Tracking lost property of Jewish refugees...
Billions of dollars were stolen from Jewish refugees from Muslim countries...
A new department set up by Ministry of Pensioners Affairs to manage the legal claims of Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern descent who lost their property when they left countries throughout the region has begun collecting information.
The office will help identify, locate and seek compensation for the assets of the more than one million Jews who came to Israel from Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.
The initiative follows a law approved earlier this year by the Knesset requiring the compensation of Jews from Arab countries and Iran to be included in any peace negotiations.
“The Palestinians have been collecting evidence of their losses for many years,” said Yoni Itzhak, a spokesman for the Pensioners Affairs Ministry.
“So we are not waiting until there is a negotiation for a peace accord. We need to be prepared, so that if there are negotiations and the Palestinians say, ‘We are owed a few billion dollars,’ We will say, ‘OK, no problem,’ and be ready with a much higher figure of what we are owed.”
The ministry says that as of 2007 “the estimated value of Jewish property in Arab countries is 50 percent more than the value of the property of Palestinian refugees and is valued at billions of dollars.” The ministry did not provide specific figures.
Following the establishment of the state, most Muslim states declared or supported war against Israel, and the status of Jews in these countries became threatened.
According to estimates by the United Nations and a number of civil society organizations, during Israel’s first decade about 265,000 Jews left Morocco, 140,000 left Algeria, 135,000 left Iraq, 120,000 left Iran, 103,000 left Tunisia, 75,000 left Egypt, 63,000 left what is now Yemen, 38,000 left Libya, 30,000 left Syria and 5,000 left Lebanon. More than half a million additional Jews have left these countries since.
Most of the emigres headed to Israel, and just a few thousand Jews remain in the Arab world today.
“People often forget that there is also the Jewish side to the refugee story in the Middle East,” Itzhak said. “Almost every Jew who left Iran or an Arab country can tell you a whole story about what they left. These people left their things, their houses, their institutions – in some cases because of threats and laws that forced them out. So just like the Palestinians tell everyone that they have the keys to their old homes, we have our keys as well.”