US Congress to Hold Hearing on
Jewish Refugees From Arab States
by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz / ISRAEL NATIONAL
The Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) of the US legislature is set to hold a
first-of-its-kind hearing next week on the hundreds of thousands of Jews who
were forced to flee their homes in Arab countries as a result of the
The July 19 hearing in Washington,
D.C., under the heading
"Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation,"
is to be hosted by the CHRC in conjunction with B'nai Brith
International and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. It will be the first
time that the US Congress will hear testimony on the issue of Jewish refugees
from Arab countries.
The expert witnesses invited to address the US legislators include:
- Dr. Irwin Cotler, a
member of Parliament and a former Justice Minister from Canada who is
well-known for his advocacy on behalf of prisoners of conscience around
the globe, including Egyptian-American sociologist and human rights
activist Professor Saad Edin
- Dr. Henry Green, a professor of Religious
Studies and Sociology at the University of Miami, and the former director
of the Judaic and Sephardic Studies Department;
- Mrs. Regina Bublil Waldman,
a recipient of the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award,
and a co-founder of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa
(JIMENA), a US-based advocacy group. Mrs. Waldman was born in Libya and
her family was nearly murdered while escaping that country in 1967.
CHRC hearing will also include a screening of The Forgotten
Refugees, produced by the David Project. The film is
a documentary about the mass exodus of almost one million Jews from Arab
The July 19 congressional hearing on Jewish refugees has an immediate,
practical goal of providing US congressmen with preliminary information ahead
of voting on House Resolution 185 and Senate Resolution 85. According to the
proposed legislation, the US
president would be obligated to instruct all official representatives of the United States
that "explicit reference to Palestinian refugees be matched by a similar
explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and
equity." (See Senate Res 85 for the full text.)
A JIMENA statement calls the proposed resolutions "the strongest
declaration adopted by the US Congress acknowledging the rights of Jewish
refugees who were forced to flee Arab countries."
As JIMENA notes, "There were two major population movements that occurred
during years of great turmoil in the Middle East,
from 1948 to 1968." Arabs and Jews were "both determined to be bona
fide refugees under international law. In fact, more former Jewish refugees
were uprooted from Arab countries (over 850,000) than Palestinians who left Israel in 1948
(UN estimate: 726,000)."
The CHRC, convening the unique hearing, is chaired by Representative Tom Lantos
(D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.