GAZA CITY — In a bid seen as trying to get a bigger slice of the grand Iraqi cake, Israel has drawn up a file on Jewish property and money allegedly left by Jewish immigrants in Arab countries, particularly Iraq.
The Israeli justice ministry spokesman said that the government would ask Jews in Israel and all over the world within the few coming days to present information on their purported belongings in Iraq, the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) said Saturday, August 16. Israeli sources put at $10 billion the value of the so-called Jewish property in Iraq alone, noting that Israel expects the would-be Iraqi oil minister return the money calmly and without any media fuss. One of the Jews whose family used to live in Iraq has estimated the value of Jewish property there at a mind-boggling $20 billion, the PIC said.
Quoting former Israeli energy minister Moshe Shahal, of an Iraqi origin, the center said that negotiations between Tel Aviv and Washington over this issue are underway, disclosing that a secret agreement was currently being drafted over the alleged Jewish property in Iraq. He said that former U.S. president Bill Clinton took the initiative in raising the issue, claiming that Clinton had touched on the matter with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Shahal further purported that Clinton suggested establishing an international fund under the supervision of the United States and the European Union to compensate those Jews. He said that former Israeli governments abstained from tackling the issue for fear that it would give the Palestinians “a pretext” to demand compensations from Israel.
Prof. Ehuda Shinhab, professor of sociology in Tel Aviv University, has dismissed as “evil and immoral” the Israeli attempt to compare between immigration of Arab Jews to the Zionist state and Palestinian forced evacuation in 1948.
He affirmed that the Palestinians’ mass exodus in 1948 was enforced by Zionist forces that later razed to the ground their villages while Jews leaving the Arab countries and heading to “Israel” had done that with their own free will.
He said that thousands of Jews of Iraqi origin, who live in Northern America and Europe, have already filled in applications to restore their alleged property, noting that Jews living in the U.S. states of Los Angeles and Boston are set to file lawsuits to demand substantial compensations from Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon.
Shahal further expected that Jews would be compensated shortly after the yet-to-be new Iraqi regime in Iraq abolish the so-called nationalization laws drafted by the ousted Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
“Annulling these laws would give legitimacy to restoring the Jewish property (in Arab countries,” he said. He said that the current Israeli government of Ariel Sharon — the only Israeli government to agree on demanding compensations — held relevant talks recently and put forward possible alternatives to restore the alleged property.
Shahal, however, said that the Israeli cabinet has decided to put the “Jewish property” in Iraq on the back burner due to the “hypersensitive” situation there, noting that the compensations campaign would focus now restoring alleged property of some 900,000 Jews, one-third of them are from Iraq, Egypt and Yemen. The Israeli finance minister, for its part, said that the attention is riveted now on the frozen Iraqi money in the U.S., which is estimated at $3 billion.
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