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Claiming Babylon's stolen treasures
Iraqi Jews had to leave their possessions behind when they emigrated. Now they are demanding Israeli Government take action
David Nawi still remembers his grandma's home in Baghdad. "It was a huge house with many rooms. Sometimes all the family members lived there," he recalls. Fifty-five years ago his family left Iraq and immigrated to Israel, leaving all of their assets behind. He was only eight years old.

 

"My father was chief accountant for 'Eastern Bank' in Baghdad," he said. "He missed his compensations because of immigration. The value of our house was estimated at more than 30,000 dinars. Grandpa had a gold coin collection worth more than 12,000 UK Sterling (USD 22,394). We left it all and moved with nothing but small amount of money."

 

Nawi is not the only one. "That was the situation of many Jews that fled Iraq," he recalls. "People left in a rush and the government nationalized their possessions. We are not greedy but we have been wronged. According to our calculations Iraqi Jews left behind around 20 million dollars".

 

Today, as a lawyer working in Israel, he has decided to claim his lost capital. In September 2005 he filed a complaint with the High Court of Justice, as representative of an NGO labeled "Shemesh – Shalom Ve'Shilumim." In the complaint he demands the Israeli government contact the new Iraqi regime in order to reach a compensation agreement. The first discussion is due June 28th.

 

"We are refugees"

 

Statements from several Iraqi ministers were added to the claim and copies were sent to American President George Bush and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Besides filing the claim, the NGO members tried to reach Israeli ministers and MKs. The only answer, according to Nawi, came from then-Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

 

"I believe that when the time comes, when we act to arrange relations between Israel and the renewing Iraqi administration, we will have to address the treatment of the Jewish population and the offences to them and their possessions," wrote Olmert in a reply. Now that he is prime minister, Nawi and his friends hope that Olmert will show real commitment to their issue.

 

"I hope that the Israeli government will help us," said Nawi. "According to international law a refugee is a person that leaves his homeland and possessions to escape ethnic, political and religious persecution. Therefore, we are refugees."

 

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