Israel's Knesset last night passed a landmark bill safeguarding the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries by 35 votes to one.
The law, proposed by MK Nissim Zev of Shas, requires the Israeli government to raise the issue of Jewish refugees when negotiating Arab demands. The Prime Minister will be responsible for raising the issue of Jewish refugees who fled their homes in Arab lands and Iran, including their right to compensation, in future peace negotiations.
According to Israel National News, the proposal passed an initial hearing in December but ran into opposition from the Justice Ministry. Jewish activists from Arab states were angry over the government's opposition, particularly in light of the fact that the United States Congress passed a similar measure in 2008. The U.S. decision requires American officials involved in Middle East peace talks to refer to the issue of Jewish refugees when the issue of Arab refugees is discussed.
The campaign for the rights of Jewish refugees in Israel will now promote amongst the Israeli public a website for the registration of property seized or lost in Arab countries. A film is in the pipeline, and a book published by Yale University Press about Jews under Islamic rule by Sir Martin Gilbert, the well-known British historian, is eagerly awaited in August.