The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it will grant asylum to 1,350 Arabs in Iraq who claim to have the right to live in Israel based on ancestry. The unprecedented numbers to be allowed to resettle in the United States may anger Israel, the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reported.
Most of them lived well in Iraq under former dictator Saddam Hussein but then were thrown out of their homes after his downfall. They were targeted since the American invasion of the country and have been living near the border with Syria.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told Israel National News that it would not comment on the new American policy. Granting asylum to the Arabs could be interpreted by the Palestinian Authority as official United States acceptance of them as Arabs with a right to live in Israel but who were granted special status because of the American war.
Their claim to Israel is based on their parents or grandparents having lived in Israel before the wars in 1948 and 1967, when Arab nations encouraged many of them to leave until after the expected annihilation of the Jewish State. A minority of the original 700,000 Arabs who claimed refugee status in the 1950s fled from Israeli army troops during the War of Independence.
Any person descended from at least one Arab whose primary residence was in pre-state Israel from mid-1946 to 1948 may claim refugee status.
The Bush administration rarely accepted Arabs defined as "Palestinian refugees" in order not to irritate Israel, one diplomat told CSM. He said the Arabs will be processed as refugees from Iraq. Todd Pierce, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said that the Arabs in Iraq are not being equated with those from Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
Jordan is the only Arab country that grants citizenship to Arabs who claim ancestry in Israel but has not allowed Arabs to enter from Iraq, according to Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.
He called the issue a “hot potato” and that the State Department announcement is “tossing their problems over their head into Harrisburg, Pennsylvania or Omaha, Nebraska” and making America “a dumping ground” for its problems. Most of the Iraqi Arabs will be settled in southern California.