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Can Holocaust compensation agreements be a model for Nakba reparations?

Israel/Palestine
on 32 Comments

Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from two thought-provoking Facebook posts author Naomi Wolf published in recent days.

I went to an event last night and sat next to an insider in German and Austrian diplomacy. Much of the energies of the German and Austrian consulates now involve bringing families of those Jews whose homes, art and books were stolen, back to Germany and Austria to engage in securing reparations. I asked how this was done procedurally. This person said that an agreement brokered by Stuart Eizenstat of the Clinton State Department in the 1990s set a system in motion that established committees in Germany, Austria and other countries to oversee the return of possessions to Jews or their descendants.

An archive was kept and art returned…books kept in a central library, books returned…even bank accounts and property returned. When homes had been bought for far below market as Jews were forced to flee, their families are now compensated for the property At Current Market Values. “What about if people are now living in the home?” I asked. This person said then it was more complex but transfers of property even in that case had been done. And…as a result many Jews had returned to Austria and Germany. It was all working out.

In 2012, a $300 million dollar deal was reached for the last group of Holocaust survivors to receive compensation, and just last year the Obama administration negotiated a deal with France to pay reparations to American survivors of the Holocaust who were sent to death camps in French trains.

How is this not a model for Palestinians who lost property in 1948?

On reflection many of the homes and businesses that were transferred after the Nakba/War of Independence (using both terms) would have been possessed by Israelis without compensation or purchase at all. I have seen those houses, been in those houses. Who bought them? How were they paid for? Did people just…move in? And what about Arab businesses…like Jewish businesses in the thirties, there must have been tons of goods and inventory, factories and machinery, left behind….what happened to it, who was compensated?

I asked why this system could not be established for Palestinians. The records of where Palestinian homes and businesses were located are often quite complete. People still have deeds and even keys.

This person said there was no reason the same system could not be established though I could not quote this person on the record, and that I should reach out to Stuart Eizenstat who is now living in DC, and ask if he will broker the same deal.

What do you say, team humanity? Seems like a very good start. To me as a Jew and daughter of a family wiped out by the Holocaust it is symbolically as well as practically healing that these reparations are being made.

Shall we contact Stuart Eizenstat?

About Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf is an author and recently completed her doctorate at the University of Oxford. She is also co-founder of DailyClout.com, a democracy building startup.

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32 Responses

  1. mikeo
    mikeo
    August 13, 2015, 12:55 pm

    This is exactly the kind of discussion that needs to be happening…

    However, it must scare the living daylights out of the Zionists

    • German Lefty
      German Lefty
      August 14, 2015, 1:27 pm

      “This is exactly the kind of discussion that needs to be happening.”

      I disagree. The proverb “Learn to walk before you run!” comes to my mind. As a first step, the Zionist regime must be toppled and the crimes must be stopped. Second, a new state must be founded based on equal rights. Third, reparations must be made. Currently, I think that it only makes sense to deal with steps 1 and 2. They are challenging enough. Bothering about the specifics of step 3 is way too early. That’s tantamount to calculating Holocaust reparations while the Jews are still in the gas chambers. I am aware that Naomi Wolf means well, but I think that her priorities are strange.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 14, 2015, 4:06 pm

        “Third, reparations must be made. “

        Yup, cause knowing No.3 is on the way will make Nos. 1 and 2 so much more easy to accomplish! Very sensible.
        And of course, the payments should be limited to an amount Israel can easily afford. That’s important too!

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        August 15, 2015, 5:31 pm

        Hey German Lefty! Maybe you should move to Iran. They’re the only ones who refer to Israel as the “Zionist regime.”

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        August 15, 2015, 6:04 pm

        @ hophmi

        I call it “Zionist regime” analogous to “Nazi regime”.

      • talknic
        talknic
        August 15, 2015, 7:09 pm

        @ hophmi “Hey German Lefty! Maybe you should move to Iran. They’re the only ones who refer to Israel as the “Zionist regime.”

        Israel is a country. A regime is not a country. The Zionist regime in Jerusalem is not even in Israel.

        Seems the UNSC

        “Israel must end the prolonged occupation of Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem” http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/b86613e7d92097880525672e007227a7/6de6da8a650b4c3b852560df00663826?OpenDocument

        agrees in essence with Iran

        “The occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the pages of time

        BTW Keep up th’ good work

  2. amigo
    amigo
    August 13, 2015, 3:12 pm

    “However, it must scare the living daylights out of the Zionists – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/08/compensation-agreements-reparations#comment-789706” mikeo

    Why should they be scared,There was no Nakba , right.The Palestinians left voluntarily.Just upped and left.Oh sorry, correction, there were no Palestinians .The land was empty.Just ask Mark Twain or Joan Peters.

