A draft bill recognising the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is well on the road to adoption by Israel's Knesset. The bill has the support of the government coalition in Israel and will have its second and final readings on 15 February.
Update: The Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Iraqijews):
"The Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee met on Tuesday to put the finishing touches on a bill that would mandate offering compensation to Jews who were forced out of Arab lands following the establishment of state.
"The committee unanimously approved for second and final readings on the Knesset floor the measure sponsored by MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), including the addenda incorporated by Ze’ev following a rapid-fire discussion among participants representing government ministries and immigrants advocacy organizations.
"Ze’ev emphasized, in his arguments in support of the bill, that in February 2008, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution that said that the United States should demand, in the course of Middle East peace talks, that the same refugee recognition be extended to Jews and Christians as is extended to Palestinians.
"In addition to allowing Jews to press claims against Arab countries regarding property that they were forced to leave behind, Ze’ev argued that parallel refugee status would enable negotiators to retroactively determine that Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees were part of a “population exchange,” thus negating the basis for Palestinian claims to a “right of return.”
"During the debate on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry faced off with immigrants on the subject of which countries are included in the definition – whether it is limited to Arab League countries, and how – or whether – to include Jews who left Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in the definition.
"In addition, the Justice Ministry’s representatives expressed concern that if the rights to restitution were offered to Jewish refugees’ descendants, then Palestinians could also demand continued reparations.
"The bill’s proponents, however, retorted that the Palestinians already claim that beyond the original fewer than 1 million Palestinian refugees, more than 4.5 million Palestinians are now entitled to refugee status.
"The new draft of the bill also adds a demand for compensation for Jewish communal properties, such as synagogues and cemeteries that were lost as a result of the Jews’ flight.
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My comment: the bill will almost certainly exclude non-Israeli citizens from any compensation rights. However, as in the case of Holocaust survivors, a mechanism could be implemented to ensure that the rights of Jewish refugees living outside Israel are also respected. Please write to Nissim Zeev@knesset.gov.il and ask him not to neglect the rights of Jewish refugees living in the diaspora.
Stan Urman, Executive Director of JJAC, the New York-based campaigning organisation, has issued the following press release:
"As you may recall, in 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously adopted H.R. Res. 185 recognizing rights for Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Motivated by this historic pronouncement, Member of the Israeli Knesset Nissim Ze'ev (SHAS) and Minster Kahalon and Deputy Minister Yitzhak Cohen introduced a bill in the Knesset which also recognizes the plight, and rights, of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This will be the first such bill adopted by the Knesset, recognizing rights for Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
JJAC Israel has been actively promoting this effort and is working in close conjunction with the leaders of Sephardi/Mizrahi communites in Israel emanating from Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran and others.
The draft bill is winding its way through the Knesset. It was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation which means that the bill has the full support of the governing coalition. Thereafter, it passed a preliminary Knesset vote; then it was passed to the Aliyah and Klita Committee and then it went through 'first reading' in the Knesset. It is projected that the bill will be brought back to the Knesset on February 15, 2010 for second and third reading and finally, adoption!
To mark this historic event, there will be a ceremony in the Knesset on February 15, 2010 from 1300/h - 1500/h. This event will be open to the public, upon registration.
Persons interested in attending must send a request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org (with cc to to Mr. Stan Urman at JJAC at email@example.com prior to the event. Israelis must include their name, telephone number and teudat zehut number. Others (foreigners) must include their name, a local telephone number or cell phone number, name of country and their passport number. Please do not forget to send a copy of your email to firstname.lastname@example.org."
Write to Bibi: don't exclude Diaspora Jewish refugees