IRAQI-JEWISH EXPATS TO SEEK
COMPENSATION FOR LOST ASSETS
- In the wake of the war in Iraq, Iraqi Jews residing
in the United States and Europe are weighing the possibility
of filing class-action suits demanding
compensation in lieu of property and assets that they
were forced to leave behind.
members of the Jewish community in New York report
that since the end of the war, they have seen a wave
of requests from Iraqi Jews seeking an organized appeal
for compensation for property and assets confiscated
by the Baghdad regime when they left the country in
have begun to come in at an increased rate recently
to the main New York offices of the World Jewish Congress.
The WJC is the organization
that led the international campaign against Swiss
banks and achieved a global agreement under which
compensation was paid out to relatives of holders
dormant bank accounts who perished during the Holocaust.
Dr. Avi Becker said yesterday that an Iraqi-Jewish
lawyer from San Francisco had informed him that she
intended to file a class-action suit and
demand compensation for property and assets that had
been in her family's possession and had been confiscated
by the Iraqi government in 1951. She will
be seeking the compensation from Iraqi funds currently
frozen in the U.S.
As a result
of the plethora of requests, a conference has been
scheduled in London next month to discuss the issue
of "the property of the Iraqi Jewish
refugees." The event is expected to attract expatriate
Iraqi Jews who will testify to the persecution and
oppression they experienced prior to leaving the
country. Also participating will be jurists and other
experts who will render opinions on the compensation
issue from a legal point of view. The London
conference is being organized in conjunction with
the World Sephardi Federation's England branch headed
by Sami Shimon.
of compensation for the Jews who formerly lived in
Iraq will also be discussed at a session of the executive
of the WJC, due to be held next week in
Jerusalem. The meeting is expected to be attended
by Jewish delegates from the U.S. and Europe.
was treating the issue with "much caution,"
the WJC's Becker told Haaretz. "The Congress
will not deal with the matter without close
coordination with the government of Israel,"
Becker added, the possibility of Jews filing independent
class-action suits couldn't be ruled out altogether.
noted that during the Camp David Israeli-Palestinian
talks in 2000, then U.S. president Bill Clinton had
created a direct link between the
rights of the Arab refugees and those of the Jewish
refugees who had been forced to flee Arab states,
including Iraq. Clinton determined that the framework
of a peace agreement should include the establishment
of an international fund that would handle the claims
of refugees from both sides and would pay compensation
to both Arab and Jewish refugees.
Jewish officials in New York said yesterday that it
was possible to file class-action suits for compensation
from the Iraqi funds and assets frozen in
the United States. According to assessments, in the
framework of the rehabilitation of Iraq, the U.S.
administration will soon release a large portion of
these frozen monies.
issue to come under discussion at the London conference
will be the effort to work toward achieving recognition
of the claims of expatriate Iraqi Jews in
the framework of the claims that are expected to be
filed by other minority groups with the new Iraqi
government following its establishment.
In a study
on the Jews of Iraq that appeared in the March edition
of the International Law Magazine, published by Fordham
University, Prof. Carole Basri
writes that the number of Jews who left Iraq in 1951
(during Operations Ezra and Nehemia) was estimated
at 120,000, of which some 110,000 emigrated to Israel.
Each of those who left was allowed to take 50 dinars.
the great-granddaughter of Haham Ezra Dangur, who
served as Baghdad's chief rabbi, argues that the value
of the property and assets confiscated from the
Jews of Iraq totaled, at the time, some $150-200 million.
today's terms, we are talking about $1 billion,"
Becker of the WJC says.
research, Basri notes: "The war and the changein
the Iraq regime have created circumstances that are
likely to turn Iraq into the first Arab state that
will face up to its past with regard to its attitude
toward Jews ... It will be important for the Iraqi
people and those who shape U.S. policy to recognize
the human rights violations suffered by the Jews who
lived in Iraq."
by Monique Daoud - U.S.A
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