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From 'The Courier'

November 21

By Michael Alexander

In this climate of hostility between certain parts of the Middle East and the west, the last thing you might expect to hear is of an Iraqi donating £1 million to British universities. But on the other hand, perhaps it's a reminder that more than moustached tyrants are born in Iraqi lands.

Seventy years ago, Naim Dangoor decided that if he ever made a lot of money, he would give a chunk of it away to support education projects. Now, with the setting up of the scholarship fund to help British students pay their way through university, the 91-year-old multi- millionaire Iraqi Jew says he is fulfilling this, and a 40-year old promise, to give something back to the country that granted him asylum after he fled Iraq when the Baath party took control in the 1960s.

The life story of Naim Dangoor is certainly a fascinating one. His grandfather was the chief rabbi in Baghdad when the city's population was 40% Jewish and owned 95% of the business. He came to Britain in the 1930s to study engineering at Queen Mary College in London and returned to Iraq to join the army and then set up his business empire. He spent the 1950s running the Coca Cola franchise in Iraq with a Muslim business partner.

His wife Renee was voted Miss Iraq in 1947. He jokes that since 1947 was the only year Iraq ever held the competition, she technically still holds the record! He kept his base in Iraq right up to 1964, but then he and his family fled back to England to escape anti- Semitic persecution when the Baath Party, later to be led by Saddam Hussein, came to power. The Baath Party issued a decree that the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora must return to the country or risk losing their property and money. While thousands of Jews back home perished (there is only a handful of Jews in Iraq today), Mr Dangoor decided to forfeit his Coca Cola franchise and Britain granted him asylum.

Today, Mr Dangoor still lives in London where he and his wife have made a successful living as property dealers. He made £1 million from the sale of the first house he invested in when he arrived in Britain in 1964. Since then he has bit up a property empire- now worth millions, which he spends on his charitable foundation the Exilarch Foundation, which supports education. He retains a strong interest in charity work and is the self-appointed leader of the Iraqi Jews in Britain- the Exilarch. Despite his Iraqi roots, it's clear he now sees himself as a British patriot. "As a university student 70 years ago, I felt a desire to help other university students if my future circumstances would allow. Fortunately I now find I have the opportunity to make good my wish" he told The Courier from his office in central London.

It's almost a year since Mr Dangoor's scholarships were launched at a high-profile ceremony attended by then Education Secretary Charles Clarke. Unusually for such a big donation, Mr Dangoor has opted to donate the money to students of the so-called 1994 group of universities, which includes a large swathe of the top universities in the sector, but not the elite research-led Russell group, in a bid to give more students access to the money. Beneficiaries so far have included East Anglia, Sussex, the London School of Economics, and now St Andrews where 41 Dangoor scholarship students are embarking upon undergraduate courses including history, medicine, English, physics and sustainable development.
St Andrews University director of admissions Stephen Magee said, "We are delighted that the Dangoor family has chosen to support 41 students at St Andrews, and we are certain that these awards will make a significant difference to the way these students are able to start their studies". Mr Dangoor has publicly expressed his support for Britain's Labour Government. At his office, he has a series of pictured including one of him main Chancellor Gordon Brown, as well as him with the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles. However, he hesitates when giving an opinion on the Iraq war.
"The war in Iraq has revealed the multi-ethnic composition of the country, establishing the federal structure of government, allowing the holding of dual nationalities and establishing the principle that the mineral wealth of the country should be divided among the whole population and not solely for the benefit of the regions where it is found" he states.

"These ideas should now be aimed at the whole region, possibly including Turkey. This region is the home of 20 million Kurds, 12 million Jews-counting the living and the martyred, 10 million Lebanese Christians, including the diaspora, plus a score of smaller ethnic groups.
"As regards Turkey (and whether or not it should join the European Union), the question arises-should Turkey become the unwanted tail of a hostile Europe or the honoured head of a nonfederal Middle East? Perhaps there is room for both involvements.
"Am I trying to revive and restore the old Ottoman Empire? Not an empire but a confederal structure. And why not? The Ottoman regime lasted 400 years giving the region a degree of stability.
"It is necessary to redress the romantic folly of Lawrence of Arabia who promised the whole region to an unknown cleric, Shareef Hussein of Mecca, thus creating the conflict of interest with the Balfour Declaration which was in favour of restoring a national home for the Jewish people, which has resulted in the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict for 90 years.

"Years ago I held, with the help of the Minorities Rights Group, two symposia on Middle East federation at St Antony's College, Oxford.
"That idea it seems was premature. The Jews belong to the Middle East. They and not the Arabs are the direct descendants of the Hebrew- speaking original inhabitants of Canaan. As the chosen people the Jews suffer for God the wickedness of mankind. In that capacity they should be glad to be of service to the Almighty''!

The Scribe adds:

The Tel El Amarna letters prove that Hebrew was spoken in Palestine before the Israelite conquest. It was the language that the people of the Exodus and Moses spoke.





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