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Palestinian Refugees have been refused resettlement by Arab countries
giving them limited rights and treated as second class citizens.
This has received little publicity
Their use as a political weapon against Israel has received a lot of publicity

Jewish refugees from Arab countries have resettled,
Their previous life has been largely ignored as they were not used as a political weapon
Letter from a Forgotten Jew

As Palestinians mark 'Nakba Day,' history shows Jews were dispossessed
of all their assets too after escaping Arab countries between 1944-1964
Ynet News Tani Goldstein, 15.05.11

The Palestinian people are marking their annual "Nakba Day" on Sunday, commemorating the escape and expulsion of the Palestinians from the State of Israel upon its establishment.

Chairman of World Organization of Libyan Jews appeals to Berlusconi, Gaddafi asking for some of the funds Tripoli is slated to receive from Rome in compensation for damages of colonialism

In addition to the uprooting, the Palestinians are protesting against the nationalization and robbery of the property they left behind, while they have been living in poverty in refugee camps.

But there are two sides to every coin. Between the years 1944 and 1964, some 700,000 Jews moved in the opposite direction, from Arab countries to Israel – and they too were dispossessed of nearly their entire property.

'Better life than in Eastern Europe'

Jews have been living in the Middle East since the Babylonian captivity and in North Africa since the Roman era. During the Arab occupation, the majority of world Jews lived in this area.

Since then, the center of the Jewish world moved the Eastern Europe due to immigration, and Jews' conversion to Islam in Arab countries and to Christianity in Europe. In 1940, there were some 16 million Jews in the world, and only 5% of them – 800,000 – lived in Arab countries, mostly in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Iraq and Egypt.

The Jews' situation in Arab countries varied as times changed and depending on the countries they lived in: In some places they integrated into society and were even part of the upper class, in other places they were subject to restrictions, and from time to time they suffered from riots and persecution.

In general, the Muslims treated the Jews much better than in Europe and their economic situation was excellent.

"The average Jew lived much better than the average Muslims, and in fact – much better than the Jews in Eastern Europe" says Yaakov Hajaj, director of the Institute for the Research and Study of Libyan Jewry.

"They could work in whatever they wanted to. Most of them worked in certain fields, some of which were basically under their control: As tailors, shoemakers, goldsmiths, imprinters, spice merchants, grocery store owners, peddlers and even international traders."

"Most Jews and Christians worked in industries that the Muslims banned themselves from working in," says Dr. Zvi Yehuda, director of the Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry.

"The Muslims were strict about not engaging in loan with interest, which included any dealing with silver and gold, and most goldsmiths were Jews. Most seamstresses were Jewish, and so were most tailors later on. As opposed to Europe, the Muslims did not hate the Jews because they dealt with money, and even admired them for that.

'Jews took less of a bribe'

The Middle East and North Africa – excluding Iran and Morocco – became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. The Ottoman regime, as opposed to the preceding Arab regime, absorbed Jews into its governmental organizations.

"Many government workers, judges and tax collectors were Jewish, way beyond their percentage in the population," notes Hajaj. "They were considered reliable people who took less of a bribe. A Jew could not afford to get into trouble for 40 dinars, for fear of harming the entire community."

A small part of the Jews, mainly in Yemen and Morocco, lived in villages. But most lived in their own neighborhoods in the cities, in big and spacious houses.

"There was a 'street of Jews' or a 'Jewish quarter' in nearly every city, but it wasn't a ghetto," says Hajaj. "There was no wall and the Jews were there out of their own free will, in order to keep kosher and observe Shabbat and stop different vagabonds from coming in and harassing them.

"The typical family lived in a complex of several houses, a house for each brother, around an internal courtyard. It was completely different than the cabins of the Muslim peasants and the huts in Jewish towns in Europe."

In the 19th century, the Arab world was subject to colonization: Britain took over Egypt, France took over Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, and Italy took over Libya.

Iraq, Syria and the Land of Israel remained under the Ottoman Empire, but it collapsed and was gradually taken over by Western powers, until its occupation in World War I. The situation changed in favor of the Jews.

"The Jews became mediators between Europe and the Arabs," says Hajaj. "They wandered in the world, got to know countries and languages, had ties in Europe, and everyone trusted them.

"They sold the Europeans cloths, threads and Arab agricultural produce, as well as exotic goods like ostrich feathers from Africa and imported clothes and industrial products from Europe. They gave the peasants advanced payments and made sure that they supplied the goods. Many became rich, particularly in cities off the Mediterranean Coast and in Iraq. Some got a European citizenship and adopted European customs."

How did the Muslims react?

"At first it was convenient. They trusted the Jews more than they trusted each other. Their trust collapsed in the 20th century, upon the creation of Arab patriotism and Zionism."


The extent of the Jewish success varied from country to country. "People who visited Iraq in the 19th century wrote that the Jews control the economy," says Yehuda. "The markets were closed on Shabbat. Jews were part of the government. When professions like advocacy were created, Jews were prominent in them too.

"In Syria the Muslims were tougher and restricted the Jews, while in Kurdistan the economy was stuck on exchange trade, like in the Middle Ages: The Muslim gave the Jews knitting wool and the Jews gave them back clothes."

There were differences within the communities as well: There were poor people everywhere who needed charity organizations, alongside families like Daniel in Iraq and Arbiv, Halfon and Nahum in North Africa, that became regional "Rothschilds" and had capital, real estate and factories.

"In the East there were no billionaires like Baron Hirsch," Yehuda notes. "But whoever had 1,000 pounds and 10 houses was considered very rich. On the other hand, most of the goldsmiths lived from hand to mouth and in harsh competition with big companies, some of which belonged to rich Jews."

The Middle East is the cradle of science and education in the world. The first university in the world was opened in the 9th century in Qayrawan, Tunisia – and its first class had Jewish students too. However, the education revolution Europe underwent in the 18th century skipped Arab countries, including the Jews.

"In North Africa there were hardly any universities," says Hajaj. "In all of Libya there were 14 PhDs. But many of the Jews were self-educated and studied geography, languages and history while travelling the world.

"Iraq's Jews were exceptional: All young people there had a high school education and some even had university degrees."


The Jews' situation began deteriorating with the Arab national awakening, before the State of Israel's establishment. "From a British mandate, Iraq turned into an autonomic state in 1932 and immediately began disinheriting the Jews," says Yehuda.

"They weren't accepted to schools and universities and were dismissed from jobs with all sorts of claims."

Who led the restrictions?

"The Arab nationalists and the militant Muslims. The establishment was not happy with the situation but was dragged into it, and most of the population was ambivalent: In day-to-day life they had friendly relations with the Jews, but when a Jew was appointed as a judge or government worker it bothered them, because according to their perception, a Jew is not supposed to control Muslims."

Upon the establishment of the State of Israel, the Arab world was flooded with violent riots, massacres and plunder against the Jews. Some of the Arab governments defended the Jews, while others – mainly in Iraq and Yemen – inflamed the riots and looting.

"The Iraqi government confiscated property, as if to compensate the Palestinian refugees," says Yehuda. "Government workers would arrive at a business and ask the Jewish owner how much he would like to 'donate' to the refugees. If he wouldn't – that was the end of the business. Most of the property reached people with ties to the government."

In 1951, the Iraqi government quietly agreed to let Jews immigrate to Israel, and almost all of them did. At the same time, it enacted a law stating that the entire Jewish property – houses, factories, goods, jewelry and bank accounts – would be nationalized.

Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser enacted similar laws after the Lavon Affair and the Sinai war. Libya's Jews were expelled and their property was nationalized in the 1960s. "(Libya leader Muammar) Gaddafi promised to return everything within 30 years," notes Hajaj, "but at the moment he's busy with other stuff."

Syria, Tunisia and Algeria did not nationalize property, but the Jews fled those countries when they gained independence (1946, 1959 and 1962, respectively), and the Muslims looted the remaining property. That is what happened to the property of Yemeni Jews who made aliyah in Operation Magic Carpet as well.

"Some of Morocco's Jews 'got off easy': They immigrated with the money and property and 'only' left the homes," says Hajaj. "Jews from other countries immigrated with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. My father was one of Libya's biggest billionaires and immigrated with a suitcase weighing 20 kilos."

$4 OR 200 BILLION?

Researchers and organizations are at odds over the scope of the lost property.

Economist Sidney Zabludoff, a former American government worker, estimated that the property totaled some $700 million in the 1950s and reached some $6 billion in 2007. The Pensioner Affairs Ministry puts the sum at about 2 billion pounds. One organization says $30 billion and another says $100 billion in Iraq alone.

Will the Jews be compensated for the looted property? And can it, and should it, be deducted from the property Israel took from the Palestinians?

The scope of the Palestinian property is also a matter of controversy. Economist John Barncastle evaluated the Palestinian property the 1950s at some $450 million. Zabludoff said it stood at some $4 billion today. The Camp David peace talks discussed $20 billion, while Arab organizations spoke of some $200 billion.

The disagreement stems from the reevaluation method. The number of people who escaped on both sides was similar: About 730,000 Palestinians and about 700,000 Jews (excluding those who immigrated to France). Most of them lived in their own homes.

The Jews, in general, were much richer and possessed many assets in addition to the houses. But real estate is the main thing, and it is customary to add to the original value the rising prices in the places the refugees lived in. Israeli housing prices, as we all know, have gone up much more.

Israel earned a lot from the Jewish property looted in Europe and used the funds to help Holocaust survivors, although insufficiently. But until recently, the State ignored the Jewish property in Arab countries.

"Until recently, there was a lot of fear," says Yehuda. "During the peace talks, Egypt's Jews demanded that (then-Israeli Prime Minister) Menachem Begin include a clause requiring compensation, but he wouldn't listen. I think the government was afraid that it would have to pay the Palestinians more.

"They changed their mind when (former US President) Bill Clinton stated that an international fund would be established to compensate both sides. Since then, they are hoping that the arrangement won't be at their expense."

The property in Israel is worth more thanks to the Jews' knowledge and capital. Why should it increase the compensation to the Palestinians?

"These things are not determined according to logic. Here's something even more absurd: Rich Jews from Iraq bought lands in Israel in the 1930s and 1940s before immigrating. Whoever bought lands within the Green Line received them. But some bought lands in Judea and Samaria, and the Jordanians nationalized them.

"After the Six-Day War, the Jews demanded their lands back and the military government said, 'We are acting in accordance to Jordanian law, and therefore they aren't yours.' But settlements of other Jews were established on those same lands."


The United States recognized Jews' right for compensation from Arab countries in the 1990s. Former Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit stated in 2006 that Israel would demand compensation.

In 2010, the Knesset enacted the "law for compensating Jewish refugees from Arab countries," which obligates the government to demand compensation as part of any future peace negotiations.

How will Arab countries respond to the Israeli demand? In the past, London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted an Iraqi lawyer named Hasem Muhammad Ali as saying he supports compensation. But the Iraqi government, according to the newspaper, is against it, claiming that the Jews left out of their own free will and could get their property back if they returned.

The public discourse in Israel focuses on the distress of Oriental Jews. Most books and articles, speeches and protests dealt with the discrimination and injustice they suffered in Israel by the Ashkenazi establishment, and only few dealt with the robbery they suffered in their homelands.

"I think our situation would have been better had we remained in Libya," says Hajaj. "But I don't know if the only one to blame is Israel, which took care of our livelihood and provided education, or the countries which robbed us and sent us away stark naked."

Some 700,000 Jews of Arab countries and 100,000 immigrants from Turkey and Iran were met in Israel by 550,000 Jews who had already settled in, and some 700,000 Holocaust survivors who suffered greatly but received financial compensation and integrated into the Israeli economy.

All three populations have become richer since then, but the gaps between them continue to burden the State to this very day. Israel has regained its title as the center of the Jewish people, but most of the Jewish money has gone to the US, where secure and convenient Jewish life has prospered for the first time in thousands of years.

Special Report on the Issue of Jewish refugees from Arab Countries
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 03 Apr 2012


During various rounds of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiators have overlooked an important element pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict - the uprooting of around 850,000 Jews living in Arab countries, the loss of their assets and property, and the difficulties they underwent upon migrating to Israel and their absorption.

Close to half of Israel's Jewish citizen's today were born in Arab countries and are descendants of refugees from Arab countries.

Official recognition of their rights which were neglected and the need to grant justice is an issue of national, ethical and moral importance.

It is also of diplomatic significance and in any permanent status agreement with the Palestinians and normalization of relations with Arab countries, this issue must also be brought to an agreed and just conclusion.


Thriving, prosperous Jewish communities existed in the Middle East and North Africa about a thousand years before the rise of Islam and more than 2,500 years before the establishment of modern Arab nations. These communities, which extended from Iraq in the east to Morocco in the west, had a lively fabric of life and were influential in the local economies. Until the 10th century C.E., 90% of the world's Jews lived in the areas of today's Arab countries.

Since the end of the 1940's around 850,000 Jews lived in Arab countries but by 1967 most Jewish communities in these countries disappeared, leaving a few thousand Jews spread over a number of small towns.

Due to international expectation that a Jewish state was going to be established, the Arab League decided in 1946 to boycott all Jewish citizens living in Arab countries. With the United Nations adopting the Partition Plan (November 1947) riots broke across the Arab world against Jewish communities. Jewish shops and synagogues were ransacked and burned, hundreds of Jews were killed and thousands were imprisoned.

With the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Arab League's Political Committee convened and formulated recommendations for all Arab and Muslim countries which specified how to treat Jews in those countries. Among other things the document stated the Jews should be deprived of their citizenship as they were considered citizens of the newly established Jewish state. Assets were seized, bank accounts were frozen and property worth millions of dollars was nationalized. Jews were excluded from government ministries, restricted entry to public service causing many to lose their means of subsistence.

The anti-Jewish trend only increased over time, and an organized plan of oppression and persecution was implemented against the Jews in Arab countries. Between 1948 and 1951, about 850,000 Jews were expelled or, as explained above, forced out of Arab countries, and became refugees. In fact, a two-way migration of populations began, along with the creation of two different refugee groups. The Arab nations, led by the Arab League, were responsible for causing both groups of refugees, Jews and Palestinians.

The ratio between the two refugee groups was 2:3, with the Palestinian group numbering around 600,000 as opposed to the Jewish refugees, which numbered about 850,000 (up until 1968), and their descendents now account for about one half of the population of the State of Israel.

Another important aspect of this subject is that of lost property. A 2008 study estimated that the ratio of lost property stands at almost 1:2; the Palestinian refugees lost property totaling roughly 450 million dollars (in today's prices around $3.9 billion) whereas the Jewish refugees lost property totaling 700 million dollars (around $6 billion dollars).

The Arab nations, led by the Arab league, perpetuated the refugee problem (except for Jordan, which conferred citizenship on its Palestinian citizens), as opposed to Israel which integrated and absorbed the Jewish refugees and saw to their rehabilitation and absorption. The Palestinian refugees' situation was also perpetuated by the international system through UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which has no mandate to find sustainable solutions for the Palestinian refugee problem.

According to the criteria set by the UN regarding the definition of a refugee, the Jewish refugees are considered full-fledged refugees, and when the Security Council passed Resolution 242 in November 1967, no differentiation was made between Palestinian and Jewish refugees. The Palestinian refugees had their refugee status perpetuated, while the Jewish refugees from Arab countries engaged in building new lives for themselves.


