At various times, Jews in Muslim lands were able to live in relative peace and thrive culturally and economically. The position of the Jews was never secure, however, and changes in the political or social climate would often lead to persecution, violence and death. Jews were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors; peaceful coexistence between the two groups involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews.
When Jews were perceived as having achieved too comfortable a position in Islamic society, anti-Semitism would surface, often with devastating results: On December 30, 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Spain, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. The riot was incited by Muslim preachers who had angrily objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power.
Similarly, in 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier treated a Muslim woman in "an offensive manner" The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco.
Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by the Muslim ruler Idris I; North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities; Libya in 1785, where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830 and Marrakesh, Morocco, where more than 300 Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880.
Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293-4, 1301-2), Iraq (854-859, 1344) and Yemen (1676). Despite the Koran's prohibition, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 and 1790-92) and Baghdad (1333 and 1344).
As distinguished Orientalist G.E. von Grunebaum has written:
It would not be difficult to put together the names of a very sizeable number of Jewish subjects or citizens of the Islamic area who have attained to high rank, to power, to great financial influence, to significant and recognized intellectual attainment; and the same could be done for Christians. But it would again not be difficult to compile a lengthy list of persecutions, arbitrary confiscations, attempted forced conversions, or pogroms.
The situation of Jews in Arab lands reached a low point in the 19th century. Jews in most of North Africa (including Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco) were forced to live in ghettos. In Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in the Islamic Diaspora, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes of straw when outside the ghetto. Even Muslim children participated in the degradation of Jews, by throwing stones at them or harassing them in other ways. The frequency of anti-Jewish violence increased, and many Jews were executed on charges of apostasy. Ritual murder accusations against the Jews became commonplace in the Ottoman Empire.
By the twentieth century, the status of the dhimmi in Muslim lands had not significantly improved. H.E.W. Young, British Vice Consul in Mosul, wrote in 1909:
The attitude of the Muslims toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves, whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed.
The danger for Jews became even greater as a showdown approached in the UN over partition in 1947. The Syrian delegate, Faris el-Khouri, warned:
"Unless the Palestine problem is settled, we shall have difficulty in protecting and safeguarding the Jews in the Arab world."
More than a thousand Jews were killed in anti-Jewish rioting during the 1940's in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. This helped trigger the mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries
(2) ISRAEL WAR OF INDEPENDENCE/ARAB NAKBA (CATASTROPHE)
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War or the First Arab–Israeli War was fought between the State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states. In Hebrew it is known as The War of Independence (Hebrew: מלחמת העצמאות, Milkhemet Ha'Atzma'ut) or the War of Liberation (Hebrew: מלחמת השחרור, Milkhemet HaShikhrur). This war formed the second stage of the 1948 Palestine war, known in Arabic as The Nakba or Catastrophe (Arabic: النكبة, al-Nakba).
There had been tension and conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, and between each of them and the British forces, ever since the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1920 creation of the British Mandate of Palestine. British policies dissatisfied both Arabs and Jews. The Arabs' opposition developed into the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, while the Jewish resistance developed into the Jewish insurgency in Palestine (1944–1947). In 1947 these ongoing tensions erupted into civil war, following the 29 November 1947 adoption of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine which planned to divide Palestine into three areas: an Arab state, a Jewish state and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.
On 15 May 1948 the ongoing civil war transformed into an inter-state conflict between Israel and the Arab states, following the Israeli Declaration of Independence the previous day. A combined invasion by Egypt, Jordan and Syria, together with expeditionary forces from Iraq, entered Palestine - Jordan having declared privately to Yishuv emissaries on 2 May it would abide by a decision not to attack the Jewish state. The invading forces took control of the Arab areas and immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements. The 10 months of fighting, interrupted by several truce periods, took place mostly on the former territory of the British Mandate and for a short time also in the Sinai Peninsula and southern Lebanon.
As a result of the war the State of Israel retained the area that the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 had recommended for the proposed Jewish state as well as almost 60% of the area of Arab state proposed by the 1948 Partition Plan. including the Jaffa, Lydda and Ramle area, Galilee, some parts of the Negev, a wide strip along the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem road, West Jerusalem, and some territories in the West Bank. Transjordan took control of the remainder of the former British mandate, which it annexed, and the Egyptian military took control of the Gaza Strip. At the Jericho Conference on 1 December 1948, 2,000 Palestinian delegates called for unification of Palestine & Transjordan as a step toward full Arab unity." No state was created for the Palestinian Arabs.
The conflict triggered significant demographic change throughout the Middle East. Around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the area that became Israel and they became Palestinian refugees. In the three years following the war, about 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel with many of them having been expelled from their previous countries of residence in the Middle East.