Update: news has just reached Point of No Return that the bill was initially rejected by the ministerial committee. Nissim Zeev has two weeks to re-submit his bill with specific amendments.
A group of members of the Israeli Knesset, supported by organisations representing Jews from Arab countries, have been quietly working away to prepare legislation that will ensure that the history and displacement of Jews from Arab countries will not be forgotten.
On Sunday 30 June, MK Nissim Zeev, together with some 20 other MKs, presented a bill before the Committee of ministers for legislative affairs, headed by Justice minister Yaakov Neeman. If the bill is passed, the preservation of the history and memory of the tragedy of Jews from Arab countries would become the law of the land.
This law is of supreme importance because it makes teaching the history and tragedy of the Jews from Arab countries compulsory in schools.
The bill was submitted to the Knesset on 25th January 2010 but put on the backburner while priority was given to a law insisting that compensation for Jews from Arab countries is included in any Middle east peace settlement.
Here is the text of the new bill:
Bill perpetuating the History and Heritage of Jews from Muslim lands - 2010 (With thanks for her translation from Hebrew: Levana)
A. Goals - Objectives of the Act :
(1) to perpetuate the history and heritage of the Jewish communities that existed in Islamic countries in the twentieth century and earlier, including their life as a religious minority, their status and the circumstances of their leaving these countries as refugees;
(2) to instil awareness among the public, including through the education system, and among countries in the world, of human rights violations of Jewish refugees from Islamic countries, due to their status as refugees.
B. Definitions - in this Act:
"Islamic countries" - Countries of North Africa, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East;
"Refugee" - person who had to leave the country where he or she lived as a citizen or resident out of fear of being persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and unable or unwilling to rely on the protection of that country due to such a fear;"Jewish refugees from Islamic countries" - Jews who were citizens or residents in Muslim countries and who left their countries as refugees in the spirit of the UN Refugee Convention 1951 (1951 UN Refugee Convention) through the establishment of Israel, and of Jews who left the Islamic Republic of Iran - even after that;
"Minister" - Minister of Education and Foreign Minister.
C. Perpetuating the history and heritage of Jews of Islamic Countries.
(a) The State of Israel will commemorate the history and heritage of the Jews of Islamic countries in the twentieth century and earlier, through the collection and documentation of legal and historical information, including the following:
(1) the circumstances of their lives as a religious minority;
(2) the status and circumstances of their leaving their home countries as refugees;
(3) The rules set forth in Islamic countries, imposing restrictions, expropriation, confiscation, and so forth for property belonging to Jews or the Jewish community;
(4) acts of persecution against Jews.
(b) the perpetuation of Jewish history and heritage of Islamic countries will, among other things, be implemented as part of compulsory education, and in educational institutions, military and legal cultural institutions; information will be accessible to the public through the Internet.
(c) The State of Israel and advocacy system will operate as part of its foreign activities, to raise awareness of Jewish refugees from Islamic countries at the international level.
(d) In its activities of sub-paragraphs (a) and (b), the country will work in collaboration with various organizations representing the interests of the Jews from Arab Countries in Israel and abroad.
D. Memorial under this Act.
Each institution to be set up, inter alia, for the purpose of perpetuating the history and heritage of Jews from Islamic countries, will commemorate topics as specified in the objectives of this law.