The issue of Jewish refugees in the Middle East was raised as far back as the 1970s, and was spearheaded at the time by former MK Mordechai Ben-Porat, among others. The first relevant organization to be established was WOJAC - the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries.

Later JJAC - Justice for Jews from Arab Countries - was founded, and near the time of the Annapolis Conference it exposed UN documents proving that the Arab League nations planned and employed an organized program of oppression and persecution against Jews in Arab countries following the establishment of the State of Israel. Accordingly, claims JJAC, hundreds of thousands of Jews should be recognized as refugees exactly as the Palestinians are.

During the Camp David peace talks of 2000, President Clinton announced that if an agreement would be reached, then an international fund should be established to compensate the refugees, both Arab refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Clinton's proposal was seconded some years later by the U.S. House of Representatives' decision in April 2008 which stated that Jewish refugees should be recognized as refugees by the UN Convention, and an international fund should be established to compensate Jewish and Palestinian refugees for the loss of their property. This House of Representatives decision, known as H. Resolution 185, determined that one refugee population problem should not be resolved without also resolving the other refugee problem at the same time. Recently a new legislative proposal has been presented to the House calling upon the US administration to deal with this important issue.

Nevertheless, the issue of Jewish refugees was pushed to the sidelines of the national and international agenda while Israeli governments, which changed frequently, did not do enough to raise and incorporate the issue of Jewish rights into the national and international discourse.

In February 2010 the issue did gain recognition in Israel, with the legislation of the "Law for Preservation of the Rights to Compensation of Jewish Refugees from Arab countries and Iran", passed by the Knesset.

The law upholds safeguarding the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab states. According to the law, the State of Israel is obligated to make sure that any negotiations for peace in the Middle East will include the subject of compensation for the Jewish refugees. At the same time, the National Council for Jewish Restitution, chaired by Rafi Eitan, was established under the auspices of the Ministry for Senior Citizens.


In order to bring aout justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the Deputy Minister of Foreign affairs has decided to act to raise this important issue onto the international agenda. This is also due to the ongoing efforts held by the Arabs to have international recognition of Palestinian refugees and their rights.

The world should know that the issue of refugees in the Middle East also includes the Jewish refugees. It is not a coincidence that the Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 speaks of the need to find a just solution to the refugee problem, i.e., the decision speaks of reaching a solution for the refugees on both sides.

Raising the issue to the international agenda will be done by promoting parliamentary initiatives around the world with the help of the World Jewish Congress and the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians. Also the subject will be raised for discussion at the UN, calling the countries of the world to pay attention to this issue. Another way to bring the issue to the attention of the world is to publish it in world media and social networks and to document Jewish refugees telling their personal stories.



The Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries or Jewish exodus from Arab countries (Hebrew: יציאת יהודים ממדינות ערב‎, Yetziat yehudim mi-medinot Arav; Arabic: هجرة اليهود من الدول العربية والإسلامية‎ hijrat al-yahūd min ad-duwal al-ʻArabīyah wal-Islāmīyah) was the departure, flight, migration and expulsion of approximately 1,600,000 Jews by Arab countries.  Of these about 600,000  came to Israel.

A small-scale exodus had begun in many countries in the early decades of the 20th century, although the only substantial aliyah came from Yemen and Syria. The first large-scale exoduses took place in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, primarily in Iraq, Yemen and Libya, with up to 90% of these communities leaving within a few years. The peak of the exodus from Egypt occurred in 1956. The exodus in the Maghreb countries peaked in the 1960’s. Lebanon was the only Arab country to see a temporary increase in its Jewish population during this period, due to an influx of refugees from other Arab countries, although by the mid-1970’s the Jewish community of Lebanon had also dwindled. In the aftermath of the exodus wave from Arab states, an additional migration of Iranian Jews peaked in the 1980’s when around 80% of Iranian Jews left the country.

260,000 Jews from Arab countries had immigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1951 and amounted for 56% of the total immigration to the newly founded State of Israel. 600,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries had reached Israel by 1972.

The reasons for the exodus included push factors, such as persecution, antisemitism, political instability, poverty and expulsion; together with pull factors, such as the desire to fulfil Zionist yearnings or find a better economic status and a secure home in Europe or the Americas. The history of the exodus is politicized, given its proposed relevance to a final settlement in the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. When presenting the history, those who view the Jewish exodus as equivalent to the 1948 Palestinian exodus, such as the Israeli government and NGOs such as JJAC and JIMENA, emphasize push factors such as cases of anti-Jewish violence and forced expulsions, and refer to those affected as "refugees". Those who argue that the exodus does not equate to the Palestinian exodus emphasize pull factors such as the actions of local Zionist agents aiming to fulfil the One Million Plan, highlight good relations between the Jewish communities and their country's governments, emphasize the impact of other push factors such as the decolonization in the Maghreb and the Lavon Affair and Suez War in Egypt, and argue that many or all of those who left were not refugees.

See also Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

The Huffington Post, June 19 2014, Ron Prosor,
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations.

This month the United Nations marks World Refugee Day, a star-studded, multimedia campaign to raise awareness about the plight of refugees. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie have cut video spots that will be broadcast on television and spread on social media. Millions will participate in events spanning five continents, from concerts in London to a film festival in Beirut to a bike race in Ecuador. Yet mention of one group of refugees will be noticeably absent from any of these activities: the 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries during the past six decades. Their history remains one of the 20th century's greatest untold stories.

At the end of World War II, 850,000 Jews lived in Arab countries. Just 8,500 remain today. Their departure was no accident. After Arab leaders failed to annihilate Israel militarily in 1948, they launched a war of terror, incitement, and expulsion to decimate their own ancient Jewish communities.

In Iraq Jewish businessman Shafiq Adas, then the country's wealthiest citizen, was immediately arrested on trumped-up charges and publicly lynched. This was followed by bombings targeting Jewish institutions, arbitrary arrests of Jewish leaders, and massive government seizures of property. Within years virtually all of Iraq's 2,500-year-old Jewish community had fled, emptying the country of many of its greatest artists, musicians, and businessmen.

Similar scenes played out across the region, from Egypt to Syria to Libya to Yemen. State-sanctioned pogroms descended on Jewish neighbourhoods, killing innocents and destroying ancient synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. New, draconian laws prevented Jews from public worship, forced them to carry Jewish identity cards, and seized billions of dollars in their property and assets. The total area of land confiscated from Jews in Arab countries amounts to nearly 40,000 square miles -- about five times the size of Israel's entire land mass.

The vast majority of these Jewish refugees came to Israel, nearly doubling its population. Most entered the Land of Milk and Honey with no milk, no honey, and no money. They were embraced with full citizenship rights and ambitious programs for integration, rising to the highest levels of society.

The years have passed, but the injustice inflicted upon these Jewish refugees continues. Many around the world have remained silent and complicit as Arab governments have sought to erase all memory of their stories.

Nowhere is this revisionist history clearer than in the halls of the United Nations. Year after year Palestinian refugees attract more attention and resources at the U.N. than Britney Spears at a paparazzi convention, yet not a single syllable about the Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries can be found in any of the 1,088 U.N. resolutions on the Middle East or the 172 U.N. resolutions dedicated to Palestinian refugees.

While Arab leaders have found a refuge from reality at the U.N., they have been unable to outrun the consequences of religious and sectarian persecution, incitement, and violence at home. In the rubble of Aleppo's former Jewish neighbourhoods, Assad's Allawite-led regime continues to brutally suppress Syria's Sunni-led uprising. In Egypt mobs burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way that they attacked synagogues years ago. In Baghdad, where Jews once constituted a third of the population, Sunnis and Shiites remain pitted against each other after years of bloodshed.

Forging a peaceful future in the Middle East will require Arab governments to finally learn the lessons of their pasts. They must build inclusive societies that protect minorities and offer everyone a seat at the decision-making table.

The first steps toward true pluralism will come when Arab countries acknowledge the history of persecution and intolerance in their own lands. They should start by unearthing the 850,000 untold stories of Jews ripped from their ancient homes.

The historic Jewish presence in the Arab World must be recognized. The grave njustices inflicted upon them must be acknowledged. The crimes committed against them must be rectified.

Middle East Quarterly, by Ya'akov Meron, September 1995, pp. 47-55

Ya'akov Meron holds a doctorate in law from the Faculté de Droit de Paris and is an authority on Islamic law and the law of Arab countries. He was a member of the Israeli delegation to negotiate the peace treaty with Egypt and to solve the Taba issue.


In a key address before the Political Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on November 14, 1947, just five days before that body voted on the partition plan for Palestine, Heykal Pasha, an Egyptian delegate, made the following key statement in connection with that plan:

The United Nations . . . should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in the Moslem countries. Partition of Palestine might create in those countries an anti-Semitism even more difficult to root out than the anti-Semitism which the Allies were trying to eradicate in Germany. . . If the United Nations decides to partition Palestine, it might be responsible for the massacre of a large number of Jews.

Heykal Pasha then elaborated on his threat:

A million Jews live in peace in Egypt [and other Muslim countries] and enjoy all rights of citizenship. They have no desire to emigrate to Palestine. However, if a Jewish State were established, nobody could prevent disorders. Riots would break out in Palestine, would spread through all the Arab states and might lead to a war between two races.

Heykal Pasha's thinly veiled threats of "grave disorders," "massacre," "riots," and "war between two races" did not at the time go unnoticed by Jews; for them, it had the same ring as the proposition made six years earlier by the Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husayni to Hitler of a "final solution" for the Jews of Arab countries, including Palestine. But the statement appears to have made no lasting impression, to the point that a historian of the Jews in Egypt has described Heykal Pasha as "a well-known liberal."

Particularly noteworthy is that although Heykal Pasha spoke at the United Nations in his capacity as a representative of Egypt, he continuously mentioned the Jews "in other Muslim countries" and "all the Arab states," suggesting a level of coordination among the Arab governments. Indeed, four days after his statement, Iraq's Foreign Minister Fadil Jamali declared at the United Nations that "interreligious prejudice and hatred" would bring about a great deterioration in the Arab-Jewish relationship in Iraq and in the Arab world at large, thereby reinforcing the impression that Heykal Pasha was talking not just on behalf of Egypt but for all the independent Arab states. Further confirmation came several days later, after the General Assembly had decided in favor of partitioning Palestine, when, "following orders issued by the Arab League," Muslims engaged in outrages against Jews living in Aden and Aleppo.6

Another indication that Arab rulers coordinated the expulsion of Jews from their terrorites comes from a Beirut meeting one and a half years later of senior diplomats from all the Arab States. By this time, March 1949, the Arab states had already lost the first Arab-Israeli war; they now used this defeat to justify an expulsion that had been officially proclaimed before the war even began. As reported in a Syrian newspaper, "If Israel should oppose the return of the Arab refugees to their homes, the Arab governments will expel the Jews living in their countries."

According to Walid Khalidi, perhaps the leading Palestinian nationalist historian and a highly reputable source, "The Arabs held their ground throughout the period from November 1947 to March 1948. Up to March 1, not one single Arab village had been vacated by its inhabitants, and the number of people leaving the mixed towns was insignificant." The mass departure from Palestine of 590,000 Arabs began only in April 1948; yet , Heykal Pasha had publicly and very formally announced a program to expel Jews from Arab countries fully five months earlier.

To understand how and when the expulsion of Jews from the Arab countries was actually carried out, we look at the Iraqi case in some detail, then others more briefly.


As mentioned above, the Iraqi authorities openly and formally identified themselves with Heykal Pasha's threats just four days after he uttered them. Foreign Minister Jamali addressed the United Nations in this manner:

The masses in the Arab world cannot be restrained. The Arab-Jewish relationship in the Arab world will greatly deteriorate. . . . Harmony prevails among Muslems, Christians and Jews [in Iraq]. But any injustice imposed upon the Arabs of Palestine will disturb the harmony among Jews and non-Jews in Iraq; it will breed interreligious prejudice and hatred.

By "the masses in the Arab world," Jamali in fact meant his own government, which soon took a series of steps, including anti-Semitic legislation, against its Jewish population. This began with a 1948 amendment to the Penal Code of Baghdad, adding Zionism to other ideologies and behavior (communism, anarchism, and immorality) whose propagation constituted a punishable offense. Laws in 1950 and 1951 the deprived Jews of their Iraqi nationality and their property in Iraq, respectively.

At times, Iraqi politicians candidly acknowledged that they wanted to expel their Jewish population for reasons of their own, having nothing to do with retaliation for the Palestinian exodus. Perhaps the most interesting incident took place at the tail end of the Israeli war of independence, in late January or early February 1949, when Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Sa'id described a plan to expel Jews from Iraq to Alec Kirkbride, then the British ambassador at Amman, and Samir El-Rifa'i, head of the Jordanian government. Kirkbride recounts that Nuri

Came out with the astounding proposition that a convoy of Iraqi Jews should be brought over in army lorries escorted by armoured cars, taken to the Jordanian-Israeli frontier, and forced to cross the line. Quite apart from the certainty that the Israelis would not consent to receive deportees in that manner, the passage of Jews through Jordan would almost certainly have touched off serious trouble amongst the very disgruntled Arab refugees who were crowded into the country. Either the Iraqi guards would have had to shoot other Arabs to protect the lives of their charges. . .

Samir and I were flabbergasted and our faces must have shown our feelings. . . .

I replied, at once, that the matter at issue was no concern of His Majesty's Government. Samir refused his assent as politely as possible but Nuri lost his temper at being rebuffed and he said: "So, you do not want to do it, do you?" Samir snapped back: "Of course I do not want to be party to such a crime." Nuri thereupon exploded with rage and I began to wonder what the head of the diplomatic mission would do if two Prime Ministers came to blows in his study. We then broke up in disorder, but I got them out of the house whilst preserving a minimum of propriety.

Nuri probably chose the British embassy in Amman as the site at which to disclose his plan to the head of the Jordanian government because high-ranking British officials had often spoken of the need to exchange Palestinian Arab and Arab Jewish populations, and he most likely expected British understanding of, it not support for, his scheme.

Similarly, when Nuri visited Jerusalem on January 13, 1951, he met 'Arif al-'Arif, the Palestinian leader who served as Jordan's district commissioner for Jerusalem. 'Arif asked Nuri to hold up the departure of Jews from Iraq "until the problem of Palestine and of the refugees had been solved," or at least "for one or two years." Nuri refused to do so. Revealingly, his reasons bore only on considerations of internal Iraqi policy:

The Jews have always been a source of evil and harm to Iraq. They are spies. They have sold their property in Iraq, they have no land among us that they can cultivate. How therefore can they live? What will they do if they stay in Iraq? No, no my friend, it is better for us to be rid of them as long as we are able to do so.

Nuri candidly acknowledges here that he wanted the Jews out of Iraq, and never mind what consequences their exodus might have for the future of the Palestinian Arabs.

In conversation with foreign diplomats, however, Nuri presented the expulsion of Iraq's Jews in a very different light-as an exchange of population. On no less than six occasions in 1949, he made this point with foreigners.

