The Dar-al Bishi synagogue Tripoli: value of lost Jewish communal property is unknown
Jewish refugees greatly outnumbered Palestinian refugees. Being an urban population, their losses are some 50 percent higher. The communal property they lost, however, is still unquantifiable, economist Sidney Zabludoff tells Manfred Gerstenfeld in Arutz Sheva.
Sidney Zabludoff is an economist who worked for the White House, CIA, and Treasury Department for more than thirty years. Upon retirement in 1995, he focused mainly on issues related to the restitution of Jewish assets stolen during the Holocaust era.
difference in individual assets lost was even bigger. It should be
noted that it is impossible to determine an exact value for asset losses
and arguments can be made for different asset values. The most solid
estimate for assets given up by Palestinians fleeing the 1948 war was by
John Measham Berncastle, who undertook the task in the early 1950’s
under the aegis of the newly formed United Nations Conciliation
Commission for Palestine (UNCCP). His estimate was 120 million
Palestinian pounds of which about 100 million was for land and buildings
and 20 million for movable property. One might add another 5 million
pounds for bank accounts.
total of 125 million Palestinian pounds amounted to $350 million in
1948. This is equal to some $650 per 1948-1949 refugee. This number
seems reasonable when compared to similar data. For example, per capita
assets for Eastern Europe during the late 1930’s ranged from $550 to
$700. These were the best equivalent asset statistics available. To this
must be added the asset losses for those additional 100,000
Palestinians who fled in the aftermath of the 1967 war and the 40,000
internally displaced persons in Israel (IDPs). The latter are included
even though they were often given new property and/or compensation.
At a realistic $700 per capita, that would amount to another $100
million in lost Palestinian assets. Thus the total of assets lost by
Palestinians is some $450 million. In 2011 prices, this would amount to
“A comparable estimate of the assets lost
by the Jews fleeing Middle East and North African countries is $6.5
billion at 2011 prices. There are two major reasons for the higher value
of assets lost by Jewish refugees. First, the number of Jewish refugees
is some 50 percent higher than that of Palestinian refugees. Second,
the demographic nature of the two groups varied. A higher percentage of
the Jewish population was urban, mainly traders and professionals, who
would tend to accumulate more assets than the Palestine population,
which was more rural.
“There are other considerations. A
major unknown is community property such as hospitals, mosques,
synagogues, and religious schools. One estimate put the value of such
Jewish-owned property in Egypt at $600 million in 2011 dollars. It can
be assumed that here also the Jewish amounts are larger than those of
Palestinians, because of the higher number of refugees and a larger
number of locations.
“From a global perspective, the
Palestinian refugee issue is unique. Since 1920, all other major refugee
crises involving the exchange of religious or ethnic populations, while
creating hardships, were dealt with in a single generation. Issues,
such as right of return and compensation were never adequately resolved
and were largely forgotten. As in the case of Jewish refugees from the
Middle East and North Africa, all non-Palestinian refugees were absorbed
into their new homeland. Such circumstances occurred in the case of
Greek-Turkish and India-Pakistan disputes as well as the enormous number
of refugees from World War II.
“For most refugee crises of the post-World War II era, compensation
came mainly in the form of temporary assistance and lasted only a few
years while the refugees were becoming assimilated into their new
surroundings. Only the Palestinian refugee issue has persisted for such a
long time. The result is that during the past 62 years, UNRWA has spent
some $18 billion (current prices) to support Palestinian refugees. This
amount is considerably more than the assets these refugees lost.
“In comparison, examples of compensation
falling short are numerous. Less than 20 percent of asset losses by
Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe have been returned, despite the fact that
the Holocaust was an event unequaled in modern history – the
extermination of more than two-thirds of continental European Jewry.
This is the reality we face.”