Shas Adds Restitution Plank

Religious Affairs Minister Yitzchak Cohen said that no peace with Arab countries should be concluded without compensation for Jewish refugees.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

Jews from Iraq arrive in Israel, 1950s
Jews from Iraq arrive in Israel, 1950s
photo: archive

The Sephardic hareidi-religious Shas party is including a plank in its platform calling for financial restitution for
Jewish property left behind and confiscated by Muslim authorities "is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars."
Jews who were forced to flee Arab and Muslim lands. Religious Affairs Minister Yitzchak Cohen of Shas said Monday that no peace with Arab countries should be concluded without compensation for Jewish refugees.

With Jewish groups estimating that at least 900,000 Jews have been forced to leave their homes in Arab or Muslim countries since 1948, Cohen says that the issue does not get the same attention as that of the Arabs who fled Israeli territory as a result of the War of Independence. However, the issue is officially on the government's agenda, under the aegis of Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan.

"Israel must state that no peace agreement will be implemented without solving the problem of the Jews from Middle Eastern states," Minister Cohen told a gathering at Bar Ilan University. Shas will condition approval for any compensation to Arab refugees on approval of a similar scheme for Jewish refugees.

Jewish property left behind and confiscated by Muslim authorities "is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars," Cohen said. Shas intends to generate a database of property left behind by Jewish owners who fled the Arab states.

UN Never Helped Jewish Refugees
Of the Jewish refugees from Arab states, at least 600,000 came to Israel. Currently, roughly half of Israel's Jewish citizens are descendants of Jews who immigrated from Muslim countries. Unlike the Arab refugees from Israel, who have an entire United Nations apparatus dedicated to supporting them, Middle Eastern Jews have never received refugee aid from the UN.

"Since 1947, the Security Council has adopted 126 resolutions regarding the Palestinian refugees, but passed no resolution about the Jews from Arab states, although their numbers are similar," Minister Cohen said.

Unlike the UN, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) of the US legislature held a first-of-its-kind hearing on the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands in July. Three months earlier, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution conditioning any compensation for Arab refugees on compensation to Jewish refugees.

Some Arab States Want the Jews Back
In 2004, Saif Al-Islam, a son of Libyan leader Moammar Kaddafi, said that his nation is prepared to compensate Jews who left Libya and whose assets were seized. However, the compensation would be conditional on the Jews returning to Libya.  "It is a responsibility to invite Libyan Jews, including from Israel," Al-Islam said. They are welcome to return to "their ancestral land, and to abandon the land they acquired from the Palestinians."

In August of this year, the king of Bahrain, King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, called for the Jews who emigrated from the Gulf nation to return.

Even more curiously, in the 1970s the late dictator Saddam Hussein officially and publicly invited the Jews who fled Iraq to return. Under the new Iraqi government, however, Jews are excluded from the list of exiles offered the right to return or to reclaim assets lost during the Hussein regime.

Another Ba'ath dictator, Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, reportedly told a delegation of Syrian expatriate Jews who visited his country in 2004 that there was no need to "invite" them back. According to a one-time Syrian ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustapha, Assad said, "I can't invite you back. I can't invite Syrians back to Syria. You are always welcome."





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