Jewish refugees from Arab countries can register online

Sept. 19, 2006

By Sheri Shefa / Staff Reporter

A new online registration program has been launched by Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) as part of an International Rights and Redress Campaign that will be launched in November in Jewish communities worldwide.

Stan Urman, the executive director of JJAC, which was founded in 2002, said the campaign is an attempt to bring the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries into the international political agenda.

“Clearly, when the world speaks of Middle Eastern refugees, they refer to Palestinians. Less known is the fact that there were more Jews displaced from Arab countries than there were Palestinians, who [both] became refugees as a result of the creation of the State of Israel,” Urman said.

According to the American Sephardi Association, a partner of JJAC, discrimination against Jews increased after the creation of Israel in 1948, and Jews living in Arab countries were abused, discriminated against, persecuted and murdered, and their property was seized without compensation.

“We believe that the first injustice was the mass violation [of the rights] of Jews in Arab countries. Today, it would constitute a second injustice to allow the international community to recognize rights of one victim population, Palestinians, without also recognizing rights of another victim population of the very same conflict, Jews who were displaced from Arab countries,” Urman said.

Components of the campaign include public education, the documentation of the 2,500-year history of Sephardi Jews who have settled in other countries, and to catalogue their loses, both individual and communal.

Although he is a Montreal-born Ashkenazi, Urman said he devotes his time to this cause because “it’s right. It is important for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.”

Last May, JJAC submitted a resolution to the U.S. Congress that would call on government officials to refer to both Palestinian and Jewish refugees when talking about Middle Eastern refugees.

Urman said the resolution may not pass this session in light of the “Jewish community’s efforts to ensure strong representation for the needs of the government of Israel in the aftermath of the Lebanese war.

“The timing wasn’t the best, because we have to focus our efforts on the needs of Israel and this takes precedent over all resolutions.”

Urman added that if it doesn’t pass in this congressional session, it will be immediately reintroduced to the next one.

But JJAC’s main focus now is the new campaign to register Sephardi Jews who fled Arab countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Iran, Iraq and Yemen, more than 50 years ago.

On the organization’s website,, is a form, which is available in English, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Italian, that asks for personal information and a catalogue of the loss of assets for those who wish to apply for compensation.

“When and if there will be negotiations on rights and compensation for Palestinian refugees, we must be prepared, when necessary, to negotiate for rights and compensation for Jewish refugees. We need the facts,” Urman said.

He said that while a number of Canadian Jewish organizations, including B’nai Brith Canada and Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), are involved in this objective, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) is acting as the national contact point.

“We’re spearheading this, and we’ll be working closely with our colleagues at the Canada Israel Committee, but we will be the central address for the online registration campaign,” said Bernie Farber, the executive director of CJC’s Ontario region.

“It’s an ongoing educational campaign because what we felt was happening here was that the narrative of those Jews who were in Arab countries is being lost. We want to revitalize it, we want to reinvigorate it, and we want to make sure that the world understands that literally tens of thousands of Jews had to leave, mostly in fear of their lives.”

Farber explained that CJC will use its website to link to the JJAC website and create awareness of the campaign across the country.

He also hopes to work with Urman to prepare educational packages for both Jewish school and public schools.

“My guess is that people will embrace it because it is an exciting piece of history that a lot of people don’t know about. I’m looking forward to getting this going,” Farber said.

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries