Iraq Property Claims Commission head Sohail al-Hashmi today denied reports that his country would restore property looted from Jews who immigrated to Israel.
In an interview in "Asharq Al-Awsat", al-Hashmi said that the reports were unfounded. He said that a reports concerning recent case involving such a claim were inaccurate, since the claimant was an Armenian Christian, not a Jew.
Following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, rumors circulated that the new regime would compensate Iraqi emigrants for their property in order to establish closer relations with the West, especially the US. To date, however, the reports have not been officially confirmed, and have now been officially denied.
130,000 Jews lived in Iraq before the state of Israel declared its independence. Most of them worked in commerce, industry, handicrafts, and services. A "Globes" investigation found that the real value of Jewish-owned private property was $4 billion, and that Jewish communal property was worth several billions of dollars more.
The property of Iraqi Jews was looted when 120,000 of them immigrated to Israel in the early 1950s. The Iraqi authorities gave exit permits only to Jews who abandoned most of their property. Those who sold their property received only 5-10% of its value. In addition, large amounts of property were stolen from the immigrants’ baggage during customs inspections at Baghdad Airport.
Among other things, part of the Saddam Hussein’s palace in Baghdad was built on land stolen from one of the wealthiest Jewish families in Iraq. The remaining Jews in Iraq left after the Six-Day War, mostly illegally, leaving all their property behind.
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on May 16, 2005