April 02, 2008

Restoring truth to the Middle East narrative

Jews have lived since Biblical times in what are now Arab countries. After Jews were conquered by Rome, Jews had to disperse, mostly to North Africa and the Middle East. Many Jews migrated to the Iberian peninsula – Spain and Portugal. They were expelled from those countries at the end of the 15th century. They mostly migrated to the Arab countries, where, by now, they have been living for almost 500 years, many Jews for over 2,000 years.

The world is greatly concerned about the Arabs who fled the state of Israel in 1948, but no mention is ever made of those Jewish refugees from Arab lands, and the homes and possessions they were forced to leave behind. Their history is as compelling and arguably more so than that of the Arab refugees from Israel.

And the US House of Representatives agree. From JTA:

The U.S. House of Representatives recognized the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab lands in any final peace deal. The nonbinding resolution, backed by a bipartisan slate of lawmakers, passed in a voice vote Tuesday. It urges any U.S. government to ensure that the rights of such refugees -- believed to number approximately 850,000 -- are part of a final peace deal between Israel and the Arabs. Pro-Palestinian groups criticized the legislation as undermining the claims of Palestinian refugees, but U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (D-N.Y.), the legislation's lead sponsor, rejected such claims.

"This should not be an impediment to the peace process in any way," Nadler said in a conference call Wednesday. "It is important to raise the question of Jewish refugees and the property left behind in Arab countries. It does not in any way say that the rights of Palestinian refugees should not be handled."

Stanley Urman, the executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, the Jewish group that led the lobbying effort for the resolution, said it "restored truth to the Middle East narrative."