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U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) gave the following statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 7, 2003.


Mr. Speaker, as Israel and Palestine take steps toward peace and as President Bush and the State Department release the "Road Map" for peace in the Middle East, I would like to drawn attention to an important issue in the peace process.
The issue of refugees is widely regarded as one of the most contentious aspects of the Arab-Israeli dispute. However, up until now, the debate has focused primarily on the plight of Palestinian refugees and the question of right of return. Mr. Speaker, it is critical that future peace negotiations and discussions, specifically on the rights of refugees, address both sides of the issue - Arab and Jewish.
Many people do not realize that during 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.
Jews in Arab nations were forced to forfeit the lives they had worked so hard to achieve - to abandon their homes and livelihoods. They had to turn their backs on centuries of Jewish history, culture and community. They had to leave behind schools, synagogues, hospitals and businesses - all without compensation and all confiscated by the various Arab governments.
At a time when Jews faced severe persecution, economic deprivation, discrimination and expulsion from Arab lands -- Jews turned to Israel as a place to begin their lives anew. Israel opened her arms and welcomed the refugees, granting Arab Jews citizenship and welcoming them into Israeli society.
However, 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.
I have personally spoken with several of my colleague in Congress about this often forgotten aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They agree on the importance of holding a Congressional hearing on this subject ~ the need to educate members of Congress and to ensure that they and the public are informed of the issues at stake and the sacrifices made by Jews from Arab lands when they were forced to leave their homes and countries.
Mr. Speaker, Congress cannot continue to be silent on the plight of Jewish refugees. It is critical that Congress address this issue while the refugees are still alive and while we can still address their rights as victims. By doing so, we can ensure that justice for Jewish refugees assumes its rightful place in the debate.



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