Rick Santorum (CNN)
“If we’re going to talk about refugees, let’s talk about all refugees.” From the Jerusalem Post:
Decades after the disappearance of most Jewish communities from the Arab world, a resolution seeking justice for Jews and other minorities who were persecuted, expelled or forced to flee the lands of their birth is being introduced into the US Senate Thursday.
The “sense of the Senate” resolution, an identical version of which was introduced into the House of Representatives on Monday evening, calls on the Bush administration to instruct all US diplomats, including the US ambassador to the United Nations, to include mention of “multiple refugee populations” in any text or resolution alluding to Middle East refugees, and to ensure that “any explicit reference to the required resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue is matched by a similar explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”
The resolution, sponsored by Rick Santorum (R-PA) in the Senate and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, urges the administration to make clear that “redress for the legitimate rights of all refugees displaced from Arab countries” and “recognition of the fact that Jewish and Christian property, schools and community property was lost as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict” must be part of a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East.
Noting that “Jews and other ethnic groups have lived mostly as minorities in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf region for more than 2,500 years, more than 1,000 years before the advent of Islam,” the resolution states that a greater number of Jews (850,000) were displaced than Palestinians (726,000) as a result of Israel’s establishment and wars against the Jewish state. According to the American Sephardi Federation, fewer than 4,000 Jews remain in the Arab world.
“The resolution is an attempt to rectify what we call a historical injustice, that is, the cynical neglect of the international community to the plight of more than 850,000 Jewish refugees,” said Stanley Urman, executive director of Justice for Jews in Arab Countries (JJAC), an organization founded last year by a coalition of Jewish groups and dedicated to securing justice for the forgotten refugees of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Honorary chairmen of JJAC include former US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, former Knesset Speaker Shlomo Hillel, and Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.
The eight-page resolution notes the few instances during which the international community acknowledged the plight of Jewish refugees, including several Senate resolutions adopted in the late 1950s that expressed concern with Egypt’s persecution of its Jewish population; an October 1977 memorandum of understanding between US president Jimmy Carter and foreign minister Moshe Dayan, and a July 2000 interview on Israeli television in which president Bill Clinton called for the establishment of an international fund to compensate both Palestinians and “Israelis who were made refugees by the war.” UN resolutions, the 1991 Madrid conference and the Quartet-backed road map, the resolution states, “do not make any distinction between Palestinian and Jewish refugees.” Recent statements by Libyan leaders stating that the former rogue nation is ready to compensate Libyan Jews whose assets were confiscated, and Iraq’s recently signed draft constitution, which acknowledges past wrongs to citizens of all religions, are also noted.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Santorum, who is holding a press conference today with Libyan and Iraqi Jews, Egyptian Copts and Sudanese Christians forced to flee their Arab homelands, called the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries over the past 55 years “a serious issue that’s unreported.” Should the resolution be adopted by his colleagues, Santorum said he hopes to organize hearings on the issue in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If we’re going to talk about refugees, let’s talk about all refugees,” he said.
In October, a “sense of the Congress” resolution, sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), called on the international community to recognize the plight of Jewish refugees, and it urged the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to resettle Palestinian refugees rather than prolong their suffering in decades-old refugee camps. The bill, which has 20 co-sponsors, was referred to the House International Relations Committee.