Tunisian Israelis win payments for suffering under Nazis

After five-year battle, approximately 20,000 Tunisian Jews who immigrated to Israel will be able to claim monthly benefits, averaging $330.

tunis medina 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
tunis medina 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tunisian-born Israeli Jews who suffered under World War II Nazi occupation have won a five-year battle to be eligible for the same government stipends paid to survivors of the Holocaust from Jewry, according to an Israeli court document obtained Sunday. David Etzion, an attorney acting for 19 claimants, said the ruling meant that approximately 20,000 Tunisian Jews who immigrated to Israel were entitled to claim the monthly benefits, which average about $330. German troops occupied Tunisia in November 1942. According to Yad Vashem, around 5,000 local Jews were rounded up and subjected to forced labor, and 20 Jewish activists were sent to their deaths in the extermination camps of Europe before allied forces arrived in May 1943. During the six months of German rule in Tunisia, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars on their clothing, many had their property seized and community leaders were arrested, according to Yad Vashem's Web site. Of around 100,000 Jews in Tunisia at the time of the Nazi occupation the vast majority had emigrated by the 1960s, mainly to Israel and to former colonial ruler France. Figures published by the Jewish Agency show that about 1,500 Jews remain in Tunisia. Many of those who moved to Israel left everything behind, Etzion said, but despite their hardships the government said they did not qualify for payments from a fund set up from German reparations for Nazi victims, as they had been Tunisian subjects during the occupation and had not been displaced from their homeland. A copy of the court ruling obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday rejected that argument, however, noting that the Jews of Tunisia were only granted citizenship of that country after its independence from France in 1956. "No justification was found for denying the eligibility of the Jews of Tunisia for compensation," it read. Etzion said the claimants would not be able to file retroactive demands but would seek payment of the benefits dating from the court ruling last Monday. "For more than five years our Finance Ministry has rejected claims by the Jews of Tunisia," he said. "Now the Finance Ministry has to pay." A ministry spokesman said he was not aware of the court ruling and had no immediate comment on the issue. (AP)