TORONTO — Canada has formally recognized the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
On Monday, Ottawa accepted a report tabled last year that called on the federal government to “officially recognize the experience of Jewish refugees who were displaced from states in the Middle East and North Africa after 1948.”
The federal cabinet approved the report March 3, according to the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
Submitted to Parliament last November by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development , the 17-page report noted that during the course of its hearings the previous spring, members “learned of the discrimination and hardship faced by Jewish people living in the Middle East and North Africa in the 20th century [which] surged over the years in tandem with the crisis moments of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in particular the 1948–49 and 1967 wars.”
The committee heard that since 1948, roughly 850,000 Jews fled persecution and violence in the Middle East and North Africa, and that about 650,000 immigrated to Israel, while the rest settled in other countries, including Canada.
The countries in question had a collective Jewish population of just 4,315 in 2012, the report noted. It stressed that “recognition of the experiences of Jewish refugees does not diminish or compete with the situation of Palestinian refugees.” A campaign for recognition of Jewish refugee claims has gained steam in recent years in part as a response to demands of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Israel has said it will not grant Palestinian refugees citizenship.
“This is not only a matter of ensuring historical accuracy,” said CIJA chair David Koschitzky. “Once implemented, it will correct a fundamental imbalance in a Canadian policy that acknowledges Arab refugees but makes no mention of Jewish refugees resulting from the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
A CIJA spokesman said the organization is “looking forward to details on how this will be integrated into Canada’s standing policy on the Middle East.”