by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
(IsraelNN.com) The Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) of the US legislature is set to hold a first-of-its-kind hearing next week on the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to flee their homes in Arab countries as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The July 19 hearing in Washington, D.C., under the heading "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation," is to be hosted by the CHRC in conjunction with B'nai Brith International and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. It will be the first time that the US Congress will hear testimony on the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
The expert witnesses invited to address the US legislators include:
* Dr. Irwin Cotler, a member of Parliament and a former Justice Minister from Canada who is well-known for his advocacy on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the globe, including Egyptian-American sociologist and human rights activist Professor Saad Edin Ibrahim;
* Dr. Henry Green, a professor of Religious Studies and Sociology at the University of Miami, and the former director of the Judaic and Sephardic Studies Department;
* Mrs. Regina Bublil Waldman, a recipient of the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, and a co-founder of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), a US-based advocacy group. Mrs. Waldman was born in Libya and her family was nearly murdered while escaping that country in 1967.
The CHRC hearing will also include a screening of The Forgotten Refugees, produced by the David Project. The film is a documentary about the mass exodus of almost one million Jews from Arab countries.
The July 19 congressional hearing on Jewish refugees has an immediate, practical goal of providing US congressmen with preliminary information ahead of voting on House Resolution 185 and Senate Resolution 85. According to the proposed legislation, the US president would be obligated to instruct all official representatives of the United States that "explicit reference to Palestinian refugees be matched by a similar explicit reference to Jewish and other refugees, as a matter of law and equity." (See Senate Res 85 for the full text.)
A JIMENA statement calls the proposed resolutions "the strongest declaration adopted by the US Congress acknowledging the rights of Jewish refugees who were forced to flee Arab countries."
As JIMENA notes, "There were two major population movements that occurred during years of great turmoil in the Middle East, from 1948 to 1968." Arabs and Jews were "both determined to be bona fide refugees under international law. In fact, more former Jewish refugees were uprooted from Arab countries (over 850,000) than Palestinians who left Israel in 1948 (UN estimate: 726,000)."
The CHRC, convening the unique hearing, is chaired by Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.