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Editors Note

Reparations for Jewish exiles from Arab countries has always been present but in the background.  Those in Israel came under UNWRA for a short time after 1950 but their responsibilities were taken over after a few years by the Israel government. UNWRA was now only responsiblefor Palestinian refugees.  The Arab League decided that they should not be citizenship in Arab countries but used as a political weapon against Israel.  For this reason their demands for reparations have received a lot of publicity while those from Jewish exiles have received little.

They are now often referred to as ‘The Forgotten People’. December 2019 saw the latest Jewish demand for $150 billion reparations.  There has been no publicity (as far as I am aware) as to the response.  The effect of exiles arrival on Israel
 is shown  below

As when India was split into India and Pakistan in 1948 so the ‘refugee problem’ will be settled as a population transfer with ‘Palestinian reparations’  becoming the responsibility of Arab countries and Jewish exiles of Israel


(NB  This is a .pdf word processing file that can be used as a brochure
probably written about 2012)
Click here to go to all sections (including Educational) of this part of the site.
Click Part 1V - Resource and Reference Materials to go to the .pdf file above)

The Jews in Arab countries were reduced from

850,000 (app) in 1948 to 4,315 (est) in 2012.          

Other non-Muslim religions in the Middle East have and are still suffering,

Since 1948 Palestinian Refugees have been used as a tool
by Arab countries against Israel

The need for Palestine Refugees to return ‘home’ and/or reparation
has been highlighted in all Palestinian publicity  
for it to sink into international consciousness.  

Most Arab countries see them as second class citizens known as ‘Palestine refugees’
under a UN refugee agency that only serves them called UNRWA
(the rest of the world is served by UNHCR)

Jewish refugees were accepted as citizens and concentrated on building a new life.
Now their demands for what they lost are being heard.

Go To   Expuls  ion  to find out what happened to them


Some 850,000 Jews were forced to flee their homes in Arab countries
 across the Middle East in the days leading up to
and following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Jerusalem Post Staff, Sam Sokol, December 22, 2019

Iraqi Jewish refugees stand in a refugee absorpton camp. established in Israel in 1950.

(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Israeli government, or lack there of, is seeking $150 billion in compensation for property left behind by Jewish refugees from Arab nations and Iran who were exiled from their homes when the State of Israel was founded, according to Israel Hayom.

The largest payment being demanded by Israel is from Iran who they claim owe the Jewish people $31.3 billion. Libya owes the second largest payment of $6.7 billion, followed by Yemen with a $2.6 debt, Syria with a $1.4 billion debt and Aden (which at one point was separate from the rest of Yemen) with a $700 million debt.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel and the National Security Council worked together for several years to calculate the conservative estimates without considering the difference in value between the dollar before 1948 and the current value of the dollar. This is the first time that the value of the abandoned property has been calculated by the State of Israel. The methods used to calculate the value of the property were similar to the methods used by the Palestinians, according to Israel Hayom.

The calculations took into account land, real estate in cities and villages, business value, loss of income and income potential, movable property and Jewish public and community property.

Gamliel is expected to present the findings to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the National Security Council looks over the details.

"This is no less than the start of a correction of the historic injustice, within which it is possible to return to hundreds of thousand of Jewish refugees who lost their property what they deserve, alongside their forgotten place in the historic narrative of the young state that was established in parallel to them becoming refugees," said Gamliel.

In 2010, a law was signed stating that Jews from Arab nations and Iran would be compensated for their losses in any future negotiations, but the state did not know the value of the lost property until the current process began.

"When I began working in this important issue, I was amazed to find that there had been no dramatic progress for many years, and in practice [the issue] had been neglected," said Gamliel, according to Israel Hayom. "The current check is important, of course, for the past as well as the present and especially for these days, all the more so when policy plans such as the "Deal of the Century" of President [Donald] Trump are on the agenda with all the associated policy implications."

The figures cited by the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom are significantly lower than those from news reports earlier this year claiming that Israel was preparing to demand $250 billion in reparations from Arab states.

Iran was home to over 100,000 Jews before 1948, but in 2018 less than 10,000 Jews remained. Libya, Yemen and Aden are all empty of Jews and Syria has less than twenty Jewish citizens. Altogether, over 850,000 Jews escaped from Arab nations and Iran in the days leading up to and following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Billions of dollars worth of property was confiscated, severe restrictions were placed on the Jews and some were executed.


fanack   2015/2017  


Apart from the use of legal definitions to play down the importance of Palestinian losses, Israel tried vehemently, even before 1948, to reduce or even annul the amount of compensation it might be required to pay to Palestinians. To this end Israel has submitted a whole range of counterclaims, for example concerning the war damage endured by Israel in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, since the Lausanne Conference in 1949. The most important of all counterclaims concerns the loss of property and bank accounts of Jews in Arab countries after becoming citizens of the State of Israel.

The claims concern first those properties lost after the armistice of 1949 in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem after their annexation by Jordan, as well as those lost in Gaza when it came under Egyptian rule. The second kind of counterclaims concerns properties left behind by Jews in the various Arab countries after they immigrated to Israel in 1948.


Beside claims on the properties owned by Jewish institutions in the West Bank, the most important counterclaim of Israel concerns properties and bank accounts left behind by Jews in Arab countries after their migration to Israel. The counterclaims concerning these properties have been employed by Israel in two ways. First, they have been used to defend the idea of an exchange of population which has been one of the basic principles of Zionism: Palestinian Arabs must be resettled and absorbed in Arab countries in exchange for the absorption of Jews from Arab countries in the new Jewish state created for this purpose in 1948. Moshe Sharett, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel in 1951, officially advocated an Arab-Jewish exchange of populations. Don Peretz, Professor of Political Science at  the State University of New York, reports that Sharett drew parallels with the mass migration of populations that occurred after World War I in Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, and after World War II from Poland and Czechoslovakia into Germany, and more recently, between India and Pakistan. A restoration of previous situations did not happen in these countries and there would be no reason why it should occur in Palestine. The idea of population exchange was repeatedly used by Israel as a solution to the whole Palestinian refugee issue and in answer to Palestinian claims.

Secondly, Israel considers the properties of Jews from Arab countries left behind between 1948 and 1953 as a basis for a counterclaim against compensation of Palestinians who abandoned their land in 1948. In the Israeli logic, the fate of Palestinian claims is linked to that of the Jewish claims. From 1948 on, Israel countered claims made by Palestinians with the remark that the value of sequestered Jewish property had to be deducted from any amount owed to Palestinian refugees. One of the arguments used by Israel to annul the Palestinian claims has been that it had to bear the expenses of absorbing impoverished Jews originating from Arab countries who migrated to Israel. As the most significant number of properties left behind by Jews from Arab countries were located in Iraq, these properties became central to the discussions on compensation to Palestinians. Minister Sharett proclaimed that ‘an appropriate amount from any compensation which Israel would pay [to Palestinians] would be deducted for Jewish assets frozen in Iraq’.


After the World War I, Zionist organizations and individuals bought land in some Arab countries. However, their acquisitions were centred mainly in what is now called Palestine (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) and Israel (which at that time fell under the British Mandate). In May 1948, Jewish settlements built on these lands (excluding Israel) were evacuated. After the 1948 War, Jewish individuals, civil and religious institutions, and some companies also lost real estate in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

The Zionist movement and King Abdullah of Jordan had established secret relations before the creation of the State of Israel. As a result, in 1949 Israel and Jordan reached a secret bilateral peace agreement. The agreement dealt, among other matters, with the borders of both countries and with the exchange of property and bank accounts in Israel belonging to Palestinians who were now living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Conversely, it dealt with Israeli Jews’ properties which had come under Jordanian control after the War of 1948.

The bilateral treaty between Jordan and Israel was strongly opposed within the Arab world. It considered King Abdullah a traitor as a result of his willingness to accept the loss of Palestine in exchange for property belonging to Palestinians after the armistice in Jordan. Talks between the two countries ended with the assassination of King Abdullah by a Palestinian in July 1951.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Jordan published lists in official government newspapers of villages and regions in the West Bank as well as individual properties which had been placed under control of the Jordanian Guardian of Enemy Property. The list did not make a distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish properties, as some of these properties belonged to Palestinian Arabs who had become citizens of the State of Israel after the armistice. The lists recorded properties that belonged to persons and institutions established in or affiliated to Israel. Fischbach reports that ‘unlike Israeli legislation toward Palestinian refugees’ land, Jordanian law preserved the legal rights of the ‘enemy’ landowners and did not allow for the sale of these properties. Some of this land was later rented to others, including UNRWA and Palestinian refugees who were allowed to settle in the ruined Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

After World War I, Zionist organisations had also tried to buy land in Syria and had succeeded in obtaining some land in the Golan Heights after gaining permission from the Ottoman ruler in Istanbul. Nevertheless, opposition of the Syrian rulers and population impeded the establishment of Jewish settlements on these plots of land. After its independence in 1946, Syria enacted a law that forbade foreigners from owning rural land, thus denying Zionist organizations the right to land ownership. Moreover, a Syrian legislative decree of 1952 made it impossible for foreigners who owned rural land to pass it down to their heirs. After the owner’s death, the property was appropriated by the Syrian state;  compensation was subsequently to be paid by the Administration of State Lands. After 1948, Zionist organizations transferred the legal ownership of the land they owned in Syria to the State of Israel, which transferred it to the Jewish National Fund.


For centuries, several hundreds of thousands of Jews lived in the Arab countries among Christians, Muslims, and Druze Arabs. Some were descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, others were European Jews who emigrated to different Arab countries, especially to Egypt and Palestine. The rise of Zionism and the strong hostility of the Arab populations toward this movement had its impact on the relation between Jews from Arab countries and the rest of the population. Opposition to the Zionist movement was sometimes directed against the Jews living in the Arab countries irrespective of whether they were involved in Zionist activities or not.

After 1948, the position of the Jews deteriorated. Several Arab countries enacted legislation that allowed the confiscation of Jewish property, and after the War of 1948-1949 permitted its sequestration in retaliation for seizure of Palestinian land by Israelis. By introducing such laws, these countries also wanted to prevent Jewish property from becoming a profitable asset for the State of Israel. The most widely documented loss of Jewish properties concerns Iraqi and Egyptian Jews.

The number of Jews living in the different Arab countries in 1948, the number of Jews who migrated to Israel, and the number of Jews who still live in these countries fluctuate in the different sources. Palestinian sociologist Jan Abu Shakrah gives an estimate of 700,000 Jews who left the Arab countries around 1948. Approximately 500,000 migrated to Israel; the remainder settled in Europe, the United States, Canada and Latin America. Estimates are that in addition to the approximately 110,000 Iraqi Jews who emigrated to Israel, 180,000 Jews came from Morocco, more than 50,000 came from Yemen, 30,000 from Libya, 20,000 from Tunisia, 16,500 from Egypt and 12,000 from Syria and Lebanon.

Jews in Egypt

Before 1948, some 75,000 Jews lived in Egypt. After the coup by the ‘Free Officers’ and the revolution of 1952 in Egypt, land reforms and nationalization hit all rich sectors of Egyptian society. In addition, different laws were enacted allowing the sequestration of the property of persons interned on security charges. Some were Jews who were suspected of supporting Israel; others belonged to the communist party, which had been forbidden by the new revolutionary government. Many Egyptians, among them Jews as well as wealthy foreigners, left Egypt after their businesses were nationalized as part of the policy of Gamal Abdel Nasser who, after he became president in 1954, tried to transform Egypt into a socialist state. British and French nationals as well as stateless Jews were also expelled from Egypt after sequestration of their property. Egyptian laws forbade the export of valuables. Around 23,000 Jews left Egypt between 1956 and 1958. A third wave of property seizure occurred after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Hundreds of Jews were forced to leave Egypt without their assets. In total, around 30,000 Jews emigrated from Egypt to Israel between 1948 and 1972.

Jews in Iraq

In 1948, an ancient indigenous Jewish community of 135,000 people lived in Iraq. In March 1950 a law was enacted in Iraq that dealt with the withdrawal of Iraqi nationality. The law intended to prevent Iraqi Jews from migrating to Israel while holding the Iraqi nationality. Under the new law, Jews were permitted to leave the country twelve months after signing a document issued by the Ministry of the Interior, leading to the forfeiture of Iraqi citizenship. The loss of Iraqi citizenship would not result in loss of ownership of any property in Iraq. Unexpectedly, thousands of Iraqi Jews took advantage of this law and left the country with the help of the Israeli government. In an attempt to stop the drain of capital caused by the emigration of wealthy Jews, the Iraqi government passed another law in 1951 that had disastrous consequences not only for Jews intending to leave the country, but also for those who had already left after January 1948. This new law allowed the freezing of assets of ex-Iraqi Jews and the sequestration of property of those still waiting to leave Iraq. Although the estimated value of assets left by Jews in Iraq varies enormously, depending on the sources, it is certain the value of the lost properties is considerable.

Jews in Libya

A strong link between Libyan Jews and Zionism developed under the British Military Administration (1943-1951). In the decades prior to 1948, the Zionist movement had shown interest in Libyan Jews and had encouraged their emigration to Palestine. ‘Zionist pioneering’ in Libyan Jewish youth movements became an important source of manpower for drafting by the Zionist army, the Haganah. The relationship between the Jewish population and the Zionist movement was an important reason for the animosity between Jewish Libyans and the rest of the population and in November 1945 culminated in riots in Tripoli and its vicinity, which claimed the lives of approximately 130 Jews.

Of the 40,000 Jews who lived in Libya, 30,000 moved to Israel between 1948 and 1951, leaving behind their property. After the country became an independent monarchy in 1961, laws were enacted allowing the sequestration of properties. The laws did not explicitly affect Jewish property but targeted the property of people who allegedly had ties with Israel. According to Fischbach: ‘The law allowed the freezing of the property and bank accounts of persons or institutions who were in Israel, who were citizens of Israel, or who allegedly were working on Israel’s behalf’. At the time of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s coup in 1969, the number of Jews in Libya was reduced to 500. According to some sources, Gaddafi confiscated Jewish property and cancelled all debts owed to Jews. It is believed there is no longer any Jewish presence in Libya.

Jews in Syria and Lebanon

After the 1948 War, 30,000 Syrian Jews left the country and emigrated to Lebanon, Italy and Israel. They succeeded in liquidating their assets, although their bank accounts were frozen by the Syrian government in 1949. It is not clear whether the government of the newly independent country froze the bank accounts of all citizens who left the country after independence or if the measure applied only to Jews. Lebanon did not take any action against the 5,000 members of the Lebanese Jewish community.

Jews in Yemen

The Zionist movement encouraged Yemenite Jews and Jews of Aden to migrate to Israel, and flew nearly 49,000 of them to the Jewish state in Operation Magic Carpet between 1949 and 1950. According to Fischbach, information about lost properties of Yemeni Jews is not available. The members of the Yemenite Jewish community still living in Yemen number circa 200. Despite attempts by different parties to convince them to emigrate to Israel and despite the deteriorating political situation in the country, the remnants of the Yemeni Jewish community refuse to leave Yemen. According to Moshe Nachum, President of the Israeli Federation of Yemenite Jews, ‘one of the main factors deterring this small community from emigrating to Israel is the financial aid provided by members of the Jewish Satmar community in the United States, which is known for its radical stance against Zionism and the State of Israel’. Another reason mentioned for staying in Yemen is the fear of loss of property.


The World Organization of Jews from the Arab Countries (WOJAC) was founded in 1975. This organization, which ceased to exist in 1999, allowed Jews who originally lived in an Arab country and lost material assets upon leaving to fill out forms detailing their lost assets in view of future claims. The WOJAC noted that the absence of documents or precise details would in no way prevent the proper registration of the declaration of material losses.

On an international level, the linkage between the property of Jews from Arab countries and abandoned Palestinian land is receiving more and more support. In 2000, American President Bill Clinton linked the Palestinian refugees‘ claims to those of Jews originating from Arab countries. He mooted the idea of establishing an international fund to compensate both Palestinian and Jewish refugees. In April 2008, the US House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution urging that every reference to Palestinian refugees raised in international forums be matched by a similarly explicit reference to the uprooted Jewish communities originating from Arab countries. In February 2010, the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, adopted a law under which any Israeli government entering into peace talks had to use this opportunity to advance a compensation claim for those who had become Israeli citizens. This law is meant to create a connection between the Palestinian refugee problem and that of Jews from Arab countries.


Most Palestinians firmly refuse, on legal and political grounds, to accept the linkage between the claims for compensation to Palestinian refugees and the fate of Jewish properties left behind in Arab countries. They state that they are not responsible for the policy of the individual Arab countries towards their respective Jewish citizens. The losses of Jews from Arab countries can therefore not be connected to the amounts of compensation Israel owes the Palestinians nor have any influence on their claims.

The consistent position of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) regarding these claims is to refuse discussion of the subject in bilateral negotiations with Israel. This point of view has been repeated by Palestinian delegations whenever the subject has been brought up by Israel. This was the reaction of the Refugee Working Group which was created as part of the multilateral peace talks in the wake of the October 1991 Madrid Conference. In its second plenary session in Ottawa the Palestinians rejected, first, the Israeli statement that a population exchange occurred leading to the replacement of the Palestinians who fled in 1948 by Jewish immigrants from the Arab world.

Secondly, they rejected the linkage made by the Israeli delegation between compensation to Palestinians and Jews from the Arab countries. This issue should instead be raised with the respective Arab countries of origin of Jewish immigrants, not the Palestinian representation, they reasoned. Daoud Barakat head of the PLO’s Department of Refugee Affairs, repeated this stance in 1999: ‘There is no linkage here. Israel has to negotiate directly with Lebanon, Morocco and Egypt. I do not represent those countries.’ At the Camp David II negotiations, PLO negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo repeated this argument: ‘This problem has nothing to do with us. Bring it up with the Moroccan authorities, the Yemenis and so on.’


Besides refusing to accept the linkage between the two issues, some Palestinian scholars such as Abbas Shiblak argue that Arab Jews were not expelled from the Arab countries. The use of the terms ‘Myth’ and ‘Lure of Zion’ to describe the migration of Jews from Arab countries, is testimony to how they regard the basis of these claims. Some observe that the migration of Jews to the future Jewish state has always been the core idea of Zionism and that Israel endeavoured to invite Jews from Arab countries as well as elsewhere in the world to leave their country of origin and migrate to Israel. Without Jewish migration to Israel, Zionism would have been a failure.

Therefore, according to these publicists, most of the Jews who left Arab countries were not ‘expelled’ but left voluntarily after pressure by Israel. Nevertheless, they consent to the idea that the birth of Zionism worsened the position of Jews in Arab countries, especially after the 1948 War. According to Sir Francis Humphreys, Britain’s Ambassador in Baghdad in 1948, ‘Zionism has sown dissension between Jews and Arabs, and bitterness has grown up between the two peoples, which did not previously exist’. Publicist Naeim Giladi describes the freedom and flourishing cultural, political, and economic life Jews enjoyed in Iraq before 1948. Their integration into Iraqi society came to an end after the aims of the Zionist movement became known in Iraq and other Arab countries. Following the ensuing war and hostilities, many Jews migrated to Israel.


According to Abu Shakrah, many factors lay at the heart of the mass emigration of Jews from Iraq. These included the pressure exerted by Britain and the United States for a transfer or population exchange. Under this scenario around 100,000 Palestinians were to resettle in Iraq in exchange for 100,000 Iraqi Jews, who were to be resettled in Israel. Abu Shakrah argues that denaturalization laws enacted by Iraq divesting any Iraqi who wanted to leave the country of Iraqi nationality, were passed under pressure from Britain on the then Iraqi government. These laws led to the emigration of 40,000 Jews to Israel, and the transfer of 10 million Iraqi dinars, which caused an unexpected drain on Iraq’s economy. The denaturalization laws were therefore followed by laws that froze the assets of Jews who applied to relinquish their Iraqi nationality. Thousands of Jews left Iraq and were brought to Israel following a campaign organized by Israel, ‘Operation Ali Baba’.

This operation was meant to encourage Iraqi Jews to migrate to Israel, using extensive propaganda internationally and inside the Iraqi Jewish community. An important component of ‘Operation Ali Baba’ seems to have been a series of five bomb attacks on Jewish targets from April 1950 through June 1951. One year later, Mossad and British officers were identified as responsible for the attacks, while several Israeli sources confirmed that the bombing campaign was carried out by an Israeli Zionist commander, Mordechai Ben-Porat. The goal of the bombing was to generate fear in the Jewish Iraqi community in order to encourage them to leave Iraq. Abbas Shiblak, Palestinian historian at the Refugees Studies Centre in Oxford, notes that the bombing campaign could only have been carried out following decisions taken at a high level in the Israeli government and with the personal knowledge of Yigal Allon, who at that time was in charge of external Mossad operations, and of the then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. ‘Operation Ali Baba’ also entailed an evacuation plan to bring thousands of Jews from Iraq to Tel Aviv.

Whatever the reasons for the emigration of Jews from the Arab world to Israel, some Palestinians, such as Rashid Khalidi, a well-known Palestinian scholar, consider that any claim of an Arab Jew who left or was forced to leave the Arab world is a ‘perfectly legitimate claim, one which might conceivably be resolved in tandem with reparations to Palestinians’.

Shlomo Gazit, retired general in the Israeli Defence Forces, and Lex Takkenberg, former Deputy-General of UNRWA in Syria, share the opinion that Israel is incontestably entitled to raise the issue of Jewish property abandoned in Arab countries. However, Israel should not use this issues as a means to avoiding admitting responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem or to refusing the payment of compensations to Palestinian refugees. The issue should be resolved bilaterally with the Arab countries involved, or during an international conference to deal with the multilateral aspects of the refugee problem.


One of the arguments Israel used to refuse the payment of compensation to Palestinian refugees was the costs it had to bear for absorbing Jewish immigrants. The argument could not stand after the1952 negotiations between the World Jewish Congress and the Federal Republic of Germany about reparations by Germany for Nazi crimes against Jews before and during World War II.

A final agreement between Israel and the Four Powers that controlled Germany at the end of World War II was reached by the end of 1952. West Germany agreed to pay reparations to victims of Nazi crimes amounting to one billion USD. This would be paid over 14 years in goods and as allocations for Jews living outside Israel. The rest of the reparations would be obtained from East Germany in the future. But German payments to Israel have stretched far beyond the reparations to victims of Nazi crimes. According to American political scientist Norman Finkelstein, to date Germany has paid Israel a total amount of 60 to 80 billion dollars.

Several parties saw that a relation could be established between the compensation to Palestinians and the huge capital of indemnification Israel obtained from Germany. The Arab countries approached the Four Powers before the agreements were made between the Germany and Israel had been made, asking that the Palestinians should benefit from future reparations by Germany to Israel. The Israelis were divided on the issue, as was the American government.

In the end, the Palestinians did not profit from the German reparation payments to Israel. Soon after the agreement with Germany had been reached, Israel adopted the attitude that it was under no political obligation to help Palestinian refugees and was not responsible for their losses. It was therefore only prepared to offer humanitarian help. This offer was never realized.


Israel Hayom, Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff, Dec 2017

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel revealed Thursday she was leading international efforts to demand compensation for Jewish property stolen in Arab countries and in Iran. The announcement was made at an event commemorating the exodus of Mizrahi Jews in the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

Some 3,000 people from all across the country attended the event on Thursday to commemorate the expulsion and exodus of some 850,000 Jews from Arab states and Iran since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and until the early 1970s.

These once-sizable communities are now virtually gone after anti-Jewish reactions to the Jewish state forced them to leave their countries of birth. These communities potentially left behind billions of dollars' worth of property and assets, according to the Alliance of Moroccan Immigrants.

Gamliel, who initiated Thursday's event, gave a speech revealing that she has led international efforts over recent months to assess and appraise the value of Jewish property forcibly left in Arab states and Iran.

Gamliel said that "in the coming months, we will be able to talk about numbers, and as such, also formulate a plan of action to claim the rights of the Jews of Arab states and Iran to their property."

The event opened with a touching bereavement prayer for the Jewish communities of Iran, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia and Yemen, which include martyrs who gave their lives to assist immigration to Israel, victims of pogroms and other Jews who did not survive the journeys to Israel.

Ceremonies commemorating the exodus and expulsion of Mizrahi Jews took place earlier this week and will continue into next week, both in Israel and abroad.

Gamliel said that a national initiative to gather the legacies and stories of prominent Mizrahi Jews from Arab countries and Iran on camera will be expanded to include the Bnei Menashe and Cochin Jews of India, the Balkan Jews and the Caucasus Jews.

In addition, Gamliel signed a collaborative agreement on Thursday with director Steven Spielberg's University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, which records the testimonies of Holocaust survivors for posterity. The foundation will provide professional assistance to the government in recording the legacy of Mizrahi Jews.

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries

Excerpts from 2007 report entitled: "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights and Redress" ( which documents the legal arguments for the legitimate rights of Jews displaced from Arab countries.


On two occasions, in 1957 and again in 1967, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) determined that Jews fleeing from Arab countries were refugees who fell within the mandate of the UNHCR.

"Another emergency problem is now arising: that of refugees from Egypt. There is no doubt in my mind that those refugees from Egypt who are not able, or not willing to avail themselves of the protection of the Government of their nationality fall under the mandate of my office."

--Mr. Auguste Lindt, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Report of the UNREF Executive Committee, Fourth Session - Geneva 29 January to 4 February, 1957.

"I refer to our recent discussion concerning Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries in consequence of recent events. I am now able to inform you that such persons may be considered prima facie within the mandate of this Office."

--Dr. E. Jahn, Office of the UN High Commissioner, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Document No. 7/2/3/Libya, July 6, 1967.


On November 22nd, 1967, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, laying down the principles for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. Still considered the primary vehicle for resolving the Arab-Israel conflict, Resolution 242 stipulates that a comprehensive peace settlement should necessarily include "a just settlement of the refugee problem." No distinction is made between Arab refugees and Jewish refugees. (See further, Appendix A)

The international community's intention to have Resolution 242 include the rights of Jewish refugees is evidenced by the UN debate, as discussed by the Security Council at its 1382nd meeting of November 22, 1967. The international community adopted a resolution with generic language that does not restrict the "just settlement of the refugee problem" merely to Palestinian refugees. This was the intent of the Resolution's drafters and sponsors. (See attached, page 4: UN Resolution 242": "Just Settlement of the Refugee Problem")

Moreover, Justice Arthur Goldberg, the United States' Chief Delegate to the UN, who was instrumental in drafting the unanimously adopted U.N. Resolution 242, has pointed out that:

"A notable omission in 242 is any reference to Palestinians, a Palestinian state on the West Bank or the PLO. The resolution addresses the objective of 'achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.' 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…." (1)


The Madrid Conference, which was first convened in October 1991, launched historic, direct negotiations between Israel and many of her Arab neighbors.

In his opening remarks at a conference convened to launch the multilateral process held in Moscow in January 1992, then-U.S. secretary of state James Baker made no distinction between Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees in articulating the mandate of the Refugee Working Group as follows: "The refugee group will consider practical ways of improving the lot of people throughout the region who have been displaced from their homes." (2)

The Road Map to Middle East peace currently being advanced by the Quartet (the U.N., EU, U.S., and Russia also refers in Phase III to an "agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee issue", language applicable both to Palestinian and Jewish refugees.


Israeli agreements with her Arab neighbors allow for a case to be made that Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians have affirmed that a comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict will require a "just settlement" of the "refugee problem" that will include recognition of the rights and claims of all Middle East refugees:

Israel - Egypt Agreements

The Camp David Framework for Peace in the Middle East of 1978 (the "Camp David Accords") includes, in paragraph A(1)(f), a commitment by Egypt and Israel to "work with each other and with other interested parties to establish agreed procedures for a prompt, just and permanent resolution of the implementation of the refugee problem."

rticle 8 of the Israel - Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979 provides that the "Parties agree to establish a claims commission for the mutual settlement of all financial claims." Those claims include those of former Jewish refugees displaced from Egypt.

Israel - Jordan Peace Treaty, 1994

Article 8 of the Israel - Jordan Peace Treaty, entitled "Refugees and Displaced Persons" recognizes, in paragraph 1, "the massive human problems caused to both Parties by the conflict in the Middle East". Reference to massive human problems in a broad manner suggests that the plight of all refugees of "the conflict in the Middle East" includes Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Israeli-Palestinian Agreements, 1993-

Almost every reference to the refugee issue in Israeli-Palestinian agreements, talks about "refugees", without qualifying which refugee community is at issue, including the Declaration of Principles of 13 September 1993 {Article V (3)}, and the Interim Agreement of September 1995 {Articles XXXI (5)}, both of which refer to "refugees" as a subject for permanent status negotiations, without qualifications.