In talks with the U.N. Reconciliation Commission in Baghdad on February 18, 1949 (in other words, even before the Beirut meeting of Arab diplomats in March 1949, when the Arab states coordinated their stand on the matter), he threatened harm to the Jews: "Iraq has thus far been able to protect its 160,000 Jews but . . . unless conditions improve and unless Jews now demonstrated their good faith with deeds not words Iraq might be helpless to prevent spontaneous action by its people."

To an American diplomat in Baghdad on May 8, 1949, Nuri mentioned his idea of a "voluntary exchange on pro rata basis of Iraqi Jews for Pal[estinian] Arabs," adding the threat that "firebrand Iraqis might take matters into [their] own hands and cause untold misery to thousands [of] innocent persons."

(3) On August 8, 1949, he raised with an official of the British Foreign Office the idea of "an exchange of population."

(4) On September 29, 1949, a member of the British embassy in Baghdad reported Nuri's wish "to force an exchange of population under U.N. supervision and the transfer of 100,000 Jews beyond Iraq in exchange for the Arab refugees who had already left the territory in Israeli hands."

(5) On October 14, 1949, Nuri spoke with U.N. officials about the exchange of "100,000 Baghdad Jews and 80,000 other Jews in Iraq for [an] equivalent number [of] urban Arab Palestinian refugees."

(6) To the Clapp Mission in 1949,19 Nuri presented the Jewish expulsion from Iraq as part of a population exchange.20

This (and other evidence) leads to the conclusion that while the Iraqi government sought to present the expulsion of Jews as a crowd-driven retaliatory act for the exodus of the Arab refugees from Palestine, it in fact had a full-fledged plan in place before the Arab refugee problem even came into existence.

This interpretation resolves a number of historical questions. It explains the origins of the otherwise mysterious legislation in 1950 depriving Jews of their Iraqi nationality. For example, Shlomo Hillel cannot understand how this complete reversal of the Iraqi attitudes happened, and suggests that Nuri Sa'id did not really intend immediately to apply the law. This author respectfully disagrees: take into account the U.N. declarations, the anti-Jewish legislation, and the government persecution of Jews, and it becomes clear that the deprivation of Iraqi nationality was but another step in a plan of expulsion.

The Iraqi plan of expulsion also explains the bombing of the Mas'uda Shem Tob Synagogue in Baghdad on January 14, 1951, as Jews were registering there to emigrate to Israel. Zionists have been accused of causing the violence in the hopes of spurring the Jews to leave Iraq, an accusation whose truth so eminent an authority as Elie Kedourie has said "must remain an open question." But knowing of the authorities' expulsion plan suggests that not Zionists but Muslim Iraqis were behind the incident . That an Iraqi army officer arrested for throwing the bomb belonged to the opposition Istiqlal Party points to that faction's responsibility.

Similar patterns of Jewish exodus existed in other Arabic-speaking countries, including Yemen, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Algeria and Jordan.


Point of No Return 12 Jan 2018

Increasingly, the Farhud - the murderous pogrom which claimed the lives of 179 Jews in 1941 - is being recognised as a major trigger for the mass exodus of the Jews of Iraq. Writing in Haaretz Dor Saar-man generally does a good analysis of the anti-Jewish currents leading up to the pogrom but it is marred by inaccuracies. It is not true that Jews did not suffer prior antisemitism. In 1889, an anti-Jewish riot swept Baghdad. An anti-Jewish ruler, Daoud Pasha, incited anti-Jewish pogroms in the 19th century. (With thanks Yoram, Lily)

The attack on the city’s flourishing, peaceful Jewish community is usually referred to as the trigger for the Iraqi aliyah to Israel. But seldom is the question asked: How could such a pogrom have occurred in the first place in Iraq – a place where Jews had lived in peace for centuries, a country that did not seem to suffer anti-Semitic norms?

Jews queuing up to register to leave Iraq at the Messouda Shemtob synagogue, Baghdad in 1950

An examination of the historical background reveals the Farhud’s causes: the opposing interests of the Iraqi government and the British Empire, Nazi Germany’s influence, internal Arab movements, and a struggle between groups of Iraqi intellectuals. The unfortunate Jews were caught in the middle.

Historian Nissim Kazzaz has researched Iraqi Jewry and managed to put the Farhud in its historical context. Until the 1920s there was no significant evidence of anti-Semitism in Iraq. (Not true, see intro above - ed) Old restrictions from the Ottoman era were abolished during the 20th century and the establishment of the British Mandate after World War I soon changed the Jews’ situation for the better.

Yet World War I had other outcomes as well. The Iraqi elite were introduced to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a forged text that was partly translated from the original Russian into Arabic. New movements were rising in that period in Iraq, some of which argued that as long as the Jews did not hold national inspirations, they were part of the Iraqi nation without obstacles.

But other movements, such as Al Istiklal, had a different opinion. Perceiving the Iraqi nationality as Arabic and Muslim, they would not include religious minorities such as the Jews. Formally, after Iraq received independence from Britain in 1932, the Jews were considered Iraqi citizens, but some voices always argued against their integration.

At the same time, the world was going through profound changes. Fascist leaders rising in Europe such as Hitler and Mussolini had supporters among the Iraqi elite who resented the British. Even after independence, the British still expected certain privileges, especially in the transfer of goods through Iraq, which the Iraqi nationalists would not yield. They insisted that Iraq should establish a close relationship with Germany instead of being exploited by Britain.

Meanwhile, Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and speeches were translated into Arabic, and German educators came to Iraq to spread radical anti-Semitic propaganda (in fact there were enough 'homegrown' educators, such as Sati al-Husri and Sami Shawkat - ed) . Iraqi newspapers went all the more pro-German, especially after 1939. They asserted, for example, that Iraqi Jews and the Zionists were one and the same, that world Jewry was scheming to ruin the glorious nation of Iraq, and that Jews must be banished from public life. (This happened before 1939 - ed)

With help from the Germans, the Al-Fatwa religious movement   was founded; it espoused the keeping to strict Islamic rules and practices by all citizens, and it was inspired by the Hitler Youth( I think the author is confusing the Futuwwa religious movement with the pro-Nazi paramilitary youth movement in Iraq of the same name - ed). At a certain point, all students and teachers were forced to join the movement – including the Jews. In 1939 the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, settled in Iraq (he was expelled from Palestine by the British - ed), lobbied for the Germans and spread hatred against the Jews.

The tension boiled over on April 1, 1941. Until that day Iraq did not assist the British, but it also did not assist Germany directly. Eventually, Prime Minister Rashid Ali decided it was time to switch allies (in fact al-Gaylani was anti-British since the 1920s and 30s). He launched a coup against the pro-British officials (there had been repeated failed coup attempts between 1939 and 41); he then announced that Iraq would no longer assist Britain with airplane fuel, and even sent military forces to British bases in Iraq. By the end of April, the British had attacked the Iraqi army, which was now backed up by Luftwaffe pilots.

In May, the British fought the German-Iraqi force and had help from groups like the the Irgun Jewish militia based in British Mandatory Palestine. In one operation in Iraq, Irgun chief David Raziel was killed by the Germans and his body was kept by the Iraqis until the early 1960s. Finally, with support from Indian forces, the British forced the Iraqis to surrender, and on May 30 the pro-German Iraqi officials escaped to Iran. Their successors signed the surrender documents.

From that point the Jews were in immediate danger. The surrender agreement stated that the British would enter Baghdad within two days. The Al-Fatwa religious movement saw a window of opportunity to incite the masses and blame the Jews for the military failure against the British. They marked the houses of the Jews in red and the next day, June 1, the mobs started rioting against the Jews – the first such riots ever in Iraq.

The rioters destroyed synagogues and murdered, raped and wounded people – the elderly and infants were not spared. The mob used all manner of weapons and also ran people over with vehicles. But some Jews were hid by their Muslim neighbors, who put themselves at great risk.

The massacre only ended when the British entered the city. The British actually knew about the pogrom a day earlier but did not try to prevent it; just like the local authorities, they preferred to let the masses vent their rage.

After the Farhud, the Iraqi authorities held an investigation, blamed nationalists, and even executed a few army officers involved in the incitement. Husseini, the mufti, was also mentioned in the investigation, and the German involvement was recognized over the years.

A monument in memory of the victims (actually, it was a mass grave - ed) was put up in Baghdad, but even so, the Farhud triggered the mass emigration of Iraq’s Jews. Between 1950 and 1952, Israel’s Operation Ezra and Nehemiah (1950-1952) brought some 120,000 people – 90 percent of Iraq’s Jews – to the young state.

YEMEN. Yemeni persecution of Jews prompted a trickle of Jewish emigration to Palestine from the third quarter of the nineteenth century on. Heykal Pasha's speech merely added momentum to the longstanding Yemeni policy of discrimination against and degradation of Jews, based on a particularly pedantic interpretation of the Islamic law. A bribe from the American Joint Distribution Committee to Yemen's ruler, Imam Ahmad ibn Yahya, led to his agreeing to the mass exodus of Jews to Israel in 1949-50 by airplane via Aden, an operation known as "On Eagle's Wings" (or, in journalistic lore, "Magic Carpet"). The Jews of Yemen, relying on their own means, suffering losses of life and deprivations, traversed the desert to Aden by foot and on donkeys. There, the Jewish Agency lodged them in camps and eventually boarded them onto planes that took them to Israel. In this way, some 50,000 Yemeni Jews reached Israel during the two-year period.

We lack information about the Yemeni government's decision-making process. But this case provides the clearest example of Jews' being persecuted and expelled for reasons having to do with Islamic law.

LIBYA. In Libya, as in Yemen, the exodus of the Jews began even before Heykal Pahsa's declaration at the United Nations. Attacks on Jewish quarters in Tripoli and other cities occurred in 1945, leading to a death toll the British put at 130 Jews.24 In other words, Jews began leaving Libya three years before the establishment of Israel and seven years before Libya gained independence. Their departure turned into a mass exodus as soon as Israel gained independence and the gates opened to Libyan Jewry. As in Iraq, internal policy appears to be the reason both for the Jews' expulsion and for later rhetoric inviting them back.

SYRIA. In Syria, too, the majority of Jews departed before independence in 1946, and long before Heykal Pasha's statement and the establishment of Israel. As in Yemen and Libya, crude pressure on the Jews of Syria-such as the 1947 pogrom in Aleppo and the rape and murder of four Jewish girls who allegedly tried to smuggle themselves out of Syria-caused a substantial emigration.

While Syria is distinguished from other Arab countries by the fact that its legislation does not manifest discrimination against Jews, Heykal Pasha's policy was indeed applied there, too. The government seized control of Jewish property in Syria on the basis of emergency legislation and gave it to Arab refugees. Thus, Palestinians were settled in Damascus's Jewish ghetto, while the Alliance Israélite Universelle School, finished 1n 1939, became a school for Palestinian children. A diplomat at the French embassy in Damascus intervened with the Syrian authorities about this school and was told that the Syrian Jews had to provide room for the Arab refugees, the latter having been expelled by their Palestinian co-religionists.25

EGYPT. In some cases, the execution of the Arab plan of expulsion extended over a period much longer than that of the military hostilities. In Egypt, the expulsion reached its climax only after the overthrow of the monarchy by disgruntled army officers back from the Palestinian battlefield. In Algeria, which did not attain independence until 1962, the expulsion took place later yet.

Jews in Egypt faced acute problems in the 1940s but these did not set their mass departure in motion. Rioting against Jews occurred in November1945, then resumed in June-November 1948,26 the latter time inspired by the war with Israel. An amendment to the Egyptian Companies Law dated July 29, 1947, required that 40 percent of a company's directors and 75 percent of its employees be Egyptian nationals, causing the dismissal and livelihood of many Jews, 85 percent of whom did not possess Egyptian nationality.27 A letter to the editor of Akhir Sa'a in 1948 offers some insight into the predicament of Egyptian Jews:

It would seem that most people in Egypt are unaware of the fact that among Egyptian Muslisms there are some who have white skin. Every time I board a tram I hear people pointing at me with a finger and saying "Jew," "Jew." I have been beaten more than once because of this. For that reason I humbly beg that my picture (enclosed) be published with the explanation that I am not Jewish and that my name is Adham Mustafa Galeb.28

This testimony rather directly refutes the fine rhetoric of Heykal Pasha about Jews' enjoying "all rights of citizenship."

Cairo was slow in carrying out the plan proclaimed by its own diplomat, Heykal Pasha; only during and after the Suez Crisis of 1956 did Egyptian Jews leave in substantial numbers. At that time, the Egyptian Nationality Law was amended to prohibit "Zionists" from holding Egyptian nationality,29 Army Order no. 4 then confiscated property of individuals and associations;30 and supervision, imprisonment, or expulsion followed. The amendment to the Nationality Law of 1956 defined the term Zionism as "not a religion but the spiritual and material bond between those defined as Zionists and Israel."31 A furthur ministerial decree in 1958 indicates that all Jews between the ages of ten and sixty-five leaving Egypt would be added to the list of persons prohibited from reentering the country.32 Clearly, these decrees had little to do with the Arab refugees of a decade earlier.

ALGERIA. In Algeria, no significant Jewish emigration occurred until the summer of 1961, and then nearly the entire population was gone within the year.33 Algeria's independence from France was the key event here; Jews were no longer welcome after the French depature. The Algerian Nationality Code of 1963 made this clear by granting Algerian nationality as a right only to those inhabitants whose fathers and paternal grandfathers had Muslim personal status in Algeria.34 In other words, although the National Liberation Front in Algeria was known for its slogan "A Democratic Secular State," it adhered to strictly religious criteria in granting nationality.

JORDAN. No Jews lived in Transjordan in 1946 (when it became an independent state), as a result of Winston Churchill's 1921 decision in favor of "preserving [the] Arab character" of Transjordan35 and the resulting British policy forbidding Jews from settling there. Legislation passed in 1954 declared that only non-Jews coming from the former British Mandate of Palestine were entitled to Jordanian citizenship.36 What is so striking about Jordan is that although it lacked a Jewish population, it still shared in the general Arab trend of excluding Jews. Further, it actively discriminated against Lebanese and Syrian Jews.


A strange silence prevails over the expulsion of the Jews from Arab countries. Out of fifteen books (mainly autobiographies) written by Iraqi politicians and other public figures, only two make any reference to the farhud, the Iraqi pogrom of 1941 that first shook feelings among the Jews for the land of their very ancient residence and was the first step in their leaving the country. In his memoirs, Tawfiq as-Suwaydi, head of the Iraqi government and the man with whom the agreement to transport Jews from Baghdad to Israel by air was reached, "does not recall, if only by way of a mere hint, the actual departure of the Jewish communities from his country."

On the Israeli side, the establishment did little to break the silence about the dire circumstances of the Jewish exodus from Arab countries. Quite the contrary, the romantic "magic carpet" image for the migration from Yemen and the "Ezra and Nehemiah Operation" name attached to the Iraqi migration stress the positive, glossing over the unhappy circumstances of the Arab expulsions. Jean-Peirre Péroncel-Hugoz, a Frence orientalist and journalist at Le Monde, notes with surprise "that Israel only very rarely emphasizes the fact that a part if its population left property and space it legitimately owned in the Arab countries of its origin."

Palestinians are the only Arabs vocally to denounce the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. This began in January 1951 with a telegram from 'Aarif to the Arab Legue after he failed in his efforts to persuade Nuri to stop the exit of Jews from Iraq. "Were every area of Arab land where Jews reside to retain the Jews and their property as a pledge, two problems would easily be solved, that of Palestine generally and that of the refugees in particular." Along these lines, the Palestinian National Covenant calls for sending the Jews back to their lands of origin. Nabil Hga'th, Yasir Arafat's advisor, twenty years ago drew attention to the invitation that the Sudan and Libya sent to "their" Jews to return, and called upon the Arab states to legislate a kind of "Law of Return" for Jews of Arab origins.

Remarkably, some Palestinians have come to see Jewish sovereignty in Israel in terms of a population exchange, and as the necessary price to be paid for the Arab expulsions. 'Isam as-Sirtawi, who participated in some well-known terrorist operations but later excelled in seeking contact with the Israelis, told Ha-'Olam Ha-zé editor Uri Avneir that he gave up terrorism against Israel and instead began promoting negotiations when he realized that Israel serves as the asylum for Jews expelled from Arab countries; and that there is no going back along that path.44 Sabri Jiryis, director of the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut, enumerated in 1975 the factors leading to the establishment of the State of Israel. The Arab states had much to do with this, for they expelled the Jews "in a most ugly fashion, and after confiscating their possessions or taking control thereof at the lowest price." These Jews then

Participated in the reinforcement of Israel, its strengthening and fortification to the degree we see it as present. . . . There is no need to say that the problem of those Jews and their passage to Israel is not merely theoretical, at least from the viewpoint of the Palestinian problem. Clearly, Israel will raise the question in all serious negotiation that may in time be conducted over the rights of the Palestinians. . . . Israel's arguments take approximately the following form: "It is true that we Israelis brought about the exodus of the Arabs from their land in the war of 1948 . . . and that we took control of their property. In return however you Arabs caused the expulsion of a like number of Jews from Arab countries since 1948 until today. Most of these went to Israel after you seized control of their property in one way or another. What happened, therefore, is merely a kind of 'population and property transfer,' the consequences of which both sides have to bear. Thus Israel gathers in the Jews from Arab countries and the Arab countries are obliged in turn to settle the Palestinians within their own borders and work towards a solution of the problem". Israel will undoubtedly advance these claims in the first real debate over the Palestinian problem.

In brief, 'Arif, Sirtawi, and Jiryis recognize that the expulsion of a million Jews from the Arab countries renders the return of Arab refugees infeasible. This realization is compounded by the fact that almost half a century has elapsed since the beginning of the refugee problem, both Arab and Jewish, within the Arab-Israeli conflict. Those individuals to be involved in any future rehabilitation program will mostly be heirs, and even grandchildren, of the original refugees.


Accounts of the late 1940s widely assume that the Arab exodus occurred first, followed by the Jewish expulsion. Kirkbride refers to "a decision of the Iraqi government to retaliate for the expulsion of Arab refugees from Palestine by forcing the majority of the Jewish population of Iraq to go to Israel."46 In Libya, too, there is a similar tendency to associate the uprooting of the Jewish community with the establishment of the State of Israel. "Jews," John Wright argues, "were forced out of Libya as a result of events leading up and following the foundation of the State of Israel in May 1948."

But these accounts oversimplify the actual sequence of events: as we have seen, in a good many cases, Jews were forced out well before the Palestinian exodus. As 'Arif, Sirtawi, and Jiryis acknowledge, the Arab states contributed substantially to the Palestinians' present predicament. A recognition of the full wrong done to the Jews of the Arab countries should put to rest Palestinian claims for restitution by Israel. As Péroncel-Hugoz correctly points out, the Jews "left property and space [they] legitimately owned" in the Middle East. In coming to Israel, then these Jews brought with them certain rights.

This information not only straightens out the sequence of events fifty years ago but it refutes exorbitant claims made in the name of Palestinians. A recognition of the true nature of those events represents the best chance for a swift resolution of the Palestinian refugee question today. With so many issues that will have a lasting effect on the future of their populations awaiting the attention of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, this is one case where the two sides would do well to let history stand and call it even.


Times of Israel, Lyn Julius, JUNE 6, 2016
Lyn Julius is a journalist and co-founder of Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa

In the lead-up to Shavuot, we have been commemorating a little-known event which occurred 75 years ago. The Nazi-inspired pogrom, the Farhud, sounded the death knell for Iraq’s ancient Jewish community. It heralded the ethnic cleansing of 99 % of Jews from Arab countries.

At a moving ceremony last Thursday attended by 300 people and the Israeli ambassador Mark Regev, eight children lit candles for each of the defunct Jewish communities in Arab countries. Twenty-seven notes were blown on a plaintive shofar to represent the 27 centuries that Jews had lived continuously in Iraq since the Babylonian exile.

My mother still remembers those fateful two days in June 1941 when her aunt’s terrified Jewish cook pounded the door pleading to be let in: “I was on a bus, and the Muslims were pulling the Jewish passengers out and killing them. I said I was a Christian.”

At least 180 Jews died in Baghdad and elsewhere (the figure could be up to 600 ); 1,000 were wounded, homes and shops destroyed or looted, women raped, babies mutilated. The dead were hurriedly buried in a mass grave.

Two months earlier, as Field Marshal Rommel looked victorious in North Africa, pro-Nazi officers, led by Rashid Ali al-Ghailani, seized power in Iraq. Britain routed the coup leaders – but not before the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, then in Baghdad, had incited murder and mayhem against the Jewish “fifth column”.

Jews, wearing their Shavuot best, had ventured out to greet the returning pro-British Regent, only to be ambushed by an armed Arab mob.

Terrified Jews barricaded themselves inside their houses, or ran for their lives across the flat rooftops.

At the 2 June London Farhud Commemoration, US author Edwin calls on a child to light a candle for each Jewish community driven to extinction in Arab lands. The hanukkia was made by world-famous Iraqi-Jewish artist Oded Halahmy

The Farhud (Arabic for “violent dispossession”) marked an irrevocable break between Jews and Arabs in Iraq. A question mark hovers over the role of the British: encamped on the city outskirts, they delayed intervening until the looting had spread to Muslim districts. Yet the victims’ screams could be heard by the British ambassador, Cornwallis.

Loyal and productive citizens comprising a third of Baghdad, the Jews had not known anything like it in living memory. Before the victims’ blood ran dry, army and police warned Jews not to testify against the murderers and looters.

The Jews understood that they had no place in an independent Iraq. Fear of a second Farhud was a major reason why 90 % of Iraq’s Jews fled to Israel after 1948.

But the Farhud was not just another anti-Jewish pogrom. The Nazi supporters who planned it had a more sinister objective: the round-up, deportation and extermination in desert camps of the Iraqi Jews.

The inspiration behind the coup, and the Farhud itself, came from the Grand Mufti. Exiled to Iraq by the British in 1939, he whipped up anti-Jewish feeling. Nazi radio propaganda brainwashed an illiterate populace. On the eve of the Farhud, the Nazi youth brigade, the Futuwwa, daubed Jewish homes with a red palm print. Before he was deported, the antisemitic governor of Baghdad al-Sabawi – together with the Mufti and Rashid Ali, he spent the rest of the war in Berlin – instructed the Jews to stay in their homes so that they could more easily be rounded up.

The Farhud cemented a wartime Arab-Nazi alliance designed to rid Palestine, and the world, of Jews. As ambassador Regev remarked, honourable Arabs and Muslims saved Jews, but far too many supported Nazism and identified with its genocidal aims. Mr Regev called on today’s Palestinians, instead of revering the Mufti as an icon, to condemn his virulent antisemitism.

The uprooting of the 140, 000 Jews of Iraq followed a Nazi pattern of victimisation – denationalisation, dispossession and expulsion. The Arab League’s Nuremberg-style laws criminalised Zionism, freezing Jewish bank accounts, instituting job and travel bans. The result was the exodus of nearly a million Jews from the Arab world.

More Jews died than on Kristallnacht, yet getting the Farhud recognised as a Holocaust event has been a struggle. Only recently, Israel granted Farhud survivors Holocaust reparations.Thanks to the determined efforts of a few, such as the US writer Edwin Black, the Farhud’s 75th anniversary has been commemorated this year in New York, Washington, London and Jerusalem.

In spite of its solemnity, our London commemoration ended on a note of hope: the candle lit by Mrs Vered Regev to represent Israel burned brightly. As the shofar played out Hatikva, the audience leapt to its feet with a rousing chorus.

The Jewish News, Lyn Julius, 9 June 2017

They had everything in their hands; fire, axes, knives, swords... They were banging, trying to break the doors and they set the curtains on fire. Doris Keren-Gill, a Jew from Libya, well remembers the dark days of June 1967 when rioters destroyed her home and nearby synagogue. She escaped with her life. Today not a single Jew is left in Libya.

While the media focus on the events leading to Israel’s lightning Six Day War victory, the impact on the few thousand Jews remaining in Arab countries is forgotten.

In 1967, all these communities were shadows of their former selves. Ninety percent of their Jews had already fled: sprne 76,000 remained out of a1948 population of 900,000. Almost all had been deprived of civil rights but could still quietly pursue their education, run businesses and' enjoy a social life. The vindictive Arab reaction to Israel’s victory changed all that


Jews fled Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia Jews in Libya, taunted by enraged mobs, and Aden, where the Jewishschool was burnt down, were evacuated for their own safety. In almost all Arab countries, there were demonstrations and anti-Jewish riots. Some governments actively persecuted their Jews as if they were Israelis.

Already Jews in Iraq had to carry yellow identity cards and were unable to leave. But Arab rage led to property seizures, beatings and arrests. Jews were sacked, telephones were cut off. On 27 January 1969 nine Jewish 'spies’ were executed and their bodies strungup in Bagh­dad’s Liberation Square. A million Iraqis came to celebrate. The arrests continued until 1972: some 50 Jews disappeared. Not permitted to leave, almost 2,000 Jews escaped Iraq with the help of Kurdish smugglers, leaving their homes and possessions behind.


which accel­erated in 1964, reached epidemic levels after the 1967war due to fears of impending riots. The mass exodus was followed by the abduction and murderofindividualJews.

Some of the ftercest riots broke out in Tunisia on 5 June 1967. The Great Synagogue in Tunis was set on fire. Panicking Jews abandoned their homes. Within five years, only about 7,000 remained.


a massive security deployment prevented loss of life during mass demonstra­tions. When the propaganda of an Arab victory turned out to be false, two Jews were murdered. An economic boycott against Jewish businesses was declared. Some 10,000 Jews left, mostly to France and North America.


curfews were imposed. Jews were housebound hostages, deprived of telephones and radios. Some 2,300 were smuggled to Israel from Syria, but it would be another 25 years before the rest would be allowed to emigrate.


the authorities arrested 400 Jewish males up to the age of 60 as ‘Israeli PoWs’.

They were interned for up to three years. The prisoners were abused and fed dirty bread containing cigarette butts and nails. The Rabbi of Alexandria was beaten senseless.


thus marked the irrevocable and silent demise, within a few years, of Jewish communities which had pre-dated Islam by 1,000 years.

Although they played no part in Israel’s victory and despite representations by Jewish groups and foreign governments, Jews in Arab countries paid a terrible price. In their determination to wreak revenge, Arab regimes committed serious human rights abuses.

They have never been held to account.

♦ Harif Is the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.

Lyn^s  book Uprooted: How 3OOO years of Jewish civilisation In the Arab world vanished almost overnight’ (Vallentlne Mitchell) will be out this year


Justice for Jews from Arab Countries


" When the issue of 'refugees' is raised within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer to Palestinian refugees, virtually never to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.



[1] Roumani, The Case 2; WOJAC'S Voice Vol.1, No.1

[2] United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, P. 18; United Nations. Annual Report of the Director Genera of UNRWA, Doc. 5224/5223. 25 November 1952

[3] Mr. Auguste Lindt, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Report of the UNREF Executive Committee, Fourth Session - Geneva 29 January to 4 February, 1957; and Dr. E. Jahn, Office of the UN High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Document No. 7/2/3/Libya, July 6, 1967.


There has been an uninterrupted presence of large Jewish communities in the Middle East from time immemorial. The ancient Jewish communities of the Middle East and North Africa (including in the Land of Israel) has existed for over 2,500 years before the birth of the modern Arab states.

Click country for information about each country

Algeria since Jews settled 1st-2nd century CE

Egypt since Jews settled  1300 BCE

Iraq since Jews settled 6th century BCE

Lebanon since Jews settled  1st century BCE

Libya since Jews settled 3rd century BCE

Morocco since Jews settled 1st century CE

Syria since Jews settled 1st century CE

Tunisia since Jews settled 200 CE

Yemen since Jews settled  3rd century BCE

One thousand years before the advent of Islam, Jews in substantial numbers resided in what are today Arab countries. For centuries under Islamic rule, following the Moslem conquest of the region, Jews were considered "dhimmis", or second-class citizens. But they were nonetheless permitted limited religious, educational, professional, and business opportunities.

It is within the last 55 years that the world witnessed the mass displacement of over 850,000 long-time Jewish residents from the totalitarian regimes, the brutal dictatorships and monarchies of Syria, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

The rise of pan-Arabism and independence movements in the 20th century resulted in an orchestrated, multi-state campaign against Zionism. These states vehemently opposed the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people. Hundreds of thousands of Jews resident in Arab countries were ensnared in this struggle.

Immediately before and after its declaration of statehood, the Arab world sought to destroy the newly created State of Israel between 1948-49. The rights and security of Jews resident in Arab countries came under legal and physical assault by governments and the general populations. In Syria, anti-Jewish pogroms erupted in Aleppo in 1947. Of the town’s 10,000 Jews 7,000 fled in terror. In Iraq, "Zionism" became a capital crime. More than 70 Jews were killed by bombs in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo, Egypt. After the French left Algeria, the authorities issued a variety of anti-Jewish decrees that prompted nearly all of the 160,000 Jews to flee the country. After the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the Partition Plan, Muslim rioters engaged in bloody pogroms in Aden and Yemen, which killed 82 Jews. In numerous countries, Jews were expelled or had their citizenship revoked (e.g. Libya). Varying numbers of Jews fled from 10 Arab countries. They became refugees in a region overwhelmingly hostile to Jews.

State-sanctioned restraints, often coupled with violence and repression, precipitated a mass displacement of Jews. While the results were similar, life became untenable and Jews were displaced from some 10 countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. This caused the Jewish refugee problem in the Middle East.

The result: over 850,000 Jews were uprooted from the lands where they and their ancestors had lived for generations.



 Who were the Jews from Arab Countries?

 What was the Status of the Jews in Arab Counties?...….……….......1

 Why Did They Leave?............................................….…....1

 Was there any Coordination between Arab governments in the

Displacement of the Middle Eastern and North African Jews?.......... 3

 Were Jews Displaced from Arab Countries really Refugees?...........3

 Didn’t Jews fleeing Arab Countries come to Israel to fulfill the

Zionist dream of Aliyah and not Because they were Refugees?......... 4

 Why Has Little Been Heard About These Jewish Refugees?............4

 Were Jewish refugees from Arab states treated any differently

than the Palestinian Arab Refugees.?................................…   ...4

 Even if they were refugees, do they have any Rights to-day,

over half a century later, when they are no longer Refugees?..........  5

 What is the Estimated Value of Properties Lost?..................… ...5

 Shouldn't the Palestinian issue be dealt with separately

from the Jewish refugees from Arab states?....................…  ........6

 Isn’t this Just an Attempt to Divert Attention away from

the Rights of Palestinian refugees?.....................................…  ..7

 Why not just give Jews from Arab states the ‘right of return’

to their former homes?..............................................…   .....7

 Why is it important to deal with now? Isn’t this another

impediment in the Peace Process?...................................… .....8


A vast diaspora was utterly annihilated, but Israelis rarely talk about it.
Azureonline,  Adi Schwartz, 2011
Adi Schwartz is an independent journalist and researcher.

