International group of delegates of the Assembly
of European Jewish Leaders in Rome
June 16, 2009, the first-ever Hearing of the
Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber
of Deputies addressed the subject of Jewish refugees
from Arab countries.
at the Hearing was Canadian Member of Parliament and
former Justice Minister, the Honorable Irwin Cotler
who stated that: "The time has come to return
Jewish refugees from Arab countries to the Middle
East narrative from which they have been expunged
these past sixty years." He added, "This
is not just a case of justice delayed, but justice
Hearing followed the much-anticipated foreign policy
speech given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on June 14, 2009 wherein he reminded the world of
the "hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees
who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries."
Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress
stated that, "The forgotten story of the forced
exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab states must be
on the agenda during any Middle East peace talks.
Many of these refugees built their new homes in European
communities. We therefore call upon the European institutions,
and upon European governments to raise their voice
and demand that historical justice be done. We commend
the Italian Parliament for addressing this issue in
a serious manner and encourage other states in Europe
to do so as well."
emphasized that, "The displacement of 850,000
Jews from Arab countries is not just a 'Forgotten
Exodus' but a 'Forced Exodus.'" He called
on the need to expose "the pernicious and
prejudicial role played by the U.N. in excluding Jewish
refugees from Arab countries from the justice and
peace agenda" and discussed the role that
Italy could play in seeking to resolve issues affecting
all Middle East refugees.
testifying at the Hearing was Prof. David Meghnagi,
Chair of the International Master on Holocaust
Studies at Roma Tre University, who spoke
of his family's harrowing escape from Libya.
Hearing was held coincident with the Assembly of
Jewish Leaders convened by Justice for Jews
from Arab Countries, in partnership with the European
Jewish Fund and included 30 delegates from nine
countries in Europe and abroad.
recent visit to Italy of Libyan leader Moammar Gheddafi
was discussed at the Opening Session, attended by
the leaders of the representitives of various organizations
of Libyan Jewry based in Italy, Israel, and the United
Kingdom. The linked 'Statement
of Principles' was unanimously adopted by
the Assembly, detailing the principles that must govern
any negotiations with Libya and/or other Arab states
on the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.