Nadler Resolution Recognizes Plight of Jewish Refugees from Arab States

Oct 29, 2003

Washington, DC—Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today was joined by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to introduce a resolution recognizing the 900,000 Jews who were driven out of Arab states in the years leading up to and following the creation of the State of Israel, and to urge the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to permanently resettle Palestinian refugees who remain in temporary camps. Nadler made the following statement at a press conference today on Capitol Hill to announce the resolution:

"I am pleased to join Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Frank Pallone in announcing this resolution recognizing the oppression and expropriation of property faced by the 900,000 Jews who were expelled from Arab nations in the period leading up to and following the creation of the State of Israel. The resolution also seeks to promote peace in the Middle East by urging the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to resettle Palestinian refugees from Arab countries.

"UNRWA currently spends over $300 million annually to house, educate and provide social services to 3.9 million Palestinian refugees, with over one million still living in refugee camps. Through UNRWA, the United Nations has allowed these refugee camps to exist for over 50 years, longer than any other refugee camps in the modern era. Educational programs in the camps include anti-Semitic teachings and deny the existence of the state of Israel.

"Resettlement should have been a clear goal for UNRWA from the beginning, as it has been for all other refugees since World War II. But the United Nations allows its agency to perpetuate the situation of refugees living in camps for generations, with no interest in absorbing or resettling them in decent, permanent housing. These refugees are allowed to fester in camps, with no future and no hope. And by allowing these camps to teach an anti-Semitic agenda to children who have no hope of ever leaving the camps, UNRWA has created a breeding ground for potential terrorists and suicide bombers. This poses a very real threat to our hopes of establishing peaceful relations between Israel and Arab nations.

"Leading up to and following the establishment of the state of Israel, 900,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab countries, leaving behind land, private homes, and thousands of years of their Jewish heritage and history. They were never compensated for their losses. However, despite the severe oppression and ethnic cleansing they faced, this widespread expulsion of Jews remains to be known as the "Forgotten Exodus."

"Although it was a new nation at the time, Israel took in the vast majority of these refugees, granted them full citizenship, and invested the resources necessary to make them into productive members of society. There are no longer any Jewish refugees in the Arab world. In contrast, Palestinian refugees are still without permanent homes and continue to be used as a political weapon by Arab nations against Israel. UNRWA must learn from Israel's example, and encourage Arab nations to provide similarly permanent homes for the Palestinians who today remain in refugee camps almost 60 years after the original dislocation. Lasting peace will not be achieved in the Middle East until they are resettled permanently.

"UNRWA must take responsibility to ensure that these refugees are provided homes, that the educational materials provided by UNRWA do not promote anti-Semitic beliefs, and that UNRWA's facilities are not being used to store weapons or to promote violence and terrorism.

"Since 1950, UNRWA's mission has been dubious. The agency that was established for the exclusive benefit of the Palestinian refugees is doing nothing to actually help them. The resolution that we have introduced today clarifies UNRWA's mission. Peaceful relations in the Middle East depend on the agency's willingness to accomplish this mission. Thank you."