" Former U.S. President Bill Clinton made the following assertion after the rights of Jews displaced from Arab countries were discussed at 'Camp David II' in July, 2000 (From White House Transcript of Israeli television interview):

"There will have to be some sort of international fund set up for the refugees. 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".

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, after successfully brokering the Camp David Accords and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, stated in a press conference on Oct. 27, 1977:

Palestinians have rights… obviously there are Jewish refugees…they have the same rights as others do."

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin stated, in a June 3rd, 2005 interview with the Canadian Jewish News which he later reaffirmed in a July 14, 2005 letter:

"A refugee is a refugee and that the situation of Jewish refugees from Arab lands must be recognized. All refugees deserve our consideration as they have lost both physical property and historical connections. I did not imply that the claims of Jewish refugees are less legitimate or merit less attention than those of Palestinian refugees."


At the United Nations, on November 22nd, 1967, the Security Council unanimously adopted, Resolution 242, laying down the principles for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.

Still considered the primary vehicle for resolving the Arab-Israel conflict, Resolution 242, stipulates that a comprehensive peace settlement should necessarily include "a just settlement of the refugee problem". No distinction is made between Arab refugees and Jewish refugees. This was the intent of the Resolution's drafters and sponsors.

On Thursday, November 16, 1967 the United Kingdom submitted their draft of Resolution 242 [S/8247] to the UN Security Council. The UK version of 242 was not exclusive, and called for a just settlement of "the refugee problem." Just four days after the United Kingdom submission, the Soviet Union's U.N. delegation submitted their own draft Resolution 242 to the Security Council [S/8253] restricting the just settlement only to "Palestinian refugees" [Para. 3 (c)].

On Wednesday, November 22, 1967, the Security Council gathered for its 1382nd meeting in New York at which time, the United Kingdom's draft of Resolution 242 was voted on and unanimously approved.(3) Immediately after the UK's version of 242 was adopted, the Soviet delegation advised the Security Council, that "it will not insist, at the present stage of our consideration of the situation in the Near East, on a vote on the draft Resolution submitted by the Soviet Union" which would have limited 242 to Palestinian refugees only.(4) Even so, Ambassador Kuznetsov of the Soviet Union later stated: "The Soviet Government would have preferred the Security Council to adopt the Soviet draft Resolution…" (5)

Thus the attempt by the Soviets to restrict the "just settlement of the refugee problem" merely to "Palestinian refugees" was not successful. The international community adoption of the UK's inclusive version signaled a desire for 242 to seek a just solution for all - including Jewish refugees.

Moreover, Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, the US Ambassador to the United Nations who was seminally involved in drafting (6) the unanimously adopted Resolution, told The Chicago Tribune that the Soviet version of Resolution 242 was "not even-handed."(7)

He went further, in pointing out that:

"A notable omission in 242 is any reference to Palestinians, a Palestinian state on the West Bank or the PLO. The resolution addresses the objective of 'achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.' 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…." (8)


(1) Goldberg, Arthur J., "Resolution 242: After 20 Years", published in Security Interests, National Committee on American Foreign Policy, April 2002.

(2) Remarks by Secretary of State James A. Baker, III before the Organizational Meeting for Multilateral Negotiations on the Middle East, House of Unions, Moscow, January 28, 1992.

(3) Security Council Official Records - November 22, 1967 - S/PV.1382 - Paragraph 67

(4) Security Council Official Records - November 22, 1967 - S/PV.1382 - Paragraph 117

(5) Security Council Official Records - November 22, 1967 - S/PV.1382 - Paragraph 117

(6) Transcript, Arthur J. Goldberg Oral History Interview I, 3/23/83, by Ted Gittinger; Lyndon B. Johnson Library. March 23, 1983; Pg I-10

(7) "Russia stalls UN Action on Middle East." The Chicago Tribune. November 21, 1967 pg. B9

(8) Goldberg, Arthur J., "Resolution 242: After 20 Years." The Middle East: Islamic Law and Peace (U.S. Resolution 242: Origin, Meaning and Significance.) National Committee on American Foreign Policy; April 2002. (Originally written by Arthur J. Goldberg for the American Foreign Policy Interests on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary in 1988.


Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century”—the most recent American effort to advance a plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians—was released last month.  For the first time, it makes an explicit mention of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Writing in Mosaic Emily Benedek explains what they lost
and how a solution to the conflict will go nowhere without them.
Point of No Return: Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries, February 28, 2020

 Among those potentially affected by the implementation of such a plan, one group in Israel had been watching with particular interest: Mizraḥi Jews whose families had lived continuously in Arab and Muslim lands from biblical times until the late 1940s when they became the targets of organized violence on the part of their own governments and in the ensuing years suffered wholesale expulsion from their homes.

These ancient communities, whose roots in the Middle East predated by a millennium the advent of Islam, numbered close to one million people. After 1948, they were cast out root and branch from Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, North Africa, and Iran. Most found refuge in the newly established Jewish state. There, the Knesset, initially slow to demand compensation for their losses, would eventually mandate that no settlement with the Palestinians would be acceptable if it failed to include recompense for individual and communal properties—estimated, in area, to amount to nearly 40,000 square miles, about five times the size of Israel, and valued at $150 billion—that had been confiscated by Muslim governments in the Middle East from their Jewish citizens.

The new American plan does indeed address the case of the Mizraḥi Jews. Noting that the Arab-Israel conflict “created both a Palestinian and Jewish refugee problem,” and that the numbers displaced were approximately equal on the two sides, the plan goes on to state unequivocally that, separate from any peace agreement, “a just, fair, and realistic solution” for the Jewish refugees, “including compensation for lost assets” as well as compensation to Israel for the cost of absorbing them, must be “implemented through an appropriate international mechanism.”

All of this,of course, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, and whether or not the Trump plan ever comes to fruition, the Mizraḥi story deserves telling and retelling. For an engaging treatment, the 2018 book Uprooted by Lyn Julius, a British-born descendant of Iraqi Jews, can serve as a useful introduction. Uprooted opens with glimpses of the exotic bands of Jews, many barefoot and dressed in traditional robes and headdresses, who seemed to materialize out of the mists of time to tumble across Zion’s borders from the 1880s, when the first Yemenite migrants walked there across the desert. The Mizraḥi exodus continued for more than a century until, in the 1980s and 1990s, Ethiopians arrived via two daring airlifts.

The Mizraḥi diaspora itself dates back millennia earlier to the Babylonian victory over the kingdom of Judea in 586 BCE, when captive Jerusalemites were marched off to Mesopotamia. Evidently, the new environs proved not entirely unwelcome. For when, a half-century later, Cyrus of Persia defeated Babylon and allowed the Jews to return home and rebuild their Temple, many preferred to remain in their new homes in the fertile land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Indeed, so many stayed that, by the 3rd century CE, Babylon had become the epicenter of Jewish thought and practice.

