The Knesset plenum rejected the bill for the Commemoration of the History and Heritage of Islamic Country Judaism, 2013, in the preliminary reading. The bill was presented by MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) and other MKs.

The rejected bill proposed that the State commemorate the history and heritage of Jews from Islamic countries by initiating a publicity program world-wide. Also, the state would collect and document information regarding different aspects of Jewish life in the Islamic world. The bill also suggested that there be a day dedicated to “the Heritage of Jews from Arab Countries” which will address this topic in both educational and cultural institutions and in the media. Any such institution funded by the public will be obligated to mark this day.

The explanation for the bill stated that, “The bill will amend a national and international injustice on the painful subject of Jewish refugees from Arab countries in a comprehensive and applicable manner. The US Congress did well when it sought to address this issue in April 2008 by obligating the President to raise awareness about the issue for as long as the issue of the Palestinian refugees is raised with regard to the peace process. The time has come for the Israeli government to partake in this task.

“The bill is meant to raise awareness among the Jews in Israel and among the world public about Jewish refugees from Arab countries. International experts on human rights have dubbed these refugees ‘The Original Naqba’ of the Middle East. The congress’s decision defines Jewish refugees from Arab countries as refugees according to the UN Treaty regarding refugees. The fact is that whole Jewish communities, who lived for years as citizens in Arab countries were redefined by Islamic regimes as ‘enemies of the state’ as soon as Israel was founded. These communities suffered persecution, humiliation, torture, confiscation of property, and were exiled in great poverty from their homelands.

“It must be noted that these Jews do not demand the right to return to their land. The Jewish communities in Islamic countries never claimed that these countries were their ‘homeland’. That definition was reserved only for the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish nation. The bill will serve to raise awareness about the injustice done by denying these Jews’ basic human rights in Islamic countries as a means of revenge against them after the founding of the State of Israel.”

24 MKs supported the bill and 48 opposed.