  3. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    August 13, 2015, 4:56 pm

    RE: “Shall we contact Stuart Eizenstat?” ~ Naomi Wolf

    ANSWER: Based on what I have read about Stuart Eizenstat you would be wasting your time.

  4. lysias
    lysias
    August 13, 2015, 5:14 pm

    I just read a horrifying book on Diego Garcia and the evacuation of its inhabitants by the UK government at the behest of the U.S. government: David Vine’s Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia. It describes in gruesome detail the physical and psychological effects being forced to live away from their homeland had on the Chagossians, as the inhabitants of those islands are called. I kept thinking reading the book how the effects on Palestinians are probably very similar.

  5. smithgp
    smithgp
    August 13, 2015, 7:17 pm

    About 1 million Palestinians were dispossessed in the Nakba, 3/4 of them by being expelled. Conservatively estimating the current market value of their lost property at $100,000 per person, compensation would amount to about $100 billion, or about 1/3 of Israel’s current GDP. The country’s current public debt amounts to about 2/3 of its GDP. So financing compensation by borrowing would increase the public debt to about 100% of GDP, which isn’t at all outrageous. Decreasing Israel’s military/security budget by 90% would go a long way to servicing this debt. This is an eminently do-able program.

    • Boomer
      Boomer
      August 14, 2015, 7:11 am

      re: “About 1 million Palestinians were dispossessed in the Nakba, 3/4 of them by being expelled. Conservatively estimating the current market value of their lost property at $100,000 per person, compensation would amount to about $100 billion, or about 1/3 of Israel’s current GDP. The country’s current public debt amounts to about 2/3 of its GDP. So financing compensation by borrowing would increase the public debt to about 100% of GDP, which isn’t at all outrageous. Decreasing Israel’s military/security budget by 90% would go a long way to servicing this debt. This is an eminently do-able program.”

      I agree. However, as a matter of political reality, I imagine if any compensation is ever paid, it will be paid by the U.S. This isn’t entirely unjust, since we are complicit. It seems that Israel has a perpetual claim on funds appropriated by Congress for at least $3 billion annually. (The actual flow of support to Israel, including tax deductions and other means is higher, of course.) At today’s interest rates, $3 billion annually has a capital value of approximately $100 billion. So we could finance it by using the funds that now go to Israel, with no new net cost to U.S. taxpayers. Israel is doing well, and can get along fine without more aid from us. It is really just part of the cost we incurred when we helped to give the “land without a people” to the Jewish immigrants. So it would still be an expense incurred on behalf of the Jewish inhabitants, albeit paid to the original owners.

      As I’ve mentioned before, I also think we have a moral obligation to allow (indeed, to bring) Palestinian refugees into the U.S. We are complicit in their loss of their homes and homeland. Israel won’t give them back. After the war in Vietnam, about 2 million refugees were taken in by other countries, with about half of them coming to the U.S. So we have done it before, and could do it again.

    • CigarGod
      CigarGod
      August 14, 2015, 10:15 am

      Yes, but it takes 20 Palestinians to equal the value of 1 Israeli, right?
      So, 15 billion?

    • arobertsccl
      arobertsccl
      August 14, 2015, 11:23 am

      Israel has been preparing to counter any claims for compensation with the costs GOI incurred resettling the Jews from Arab lands. I once wrote a paper for the PLO for a defense based on the “Arab Story” , showing that these large Jewish groups were in Arab contries because Christian Europe had driven them out during the days of the Inquisition. Most fled across the Mediterranean to North Africa and other Ottoman lands.. The Ottoman Caliph wrote to King Ferdinand, a prime mover in the expulsion of all non-Christans (of the exact correct beliefs) from his country, thanking him for “this great gift” , as these people were scientists, artists, teachers, a wonderful population. They lived all those years in safety, prosperity and respect under the Ottomans. Religious groups lived in different neighborhoods, had their own religious and family law and provided their own social services. Many of these Jewish immigrants rose to positions of power in the country (Chief economist and responsibility for the Royal Harem, for example )
      The Arab countries were only threatened by the rise of Zionsm and in some cases due to secret Israeli plots, as the Lavon Affair, to cause local distrust and fear to compromise the position of local Jewish group’s, a fascinating story in itself. This is similar to our imprisonment of Japanese citizens here during World War 11. I still believe we need a credited historian kind to make this case to counter the obvious Israel plan to use this issue to halt antsy Nakba compensation.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 14, 2015, 12:02 pm

        “responsibility for the Royal Harem, for example”

        Shalom dear” he said to his wife as he left for work, “I’ll be home late tonight, there’s another imbroglio at the seraglio.”