Not only do Jews of all stripes today consider the Babylonian Talmud (written between the 3rd and 6th centuries CE) to be foundational, but the gravesites of no fewer than seventeen biblical figures are, according to tradition, located in what are now the countries of Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Even in the early 20th century, the social and cultural importance of the Jews in Arab and Muslim lands stood out. Jews were popular singers, actors, and athletes; the first novel published in Iraq was written by a Jew; in 1870, Egypt’s first national theater was founded by a Jew; Egypt’s first opera was written in 1919 by a Jew; both the Egyptian and Tunisian film industries were started and dominated by Jews; and Iraq’s first minister of finance, Sir Sasson Heskel, was a Jew. As late as 1939, Baghdadi Jews formed fully a third of the city’s population: a greater proportion, by comparison, than was to be found at that time in either Warsaw (29 percent) or New York (27 percent). By 2015, in the entire country of Iraq, only five Jews remained. The rest, along with almost every other Jew in the region, had been expelled. Although the details varied from country to country, everywhere the story was roughly the same.

The root of it, Julius writes, was revealed in a plan laid out by the Arab League at meetings in Syria and Lebanon prior to the 1947 UN vote for partitioning Palestine into two states. As she puts it, the League envisioned a movement to “rob the Jews, threaten them with imprisonment, and expel them, having first dispossessed them.” On the eve of the UN vote, Egypt’s delegate solemnly warned the international body that should the measure pass, “the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in Muslim countries.” After the vote, intention became deed as the Arab League plan, in Julius’s words, “became a blueprint, in country after country, for the actions that devastated the Jewish communities in Arab lands; and for the forced exodus that was to follow.”

In all of the affected countries except Lebanon and Tunisia, Jews were stripped of their citizenship. In all but Morocco, Jewish assets were frozen and property confiscated on the authority of Nuremberg-style laws. Freedom of movement was curtailed for Jews in Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen. Employment discrimination forced Jews from jobs in all of the above-mentioned countries plus Egypt and Lebanon. Zionist activity was outlawed, and all Jews were considered Zionists. By 1972, 90 percent of the Jews in the Arab world had fled. The wealthy and well-connected, about 200,000 in number, tended to move West to Europe or the U.S., while the remaining 660,000 went to Israel. (The chronology in non-Arab Iran is somewhat different; perhaps a third left between 1948 and 1953, while the rest departed between the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and today.)

Violent pogroms played a role in showing the Jews to the door, as did continuing governmental scheming, including, according to Julius, secret recommendations of the Arab League from 1950-55 “designed to put pressure on the Jews remaining in Arab countries to leave their homes ‘without giving the impression of expelling them.’” Jews in Yemen and Iraq, under increasing stress, in the end were ransomed by Israel, and in the early 1960s the World Jewish Congress paid $250 a head to Morocco to let its Jews leave.

One of Julius's central aims in Uprooted is to put the lie to the claim that, until modern-day Zionism came along to poison the atmosphere, Jews under Muslim rule had enjoyed a long “golden age” of tolerance and interfaith understanding. Adopting Bernard Lewis’s judgment that this concept of Muslim tolerance represents, in her summary, “one of the great myths of history propagated by 19th-century intellectuals,” Julius enumerates the many massacres of Jews that took place throughout Muslim and Arab history, asserting that “for fourteen centuries, life for a defenseless minority [had been] precarious and insecure.”

To illustrate, she leads us into the “Jewish quarter” to demonstrate what life was like as dhimmis, possessing the inferior status imposed on non-Muslim monotheists by order of the Pact of Omar (variously dated to the 7th or 9th century). Those who submitted to their Islamic conquerors and gave up the right to bear arms were granted a pledge of security and thus saved from death, slavery, ransom, or deportation. But being a dhimmi required the payment of a harsh tax and submission to a second-class life of humiliation and degradation in which safety was never assured. Dhimmis were required to wear special clothes and badges, to step aside for Muslims in the street, and to suffer any insult or assault that was meted out. Forbidden from building homes or houses of worship taller than buildings belonging to Muslims, they were also forbidden from riding horses, marrying Muslim women, or testifying against a Muslim in court. Constant pressure was applied to both Jews and Christians to convert to Islam and thus save themselves from the onerous tax.

The institution of “dhimmitude” continued in place for more than a millennium until it was discouraged by European colonial powers in the 19th and 20th centuries (even as they turned a blind eye to violent Islamic expressions of anti-Semitism). But, argues Julius, its conception of the Jews as an inferior people remained very much alive as a motivating factor in the expulsions of Mizraḥi Jews from Arab lands, and still today it persists in the stubborn rejection of Israel. The early Arab fury against Zionism, in this view, had little or nothing to do with concern for the Palestinians (who had not yet rejected the partition of the land they shared with the Zionists). Instead, it had everything to do with a baked-in hatred of Jews and outrage that so debased and despised a people should be allowed to insert itself as a sovereign nation into the (purported) heartland of Islam.

Julius quotes Victor Hayoun, who survived a pogrom in Tunisia in 1941, describing the unpredictable relations between Arab and Jew under the social legacy of dhimmitude: “Our Arab neighbors, whose conduct toward us ranged from sincere fraternity to humiliation and even pogroms, . . . had sharpened my childish feeling that we were tolerated by the ‘masters of the place’ and they could get so angry as to make my status precarious.” Thus, rioting mobs in the late 1940s in almost every Arab country chanted “Itbach al-Yahud (murder the Jews) and Yahud klib al-Arab (the Jews are the dogs of the Arabs).

Lyn Julius has not endeavored to write an academic history in the manner of Martin Gilbert’s In Ishmael’s House or Bernard Lewis’s The Jews of Islam. Nor is her book a work of original journalism. Nor, unlike such memoirs of Jewish life in Arab lands as André Aciman’s Out of Egypt and the late Lucette Lagnado’s The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, is it constructed around a driving personal narrative.

Rather, Uprooted is a personal cri de coeur that attempts to explain, from the inside, via anecdotes and particularly valuable references to little-translated works in French, the experiences of the now lost communities of Jews who were unjustly expelled from lands they had settled long before Muhammad dictated a single surah. It seeks, above all, redress for the relative silence, both in Israel and, especially, outside of it, that has greeted their traumatic experience.

In Israel, repeated Mizraḥi efforts to raise the issue of compensation have rarely gained traction. Rather than dwelling on the tragic losses of the past, not just of the Mizraḥim but also of the tattered remnant of European Jews recently absorbed by the new state, the national focus was on forging modern Israelis out of immigrants, many of them indigent or even illiterate, from more than one-hundred communities across the globe. “The submissive and apologetic Diaspora Jew,” Julius writes, “would be transformed into a proud and virile, Hebrew-speaking Israeli.”

As is well known, this effort led to its own humiliations and hardships. The classic Israeli film Sallah Shabati (1964) satirized, at once uproariously and bitterly, the austere new life that Mizraḥim found waiting for them in their new-old home. Already grappling with the wholesale destruction of their way of life, they resented the tent camps and makeshift cabins in which they were housed for too long. And of course there was discrimination by Israel’s Ashkenazim who looked down upon their “primitive” ways.

In the end, the resettlement was a success—or at least the story has a happier ending. Israel did what it was created to do: serving as a safe haven for imperiled Jews. Today, Mizraḥim, who just before the Holocaust made up only a tenth of the total number of Jews in the world, now constitute more than half of the Jewish population in Israel, and “intermarriage” rates between Ashkenazim and Mizraḥim are near 25 percent. As has been plentifully documented in Mosaic, Mizraḥim have changed the country profoundly, influencing politics, music, food, and religious observance.

