Daily Israel Report

Gov't Supports Official Date to Commemorate Jewish Refugees

MK Shimon Ohayon's law states that February 17 will be a day of commemoration for Jews forced out of Arab countries last century.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/15/2013, 2:42 AM

MK Shimon Ohayon
MK Shimon Ohayon
Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation endorsed on Sunday a law to hold an official date in the Israeli national calendar to commemorate the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

The law, authored by MK Dr. Shimon Ohayon (Yisrael Beytenu), will state that February 17 is to become a day of national commemoration for the over 850,000 Jews who were forced out or who fled their homes in Arab countries during the middle of the last century.

February 17 was chosen because it was the date in 1948 when the Arab League approved a law for its member states placing severe sanctions against their Jewish populations.

Accordingly, MK Ohayon sent an official letter to the Secretary General of the Arab League, Dr. Nabil El Araby, calling on his organization to “accept historic accountability for the humiliation, the suffering, and the losses incurred by innocent Jewish victims of the Arab world’s declared war against the State of Israel.”

“As a matter of law and equity, the Arab League must assume full responsibility for ensuring rights and redress for Jewish refugees, the direct result of their collusionary actions,” MK Ohayon wrote in the letter, which was also sent to the Arab League’s Human Rights Department.

“There are historic processes taking place in the Arab world currently with more and more people pushing for their rights, this is an opportune time for the Arab League and its member states to admit to the historic injustice meted out to their Jewish populations,” said Ohayon.

“This is an important element of any future peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arab in the Middle East.”

The law and the letter are part of a concerted campaign to have the rights of the Jews who were forced out of Arab countries in the 20th century recognized in Israel, the Arab world and the international community.

The day of commemoration for the Jewish refugees was accepted and endorsed by the representative organizations of Jews from Arab countries in Israel and international organizations like Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) and the World Jewish Congress, who will push the day of commemoration in Jewish communities around the world.

Last month during World Refugee Day, MK Ohayon called on the United Nations not to forget the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, which are far more numerous than the much-worried over Arab refugees who fled the Land of Israel before Israel's establishment in 1948.

MK Ohayon, who along with his family fled Morocco in 1956, is the Chairman of the Knesset Caucus for the Rights of Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands.

In November, renowned Canadian lawmaker Irwin Cotler proposed a motion in his country's Parliament calling for formal government recognition of the Jews forcibly displaced from Arab lands since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

Cotler, who has served as Canadian Justice Minister and Attorney General, noted in his motion that by rejecting the United Nation's partition plan of 1947-1948, Arab states had "launched their double aggression of a war against the nascent Jewish state and assaults on their own Jewish nationals, resulting in two refugee populations, Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

He said the time had come "to restore the pain and plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries to the international peace and justice narrative from which it has been eclipsed these past 60 years."