The pages are yellowing, nearly disintegrated. For decades they have lain forgotten, stuffed into crates piled high in the archives of Israel’s Ministry of Justice. No one reads them; no one even shows interest. Even now, nearly sixty years after the painful experiences of loss and flight they recount, they still wait for their stories to be told.

In one, a Jewish woman from Alexandria describes her youth in Egypt:

After the [1948] war broke out, my mother was arrested in her ninth month of pregnancy, and they wanted to slaughter her; they threatened her with bayonets and abused her…. One evening a mob came to kill our family with sticks and anything they could lay their hands on, because they heard we were Jews. The gatekeeper swore to them that we were Italian, and so they only cursed us, surrounding my parents, my brothers, and myself, only a small baby. The next day my parents ran away, leaving everything—pension, work, and home—behind.  1

On another page, Mordechai Karo, also Egyptian-born, testifies about an explosive device planted in a Jewish neighborhood in Cairo in the summer of 1948:

“The tremendous explosion killed and injured scores of Jews in the neighborhood. One of these casualties was my young daughter Aliza.”  2

Thousands of pages of similar testimony have been collecting dust in various government offices since the 1950s. Under the bureaucratic heading “Registry of the Claims of Jews from Arab Lands,” they tell of lives cut short, of individuals and entire families who found themselves suddenly homeless, persecuted, humiliated. Together they relate a tragic chapter in the history of modern Jewry, a chain of traumatic events that signaled the end of a once-glorious diaspora.

Yet for all its historical import, this chapter has been largely repressed, scarcely leaving a mark on Israel’s collective memory. The media seldom mentioned it then, and rarely do so today.  3 Schools do not devote comprehensive curricula to it, and academia pays it little attention. Indeed, in the past decade only one doctoral dissertation was written on the devastation of Jewish communities in Arab countries.  4   Furthermore, of all the parties represented in Israel’s Knesset, not one has included in its platform an explicit demand for the restitution of these Jews’ property, or the recognition of their violated rights.   5

This dismissive attitude toward one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the Jewish people should be cause for astonishment. After all, the heritage of Jews from Muslim lands is enjoying something of a renaissance today, both in academic circles and within the general public. Yet not even the outspoken proponents of this heritage are particularly eager to discuss the historical circumstances under which their deep roots in the Arab world were severed.  6  This prolonged silence becomes even more incomprehensible when we take into account the centrality of the refugee problem to the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Palestinians and their advocates repeatedly emphasize the need to correct the historic injustice done to the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who left or were expelled from their lands and dispossessed of their properties in the 1948 Nakba (“catastrophe”), Israel’s international representatives and spokespeople have refrained from highlighting the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who fell victim to systematic persecution and attacks throughout the Middle East and Maghreb at the same time.

How to explain this omission? The answer, as we will see, is neither simple nor easy to digest. It involves a number of motives, some of them pragmatic and some ideological, all of which deserve close scrutiny. Our investigation will raise difficult questions, concerning not only various Israeli governments’ policies in both the past and the present, but also the conceptual foundations of the Jewish state itself. And yet, before we can address these sensitive topics, we must recall certain facts that have been buried for too long in dusty ministerial archives.

On the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel, at least 780,000 Jews lived in Arab countries.  7  Today, this ancient diaspora numbers only a few thousand at best. These numbers alone should give us pause: Emigration of more than 99 percent of the population in such a short time is unparalleled in modern Jewish history. Even the Jewish communities of Europe, which experienced the most extreme iteration of antisemitic violence, did not vanish entirely, or so abruptly.

The story of the Jews from Arab lands is a saga that extends over hundreds of years and a vast geographic region.  8   An in-depth account of the subject would include an examination of both its high and low points, as well as a detailed analysis of social, political, and economic phenomena—all of which would obviously exceed the limits of the present essay. Moreover, any attempt to compress the varied experiences of Jewish life in an area extending from Iraq in the east to Morocco in the west into a single template is bound to fail. There is, however, one factor that played a crucial role in determining the fate of the Jews in Arab lands in all times and places. This, “the single most important element of unity,” in the words of historian Norman Stillman, was Islam.   9

The Muslims’ conduct toward the Jews was determined to a great extent by the guiding principles of their faith. Believers were required to humiliate non-Muslims living under their rule, as befits those who reject the divine truth. And yet, until modern times, the Islamic debasement of the Jews was distinct from the virulent hatred that characterized European Judeophobia. Bernard Lewis emphasizes that…….

…….in contrast to Christian antisemitism, the Muslim attitude toward non-Muslims is one not of hate or fear or envy but simply of contempt. This is expressed in various ways…. The negative attributes ascribed to the subject religions and their followers are usually expressed in religious and social terms, very rarely in ethnic or racial terms, though this does sometimes occur…. The conventional epithets are apes for Jews and pigs for Christians.10

As non-Muslim subjects of the Muslim state, Jews were assigned the inferior status of dhimmi (“dependent”). This position ensured the protection of their lives and property, the right to practice their religion, and a degree of internal communal autonomy. In exchange for all these, however, the Jews were required to submit to various forms of legal and social discrimination.    11

There is no shortage of historical examples of this approach: In the fourteenth century, the Jews of Egypt and Syria were prohibited from living in tall buildings, raising their voices in prayer, burying their dead in graves more impressive than those of their Muslim neighbors, or filling clerical roles. If they wished to enter a public bathhouse, they had to hang a bell or copper coin around their necks.  12    Until 1912, the Jews of Morocco were forced to walk barefoot or wear straw shoes outside the Jewish quarter as a sign of respect for the Arab nation.  13   And the Shi’ite law introduced in Yemen by Zaydi imams determined that a Muslim who murdered a Jew should not be sentenced to death. Jews were obligated, moreover, to wear simple-looking clothes and to refrain from donning a headdress. And if this were not enough, many Jewish orphans were abducted by Yemen’s authorities and forced to convert.  14

Jews in non-Arab Muslim lands hardly fared better. The rise of the Shi’ite-Iranian Safavid Empire in the sixteenth century led to a rapid and violent deterioration in the status of Persian Jewry. The Muslim population instigated brutal pogroms, while the authorities, who viewed the Jews as impure, attempted to convert them by force.  15   From the end of the nineteenth century until the 1940s, Jews were forbidden to ride a horse, build a wall around their homes, own a store in the bazaar, or go out in the rain and snow, lest the water mix with their bodily fluids and defile their surroundings.  16   Jews from Iran have told of relatives who were murdered by Muslims simply because they dared to drink from a cup in a public place.  17

The rise of Arab nationalism, the Balfour Declaration, and the escalation of the Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine led to a significant deterioration in the conditions of Jews living in Muslim societies. The threat to their safety and welfare reached its peak following the Partition Plan, adopted by the UN on November 29, 1947. In a discussion held by a political committee of the UN General Assembly five days before the resolution was passed, the representative from Egypt, Mohamed Hussein Heykal, explained how the plan would affect the future of Jews in the Arab world:

The United Nations… should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in Muslim countries. Partition of Palestine might create antisemitism in those countries even more difficult to root out than the antisemitism which the Allies tried to eradicate in Germany…. If the United Nations decides to partition Palestine, it might be responsible for very grave disorders and for the massacre of a large number of Jews.… Riots would break out in Palestine, would spread through all the Arab states and might lead to a war between two races.  18

The threat indeed came to pass: With the encouragement of the authorities, a tidal wave of antisemitism surged through the Arab countries. To be sure, the violence did not come as a complete surprise to the Jews living there: The hostility toward the Jews in Iraq, for example, had already exacted a bloody toll. In 1941, during the holiday of Shavuot, a pogrom known as the “Farhud” took place in Baghdad. During the riots, over 150 Jews, including infants, were brutally murdered, and many hundreds were injured; women were raped, homes were plundered, stores and businesses were looted, and thousands of families were left homeless. 19

On May 15, 1948, immediately following Israel’s declaration of independence, Iraq went to war against the Jewish state; at home, the military regime began to systematically persecute its Jewish citizens. Hundreds were fired from public service, and draconian restrictions were placed on Jewish merchants, leading to severe deterioration in the economic state of the community. Jews were denied basic health and sanitation services, and required to “donate” money to the military struggle against Israel.  20   Most gravely, over the next two years, hundreds of Jews were arrested on various pretexts and brought before military courts, which sentenced them to incarceration and heavy fines. Prisoners were sent to the Abu Ghraib jail south of Baghdad, where they were subjected to all manner of torture.  21   One of the wealthiest Jews of Iraq, Shafiq Ades—himself hardly a supporter of Zionism—was charged with subversion; after a show trial, and despite international pressure to commute his sentence, Ades was hanged in September 1948 outside his home in the city of Basra. For many Iraqi Jews, the incident was a grim reminder of their situation, and a sign that they should seek a future elsewhere.  22

In March 1950, Iraq allowed Jews to leave the country on condition that they relinquish their citizenship. Those who left were forced to sell their property for a negligible price, since they were forbidden to leave Iraq with more than 50 dinars (equivalent to about $200 at the time) and a few personal possessions. A year later, the Iraqi government confiscated the assets of tens of thousands of Jews who had applied for emigration to Israel but had not yet managed to leave. By the end of that year, approximately 90 percent of the 135,000 Jews living in Iraq had left, leaving behind a wealth of possessions and enormous capital.  23

During and after the Six Day War, hatred toward the Jews reared its ugly head once more, again with the active encouragement of the Iraqi government. The state press, television, and radio all engaged in vigorous anti-Jewish incitement. Telephone lines in Jewish homes were cut, Jewish-owned businesses were shut down, Jews were fired from their jobs, and dozens more were arrested on charges of collaboration with the Zionist enemy.  24   In 1969, nine Jews were hanged in Baghdad and two more in Basra on charges of spying for Israel.  25   Afterward, the remainder of Iraqi Jewry sought to leave the country in any way possible. In a matter of just a few decades, one of the largest and most prosperous centers of the Jewish diaspora was reduced to nothing.

The Jews of Syria came in for a similar fate. The community’s ranks had already been dwindling steadily in the years before the establishment of the Jewish state: Whereas in the 1943 census Syria had close to 30,000 Jews, only five years later the number had shrunk by a third, standing at only 20,000.  26   Then, on December 1, 1947, two days after the UN Assembly’s partition resolution, riots broke out in the Jewish neighborhood of Halab (Aleppo). One hundred and fifty homes, fifty stores and offices, five schools, and eighteen synagogues were damaged or destroyed.  27   In August 1948, thirteen Jews, among them eight children, were killed in violent clashes in the Jewish quarter in Damascus.  28   Similar incidents, which occurred throughout the War of Independence, took the lives of dozens more Jews across the country.

In early 1949, the Syrian government ordered all banks to freeze Jews’ accounts and provide detailed lists of their assets.  29    Some of these assets, including homes, were expropriated and handed over to Palestinian refugees, who were housed in the Jewish ghetto in Damascus. The Jewish community also lost the Alliance Isralite Universelle school, which was reallocated to serve the needs of the Palestinian refugees’ children. A French diplomat who protested to the authorities was told that the Syrian Jews must compensate the Arabs who had been expelled by the Zionists in Palestine.  30

By the end of 1949, approximately two-thirds of Syrian Jews were forced to leave the country due to repeated harassment. From the testimony of those Jews who arrived in Israel in 1953, we know that “the mental anguish [of those who remained] was unbearable. They did not dare to leave their homes after dark, and stone-throwing at synagogues and houses was routine…. No less severe was their treatment by the three branches of the [country’s] internal security service.… Jews were frequently summoned for investigation and often even tortured.”  31

By the mid-seventies, the Jewish population of Syria had shrunk to roughly 4,000, with the remnants forced to live in ghettos in Damascus, Halab, and the township of Kamishli. The regime imposed numerous restrictions on the community: It was forbidden, for example, for Jews to venture more than three kilometers from their place of residence, to inherit money or property from their relatives, or to serve in public office. The word “Jew” was stamped in red in their passports, and their estates were confiscated. Even school exams were intentionally scheduled on Saturdays.  32   The determined efforts of the Ba’ath government to make the lives of the Jews unbearable bore fruit: According to recent estimations, only one hundred Jews remain in Syria today.

The anti-Jewish wave spilled onto the Arabian Peninsula, as well, where tens of thousands of Jews had lived before the War of Independence. On December 2, 1947, three days after the Partition Plan resolution, the Jewish community in the British colony of Aden (today part of Yemen), consisting of 7,500 people, fell victim to a bloody pogrom that lasted three days: 97 Jews were killed and 120 injured, stores and schools were looted, homes and cars were burned. Bedouin guards, sent by the colonial authorities to protect the Jews, joined the rioters until British soldiers finally intervened and brought an end to the attacks.  33

The events in Aden hastened the mass evacuation of Yemenite Jews to Israel, which began a year later as part of Operation Magic Carpet. The secret emigration of nearly 50,000 Jews from Yemen was further expedited by the drowning of two Muslim girls in a well in the city of Sana’a on December 18, 1948. The blame was placed on the Jews; a large financial penalty was imposed on the community and sixty of its members imprisoned.  34   By December 1949 the evacuation of most of Yemen’s Jews was complete.  35   Thousands more escaped the country in the early 1950s and most of those remaining left four decades later, in 1992-1993, as a result of continual oppression and deteriorating living conditions. 36

Egyptian Jewry, too, paid a high price. On November 2, 1945, the twenty-eighth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, protesters in Cairo and Alexandria attacked Jewish-owned businesses and homes. News agencies reported that protests, which had begun in the morning hours, had “become wild riots against the Jews.”  37   Repeated attempts by the mob to break into the Jewish quarter in Cairo failed, thanks to the sagacity of local Jewish youth, who had set up barricades and blocked the path of the rioters. But synagogues across the city were looted, and Torah scrolls set ablaze. 38

With the outbreak of the War of Independence, the Jews of Egypt faced a dire fate. Coinciding with the Egyptian army’s invasion of Israeli territory on May 15, 1948, approximately 600 Jews were imprisoned on charges of Zionist or communist activity and held in prison for over a year. Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmi an-Nukrashi declared that all Jews were both communists and Zionists,  39   and on May 30 the Egyptian government announced that it would commandeer the assets of any citizen “if his activities endanger the security of the state.” Following the pronouncement, extensive Jewish property was confiscated, and approximately seventy Jewish companies and businesses were nationalized. 40

