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Iraqi Jews upon their arrival in Israel (archives)
Iraq refuses to compensate Jews
Organization claiming to represent Iraqi Jews who immigrated to Israel says property worth $100 billion confiscated by authorities. Government says Jews were not forced to leave, sold their property before departing
The Iraqi government has rejected recent claims made by an organization demanding that the country's Jews be compensated for property lost when they immigrated to Israel, the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported recently.

 

The issue was raised after an organization by the name of "Nachum", claiming to represent Iraqi Jews who immigrated to Israel, issued a statement demanding compensation for the property and funds deposited in the banks before the Jews escaped.

 

The organization stated that the Jewish property and the community's assets were confiscated by the authorities. According to "Nahum", Iraq's Jews had controlled some 80% of the country's economy in the past, and the value of their assets is estimated today at some $100 billion. The organization's claim focuses on the Basra district, which housed tens of thousands of Jews in the past.

 

Iraqi lawyer Hashem Muhammad Ali, who lives in Basra, expressed his support for the Jewish organization's statement. According to him, the Jews were part of Iraq's social and economic fabric for thousands of years, and the British Mandate and Iraqi government's policies forced them to leave the country.

 

On the other hand, the former manager of Basra's department of antiquities and heritage argued that the Jews sold their property before leaving Iraq. According to him, communal property is subject to the supervision of the Iraqi government's Waqf office.

 

The Iraqi government, on its part, said that the Jews who emigrated from Iraq could have been compensated had they been able to prove that they were forced to emigrate. The official Iraqi policy states that the Jews' emigration was "made out of choice."

 

Iraqi government workers quoted by the Arab media stated that the new compensation claim was "provocative" and was part of an Israeli attempt to extract funds from the Iraqi treasury.

 

Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd

 

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