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Posted Monday, August 17, 1998


THE TIMES, London, August 14, 1998

Cash 'seized' in wartime Palestine


THE British Government is investigating claims that the equivalent of $600 million (£375 million at today's prices) was confiscated mainly from European Jews in Palestine during the Second World War.

The claim was made by Yona Yahav, chairman of the Israeli parliamentary committee on banking, and reported in the Israeli press.

He said the funds were taken mainly from European Jews who had lived in countries under Nazi occupation and fled to Palestine during the period of British rule.

The money was seized by the British Custodian of Enemy Property as "enemy assets", the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday. It said the fate of the funds remains a mystery.


According to one theory, the assets were transferred to British banks between 1940 and 1942 and were returned to the Anglo-Palestine Bank, later renamed Bank Leumi. Mr Yahav said that in 1950 Eliezer Kaplan, Finance Minister, and David Horovitz, Governor of the Bank of Israel, signed an agreement with Britain agreeing to forgo at least some of the confiscated funds, in return for Britain lifting a ban on the supply of gas, oil and arms to Israel.

Mr Yahav raised the issue with Lord Sandwell, who was appointed by the British Government to investigate the issue of enemy property.

The Post quoted Howard Ewing, an aide to Lord Sandwell, as saying that, while the issue fell outside the inquiry's terms of reference, the matter had been raised with the British Government, which is "looking into the issue as a matter of urgency".

Mr Ewing pointed out that the 1950 agreement included the payment by Britain of £1 million. But Mr Yahav said there was no reason why Britain should not repay all the assets in full, and he has applied for a grant to enable a university in Israel to research the issue in government and bank archives.

 © 1998, Times Newspapers Ltd.
Our opinion

IF THE BRITISH Government are found to be holding Jewish funds seized in wartime Palestine, it is not clear what title to them can be claimed by the State of Israel which did not exist at the time. In law, the first claim on any frozen funds would surely go to the Palestinians who were criminally dispossessed of their homes, properties, assets (and often their lives) by the Jewish settlers during the expansion of the fledgling state.  

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