In the summer of 1948, deadly attacks on Jews in the streets of Egypt’s cities intensified. 41 Between the months of May and September, 53 Jews were killed and over 150 wounded in riots and acts of vandalism.  42 The National-Zeitung newspaper, published in Basel, reported that Cairo “was entirely given over to the terror of the Arab mob… which roamed about the streets, howling and screaming ‘Yahudi, Yahudi’ [Jews]. Every European-looking person was attacked…. The worst scenes occurred in the Jewish Quarter, where the mob moved from house to house… killing hundreds of Jews.”  43

In light of this hostile atmosphere, it is not surprising that by 1950, some 20,000 Jews had left Egypt.  44   The Arab-Israeli wars hardly made things easier for those who chose to stay behind: In November 1956, after the Suez crisis, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser signed a series of orders enabling authorities to expropriate Jewish property and revoke the citizenship of anyone suspected of Zionism. Many Jewish citizens, primarily the distinguished and the wealthy among them, were arrested and deported. Over a thousand Jewish-owned factories and places of business were nationalized. In the ensuing months, nearly 35,000 Jews were expelled from Egypt, largely on ships bound for Europe.45 During the Six Day War and its aftermath, the depleted remainder of the community was forced to weather yet further persecutions. According to reports that reached Israel at the time, almost all Jewish men, except for the elderly and infirm, were placed under arrest, tortured, and humiliated, while their families hovered on the brink of starvation. By 1970, Egypt was nearly empty of Jews.46

The Jews’ departure from Libya, then under British rule, began as early as 1945, following a bloody attack on the Jewish community of Tripoli. Rumors of the Jewish massacre of Arabs and the destruction of mosques in Palestine spurred tens of thousands of Libyan Muslims to riot in Jewish neighborhoods for four days straight. Synagogues were desecrated, stores torched, houses broken into and ransacked. One hundred and thirty-three Jews were murdered and hundreds more injured. On June 12, 1948, a Muslim mob once again assaulted the Jews of Tripoli, killing fourteen.  47   The growing fear and severe financial distress left their mark: Libya was quickly emptied of its Jewish population. By the end of 1952, only 4,000 Jews remained of the 35,000 who had lived there just four years before.48 Their state only worsened after Libya joined the Arab League. In the 1950s, Libyan authorities imposed a series of restrictions on the Jewish minority, confiscated its property, denied it employment, and constrained it at every turn. The final nail in the coffin of Libyan Jewry was the antisemitic carnage that took place once more in both Tripoli and Benghazi during the Six Day War. The attacks drove the last of Libya’s Jews to flee for their lives to Italy or Israel, leaving behind property and capital that amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars.  49

In June 1948, Moroccan Jewry experienced one of the most traumatic events in its history. In a pogrom instigated by the residents of the cities of Oujda and Jerada, forty-two members of the Jewish community were killed.  50 The antisemitic outbursts did not abate in the following years: In August 1954, Muslims in the city of Petitjean (today known as Sidi Kacem) murdered six Jews and publicly burned their bodies  51; further riots occurred in the summer of 1955 in Casablanca, Mazagan, and Safi.  52 The Jewish population, which numbered close to a quarter of a million in 1947, consistently shrank through mass emigration over the course of the next two decades. Today only a few thousand Jews live in Morocco, the last remnants of the greatest of the North African Jewish communities.  53

Hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to leave their countries of origin and abandon their homes, their property, and at times even their family and friends sustained a severe trauma, from which many struggled to recover. For the Arab world, by contrast, the elimination of the centuries-old Jewish communities that had flourished in its midst was quite an accomplishment. “The Arab governments and societies were generally glad to be rid of their Jewish communities,” writes historian Benny Morris:

At base, there was the traditional religious alienation, unease, and animosity. And against the backdrop of the Palestine war, there was vengefulness and genuine fear of the Jews’ potential subversiveness; the Jews were identified with Zionism and Israel. As well, Arab states derived massive economic benefit from the confiscations of property that accompanied the exodus, though the wealthier emigrants, from Baghdad and Egypt, managed to take out some of their assets. But the vast majority… lost everything or almost everything. They arrived in Israel penniless or almost penniless.  54

The catastrophic fate that befell the Jewish communities in Arab lands not only wrought havoc on countless individuals and families. It also magnified the tragic aspect of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Over the years, various elements in the international community have raised the idea of reparations for Jewish refugees from Arab countries within the framework of a comprehensive peace agreement. And yet it was Israel, where most of the exiled and dispossessed Jews found their home, which consistently shied away from any active role in promoting such an arrangement.

Already at an early stage, the plight of the Jews in Arab lands was tied to the fate of the Palestinian refugees. In July 1949, for instance, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Said suggested a “voluntary exchange” between the two populations.  55   Two years later, in 1951, Israel requested that the U.S. government exert its influence to prevent the appropriation of Jewish property in Iraq. In response, American ambassador Monnett Bain Davis drew a parallel between that property and the assets left behind by the Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948, emphasizing that “an effective act by the Israeli government… to hasten the transfer of frozen assets of Arab residents… will make it possible to consider appealing to the Iraqi government in the matter of a parallel settlement for the assets of Jews there.”  56

The American ambassador’s proposal did not fall on deaf ears. The idea of settling both the Palestinian refugees’ predicament and the problem of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands through an exchange of population, assets, and land was discussed in Israel a number of times and in various governmental fora, but never came to anything.  57   In the end, after the attempts to salvage the property of the Jewish community in Iraq failed, Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett announced in the Knesset on March 19, 1951:

By freezing the property of tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants to Israel… the government of Iraq invited a reckoning between itself and the State of Israel. An account already existed between us and the Arabs regarding compensation due to Arabs who left the territory of Israel…. The act now perpetuated by Iraq with regard to the property of Jews… compelled us to link the two accounts. The Israeli government therefore has decided to inform the appropriate United Nations institutions—and I hereby make this public—that the value of Jewish property frozen in Iraq will be taken into account with regard to the compensation we may have undertaken to pay Arabs who abandoned property in Israel.  58

At that time, Israel began registering Jewish property left behind in Arab lands, particularly in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.  59   Yet this painstaking archival work never evolved into an overt political or legal initiative.  60   Indeed, Israeli representatives even stressed, on numerous occasions, that there was no basis for comparison between the Jews of Arab lands, especially those from Iraq, and the Palestinian refugees. In a letter sent to the UN’s Reconciliation Commission in 1951, Foreign Ministry Director General Walter Eytan stated that “the Palestinian Arabs who left the country and abandoned their property in 1948 joined hands with the neighboring Arab countries in attacking the Jewish state, with the declared objective of destroying the Jewish community and preventing the establishment of the state. The case of Iraqi Jews is entirely different: They were not involved in any act of aggression against the government or the Iraqi people.

The international community, for its part, repeatedly expressed its willingness to grant the Jews expelled from Arab lands official refugee status and treat them accordingly. 62   In 1957, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, August Lindt, declared that the Jews of Egypt who are “unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of the government of their nationality” fall, in his opinion, under the mandate of his office.  63 A decade later, the commission’s senior legal counsel wrote to the Joint Distribution Committee that the Jews who had fled Arab countries due to persecution engendered by the Six Day War were considered, ostensibly, refugees.  64   Resolution 242, adopted by the UN Security Council in November 1967, stated that a comprehensive agreement would be necessary for “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.”  65   Arthur Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to the UN at the time and one of the drafters of the resolution, later wrote that “this language presumably refers both to Arab and Jewish refugees, for about an equal number of each abandoned their homes as a result of the several wars.”  66   Shortly before Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem, American president Jimmy Carter also expressed his position on the subject for the first time: On October 27, 1977, Carter stated that the Jewish refugees “have the same rights as others do.”67 And on June 3, 2005, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin declared that “a refugee is a refugee and that the situation of Jewish refugees from Arab lands must be recognized.”  68

Some of the voices that called for recognition of the injustice came from within the Arab world itself. In an article published in the An-Nahar newspaper in May 1975, leading PLO official Sabri Jiryis pointedly criticized the Arab states for expelling the Jews “in a most ugly fashion, and after confiscating their possessions or taking control thereof at the lowest price.” He added that “clearly, Israel will raise the question in all serious negotiations that may in time be conducted over the rights of the Palestinians.”  69   In a similar tone, Egyptian journalist Nabil Sharaf Eldin wrote in a column published in 2008 in the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that “we owe our Egyptian Jewish brothers a historic apology for the injustice we caused them, for causing a community, whose roots in the land of Egypt go back to the prophet Musa (Moses)… to disappear.”  70

The question of the status of Jewish refugees from Arab lands arose once again in the summer of 2000, during the Camp David summit attended by Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The summit’s host, U.S. President Bill Clinton, was asked by an Israeli interviewer about the matter of Jewish refugees. “If there is an agreement… there will have to be some sort of international fund set up for the refugees,” he told the interviewers, and added, “There is, I think, some interest, interestingly enough, on both sides, in also having a fund which compensates the Israelis who were made refugees by the war, which occurred after the birth of the State of Israel. Israel is full of people, Jewish people, who lived in predominantly Arab countries who came to Israel because they were made refugees in their own land.”  71

Clinton’s was a show of goodwill; it was the Israeli diplomats who, paradoxically, were more reserved. Their draft for the permanent settlement declared that “The Parties agree that a just settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict should settle the claims by Jewish individuals and committees that left Arab countries or parts of Mandatory Palestine due to the 1948 War and its aftermath.”  72  The cautious formulation effectively unhinged the issue of the Jews from Arab lands from the refugee problem, linking it instead to the future resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But this position, too, was quickly abandoned by the Jewish state with the renewal of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians at the Taba summit in January 2001. In response to a Palestinian document on the question of the refugees, Israel announced that “Although the issue of compensation to former Jewish refugees from Arab countries is not part of the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement, in recognition of their suffering and losses, the Parties pledge to cooperate in pursuing an equitable and just resolution to the issue.”  73  In direct contrast to this statement, however, Israel went on to agree that the Arab countries ought to be compensated for the many years in which they had “hosted” the Palestinian refugees. Thus, in an astonishing ploy of self-defeat, Israel severed the claims of Jews from Arab lands from any future settlement with the Palestinians—but allowed the interests of the Arab side to stand.

As has happened more than once, the American House of Representatives assumed a more hawkish position on this topic than did Israel itself. Resolution 185, which it adopted on April 1, 2008, noted that “the Palestinian refugee issue has received considerable attention from countries of the world, while the issue of Jewish refugees from the Arab and Muslim worlds has received very little attention.” The House urged the U.S. president to instruct American officials to use their power and influence to ensure that any decision about the future of the Palestinian refugees “include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees.”  74

Two years later, Israel’s Knesset followed suit. On February 22, 2010, it passed a law to safeguard “the rights to compensation of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.” The law determined that “as part of the negotiations to achieve peace in the Middle East, the government shall raise the issue of compensation to Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran for the loss of property, specifically the assets owned by the Jewish community in these countries.”  75

Indeed, something has changed in Israel’s attitude. Previously, its policy had been based on the assumption that, within a comprehensive peace agreement to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, both sides would present their financial claims regarding property loss, such that each would offset the other.  76   From interviews with public figures and senior officials, however, it would seem that this approach has lately been abandoned in favor of a demand for actual compensation: “Our position at present is that the Jews from Arab lands must receive money at the end of the process,” says Aharon Mor, senior director for restitution of rights and Jewish property in the Ministry for Senior Citizens. And according to former MK Rafi Eitan, who chairs the National Council for Jewish Restitution, “If tomorrow morning it would be announced that X billions are handed over to the Palestinian refugees, the same amount must also be given to the Jewish refugees. The solution is to establish one joint fund, and each side will distribute the money.”  77

Time will tell whether this new approach will have an actual effect on official policy. One thing is certain, however: The problem will not simply go away. Sooner or later, the government of Israel will need to decide how to handle the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands (and their descendants). And yet, a change of policy, essential as it may be, won’t answer one niggling question: Why did it take so long?

There is no one explanation as to why the state authorities in particular and the Israeli public in general have been inclined to turn a blind eye to one of the most painful chapters in modern Jewish history. Indeed, from interviews with key officials in both past and present Israeli governments, as well as a review of numerous primary and secondary sources, it becomes clear that there are in fact a number of reasons for this infuriating indifference. Some are understandable, while others are far more difficult to swallow.

The first and perhaps most exculpatory point to be made concerns the technical problem of obtaining the relevant information. Many countries, including Israel, grant researchers access to archives and records, even if they were formerly classified. Not so the Arab world: Important documents and primary sources concerning decisions of the Arab League and the activities of Arab states in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the precise registration of personal and communal property, are extremely difficult to come by—if not completely inaccessible.

But there were also other, more principled motives for Israel’s policy on the subject. First, in contrast to the situation that still prevails on the Palestinian side, there is currently no “problem” of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Although these Jews were initially considered refugees in the wake of their hasty departure from their countries of origin, the State of Israel made every effort to ease their burden, from the granting of immediate citizenship upon arrival to wide-ranging support services, such as assistance in housing and employment. True, this aid did not always bear the desired fruit; frequently clumsy and at times humiliating, the state’s efforts were met with accusations of discrimination that are still heard today from both the immigrants and their children. Yet unlike the Arab regimes and the Palestinian national movement, the Jewish state had no interest in perpetuating the refugee situation.  78   Consequently, while in the early 1950s Israel established transit camps to house new immigrants temporarily, there is today no Jewish parallel to the Palestinian refugee camps.

Second, the Jewish immigrants themselves did their utmost to rebuild their lives in their new country, even though many arrived in Israel in a state of economic and emotional devastation.  79   They had no reason to believe they would receive any kind of compensation  80:  As Israel lacked diplomatic relations with the countries from which these Jews had fled, there was no addressee for their claims. (Even Egypt, in this case, was no exception. Though the Israel-Egypt peace agreement stated that a “claims commission for the mutual settlement of all financial claims” would be established, no such body was ever created.  81

Yet another motive for keeping quiet on the subject was the legitimate concern for the well-being of those Jews who remained in Arab countries. True, the plight of these Jews was raised from time to time as a humanitarian issue, primarily as a result of the virulent antisemitism that spread throughout the Arab world in the wake of the Six Day War. Even then, however, Israeli officials were worried that discussing the problem in public would merely exacerbate it.  82

The precautionary stance taken by the Ministry of Finance only complicated matters. For years officials charged with addressing the problem assumed it would eventually be resolved by a future settlement that would “balance out” the financial claims of both Jewish and Palestinian refugees. At the same time, Finance Ministry executives feared that the Palestinian property in question would turn out to be of greater value than Jewish assets; no less worrisome was the possibility that the refusal of the Arab governments to recognize their former citizens’ claims would prompt the Jewish refugees to turn to the Israeli government for compensation.  83

The Foreign Ministry had reservations of its own. The common perception in diplomatic corridors was that, in any dialogue with an Arab counterpart, Israel must focus first and foremost on the question of security; everything else was secondary. Moreover, official Israeli representatives preferred not to raise the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands for fear this might trigger a discussion of the “right of return.” Let sleeping dogs lie, they seemed to think, hoping that if Israel refrained from mentioning refugees, the Palestinians would do the same.  84   And indeed, with the signing of the Oslo accords, Israeli negotiators labored under the impression that the Palestinians’ central demand was the establishment of a sovereign state within the 1967 borders, and that the return of refugees to their pre-1948 estates was less critical. It is hardly surprising, then, that Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin decided, in the year 2000, to fire Ya’akov Meron, who since 1969 had headed the department tasked with registering these Jews’ claims.  85

Israeli expectations, however, proved unfounded. The Palestinians brought up the refugee question repeatedly, in each round of negotiations. The issue was also mentioned in the 2002 Saudi initiative, which is considered at present to be the official Arab position.  86   And just last year, dispelling any hope some Israelis may still harbor, Saeb Erekat, one of the senior Palestinian negotiators, clarified that “no leader will agree to surrender the right of return and obliterate the Palestinian narrative.”  87

These facts notwithstanding, there is perhaps a deeper—and far more troubling—reason that Israeli discourse has marginalized one of the worst tragedies in Jewish history. This reason is inextricably bound up with the internal contradictions that have characterized Zionism since its very inception. The Zionist movement, as is well known, sought to resolve the “Jewish problem” once and for all through the establishment of a safe haven for the persecuted Jews. Zionism’s founding fathers understood that the systematic oppression of the Jews throughout history was the result of their having been a weak minority in their places of residence. To put an end to this state of affairs, Zionism aimed to create a sovereign political entity in which Jews could determine their own fate, without being dependent on the goodwill of other nations.

