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Last updated: 2003-07-01

The “Forgotten Exodus” conference sponsored by the Board of Deputies this weekend, in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress, the World Sephardic Congress and Jews for Justice from Arab Lands, has proved a great success. The conference, which was devoted to the plight of the 900,000 refugees expelled from Arab lands since 1948, attracted over 400 people who were addressed by many high profile speakers from across the globe.

The event included first-hand accounts from refugees who were forced to flee Arab regimes, and speakers including Francois Zimeray MEP and Dr. Israel Singer, Chairman of the World Jewish Congress Governing Board. Professor Irwin Cotler, Canadian Member of Parliament, addressed a special dinner on Sunday evening for overseas guests and leaders of the British Jewish community. Lord Weidenfeld and Lord Janner hosted a legal session at the House of Lords on Monday to discuss the legal rights of the forgotten refugees, and a delegation from the conference, including Board Vice President Flo Kaufmann, later met with Lord Levy and Baroness Symons, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Baroness Symons acknowledged that she had been presented with a very powerful case.

Board President Henry Grunwald QC, speaking at the conference on Sunday afternoon, noted the importance of ensuring that the individual testimonies of refugees from Arab lands and their claims for possessions that were taken from them or left behind were recorded. It was essential to raise public awareness, both within the Jewish community and in the wider society, on a subject about which so little was known. He later commented:

“The Board of Deputies was pleased to be associated with this very important conference. We heard powerful testimony from refugees from many Arab countries, whose plight has been all but forgotten. It is our duty to ensure that this issue is given the attention it deserves, and that the rights of some 900,000 refugees are recognised and respected.”