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Egyptian Bank Claims Part Ownership in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel

Government-owned Banque Misr recently filed a lawsuit to regain shares in the 5-star hotel bought before the creation of the State of Israel

Jonathan Zalman
August 13, 2015

An Egyptian, government-owned bank has filed a lawsuit at the Jerusalem District Court in an effort to reclaim shares in Jerusalem’s 5-star King David Hotel, bought by the now-nationalized bank before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. The story was first reported by in July by Calcalist, a daily Israeli business newspaper.

Egypt’s Banque Misr (previously Zilka Bank), reportedly invested 1,000 shares (5 million shekels, or about $1.3 million) in the luxury hotel, which was built in 1929 and is currently owned by Dan Hotels. Reported The Times of Israel:

Banque Misr first made its claim for stocks in the hotel in 2008, after Israeli-Arab lawyer Ashraf Jasser alerted the bank to the fact that it still deserved ownership of hotel shares.

The Egyptian bank appointed Jasser to file a lawsuit on its behalf, but the lawyer ended up swindling the bank, claiming that filing the suit required court fees of NIS 10 million ($2.6 million). After receiving the money, Jasser filed the lawsuit – paying the actual NIS 975 ($258) fee – and pocketed the remainder of the money.

For this and other acts of fraud, Jasser was convicted in the Haifa District Court two years ago and sentenced to nine years in prison.

In an op-ed published in the New York Observer on Thursday, Micah Halpern notes that Egypt’s lawsuit (which as of July Israel had not countered), “opens up a can of worms” and a potentially “serious and political economic error:”

From the time the Jewish state was created in 1948, through the mid 1960’s, approximately one million Jews sought refuge after escaping from Arab states and Iran. Many Jews who were exiled and forced out of their homes in the Arab world and in Iran escaped to Israel. In most cases, their property was nationalized—even before they left. That means that there is a direct link from those events, when the Arabs states confiscated Jewish private and communal property, including businesses and bank accounts and the Arab states of today. If Egypt sues the Jews of Israel that came from Arab lands it is only a matter of time before Israel and Israelis will sue, too.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.