Where the case for restitution is concerned, the picture is less pretty, and stubbornly unresolved. How to redress lost Jewish assets? Between 1969 and 2009, Israel’s Justice Ministry collected 14,000 property claims from Mizraḥi immigrants, an exercise hobbled by the refusal of Arab governments and Iran to provide property records or other necessary documentation. Locked official archives have also prevented access to Arab League policies in the 1940s and 1950s aimed at disenfranchising Jewish populations. At one point, Israel thought to offset lost Mizraḥi assets against claimed Palestinian losses, but this was vehemently opposed by Mizraḥim settled outside of Israel who questioned why their claims of confiscated property should be used to settle Israel’s accounts with the Palestinians.

More recently, after intensive lobbying by American and Canadian Jews, including ex-Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, the tide has begun to turn. After the 2000 talks at Camp David, President Bill Clinton suggested creating an international fund to address the losses of both sides; in addition to contributions from both Israel and the Arab countries, the fund would primarily be endowed by the international community. The initiative awaits an active peace negotiation for its implementation.

In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution directing the government to include in any official American documents referring to Palestinian refugees a “similarly explicit” reference to Jewish refugees. Canada followed suit in 2014, stating that the experiences of Jewish refugees should be “taken into consideration as a part of any just and comprehensive peace deal.” The Oslo Accords declared that the subject of refugees from both sides should be a “final status issue.” As we’ve seen, similar, but much more specific language has been adopted in the Trump plan.

In 2012, Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, whose father was born in Algeria, led an international conference in Jerusalem titled “Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.” The following year, Ron Prosor, then Israel’s ambassador to the UN, presented a film at the UN’s New York headquarters recounting stories of Jews who were forced from their homes in Arab countries. “Since 1947, there have been 687 [UN] resolutions relating to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” he told the audience, “and yet, as we speak today, not one resolution says a single word about the Jewish refugees”—even though the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has acknowledged that Jews fleeing from both Egypt and Libya met the organization’s definition of refugees.

Meanwhile,whatever steps have been made toward recognition of the issue, much if not most of the Arab world, having gotten rid of its Jews, is now bent on erasing all signs of their once-vivid presence. (Morocco is an exception.) Julius names one particularly painful monument: the shrine of Ezekiel at Kifl in southern Iraq. That biblical prophet and priest was exiled to Babylon in 598 BCE with King Jehoiachin, lived there for the rest of his life, and was buried there. In 1170, the traveler Benjamin of Tudela visited Kifl and described finding a synagogue dating back to the First and Second Temple periods. During the 19th century, 5,000 Jews would visit the shrine every year during the festival of Shavuot. In 1910, the Baghdadi bibliophile David Solomon Sassoon wrote of the site:

The lovely building over the grave is extremely old, built from very big stones said to be the work of King Jehoiachin. Above the doorway was a plaque dated 1809/10, which has inscribed on it “this is the tomb of our master Ezekiel the prophet, the son of Buzi the Kohen, may his merit shield us and all Israel.”

This Jewish site is now a mosque, complete with external loudspeakers for summoning Muslims to prayer. With no Jews in the area to protect them, the Hebrew inscriptions described by Sassoon are at risk, and the Iraqi Ministry of Heritage and Tourism has apparently ceded control and administration of the site to a Shiite waqf. Julius warns that similar takeovers are occurring “with UN help”—meaning UN indifference and/or silent collaboration—in order to erase or discredit evidence of the Jewish origins of many Islamic sites in Arab lands. As is well known, similar efforts of Islamification have also been ongoing in relation to Jewish sites in Israel itself, including the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem, and the Temple Mount.

Addressing Western liberals, Lyn Julius warns against the temptation to say, or to think, that Israel was created in expiation of European sins for the Holocaust. Rather, Israel should be seen as the homeland of an indigenous and once-threatened people, intimately familiar with the true nature of Arab-Muslim rule, who have returned to their homeland and lately found their voices.

The majority of Israeli Jews,” she writes of the Mizraḥim, “have never left the Middle East; they merely moved from one area of the region to another.” Thanks to them, and to their sheer numerical weight, any attempt to orchestrate a peace arrangement in the region without their active participation and approval will go nowhere.

Read article in full


The international community’s wish to prevent the looting of ancient artifacts is understandable, but shouldn't apply in the case of the Middle East’s persecuted Jewish communities.
Jewish News Syndicate, Lyn Julius, November 26, 2019

 On or around Nov. 30, Jewish communities around the world will be holding events to remember the mass exodus of Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran. Almost a million people were displaced in the past 50 years, leaving billions of dollars’ worth of property behind.

Not only have Arab governments never compensated Jews for their stolen homes and businesses, they are waging a pernicious campaign to claim communal property and Jewish heritage as their national patrimony.

Synagogues can’t be moved and clearly, it is better for Arab states to preserve them as memorials to an extinct community than not at all. However, these states are also declaring Torah scrolls, communal archives and books to be part of their cultural heritage.

For instance, the Egyptian government claims that all Torah scrolls and Jewish archives, libraries, communal registers and any movable property over 100 years old are “Egyptian antiquities.” However, Jews consider Torah scrolls their exclusive property. It is forbidden to buy or sell them. Fleeing Jews have often prioritized scrolls and books over their personal possessions.

What does international law have to say? The Hague Convention of 1954 “protecting cultural property in conflict” was brought in to stop the massive looting that has always occurred in war and specifically during WWII. There is also the post-colonial understanding that the new states that emerged in the 20th century have ownership of their own cultural heritage; the days when Britain could ship the Elgin Marbles from Greece, or Napoleon could plunder ancient Egyptian obelisks as “war booty,” are over.

In Egypt, registers of births, marriages and deaths of Jews from Alexandria and Cairo dating back to the middle of the 19th century were once kept in the two main synagogues in each city. But in 2016, government officials took away the registers to be stored in the Egyptian National Archives.

Egyptian Jews living abroad cannot even obtain photocopies of certificates, often the only formal Jewish identification Egyptian Jews have to prove lineage or identity for burial or marriage. Repeated efforts since 2005 to intercede with the Egyptian authorities have come to nothing.

Egyptian government policy has been backed by the tiny remnant of the country’s Jewish community. Its leader, Magda Haroun, intends to leave the community’s assets to the government. She has even suggested that two paintings in the Louvre once owned by an Egyptian Jew should find their way back to Egypt.

Under the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, thousands of books, manuscripts and other documents were seized from Jewish homes, schools and synagogues and stored at the headquarters of Iraq’s secret service in Baghdad. In 2003, the archive was discovered in the flooded basement after the building was bombed by the Americans.

The Americans shipped the archive to Washington, D.C., for restoration and hastily signed a diplomatic agreement promising to return the material to the Iraqi government. The United States spent over $3 million to restore and digitize the archive, which has since been exhibited across the country. The collection includes a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Jewish mystical text Zohar, as well as more mundane objects such school reports and a Baghdad telephone book.

Although tens of thousands of Iraqi documents were shipped to the United States, the Iraqi government has only formalized its claim to the 2,700 books and 30,000 documents of the water-stained archive, which it claims are the country’s “precious cultural heritage,” a last emotional link with its ancient Jewish community and a reminder of Iraq’s former diversity.

