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August 6, 2012 12:05 pm

Canadian Report Spurs U.S. Congress to Act on Jewish Refugees

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An Iranian Jew in Israel. Photo: Israel Matsav.

A bill has reached the U.S. House of Representatives calling on the American government to recognize the rights of Jewish refugees who were driven from Arab and Muslim lands after Israel’s founding. While Arab leaders have long called for a “right of return” for descendants of 600,000 Palestinians whose homes were located in what became Israel, about 850,000 Jews who lived throughout the Arab world and Iran also became refugees.

The bill is based on information from a 2007 report, “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: the Case for Rights and Redress,” by former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, David Matas, a Winnipeg-based refugee lawyer, and Stan Urman, Canadian executive director of New York-based Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.

The bill calls on lawmakers to recognize the status of the Jewish refugees in the same manner as they recognized the status of Palestinian refugees. The refugees from Arab lands did not only include Jews, but also Christians and members of other minority religions from North African, Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf countries. “It sets forth what the U.S. should be doing in bilateral negotiations, multilateral negotiations, various initiatives in the peace process and the justice agenda,” Cotler told the Ottawa Citizen.

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