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File:Op Magic Carpet (Yemenites).jpg

Yemenite Jews en route from Aden to Israel


Ma'abara transit camp, 1950

The Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim lands refers to the 20th century mass departure of Jews, primarily of Sephardi and Mizrahi background, from Arab and Islamic countries. The migration started in the late 19th century and peaked following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Between 800,000-1,000,000 Jews were expelled from or left their homes in Arab countries due to persecution, antisemitism, and political instability. Lebanon was the only Arab country to see an increase in its Jewish population after 1948 which was due to an influx of refugees from other Arab countries.[1] Another 200,000 Jews from non-Arab Muslim countries left due to increasing insecurity and growing hostility.

Scale of migration

It is estimated that 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jews were forced or fled from their homes in the Arab countries from 1948 until the early 1970s; 260,000 reached Israel between 1948–1951, and 600,000 by 1972.[2][3][4]

A significant proportion of Jews left due to political insecurity and the rise of Arab nationalism. Almost all were required to sell or abandon their property for state.[3] By 2002 these Jews and their descendants constituted about 40% of Israel's population.[4] A body representing this group, the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, asserts that Jewish property abandoned in Arab countries would be valued today at more than $300 billion[5][6] and Jewish-owned real-estate left behind in Arab lands at 100,000 square kilometers (four times the size of the state of Israel).[2][6] The organization asserts that a major cause of the Jewish exodus was a deliberate policy decision taken by the Arab League.[7]

Exodus causes

File:Oran synagogue.jpg

Great Synagogue of Oran, Algeria, confiscated and turned into a mosque after the departure of Jews

The Arab world consists of 22 countries in which Arabic is the main language. In those countries North of the Sahara a Jewish presence dates back to the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BCE and, outside of Arabia, predates the Arab presence by a thousand years. The movement of Jews within the Arab countries took place before the 20th century as well, with an estimated 10% of Yemenite Jews migrating to Palestine between 1881 and 1914; however the scale of the exodus in the 20th century and the disappearance of these communities marked a significant change in both Jewish and Middle-Eastern history. Template:Antisemitism

The precise circumstances of the Jewish exodus vary between Arab regions and states and change over time. On the one hand, many Jews experienced tension within the Arab countries, as did other minorities. Conversely, the idea of Zionism and of a Jewish state was appealing to the Jews; however, this entailed leaving the land in which they had lived for generations. Insecurity was exacerbated by the process of the Arab struggle for independence and the conflict in Palestine and in some cases this led to physical expulsion and appropriation of property.

According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "claims are made that Jews emigrated either because of the influence of Zionism or due to persecution by Arab countries;[8] however, as no surveys were taken at the time and as the one does not contradict the other it is not possible to effectively separate the two causes."

Historian Tom Segev stated: "Deciding to emigrate to Israel was often a very personal decision. It was based on the particular circumstances of the individual’s life. They were not all poor, or ‘dwellers in dark caves and smoking pits.’ Nor were they always subject to persecution, repression or discrimination in their native lands. They emigrated for a variety of reasons, depending on the country, the time, the community, and the person."[9]Template:Better source

Some Jews of Middle Eastern origin, including former Knesset speaker Yisrael Yeshayahu, former government minister Shlomo Hillel, and politician Ran Cohen state that they left their country of origin for Israel to pursue Zionist aspirations and not as refugees fleeing Arab persecution:[10]

During the Second World War Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya came under Nazi or Vichy French occupation and these Jews were subject to various persecutions. In other areas Nazi propaganda targeted Arab populations under British or French rule.[11] National Socialist propaganda contributed to the transfer of racial antisemitism to the Arab world and is likely to have unsettled Jewish communities.[12] In June 1941 there was a coup d'état in Iraq. Following the collapse of the new regime, an anti-Jewish pogrom took place, leading to the death of 180 Jews. Anti-Jewish riots involving the loss of life also took place in Libya in 1945, in Yemen in 1947 and in Egypt, Morocco and Iraq in 1948. At the same time, independent Arab countries began to encourage Jewish emigration to Israel.[13][14][15] Arab pogroms against Jews appeared to spread throughout the Arab world, and there were intensified riots in Yemen and Syria in particular. In Libya, Jews were deprived of citizenship, and in Iraq, their property was seized. Those Jews who were forced to emigrate were not allowed to take their property. In recent years a Jewish advocacy group, JJAC has alleged that Arab League members formulated a coordinated policy to expel or force the departure of the Jewish population.[16]

