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.
THE FORGOTTEN EXODUS; JEWISH
REFUGEES FROM ARAB LANDS
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.