Activists’ demand equal rights for Palestinians to the recovery of stolen property

Ben Wray

Campaigners for Palestinian rights say that the recent decision by a Paris court to return a valuable painting to its rightful owners which was looted in 1943 by the French Vichy regime should set a precedent which applies equally to Palestinian victims of the 1948 ‘Nakba’

WE WELCOME the recent widely reported decision of the Paris court ordering those currently in possession of a valuable painting that was looted in 1943 from its rightful owners by the French Vichy regime to return the property to the Bauer family. 

Bauer family lawyer, Cedric Fischer, insists that Tuesday’s ruling “sanctions the right of the victims of acts of barbarity…to recover, without limit of duration, the goods they have been disposed of.” The Paris court ruled that claims to have obtained pillaged property in good faith is no defence against claims by family descendants of the original owners since the French government after 1945 ruled that onward sales of all goods looted from Jews by the wartime pro-Nazi regime regime were null and void.

Many Palestinian families have an equally unanswerable case for the restitution of property seized from them in 1948, five years after the looting of the Bauer family’s property. The UN General Assembly annually “Reaffirms that Palestine refugees are entitled to their property and to the income derived therefrom, in conformity with the principles of equity and justice”. No less than the Bauers, Palestinians claim the status of “victims of acts of barbarity” committed in their case by the State of Israel and its precursor militias. 

Every French citizen knows of the German Army’s 1944 slaughter of 642 men, women and children and the burning down of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane; Palestinians have many Oradours—slaughters of defenceless civilians by an armed force. One future Prime Minister carried out a third of an “Oradour” in Deir Yassin in 1948, according to UN investigations, and another future Prime Minister organised three Oradours in a few days in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camp in 1982. Israel carried out more than two Oradours in January 2009, almost four in summer 2014, and many others between 1948 and the present.

Palestinians are not equal to Jews in Israeli courts but they are in many other jurisdictions. We support the struggles of Palestinians to secure the same rights as the Bauer family.

Richard Haley, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities 
Khaled Khalil, Association of Palestinian Communities in Scotland 
Mick Napier, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Wael Shawwish, Scottish Friends of Palestine

Picture courtesy of Magne Hagesæter