Lost Jewish property in Arab countries could amount to $150 billion, according to a government assessment obtained exclusively by Israel Hayom.
The property valuation pertains to assets left behind by Jews who were expelled or fled Arab nations and Iran in the late 1940s and 1950s. The review was two years in the making and its authors stressed that it is a conservative assessment that does not account for current inflation rates.
The project has been in the works since 2002 but it wasn’t until 2017, when Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel assumed the mantle, that serious progress was made in this investigation.
Gamliel teamed with the National Security Council, which cast a wide international net with the aim of estimating the scope of lost Jewish property in Arab nations.
The exact methods used to compile the report remain classified, but a rough breakdown of the figures shows lost Jewish property in Iran is worth some $31.3 billion. Assets in Libya, for example, were pegged at $6.7 billion, followed by Yemen proper ($2.6 billion), its temporary capital of Aden ($700 million), and Syria ($1.4 billion).
Gamliel is expected to present the findings to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming weeks.
“We may be able to begin righting a historical wrong, as part of which hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who have lost their property could regain it, alongside their forgotten place in the historical narrative of the young state that emerged as they became refugees.”
A lost chapter in history
The parameters examined in the report include rural and urban property, businesses’ value, loss of income and potential income, and loss of communal property, to name a few.
The report’s authors worked off the assumption that in order for any political process to be credible and long-lasting, “It is necessary to ensure that all refugees in the Middle East receive equal treatment under international law.”
In 2010, the government passed a law by which any future peace deal with Arab countries will entail compensation for lost Jewish property, but until now the state did not actually know the extent of the property left behind or its exact location.
For the most part, when addressing the issue of “refugees” in the Middle East, the international community, as well as different sectors automatically attribute the term to Palestinian refugees, even though the same period of time (1948-1967) saw over 850,000 Jews leave various Arab countries and Iran. Some 600,000 arrived in Israel and the rest relocated mainly to the US or Europe.
Jewish communities’ roots in the Arab world date back over 2,500 years, but unfortunately, the geopolitical upheavals of the Middle East – especially in the 20th century – have relegated these vibrant communities to a little more than a footnote in history.
In the current political climate in the region, the issue of Palestinian refugee often makes headlines while most remain oblivious to the existence of the issue of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who were forced to leave their countries of origin and who, by emigrating to Israel, have significantly shaped its social fabric.
Commenting on previous Israeli governments’ neglect of this issue given its ramifications on any future negotiations, Gamliel said that she was “stunned to discover so little has been done over the years.”
The current review “is very important for the past and the present but even more so for the future, as diplomatic efforts the likes of [US] President Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ are about to unfold and entail significant implications,” she said.
Since 2014, Israel officially marks the Day of Departure and Expulsion of Jews from the Arab Countries and Iran on Nov. 30.
The symbolic date was chosen since it follows Nov. 29 on which the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was adopted and after which many Jews living in Arab countries were pressured or forced to leave their countries.