Yet despite this unconcealed motive, Zionism preferred to couch its vision in terms of “redemption,” a “return to the land,” or the “renewing of past glory.”  88   The desire to grant the Zionist project a strong and proud veneer inevitably led to the obfuscation of the most obvious historical justification for the establishment of the State of Israel—the suffering endured by the Jewish people throughout the generations. To admit to such a motive was seen as a sign of weakness, of wretchedness; it is thus only alluded to in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and even then only in reference to the Holocaust.  89

Occasional public debates concerning the Jews of Arab lands echo this internal contradiction. While some of these Jews and their descendants have insisted on their rights, even defining themselves as former refugees,  90   others were vehemently opposed to such a stance. When in 1975 Mordechai Ben-Porat, an Iraqi-born member of Knesset, insisted on discussing the matter of “the legitimate rights of Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries,” his speech was interrupted by fellow party-member and Iraqi native Haviv Shimoni, who claimed that “the Jews are not refugees. They came of their own free will.”91

In another discussion that took place in the Knesset in 1987, a similar argument revolved around the definition of a “refugee.” This time, it began with an implied accusation that Ashkenazi Jews apply the derogatory title only to Sephardim, defining themselves instead as “Zionist pioneers.” In the heated discussion that ensued, Iraqi-born MK Ran Cohen wondered:

Are we refugees? I do not feel like a refugee…. Can anyone say that we, Jews from Arab lands, came here only as a result of negative factors, and the power of Zionism, the gravitational pull of this land, and the idea of redemption played no role for us?…

MK David Magen: In terms of international law, the Jews who escaped from Arab lands destitute and penniless are refugees.

Cohen: Is that true also of the immigration from Poland?

MK Eliahu Ben Elissar: A person who comes as a pioneer is not a refugee…. The status of refugee has a definition—a refugee is someone who was expelled following malicious proceedings and persecution… it is in no way a disgrace. There are Jewish refugees from Poland and there are Jewish refugees from Morocco…. Under no circumstances should we relate to refugee status as something that is embarrassing, shameful.  92

Cohen’s remarks are a striking instance of the “sovereignty” narrative, which finds it difficult to regard the suffering and loss that spurred so many Jews to leave the diaspora as a fitting “Zionist” motive. And indeed, the advantages of this narrative are obvious: An ideology of refugeeism tends to engender frustration and bitterness among those who cling to it; moreover, it is often self-perpetuating. One need only observe the victim mentality in which Palestinian society still wallows to realize the harm it can cause.

At the same time, however, the insistence on ignoring the fear and desperation that drove so many Jews to leave their homes behind and relocate to entirely foreign surroundings not only obscures one of the driving forces behind the Zionist revolution. It also rewrites history. True, some Jews from Arab countries immigrated to Israel even before the situation at home deteriorated so dramatically, just as some Jews would undoubtedly have come even if life in their countries of origin had not become unbearable. Yet there is no denying that the vast majority of Jews who chose to flee the diaspora, whether from Arab countries or elsewhere, did so because they suffered severe persecution and discrimination there. Ultimately, with the exception of Jews from Western democracies such as the U.S., Canada, or Britain (and to a decreasing degree today, France), the lion’s share of both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews in Israel are either refugees or their descendants. And this definition holds true whether they immigrated to Israel following a pogrom in Kishinev or in Baghdad.

Fortunately, there have been signs of change of late in Israel’s approach to the calamity that befell the Jews of the Arab world. Perhaps the most visible shift is the state’s new position vis-à-vis the compensation to which these Jews are entitled for the substantial property they left behind. The loss of property, however, devastating though it was, is only a small part of a much larger story: that of a centuries-old diaspora, which was utterly destroyed by the determined and violent Arab opposition to Zionism. Yes, the Jews, persecuted and humiliated by the Arab authorities and their Muslim neighbors alike, found a new home in Israel. But a shattered life can often be difficult to piece back together. The fact that their voice has not been heard and their stories not told certainly has not helped relieve their pain.

Arab states, which bear the responsibility both for destroying the Jewish communities in their lands and for creating the Palestinian refugee problem—which came about as a direct result of their rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan—not only refuse to recognize the role they played in these tragedies, but also continue to cultivate a fictitious depiction of Israel as a colonial project, essentially foreign to the region in which it is located. In so doing, the Arab world adds insult to injury: After casting out the Jews, who had lived for many hundreds of years in its midst, it now denounces them as invaders. It is probably no coincidence that the American journalist (of Lebanese origin) Helen Thomas recently called for the Jews to “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to “Poland, Germany, and America”  93  —and not, pointedly, to Iraq or Egypt. Thomas is apparently unaware that millions of Israelis descended from Jews who were born and raised in the Middle East and Maghreb. To where, precisely, should these Jews return?

Possibly the most powerful response to these distortions was formulated by the Tunisian-born Jewish writer and thinker Albert Memmi during a symposium in France on November 24, 1973. In the discussion, which involved prominent intellectuals and journalists as well as the ruler of Libya, Muammar Qaddafi, the latter proposed that the Jews return to his country. Memmi challenged him with a string of questions, all of which serve to refute the common misconception—still prevalent today—regarding the neighborly relations that allegedly existed between Jews and Muslims before the intervention of Zionism. “Is it true that you have said that the Jews have always lived at peace in the Arab countries? And that you have nothing against Jews, only the Zionists?” he wondered, and added:

Can it be that you seriously believe in the myth, deliberately invented for the sake of reassuring Westerners, that the Jews led idyllic lives in the Arab countries?… The truth is that we lived lives of fear and degradation in Arab countries. I will not take the time here to recite another litany, that of the massacres that preceded Zionism, but I can make it available to you whenever you wish. The truth is that these young Jews from the Arab countries were Zionists before Auschwitz. The State of Israel is not a result of Auschwitz, but of the Jewish predicament at large, including its predicament in Arab countries.  94

As Memmi points out, the tragedy of the Jews from Arab countries is an inseparable part of the Zionist story, and the suffering that was their lot for many hundreds of years—and even more so during the past seven decades—grants undeniable moral validity to the existence of the Jewish state. The time has long since come for that Jewish state to proclaim as much to the world.


1. This testimony, cited anonymously in order to maintain privacy, is kept today in the Ministry for Senior Citizens. My thanks to Aharon Mor, senior director of the Department for the Restitution of Rights and Jewish Property in the ministry, and to Orly Rahimiyan, the department’s adviser on research and documentation of the rights of Jews from Arab countries and Iran, for the opportunity to study these documents.

2. The testimony appears in Ya’akov Meron, “The Explosion in the Karaite Jewish Quarter in Cairo on June 19, 1948,” Pe’amim 70 (Winter 1997), p. 154 [Hebrew].

3. One notable exception is journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, who dedicated a long polemical essay to the subject. See Ben-Dror Yemini, “The Jewish Nakba: Expulsions, Massacres, and Forced Conversions,” Maariv, May 16, 2009 [Hebrew]. An English version of the essay may be found at

4. This finding is based on an examination of the search engines of all six Israeli universities’ libraries. For the doctoral dissertation, see Arye Cohen, “Jews of Syria and Lebanon: Their State and the Struggle to Save Them, 1930-2000” (Ph.D. diss., University of Haifa, 2003) [Hebrew].

5. The platforms of four parties address the “Palestinian refugee problem.” Two others, those of Meretz and Balad, address the “refugee problem.” See the website of the Israel Democracy Institute, [Hebrew].

6. In this context, it is nevertheless worth noting two organizations that are engaged in vigorous public activity on the subject: Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), founded in 2002, and the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC), established in 1975 with the goal of “bringing to the world’s consciousness the stories of approximately one million Jews from Arab countries and the Muslim states, who were forced to flee as a result of a policy of persecution, incarceration, and pogroms both due to their being Jewish and due to the establishment of the State of Israel.” WOJAC, which seeks to claim the rights of these Jews, has initiated a number of international congresses on the subject. See the detailed and valuable information on the organization’s website, [Hebrew].

7. Various estimates as to the precise numbers exist. In a session devoted to the Jews of Arab lands in the Herzliya Conference in February 2009, the director of Yad Ben-Zvi, Zvi Zameret, estimated that before the establishment of the State of Israel there were 135,000 Jews in Iraq, 65,000 in Egypt, 30,000 in Syria, 7,000 in Lebanon, 7,500 in Aden, 35,000 in Libya, 50,000 in Tunisia, and 250,000 in Morocco. See Zvi Zameret, “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries and Other Muslim Lands,” lecture at Herzliya Conference, February 3, 2009, [Hebrew]. To these numbers, one can add 50,000 Jews living in Yemen and 150,000 in Algeria, according to the assessment of Ya’akov Meron, adviser on the Law of Arab Countries at the Ministry of Justice, in a letter sent to the deputy minister of justice on August 1, 1974. See “Registry of Jewish Property in Arab Lands,” statistical appendix, Israel State Archives 43/6693/8-ג. The JJAC organization estimates that the number of Jews living in Arab countries in 1948 was 856,000. See “The Displacement of Jews from Arab Countries:


8. An important work on the subject was recently published by the British historian Martin Gilbert. See Martin Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands (New Haven: Yale, 2010).

9. Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1979), p. 108.

10. Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton: Princeton, 1987), p. 33.

11. On the dhimmi status, see Philippe Fargues, “Demographic Islamization: Non-Muslim Minorities in Muslim Countries,” SAIS Review 21:2 (Summer-Fall 2001), pp. 103-116; P.R. Kumaraswamy, “Islam and Minorities: Need for a Liberal Framework,” Mediterranean Quarterly 18:3 (Summer 2007), pp. 94-109; Maurice M. Roumani, “The Silent Refugees: Jews from Arab Countries,” Mediterranean Quarterly 14:3 (Summer 2003), pp. 41-77; Daniel J. Schroeter and Joseph Chetrit, “Emancipation and Its Discontents: Jews at the Formative Period of Colonial Rule in Morocco,” Jewish Social Studies 13:1 (Fall 2006), pp. 170-206.

12. Reuven Kashani, “Jews of Arab Lands: Truth and Legend,” Kivunim 5 (Fall 1979), pp. 139-140 [Hebrew].

13. Kashani, “Jews of Arab Lands,” p. 144.

14. David Sitton, Spanish and Eastern Jewish Communities of the World in Our Time (Jerusalem: Council of the Sephardi Community, 1974), p. 12 [Hebrew].

15. See Walter Joseph Fischel, “The Jews in Medieval Iran (Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries): Political, Economic, and Communal Aspects,” Pe’amim 6 (1980), pp. 5-31 [Hebrew].

16. David Menashri, “The Jews of Iran: Between the Pahlavi Monarchy and the Islamic Republic,” in Haim Saadon, ed., Jewish Communities in the East in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Iran (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2006), pp. 56-57 [Hebrew].

17. Zameret, “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries,” p. 1.

18. United Nations, Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly, Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, summary records of meeting, 25 September - 25 November 1947, Lake Success, N.Y., p. 185. Quoted in Ya’akov Meron, “The Expulsion of the Jews from the Arab Countries: The Palestinians’ Attitude Towards It and Their Claims,” in Malka Hillel Shulewitz, ed., The Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands (London: Continuum, 1999), p. 84.

19. On the Farhud, see Esther Meir-Glitzenstein, “The Baghdad Pogrom: June 1-2, 1941,” Pe’amim 8 (1981), pp. 21-37 [Hebrew]; Nissim Kazzaz, “Report of the Governmental Commission of Inquiry on the Events of June 1-2, 1941,” Pe’amim 8 (1981), pp. 46-59 [Hebrew]; “Documents on the Baghdad Pogrom and the Response of the Yishuv in Palestine,” Pe’amim 8 (1981), pp. 60-91 [Hebrew].

20. In this context, see Itamar Levin, Locked Doors: The Seizure of Jewish Property in Arab Countries (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, 2001), pp. 49-62 [Hebrew]; Dafna Zimhoni, “The Government of Iraq and the Mass Aliya of Jews to Israel,” Pe’amim 39 (1989), pp. 66-68 [Hebrew].

21. Government of Israel Intelligence Services, Government Press Office report, October 23, 1949, Israel State Archives 130/2451/11-חצ [Hebrew].

22. On the Shafiq Ades affair, see, among others, Nissim Kazzaz, “The Jews in Their Surroundings,” in Haim Saadon, ed., Jewish Communities in the East in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Iraq (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Yad Ben-Zvi, 2002), p. 26 [Hebrew]; Yossi Alfi, “Making a Joke of History,” Ynet, May 21, 2008,,7340,L-3545179,00.html [Hebrew]. On the intervention of the U.S. State Department in the affair, see the letter written by Eliyahu Eilat (Epstein) to Moshe Shertok (Sharett) on September 25, 1948, Israel State Archives 130/2451/11-חצ [Hebrew].

23. On the period between March 1950 and March 1951, during which almost all of the Jews left Iraq, see Esther Meir-Glitzenstein, “The Riddle of the Mass Emigration from Iraq: Causes, Circumstances, and Consequences,” Pe’amim 71 (Spring 1997), pp. 25-54 [Hebrew].

24. Foreign Ministry to representatives of Israel around the world, “The State of the Jews in Arab Countries,” September 14, 1967, Israel State Archives 93/1396/20-חצ [Hebrew].

25. Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 295-296. See also the WOJAC website, [Hebrew]. The website also presents the detailed testimony of Salima Gabai, wife of Fouad Gabai, one of the Jews falsely charged and hanged. See [Hebrew].

26. Yaron Harel, “Demography,” in Yaron Hared, ed., Jewish Communities in the East in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Syria (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Yad Ben-Zvi, 2009), p. 30 [Hebrew].

27. Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 211-212.

28. Michael M. Laskier, “In the Shadow of the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Arab Nationalism: Muslim-Jewish Relations in Syria, 1948-1970,” Pe’amim 66 (Winter 1996), p. 77 [Hebrew].

29. Laskier, “In the Shadow,” pp. 77-78.

30. Meron, “Expulsion of the Jews,” pp. 34-35.

31. Laskier, “In the Shadow,” p. 83.

32. Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 303-304; Meron, “Expulsion of the Jews,” p. 50.