      • talknic
        talknic
        August 15, 2015, 7:32 pm

        @ arobertsccl “Israel has been preparing to counter any claims for compensation with the costs GOI incurred resettling the Jews from Arab lands.”

        It’s nonsense.

        A) The Palestinians didn’t dispossess anyone from any Arab state

        B) It’s quite normal for countries at war to intern or expel possible allies of their enemies and to freeze their assets. It’s also quite normal to release or allow their return after hostilities have ceased, unless of course they have taken up citizenship in a country other than the country of return

        C) Israeli emergency law of 1948 still forbids Israeli citizens and residents from entering the territory of states Israel considers hostile

        D) Israeli citizens are not refugees

    • hophmi
      hophmi
      August 15, 2015, 5:34 pm

      Lol. Any compensation that the Palestinians get will be from an international fund, not from Israel. Maybe they can ask their rich Arab brethren, who’ve allowed them to languish in refugee camps for 67 years, for compensation.

      • talknic
        talknic
        August 15, 2015, 7:23 pm

        @ hophmi “Any compensation that the Palestinians get will be from an international fund, not from Israel.”

        Uh huh. Like the International community pays German reparations?

        ” Maybe they can ask their rich Arab brethren, who’ve allowed them to languish in refugee camps for 67 years, for compensation”

        Ziodrivel is amusing. The Arab states have generously hosted the dispossessed for more than half a century without negating their Right of Return.

        Israel relied on UNRWA until 1952 to take care of Jewish Arabs languishing in Israeli camps before their RoR was stripped from them by taking Israeli citizenship.

  6. Qualtrough
    Qualtrough
    August 14, 2015, 1:23 am

    Who bought them? How were they paid for? Did people just…move in?

    The people that the Zionists took their cue from kept meticulous records and I have no doubt that Zionists did the same.

  7. jhitchcock
    jhitchcock
    August 14, 2015, 8:58 am

    Great idea!! And it is very helpful to have a model that has already worked.

  8. rosross
    rosross
    August 14, 2015, 9:04 am

    Absolutely, Just desserts although the response from Israel would be apopleptic hysteria.

    • CigarGod
      CigarGod
      August 14, 2015, 10:18 am

      Apopleptic hysteria.
      I can only think of that as an awesome photo opp.

  9. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    August 14, 2015, 10:50 am

    Before endorsing this proposal, read Norman Finkelstein’s book about the Holocaust industry.
    Small amounts of funds for Holocaust survivors are dispensed by self-appointed members of the Holocaust Industry (who have become very rich). Both Finkelstein and Commentary magazine (who almost never agree on anything) agree that it’s a racket.

    • German Lefty
      German Lefty
      August 14, 2015, 1:08 pm

      Nevada Ned – “Small amounts of funds for Holocaust survivors are dispensed by self-appointed members of the Holocaust Industry (who have become very rich).”

      I totally agree. We should make sure that there won’t be any Nakba Industry.
      Germany (i.e. the state, not the people) made so many mistakes when it comes to dealing with the Holocaust. By far the biggest mistake was to support Zionism. Germany’s idea of reparations is giving the self-declared “Jewish state” a discount on submarines. So, if anything, the German model of Wiedergutmachung should serve as a bad example, not as a good example.

      Naomi Wolf – “To me as a Jew and daughter of a family wiped out by the Holocaust it is symbolically as well as practically healing that these reparations are being made.”

      To me as an innocent German, I don’t find it healing at all that present-day German taxpayers have to pay for crimes they didn’t commit. That’s why it’s very important that Palestinians will receive their reparation payments from the actual Zionist perpetrators, not from totally innocent successor generations. Reparation payments should be completed within 50 years after the crime is over. Reparation payments should die out with the perpetrators. Then it’s time to get over the past and move on.

      • CigarGod
        CigarGod
        August 14, 2015, 3:52 pm

        I finally get it.
        You aren’t politically left at all.
        you are either left-handed or you lost your right wing.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        August 14, 2015, 4:36 pm

        @ CigarGod

        No idea what makes you draw that nonsensical conclusion.

