A meeting of the JJAC steering committee was recently held on October 22nd & 23rd in Jerusalem, Israel; to kick off the International Rights and Redress Campaign, on behalf of Jewish refugees from Arab countries; which is slated for launching in November of 2006.
The meeting was attended by representatives from 11 different countries, representing some 24 International Jewish organizations and Israelís Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit; who pledged during his address to reestablish his ministry's unit for managing compensation claims of Jews forced out of Arab countries and to reinvigorate the effort to make their case to the world.
At the meeting it was resolved to do the following:
To support the call for an International Rights and Redress campaign with the following goals:
To advocate for rights and redress for Jewish Refugees from Arab countries
To conduct a public education programs on the history & heritage of former Mizrahi-Sephardi
communities in Arab countries
To register family narratives and catalog communal as well as personal losses, suffered by
Call upon the Government of Israel to raise the issue of rights for Jewish refugees from Arab countries in bi-lateral and multilateral meetings as well as in the Middle East Peace negotiations.
Work towards the protection and preservation of the heritage and legacy of Mizrahi communities uprooted from Arab countries with regards to historical and holy sites as well as religious artifacts that belonged to Jewish Communities no longer extant in Arab countries.
A general call was made for Diaspora Jewish communities, which once lived in Arab countries, to undertake the mission of membership educational campaigns, to mobilize advocacy efforts in support of the rights of their communities, to diligently record family narratives and testimonies and finally to support the family registry efforts of the International Rights and Redress campaign.
This call to secure rights and redress for Jews who were forced to flee Arab countries is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees; nor is it about initiating legal proceedings to seek compensation. It is a legitimate effort to ensure that the plight of all Middle East refugees be placed on the International political agenda as a quest for truth and justice and that their rights be secured as a matter of law and equity.
It would constitute an injustice, were the international community to recognize rights for one victim population Ė Palestinian refugees Ė without recognizing equal rights for other victims of that very same Middle East conflict Ė former Jewish, Christian and other refugees from Arab countries; so that any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees should be balanced by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees from Arab countries.
A recent article in the Jerusalem Post by Hilary Leila Krieger "Jews forced out of Arab countries seek reparations"
sheds more lights on the conference and its message.
Oct. 23, 2006 23:37 | Updated Oct. 24, 2006 8:43Jews forced out of Arab countries seek reparations
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit pledged Monday to reestablish his ministry's unit for managing compensation claims of Jews forced out of Arab countries and to reinvigorate the effort to make their case to the world.
Sheetrit addressed a conference on "rights and redress" for this population held in Jerusalem Monday, which launched a campaign to register all the families who lost assets when Jews fled Arab countries after the creation of the State of Israel.
Sheetrit, like many at the conference, stressed that the goal wasn't to get financial compensation.
"The campaign is not for money," the minister said. "The idea is to put on the table, on a parallel level, the claims of Jewish refugees with the claims of the Palestinians," the latter of whom he described as having successfully garnered world attention.
Sheetrit originally established the unit under his first term as justice minister more than three years ago, but admitted that it was neglected once he left office and its duties were transferred to someone already responsible for pursuing Holocaust compensation claims.
"It was a mistake" to have made such a switch, he said, and his promise to make it a separate unit once again garnered cheers from the 50 or so conference participants.
So far, only some 13,000 Israelis have been registered, though the conference organizers estimate that about 850,000 Jews were made refugees from Arab lands after the founding of Israel.
Now it is estimated that less than 10,000 remain in these areas. A conference co-organizer, The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, has suggested that $100 billion of assets were lost or confiscated, though specific calculations are difficult.
A draft declaration from Monday's conference declared that "no just, comprehensive Middle East peace can be reached without recognition of, and redress for, the uprooting of centuries-old Jewish communities in the Middle East and North Africa."
It urged the government of Israel to incorporate the issue into its negotiations with the Palestinians and Arab states and pressed Diaspora communities to help collect the stories of these Jewish refugees and advocate on their behalf.
Stanley Urman, executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, another co-sponsor of Monday's event, also said the "international rights and redress campaign" was intended to heighten awareness of the history and culture of these Jews.
"This is a campaign to document Jewish history," he said to applause, "to record the personal narratives of these families and their displacement, to make sure that the 2,500-year history of Mizrahi Jewry in Arab countries will not be lost to the pages of history."
Sheetrit, whose own family is originally from Morocco, urged speedy action: 'If we wait another 10 or 20 years there will be nobody to make any claims."
Introduction copyright by Israel Bonan, 2006. Original article © Jerusalem Post and Hilary Leila Krieger.Israel Bonan
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