of close to 900,000 Jews who, since 1948, have been displaced from Arab countries.
As a matter of law and equity, no just, comprehensive Middle East peace can be reached without recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting, under Islamic regimes, of centuries-old Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa.
II. IMPORTANCE OF PROJECT
To credibly, and effectively assert the legitimate rights of former Jewish refugees from Arab countries, an international campaign is required that would both examine the mass violations of human rights (e.g. murder; arbitrary arrest and detention; torture; stripping of citizenship; seizure of property; etc.); and catalogue the loss of extensive communal and individual assets. That comprehensive data is not available today.
The Israeli Cabinet, in March 2002 and December 2003, called for efforts “to gather information, data, claims and documents... (and) record details of Jewish private and communal property in Arab countries and the denial of their rights”.
This International Campaign for Rights and Redress, which has the support of the Government of Israel, can only be successful with the united efforts of Jewish communities and organizations worldwide.
III. INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR RIGHTS AND REDRESS
On June 6, 2005, Jewish leadership from nine countries agreed to participate in an International Campaign for Rights and Redress to assert the rights of former Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Delegates from the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, Italy and Israel came to the meeting in Paris; those from Mexico and Australia participated via teleconference.
At that meeting, convened by the World Association of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) in association with Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), consensus was reached on important elements of the proposed campaign including: the dual goals of public education and collection of testimonies; and the coordination of programs that would target governments, the media, Jewish organizations, synagogues and Jewish day schools in all Diaspora Jewish communities. The campaign will be launched in March 2006.
The International Campaign for Rights and Redress will record and publicize the mass violations of human rights suffered by Jews under Arab regimes (e.g. murder; arbitrary arrest and detention; torture; stripping of citizenship; seizure of property; etc.); and document the loss of extensive communal and individual assets. Once collected, the documentation will be catalogued and preserved by a special unit in Israel’s Ministry of Justice, established to compile the legal and factual basis necessary to assert the rights of Jews displaced from Arab countries.
WOJAC and JJAC will be assisted in this International Campaign for Rights and Redress by a coalition of Jewish organizations in North and South America, Europe, Israel and South East Asia including, among others, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, American Sephardi Federation, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai Brith International, Board of Deputies of British Jews, Canadian Jewish Congress, Comite Central de la Comunidad Judia de Mexico, Conseil representative des institutions juives de France (CRIF), Executive Council of Australian Jewry, HARIF, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, JIMENA, Unione delle Comunita Ebraiche Italiana and the World Sephardic Congress.
IV. GOALS OF THE INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS AND REDRESS CAMPAIGN
1. To conduct an international advocacy and public education campaign on the heritage and rights of former Jewish refugees from Arab countries; and
2. To document the mass violations of human rights of Jews who were forced to flee from Arab countries and catalogue the loss of their communal and individual assets.
V. PROPOSED PROGRAM
The campaign will take place during the month of March 2006, during which time Jewish communities in some 14 countries will engage in a coordinated effort that will be launched and sustained by public education programs:
1. Public proclamations by national governing bodies: (e.g. Israeli Knesset, federal, state and/or municipal governments; central Jewish communal body; Rabbinic authorities; etc.) marking March 2006 as a special month of commemoration and collection of testimonials from former Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
2. Public Representations: Approaches to politicians; government officials; professional associations; common cause with other minority groups displaced from Arab countries;
3. Public Programs: Concurrent programming, in numerous countries, in synagogues, Jewish educational institutions; communal organizations, etc with a primary objective of securing testimonials from former Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries;
4. Media Contacts: Meetings with editorial writers and journalists; arranging for articles, op-ed pieces, ads to appear in the electronic, broadcast and print media.
A. A Steering Committee, comprised of representatives from nine countries, has already been convened to serve as the central policy and decision-making body for the International Campaign for Rights and Redress.
B. In participating countries, a National Steering Committee will be established, comprising all associations of Jews from Arab countries as well as relevant Jewish communal organizations.
C. Working in concert, on the international and national levels, the ultimate goal will be to collect, in a systematic, secure and confidential process, personal testimonies on the mass violation of human rights and the persecution of Jewish minorities by Arab regimes, as well as to document the loss of individual and community assets.