Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Write to Bibi: don't exclude Diaspora refugees

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries is urging people to write to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, to ask the Israeli government NOT to exclude Jewish refugees from Arab countries and their descendants living outside Israel from new Knesset legislation safeguarding refugee rights, as recommended by a ministerial committee. JJAC suggests that letters advise that if the Israeli government will not, let the World Jewish Congress deal with their plight. You will find the Prime Minister's details below.

Levana Zamir
reports on the outcome of yesterday's Knesset meeting, where JJAC Israel and the heads of organisations from Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Kurdistan, Yemen and Iran put their objections forward:

Following the disappointing decision of the Governmental Committee for Legislation, a special meeting of the Knesset Committee for Aliya and Diaspora dealing with the Jewish Refugees Bill was held on 12 January at the Knesset, with the participation of the Heads of Organizations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel under the umbrella of JJAC, and official representatives of different ministries.

An Arab member of the Knesset, Taleb Assana, attended on this occasion, interfering and disturbing every five minutes and trying to get the Bill scrapped, but he did not succeed.

"In the meeting we expressed our discontent, and pointed out all the weaknesses of this new proposed Bill.

"After long deliberations, the bottom line of this meeting, one of a series to follow, is:

A) The principal aim of the Bill is to SAFEGUARD THE RIGHTS of Jewish citizens of the State of Israel, who immigrated to Israel from Arab countries and left their houses and properties, following the establishment of the State of Israel.

The wording safeguard the rights, which we managed to introduce and maintain, is important, because when the time comes, it could mean rights other than property rights.

In every discussion of Palestinian refugees in the framework of Middle East peace talks, the Government of Israel will include the issue of compensation for loss of property.

B) The countries included in this Bill are all the Arab countries represented by the Arab League. This excludes Iran. We decided to defer this "struggle" to meetings to come.

C) As for the Jews from Arab countries living today in the Diaspora, we proposed that the Knesset Committee try to find the right formula for the involvement of an International Jewish organization like that which dealt with the rights of Holocaust survivors living in the Diaspora.

To reinforce this recommendation, we appeal to Jews from Arab countries living in the Diaspora to send dozens of letters directly to the Israeli Prime Minister, asking him to recommend that the World Jewish Congress deal with their plight. It has to come from abroad too, not only from the Israeli organizations. Here are Bibi Netanyahu's details:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Office of the Prime Minister
State of Israel
3 Kaplan st.

Fax +972-2-5664838

On this matter, it is important to know that following the Suez Crisis, some thousands of Jews expelled from Egypt in 1956/57, bearing British or French citizenship and resettling in their countries of citizenship received some compensation for their sequestered properties through a special agreement signed in 1958 between Egypt, Great Britain and France. But this agreement did not include any compensation for their expulsion, suffering, and their world falling apart.

The Bill will go to a vote in the Knesset in a couple of weeks. There will be a preliminary vote and it will then come back to the Committee to be discussed with us.

D) Teaching about Jewish refugees at school has been definitely dropped from this Bill. It is said this is already being done.

After the meeting at the Knesset, we met with the person in charge at the Ministry of Education in Jerusalem, Mr. Moshe Zaafarani, Chief of the Oriental Jewish Heritage narrative at schools. This joint meeting is also one of many to come, to see how our narrative could become an integral and more intensive part of the educational syllabus.

Let's hope so…"

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