Iraq's Odious Debts

Jews who fled Iraq to get compensation

Associated Press
Israel News
April 20, 2004

French insurance giant AXA has agreed to compensate Jews who owned property in Iraq and fled in the early 1950s, a precedent that could pave the way for reparations for some 850,000 Jews who left Arab countries, officials said Tuesday.

AXA will pay compensation to three Jews who were forced out of Iraq in response to Israel’s establishment in 1948, said Justice Ministry spokesman Yaakov Galanti.

Although the case involves a tiny group, it may bring other insurance companies to compensate other claimants, Galanti said.

“This is unprecedented,” Galanti said. “This really opens the doors for other policies to be compensated.”

The ministry has compiled the accounts of 12,000 Jews listing the property they lost when they left their homes. An additional hundreds have filed insurance claims for premiums they possess but expect to get little in compensation since many of the companies have closed, Galanti said.

AXA negotiated the deal with a group set up by the Israeli government and the World Jewish Congress. AXA officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

According to a study by a group set up to seek damages for the Jews, 900,000 Jews lived in Arab countries before 1948, compared to 8,000 today. About 600,000 Iraqi Jews left the country after Israel was established. Many Iraqi Jews say their property was seized by authorities.

The group, “Justice for Jews from Arab Countries,” estimates that property left behind in Arab countries was US$100 billion.

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