Contact: Stanley A. Urman (917) 640-8028
Malcolm Hoenlein (212) 318-6111
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin Lauded for Declaration
on Rights of Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries
In a precedent-setting declaration, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin has recognized the rights of former Jewish refugees displaced from Arab countries.
The Prime Minister, in a June 3rd, 2005 interview with the Canadian Jewish News, appeared informed about, and sensitive to, the plight of Jews who fled Arab countries.
“A refugee is a refugee” stated the Prime Minister of Canada. “I think we’ve got to be prepared to take Jewish claims into consideration.”
This is the first such recognition of the rights of former Jewish refugees by a Canadian Prime Minister who now joins two US Presidents who have previously done so:
· After the Camp David Accords, President Carter stated in an Oct. 27, 1977 press conference that “Palestinians have rights…obviously there are Jewish refugees…they have the same rights as others do.”
· In July, 2000, shortly after ‘Camp David II’, President Clinton stated: “Israel is full of people, Jewish people, who lived in predominantly Arab countries who came to Israel because they were made refugees in their own land.” (White House Transcript of Israeli TV interview)
“The statement by the Canadian Prime Minister recognizing Jewish refugees will have a significant impact on our international efforts” stated Stanley A. Urman, Executive Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. “It will establish a benchmark, a standard that we will now encourage other countries to emulate.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was aware of recent reports that President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon had called Prime Minister Martin, urging Canada to take a more active role in the issue of Middle East refugees. “In light of this encouragement,” stated Hoenlein, “the Prime Minister’s statement signals new Canadian leadership in asserting a more reasoned, just approach to the two populations of Middle East refugees, both victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
This development follows an international gathering in Paris over the weekend where representatives of Jewish communities and organizations from nine countries announced their intention to open an International Advocacy Campaign on the rights of former Jewish refugees from Arab countries. The campaign, whose dual goals are public education and the collection of testimonies, will conclude in March 2006.
Prime Minister Martin’s statement that “A refugee is a refugee” is 100% accurate and substantiated by the fact that on two separate occasions, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) determined that Jews fleeing from Arab countries were ‘bone fide’ refugees that fell within the mandate of the UNHCR.
“I refer to our recent discussion concerning Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries in consequence of recent events. I am now able to inform you that such persons may be considered prima facie within the mandate of this Office.”
Dr. E. Jahn, Office of the UN High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Document No. 7/2/3/Libya, July 6, 1967.
“Another emergency problem is now arising: that of refugees from Egypt. There is no doubt in my mind that those refugees from Egypt who are not able, or not willing to avail themselves of the protection of the Government of their nationality fall under the mandate of my office.”
Mr. Auguste Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Report of the UNREF Executive Committee, Fourth Session – Geneva 29 January to 4 February, 1957.
Canada’s newly announced position on Jewish refugees is fully consistent with the “Road Map” which, in Phase III, refers to an “agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue”, language applicable both to Palestinian and Jewish refugees.
The Prime Minister’s pronouncement clarifies Canada’s position as ‘Gavel’ of the Multilateral Working Group on Refugees whose mandate makes no distinction between Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees: “The refugee group will consider practical ways of improving the lot of people throughout the region who have been displaced from their homes.”