Israel to Compensate Iraqi, Moroccan, Algerian Jews for Holocaust-era Persecution

The sum is much smaller than for Holocaust victims from Europe, Tunisia and Libya but still 'a big step,' a lawyer says.

A Moroccan Jewish family arrives at the Haifa port.
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Jews from Iraq, Morocco and Algeria who suffered persecution during the Holocaust will soon receive compensation from Israel for the first time.

On Thursday, Channel 2 quoted a decision by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who wrote that eligible applicants would receive an annual grant of 3,600 shekels ($929), as well as discounts on medication. Kahlon described the move as the “correction of a historic injustice.”

The decision was based on historical material submitted to the Finance Ministry as part of lawsuits by Iraqi Jews, who have been battling to be recognized and compensated as Holocaust survivors from Europe are.

The battle in recent years has been led by attorney David Yadid of Tel Aviv, chairman of the Israel Bar Association’s Holocaust survivors rights committee. Several suits filed by Yadid against the Finance Ministry are being heard in courts around the country.

The suits were accompanied by the opinion of historians who believe that the Nazis were behind the murder, theft and persecution of Jews in Arab countries during World War II. For example, Yadid says the 1941 pogrom against Iraqi Jews known as the Farhud, in which 179 Jews were killed and 2,000 wounded, was “the direct result of methodical and organized Nazi incitement and propaganda.”

To back his claim, Yadid has submitted new studies asserting that “Nazi Germany’s organizing and guiding hand was behind the Farhud,” which was “an inseparable part of the Holocaust.” The Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority at the Finance Ministry has claimed that Nazi involvement in Iraq was marginal and that the case of Iraqi Jewry cannot be compared to that of Jews under Nazi rule.

As of now, only Holocaust survivors from Europe, Tunisia and Libya receive monthly payments from the state of at least 2,200 shekels, with the actual sums determined by various criteria. By law, these payments are only made to those who immigrated to Israel before 1953.

The Finance Ministry would now compensate Jews from Iraq, Morocco and Algeria, though these payments would be much smaller, only 300 shekels a month.

The lawsuits filed by immigrants from Arab countries are continuing for now, though they may have to be revisited once the details of the new decision are known. Yadid told Haaretz the treasury’s move was a “big step,” especially for those who arrived in Israel after 1953 who otherwise would not have received  compensation.

For those who came before 1953, the sums are merely a “consolation prize,” he said, adding that they should receive the same allowances given to those from Europe, Tunisia and Libya.