Pallone, Colleagues Introduce Resolution Recognizing Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

Oct 30, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ileana Res-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) joined together today at a news conference on Capitol Hill to announce the introduction of a House resolution (H. Con. Res. 311) recognizing the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and calling for a lasting solution to the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees.

The status and future of refugees is widely regarded as one of the major political and diplomatic obstacles to a lasting peace settlement in the Middle East. To date, little recognition has been given to the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

"Over 900,000 Jews were stripped of their property and expelled from Arab countries, and yet few people outside of the Jewish community know the story and history of these refugees," Pallone said at the news conference this afternoon. "It is critical that future peace negotiations and discussions, specifically on the rights of refugees, address both sides of the issue --- Arab and Jewish."

In the years following the establishment of the state of Israel, more Jews than Arabs became refugees. It is estimated that over 900,000 Jews were stripped of their property and expelled from Arab nations. Approximately 600,000 refugees were absorbed and assimilated by Israel and the remaining 300,000 fled to other nations, including the United States and Canada.

"The fact that Israel chose to absorb and assimilate the refugees from Arab nations does not lessen the fact that they were all expelled or otherwise compelled to leave their homelands," Pallone said. "Its my hope that Congress can shed light on this often forgotten aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict with the eventual House passage of this resolution."

The lawmakers resolution also urges the United Nations to establish a program for resettling Palestinian refugees. In 1949, the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) was created for the exclusive purpose of managing the Palestinian refugees. However, UNRWA has refused to resettle and reintegrate the Palestinian refugees, who years later are still living under harsh conditions in refugee camps. The camps have become breeding grounds for the recruitment, training and harboring of terrorists, yet UNRWA has made little attempt to prevent terrorist attacks or stop their planning.

"UNRWA has done more to perpetuate the Palestinian Arab refugee situation, than help it," Pallone said. "The Palestinian refugees have become pawns in the Arab-Israeli dispute, in which Arab countries exploit their hardships for the political objective of inciting sympathy for the Palestinian cause."

The resolution states that UNRWA should take steps to resettle and reintegrate the Palestinian refugees and urges Arab countries to contribute to a lasting solution to the refugee problem by accepting the refugees and taking on a larger role in their resettlement.

"With this resolution, we can educate Congress, the American public and the international community about the historic and ongoing plight of these refugees," Pallone said. "We can bring recognition to the Jewish refugees who left behind thousands of years of Jewish culture, while, at the same time, shed light on the unacceptable exploitation of the Palestinian refugees."

The New Jersey congressman is one of the leading Congressional advocates for the recognition of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. At Pallones request, the House International Relations Middle East Subcommittee, chaired by Ros-Lehtinen, held a Congressional briefing on the issue in June.

In August, Pallone traveled to Israel and met with Chief Sephardic Rabbi Schlomo Amar and several Israeli government officials to discuss efforts in Israel to document the history and sacrifices of the Jewish refugees. Later that same month, Pallone hosted a symposium on Jewish refugees with the World Jewish Congress in Deal, New Jersey.