  10. talknic
    talknic
    August 15, 2015, 7:54 pm

    Interesting article but only the half of it

    Property and or real estate is a different matter from territory. Add to the bill the illegal acquisition of non-Israeli territory, over half a century of Israel illegally exploiting the resources in that territory.

    We might also factor in class actions by hundreds of thousands of Israelis for having been duped by the State of Israel for more than half a century

    I’ve been saying for a long time now, Israel has never been able and is certainly not able now to afford to adhere to the laws it first broke by having Jewish forces in territories outside the State of Israel at 00:01 May 15th 1948 (ME time) when Israel’s borders were proclaimed effective.

    That’s the cause and the fear and the driving force behind Israel’s desperate need to maintain a UNSC veto vote, without which it would become dismal, bankrupt and failed state, scorned even by its own citizens who’d rightly want to dis-associate.

    Zionists and everything they stand for would become the laughing stock and just as Holocaust denial is illegal, so too would Nakba denial. Egg will meet face in one almighty splatter and it will be incredibly difficult to separate Judaism and Jews from the ensuing Zionist created mess

  11. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    August 16, 2015, 11:35 am

    For the record:

    The financial losses incurred by the 800,000 Palestinians made refugees as a consequence of the 1948 war (al Nakba) and events leading to it, including the expulsion of about 400,000 Palestinians during the previous five plus months following passage of the recommendatory UNGA Partition Plan (Res. 181, 29 November 1947), have been carefully arrived at as follows: In 1994, during a conference on refugees held at Georgetown University, Professor Atif Kubursi of the Economics Department at Ontario’s McMaster University announced that through diligent research he had determined the total financial losses to be $199 billion in 1994 U.S. dollars. In 1996, after including an adjustment for inflation since 1948 and a modest 4% rate of return, he revised the figure to $235 billion. (“Compensation for Palestinian Refugees,” by Terry Rempel, Journal of Palestinian Studies, Vol. XXIX, Autumn 1999.) On 8 April 2000, at a conference on refugees held at Boston University Law School, Professor Kubursi declared that after amending the total to include loss of income and psychological stress, he determined the losses incurred to be: property losses – $146 billion; lost income – $300 billion; and psychological losses – $281 billion. (ADC [American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee] Times, April/May 2000, p. 5)

  12. affinity292
    affinity292
    August 17, 2015, 12:07 am

    There are a number of issues that complicate things in this case.

    Ownership records are very unclear or lacking. Some of this may be due to the Byzantine Ottoman Land Laws. Most Palestinian land was owned by the government and merely rented. It appears that Palestinian Arabs only owned about 5% of the land in Palestine. Most Palestinian Arabs rented land and homes; they did not own them.

    Palestinian Arabs who in 1948 lost their homes within Israel, including in West Jerusalem, have legal recourse. Some have opted to take advantage of the Absentee Property Law, which entitles them to compensation. According to the Israel Lands Administration, as of 1993, 14,692 Arabs claimed compensation under the Absentee Property Law and the Validation and Compensation Law. Claims were settled with respect to 200,905 dunams of land, a total of NIS 9,956,828 had been paid as compensation, and 54,481 dunams of land had been given in compensation (Israel Lands Administration Report for 1993).

    There is no similar program for Jews who lost their land. Approximately 800,000 Jews lost their property in Arab states in the war in 1948. It is likely that any program to further help one group would only move forward if programs for lost property of all groups advanced together.

    Furthermore, much of the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem were private property owned by Jews until they were ethnically cleansed by Arabs in 1948. Even the PA admits this in their internal documents leaked to Al Jazeera “The Palestinian Papers.”

    What is called “Arab East Jerusalem” was “Jewish East Jerusalem” until 1948.

    That said, I know I would support a program that sought to compensate ANYONE who can prove they owned private property that was lost in 1948, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or anything else as long as it included all property owners and also had a clear and defensible system for identifying whether property claims were real or fraudulent.

    Some commenters seem confused about compensating for property loss and compensating refugees. Being a refugee is not relevant to the issue of lost property claims. It should also be noted that only about 30,000 people still qualify as “Palestinian refugees” using the legal definition of refugee. The UNRWA uses a unique definition that is at odds with the legal definition. And this should not be held against those who are no longer legally Palestinian refugees (or Jewish refugees) but who nonetheless can prove they lost property.

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