Jews battling to get assets in Egypt
Jews who immigrated to Israel from Egypt, are asking for homes and businessess they left behind
August 03, 2000, 09:26 AM

CAIRO (Reuters)

- An influential Jewish group suggested on Wednesday that the U.S. Congress, in considering aid for Egypt, should take into account the degree to which Cairo was helping Jews who had property claims against it.

Elan Steinberg, World Jewish Congress executive director, told Reuters by telephone that Jews had left Egypt under duress, leaving behind homes and businesses.

"One of the most egregious examples of dispossession occurred in Egypt," Steinberg said.

"What we're asking is that Egypt demonstrate that it is willing to deal with this in a forthright and ethical manner so that American legislators can determine the propriety of the continuing level of aid to Egypt." Steinberg said the WJC had received numerous complaints from Jews that Egypt was frustrating their attempts to get their property back.

Egypt is second to Israel as a recipient of U.S. aid, receiving about $2 billion a year. A spokesman for the Egyptian embassy in Washington was not immediately available to comment on Steinberg's remarks.

Israel itself faces property claims from Palestinians who lost their homes and properties when war erupted in 1948 at the time of the creation of the state of Israel.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left the Jewish state, expecting to return within weeks. But Israel stopped them returning and confiscated their property, saying it had been abandoned.

There is much more to this crime than the modification of administrative boundaries. The Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem have been subjected to systematic racism. Their homes are confiscated and demolished and their identity cards are withdrawn on the most spurious pretexts. They are refused permission to register their children born outside Jerusalem or spouses who are not from the city.

Because the government refuses to grant building permits to Arabs, some 21,000 Palestinian families now find themselves without a roof over their heads. If the US refuses to curb Israeli aggression, the Arabs will go to the Security Council. Yet there, the US has used its veto right more than 12 times to shelter Israel from condemnation.

Israel has always taken the US veto as permission to do whatever it wants. But another green light will open the floodgates to extremism and violence.

  Reuters Limited  

Background Info

Zionist activity in Egypt began in 1897 with the establishment of the "Bar Kokhba" society in Cairo by Marco Baruch. During World War I, the Zionist activity spread with the arrival of many refugees from Eretz Israel.

About half of the 80,000 Jews immigrated to Eretz Israel and in 1956 only about 40,000 people remained.

Following the Sinai campaign (1956) many more escaped to Israel. In 1967, only about 2 500 Jews had remained in Egypt.

When the Six Day War broke out, all Jewish men were arrested. They were released and expelled from the country in 1970.

In 1996, only some 100 Jews were living in Egypt, in two communities, Cairo and Alexandria.