33. See, on this subject, Reuven Aharoni, The Jews of Aden: The Community That Was (Tel Aviv: Afikim, 1991), pp. 333-342 [Hebrew]; Haim Saadon, “‘The Palestinian Element’ in Violent Eruptions Between Jews and Muslims in Muslim Countries,” Pe’amim 63 (Spring 1995), pp. 94-95 [Hebrew]. On the Jewish community in Yemen, see also WOJAC's website, [Hebrew].

34. Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, p. 232; Haim Saadon, “Longing for Zion and Immigration,” in Haim Saadon, ed., Jewish Communities in the East in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Yemen (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Yad Ben-Zvi, 2002), p. 122 [Hebrew].

35. In this context, see Dov Levitan, “‘On Wings of Eagles’: The Immigration from Yemen and from Aden,” in Haim Saadon, ed., Open and Secret: The Great Waves of Immigration from Muslim Countries (1948-1967) (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Yad Ben-Zvi, 2000), pp. 31-42 [Hebrew].

36. More information on the plight of the last of Yemen’s Jews is available in the fascinating article by journalist Boaz Bismuth, who visited the country in March 2010. See Boaz Bismuth, “Get Us Out of Here,” Israel Hayom, March 29, 2010 [Hebrew].

37. “Three Days of Pogroms for Egyptian Jewry,” Davar, November 4, 1945 [Hebrew].

38. Kashani, “Jews of Arab Lands,” p. 144.

39. Haggai Erlich, “Egypt and Its Jews,” in Nahem Ilan, ed., Jewish Communities in the East in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Egypt (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Yad Ben-Zvi, 2008), p. 22 [Hebrew].

40. Zameret, “Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries,” p. 3.

41. Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 226-227.

42. Saadon, “Palestinian Element,” p. 92.

43. Quoted in Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War (New Haven: Yale, 2009), p. 413.

44. For more on the twilight period of the Jewish community in Egypt, see Gurdun Kהamer, “Zionism in Egypt, 1917-1948,” Pe’amim 16 (1983), pp. 107-127 [Hebrew]; Robert L. Tignor, “The Egyptian Jewish Community and Zionism,” Pe’amim 16 (1983), pp. 29-106 [Hebrew]; Adi Schwartz, “This Was Their Home,” Haaretz, December 28, 2007 [Hebrew].

45. Meron, “Expulsion of the Jews,” p. 36; for the chronicles of the Jews of Egypt between 1951 and 1969, see Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 251-264.

46. Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 288-292.

47. See Yaacov Hagag-Liluf, “The Pogroms in Libya (1945, 1948, 1967): Background, Process, Results, and Reactions,” World Organization of Libyan Jews, [Hebrew].

48. See Yaacov Hagag-Liluf, “Immigration and Demography of Libyan Jews,” World Organization of Libyan Jews, [Hebrew].

49. See Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 272-274, 283-286; Yaacov Hagag-Liluf, “The Jews in the Era of Independent Libya,” World Organization of Libyan Jews, [Hebrew].

50. Saadon, “Palestinian Element,” pp. 105-115.

51. Yaron Tsur, “Jews in the Colonial Era,” in Haim Saadon, ed., Jewish Communities in the East in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Morocco (Jerusalem: Ministry of Education and Yad Ben-Zvi, 2003), p. 75 [Hebrew].

52. Haim Saadon, “The Immigration of the Jews of Morocco: Stages and Characteristics,” in Jewish Communities: Morocco, p. 119 [Hebrew].

53. On the Jews of Morocco see, among others, Agnes Bensimon, Hassan II and the Jews: The Story of the Clandestine Immigration from Morocco (Paris: Seuil, 1991) [French]; Uziel Hazan, In a Nutshell: A Play in Three Acts (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1998) [Hebrew]; Shmuel Segev, Operation Yechin: The Clandestine Immigration of Moroccan Jewry to Israel (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, 1984) [Hebrew].

54. Morris, 1948, pp. 414-415.

55. Zimhoni, “Government of Iraq,” p. 68. It is interesting to note that even earlier, on January 21, 1949, former President Herbert Hoover advised in a letter sent to President Harry Truman that tens of millions of dollars be invested in the rehabilitation of 500,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq (a proposal that had nothing to do with the Jews then living there). Four days later, Truman responded that he was “working on just such a plan.” See the Truman Library,, as well as

56. U.S. Government response to the letter from the Israeli Government on the matter of freezing the assets of Jews in Iraq, May 1, 1951, Israel State Archives 130/2451/11-חצ.

57. In response to the proposal to exchange lands outside the borders of the state with the local estates of absentee Palestinians, the Guardian of Absentee Assets wrote to the minister of finance, “It is legally impossible to arrange an exchange of absentees’ land under our jurisdiction for Jewish land which is not within the borders of the State of Israel,” February 24, 1950, Israel State Archives 130/2402/16-חצ [Hebrew]. In 1952, the Foreign Ministry examined the possibility of exchanging the property of Arabs who wished to emigrate from Israel for the property of Jews in Libya. See “An Integrated Proposal for Settling Arab Refugees in Libya, Recovering Jewish Property, and Emigration of Arabs from Israel to Libya,” March 31, 1952, Israel State Archives 130/2402/6-חצ [Hebrew].

58. Quoted in Levin, Locked Doors, p. 302.

59. The registery was composed by the Finance Ministry foreign claims registrar (during 1951-1956), the Public Committee for Egyptian Immigrants’ Claims Registration (1957-1959), and the Public Committee for Iraqi Immigrants’ Claims Registration (1956-1958). In September 1969, the Justice Ministry set up a department to record the claims of Jews from Arab lands (see Government Decision 34, September 28, 1969). Until August 1974, all the governmental bodies had collected 3,210 claims against Egypt, 4,852 against Iraq, 150 against Syria, 43 against Yemen, 18 against Saudi Arabia, 82 against Lebanon, and 48 against Jordan. See “Registry of Jewish Property in Arab Lands,” Israel State Archives 43/6693/8-ג. Today, all such claims are handled by the Ministry for Senior Citizens.

60. Thus, for example, in August 1957, in preparation for the UN General Assembly’s discussion later that year, Avraham Herman, later Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., said, “Lately we have made almost no public declarations regarding our claims for compensation, i.e., the claims of the refugees we have absorbed. It is a fact that in the past year the country has absorbed at least 12,000 refugees from Egypt, whose claims for compensation are many and great.” See the protocol of consultation in the Foreign Ministry ahead of the UN Assembly, August 25, 1957, Israel State Archives 130/4315/8-חצ. Five years later, Finance Minister Levi Eshkol instructed his staff “to prepare material” on the abandoned property of Jews from Arab countries. See the minutes of the consultation in the Finance Minister’s Office on the question of compensation for refugees and counterclaims, August 27, 1962, Israel State Archives 130/4315/10-חצ.

61. Foreign Ministry Director General Walter Eytan to the UN Reconciliation Commission, March 29, 1951, Israel State Archives 130/2451/11-חצ.

62. The circumstances in which those Jews were forced to leave their places of residence were consistent with the definition of “refugee” according to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The convention defines a “refugee” as a person who is found outside his country of nationality “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion… and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” See

63. Michael M. Laskier, “Egyptian Jewry Under the Nasser Regime, 1956-1970,” Middle Eastern Studies 31:3 (July 1995), pp. 573-619.

64. Dr. E. Jahn, Office of the UN High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, document no. 7/2/3/Libya, July 6, 1967.

65. For the full text of the resolution, see the UN website,

66. Arthur J. Goldberg, “Resolution 242 After Twenty Years,” in National Committee on American Foreign Policy Report, U.N. Resolution 242: Origin, Meaning, and Significance, April 2002,

67. Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, p. 327.

68. Carter’s statements at a press conference on October 27, 1977, Quoted in Gilbert, In Ishmael’s House, pp. 329-330.

69. Quoted in Meron, “Expulsion of the Jews,” p. 38.

0. Nabil Sharaf Eldin, “Jews of Our Country,” trans. Bruriah Horowitz, Ruah Mizrahit 8 (December 2008), p. 30 [Hebrew].

71. For the interview transcript, see

72. “Israeli Draft of the Framework Agreement on Permanent Status (appendix 1),” in Rex Brynen, The Past as Prelude? Negotiating the Palestinian Refugee Issue, briefing paper for Chatham House, p. 13,

73. “Israel’s Private Response to Palestinian Refugee Paper of 22 January, Taba, 23 January 2001 (Draft 2),” in Brynen, Past as Prelude? appendix 5, p. 17.

74. See H.R. Res.185, 110th Cong., 1st sess.,

75. Published in Records: Book of Laws 2232, March 3, 2010, pp. 406-407, [Hebrew]. MK Nissim Zeev’s bill and an explanation appear in Records: Bills of the Knesset 302, January 25, 2010, p. 92, [Hebrew].

76. This policy serves as a basis for sociologist Yehouda Shenhav’s conspiracy theory, according to which the State of Israel exploited Iraq’s confiscation of Jewish property in order to avoid paying compensation to the Palestinian refugees. Yet it is unclear, according to Shenhav, what Israel should have done: Compensate the Iraqi Jews out of Israeli taxpayers’ money? Compensate the Palestinians absent a comprehensive peace agreement? Shenhav often invokes the popular anti-Zionist claim that “when seeking the roots of the antagonism between Jews from Muslim lands and the Arabs,” one should examine “the manner in which the Zionist movement and the State of Israel served as an alienating agent.” For some reason, he does not even mention the violence perpetrated against the Jews of Iraq. See Yehouda Shenhav, “The Theft of Baghdad,” Haaretz, April 10, 1998 [Hebrew]; see also the response of Shlomo Hillel, “The Perfect Distortion,” Haaretz, April 29, 1998 [Hebrew].

77. Interview with Aharon Mor, formerly an official in the Ministry of Finance on matters of the property of Jews from Arab lands, August 2010; interview with Rafi Eitan, chairman of the National Council for Jewish Restitution, July 2010.

78. On the decision not to rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees and the problematic function of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (unrwa), see, for example, Adi Schwartz, “We Are to Blame,” Israel Hayom, November 5, 2010 [Hebrew].

79. The story of the Yedid (today Aharoni) family of Cairo is one of many examples. The family was forced to leave Egypt in 1949; its business was expropriated and transferred into Muslim hands, and its bank accounts seized; the father of the family suffered cardiac arrest, and his brother died of heart failure; one of the women of the family, who was elderly, refused to leave Egypt, and when she understood that she could not remain, she threw herself down the stairs and died instantly. See Schwartz, “This Was Their Home.”

80. The Ministry for Senior Citizens has at present 12,000 claims; interview with Aharon Mor.

81. “Peace Treaty Between Israel and Egypt,” art. 8, Foreign Ministry website,

82. In August 1974 the legal adviser on Arab countries, Ya’akov Meron, wrote to the deputy minister of justice that those who left Syria and Yemen seldom filed property claims, and “from our end, we did not push the registration of matters relating to Syria, out of consideration for the survivors there.” See “Registry of Jewish Property in Arab Lands,” Israel State Archives 43/6693/8-ג [Hebrew]. Two years earlier, Shmuel Divon of the Foreign Ministry wrote in a letter to Foreign Minister Abba Eban that “The authorities in Iraq prevent the release [of the Jews]… and it is also in our interest to continue the line we adopted until now of avoiding publicizing the departure as well as criticizing Iraq in the Jewish context.” See “Jews of Iraq and Syria,” February 7, 1972, Israel State Archives 43/6693/8-ג [Hebrew].

83. Interview with Aharon Mor. Evidence of this was provided in a government meeting as early as March 1951, in which MK Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit presented the claims of Iraqi Jews to the property that the Palestinian refugees had left behind in Israel. “There is no doubt that their demand regarding the Arab property in Israel has a basis,” Sheetrit said. “Their situation is a result of the creation of the State of Israel, and we must think of a way to compensate… otherwise they can justly claim: Were it not for the State of Israel, we would have lived there for hundreds of years as free men, working in trade and crafts, amassing riches and property.” Minister of Finance Eliezer Kaplan answered him: “[We should] avoid saying: ‘In fact, the Jews could have sat in peace in Iraq, but the State of Israel forced them to leave their land,’ as if they are only victims of the State of Israel.… Indeed, it is possible to go further and say that the State of Israel owes compensation to each and every person who comes to Israel.” Records of the Second Cabinet Meeting 5711, meeting 35, 311, March 15, 1951 [Hebrew].

84. Interview with Aharon Mor; interview with Zvi Gabay, former ambassador and deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry, August 2010; interview with a source who wishes to remain anonymous, August 2010.

85. Interview with Jean-Claude Nidam, adviser on Arab law in the Ministry of Justice, October 2010.

86. “Arab Peace Initiative, Beirut, 28 March 2002,” in Brynen, Past as Prelude?, appendix 7, p. 20.

87. Saeb Erekat, “It’s Time You Chose: Occupation or Settlement,” Ynet, November 3, 2010,,7340,L-3979142,00.html [Hebrew].

88. In the preface to one of the seminal texts of the Zionist movement, The Jewish State, Theodor Herzl writes that “the idea which I develop in this pamphlet is an age-old one: the establishment of a Jewish State.” When explaining why he saw fit to revive this idea, however, he writes, “What matters is the driving force. What is that force? The distress of the Jews.” Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Herzl, 1970), pp. 27-28.

89. See the Knesset website, “The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel,”

90. See, for example, the article by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, “I Am a Refugee,” Jerusalem Post, September 1, 2010.

91. Agenda proposal 901, meeting 128 of the eighth Knesset, January 1, 1975 [Hebrew].

92. Agenda proposal “The Claims of Jews from Arab Countries and Their Legitimate Rights,” meeting 356 of the eleventh Knesset, November 26, 1987.

93. Jeremy W. Peters, “Reporter Retires After Words About Israel,” New York Times, June 7, 2010.

94. Albert Memmi, Jews and Arabs (Chicago: J. Phillip O’Hara, 1976), pp. 31-34.


Legal Reports Produced by JJAC   Justice for Jews from Arab Countries

The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries   Jewish Virtual Library

Jewish Exodus from Arab and Muslim Countries - Wikipedia

The Jewish refugees from Arab lands seek justice at United Nations   Times of Israel

Fact Sheet: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries     JVN

Zionism in an Arab Country: Jews in Iraq in the 1940s    Books, Google

Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: A Case Study of the Human Rights Violations
of Iraqi Jews    Carole Basri   Fordham International Law  Journal

Jewish Communities Database     Museum of the Jewish People

Middle East Research and Information Project  MERP

Arab League and the Arab–Israeli Conflict     Wikipedia

Different sources show slightly different  figures.

But they all show the same collapse of Jewish populations  
in Arab countries.


Of the nearly 900,000 Jewish emigrants, approximately 680,000 emigrated to Israel and 235,000 to France; the remainder went to other countries in Europe as well as to the Americas..

About two thirds of the exodus was from the North Africa region, of which Morocco's Jews went mostly to Israel, Algeria's Jews went mostly to France, and Tunisia's Jews departed for both countries.








Arabs Stole
Jewish Property

A Tragedy
Shrouded in Silence
The Destruction
of the
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Jewish Refugees from
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Arab Countries

Human Rights

Arab Countries
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Middle East's



Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries

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The Jews
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