The Iraqi Jewish community in exile has been waging a bitter battle to recover the collection and prevent it being sent back to Iraq. They say that to return the archive, which was seized from Jewish community offices, schools and synagogues, would be like returning property looted by the Nazis to Germany.

The Iraqi and Egyptian cases are symptomatic of a larger problem. Since 2004, the United States has been bound by law to impose import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material that constitutes a country’s cultural heritage and has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) to this effect with Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Libya. In January 2018, the International Council of Museums released a “Red List” for Yemen aimed at protecting Hebrew manuscripts and Torah finials from leaving the country. All but 50 Jews have fled the country, taking what possessions they could, but even these ultimately could be returned to Yemen.

“These MOUs claim to be about [stopping] looting, but their broad scope and limited evidence of success suggests their real impact is providing a legal vehicle to legitimize foreign confiscations and wrongful ownership claims. … The MOUs are based on a flawed premise. It is the heritage and patrimony of 850,000 indigenous Jews who fled their homes and property under duress,” said Sarah Levin of the California-based Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA).

It is understandable that the international community should wish to prevent the looting and smuggling of ancient artifacts and their sale on the international art market. That is how Islamic State financed much of its conquest of northern Iraq and Syria. But there is a distinction between theft for financial gain, and legitimate salvage of Torah scrolls or books taken by fleeing Jews to be used for prayer.

Eight Sumerian artifacts sold to the British Museum were recently sent back to Baghdad. But the Iraqi-Jewish archive does not belong to some long-extinct civilization—some of the owners are still alive.

International law is based on the outmoded assumption of territorial sovereignty. It needs updating, specifically to resolve the tug-of-war between minority and national heritage, where the minority has been persecuted and displaced.

Lyn Julius is the author of “Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish Civilization in the Arab World Vanished Overnight” (Vallentine Mitchell, 2018).


Israel is demanding reparations for the assets lost
when 856,000 Jews were forced from their homes after 1948 -
claims that are no less just than those of the Palestinians.
It's time for both sides to see past their own exclusive victimhood
Haaretz, Jonathan S. Tobin, Jan 07, 2019
(He is the  editor in chief of and a contributor to National Review)

Israel's Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel said Saturday that after 18 months of research involving an international accountancy firm, the government was preparing to issue demands for compensation amounting to a staggering $250 billion for the lost property of Jews who were orced to flee from Arab and Muslim countries after 1948.

According to reports, this will include lost assets from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.

The property was left behind by Jews from ten countries (Algeria and Lebanon are apparently not included in the $250 billion bill being presented by the government) who either fled or were expelled as the Muslim world erupted violence directed against their local Jewish communities after Israel declared its independence in May 1948.

>> Our Passports Were Stamped 'Exit, With No Return': The Real Story of How Egypt Expelled Its Jews

According to Justice for Jews from Arab Countries there were 856,000 Jewish refugees from the Middle East, most of whom arrived penniless in either Israel or Western countries, after many centuries, if not millennia, in their old homes.

But to the Palestinians and their supporters, talk about 1948 Jewish refugees - whose number was roughly comparable to the number of Arabs who left their homes - is infuriating.

They see the subject as nothing but a brazen attempt to change the subject from their efforts to highlight the plight of the millions of descendants of Palestinian Arabs who fled or were, in some cases, forced out of their homes during what Jews call Israel’s War of Independence and what they call the Nakba, or disaster, that befell their people.

While Palestinian refugees have been at the forefront of anti-Zionist advocacy, the Arab and Muslim world has been silent about the Jewish part of what was, in effect, a massive population transfer in the late 1940s

While no one disputes that a massive displacement of Hindus and Muslims took place around the same time when the British left the Asian subcontinent, as partition created the modern states of India and Pakistan (though the numbers involved and the loss of life in that conflict was far greater), as far as much of the world has been concerned, the flow of refugees when Israel was born was a one-way affair.

The reason for that was, in contrast to the plight of the Palestinians, Israel and the West absorbed Jewish refugees. Though they didn’t have an easy time of it, especially in Israel - where many lived for years in tented transit camps and faced discrimination at the hands of the Ashkenazi and Labor Zionist elites - they were not kept homeless in camps as political props the way the Palestinians were treated. Indeed, a separate United Nations agency - UNWRA - was created specifically in order to treat Palestinians differently from other refugees and to keep them in place awaiting Israel’s destruction.

Many, if not most, of the millions of descendants of those Arabs who fled in 1948 are genuinely needy. The refugees could use the compensation that a peace deal might bring them even though their demands for “return” have, along with their belief in Israel’s illegitimacy, largely prevented their leaders from concluding such an agreement.

By contrast, the Jewish refugees have, like every other such population in an era when borders shifted in the wake of WWII, moved on and built productive lives in their new homes, principally in the Jewish state. Nevertheless, their claims for compensation for lost property are no less just than those of the Palestinians.

Ruins of the Central Synagogue of Aleppo, Syria after it was pillaged and burnt during the 1947 Aleppo pogrom  Wikimedia

Whatever failings one might attribute to Israeli decision-makers, Palestinians Arabs have been cursed by shortsighted leaders over the last century. They have not only been allergic to compromises that might have given them a state long ago, but all too often remained trapped by rhetoric that treated their Jewish antagonists as lacking any legitimate claims.

Though Palestinians may regard Israel’s bringing up compensation claims for Jews as irrelevant to the peace process, it actually provides them with an opportunity. This is exactly the moment when they might score some points in international forums by actually embracing them.

It’s true that the eight countries named by Israel as liable for up to a quarter of trillion dollars in lost property have no intention of paying dispossessed Jews a single cent.

But why should the Palestinians, who have spent the last 70 years being used and abused by the Arab and Muslim world, care about that? That’s especially true now since many Sunni Arab governments have embraced Israel as a tacit ally against Iran, and are no longer willing to pay anything more than minimal lip service to the Palestinian cause.

If instead of ignoring the Jewish claims as a ploy by the Netanyahu government to cause the world to think less about Palestinian refugees, if the Palestinian Authority were to say they agreed that both sides should be compensated, it would strengthen their current shaky negotiating position.

At the very least it would make their continuing demands for a "right of return" for their refugees - a term that is synonymous with the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state - seem less intransigent, and make it easier for European countries to pressure Israel about conditions in Gaza.

The inability of either side to see past their own narrative of exclusive victimhood has helped perpetuate a conflict that, at least in theory, is capable of being resolved by mutual recognition and compromise. As much as it may gall them to think of even some Jews as having suffered loss, Palestinians have one more opportunity to demonstrate that coexistence is possible.

But if, as appears to be the case, Palestinians continue to treat the subject of Jewish refugees as a ruse, or a conspiracy aimed at harming their cause, they will be confirming the worst suspicions of their foes - that the root cause of their animus for Israel is hatred for Jews, no matter their origin.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS (the Jewish News Syndicate) and a contributing writer for National Review. Twitter: @jonathans_tobin



Arab States
Claiming the Heritage
of their
Expelled Jews

Mizrachim Lost,
Why They Need
a Fair Deal

Has Come
to Correct
Historic Injustice

Palestinians Should Push the
Muslim World
to Compensate Jewish Refugees

Jewish Refugees
From Arab Countries:  

Jewish Refugees Left
$150 Billion

in Property
Arab Countries


Minister Leads Effort to Claim Reparation
Stolen Jewish Property

Legal Bases
for the
Rights of
Jewish Refugees