From 1948-1949, the Israeli government secretly airlifted 50,000 Jews from Yemen and from 1950–1952, 130,000 Jews were airlifted from Iraq. From 1949-1951, 30,000 Jews fled Libya to Israel. In these cases over 90% of the Jewish population opted to leave, despite the necessity of leaving their property behind.[17]

There are claims about the methods employed by Israeli officials in their attempts to stimulate emigration to Israel. The most famous case is the 1950 Iraq bombing campaign against Jewish targets which some blame on the Mossad and Mossad LeAliyah Bet agents trying to encourage Jewish emigration to Israel.[18]

Jewish refugee absorption

Within a few years by the Six Day War (1967) there were only remnants of Jewish communities left in most Arab lands. Jews in Arab lands were reduced from more than 800,000 in 1948 to perhaps 16,000 in 1991.[19] Most Jews in Arab lands eventually immigrated to the modern State of Israel,[19] and by 2003 they and their offspring, (including those of mixed lineage) comprised 3,136,436 people, or about 61% of Israel's Jewish population.[20] France was also a major destination and about 50% of French Jews now originate from North Africa.

Of the nearly 900,000 Jewish refugees, approximately 680,000 were absorbed by Israel; the remainder went to Europe (mainly to France) and the Americas.[21][22] Hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees to Israel were temporarily settled in the numerous tent cities called ma'abarot (transit camps) in Hebrew. The ma'abarot existed until 1963. Their population was gradually absorbed and integrated into Israeli society, a substantial logistical achievement, without help from the United Nations' various refugee organizations. Many of the refugees had a hard time adjusting to the new dominant culture and change of lifestyle and there were also claims of discrimination. In 1971, these sentiments led to the establishment of the Israeli Black Panther movement.

Jewish "Nakba"

In response to the Palestinian Nakba narrative, the term "Jewish Nakba" is sometimes used to refer to the persecution and expulsion of Jews from Arab countries in the years and decades following the creation of the State of Israel. Israeli columnist Ben Dror Yemini, himself a Mizrahi Jew, wrote:[23]

However, there is another Nakba: the Jewish Nakba. During those same years [the 1940's], there was a long line of slaughters, of pogroms, of property confiscation and of deportations against Jews in Islamic countries. This chapter of history has been left in the shadows. The Jewish Nakba was worse than the Palestinian Nakba. The only difference is that the Jews did not turn that Nakba into their founding ethos. To the contrary.

Professor Ada Aharoni, chairman of The World Congress of the Jews from Egypt, argues in an article entitled "What about the Jewish Nakba?" that exposing the truth about the expulsion of the Jews from Arab states could facilitate a genuine peace process, since it would enable Palestinians to realize they were not the only ones who suffered, and thus their sense of "victimization and rejectionism" will decline.[24]

Additionally, Canadian MP and international human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler has referred to the "double Nakba." He criticizes the Arab states rejectionism of the Jewish state, their subsequent invasion to destroy the newly formed nation, and the punishment meted out against their local Jewish populations:[25]

The result was, therefore, a double Nakba: not only of Palestinian-Arab suffering and the creation of a Palestinian refugee problem, but also, with the assault on Israel and on Jews in Arab countries, the creation of a second, much less known, group of refugees - Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Yehuda Shenhav has criticized the analogy between Jewish emigration from Arab countries and the Palestinian exodus. He states that the analogy is "a mistaken reading of history, imprudent politics, and moral injustice." He also says "The unfounded, immoral analogy between Palestinian refugees and Mizrahi immigrants needlessly embroils members of these two groups in a dispute, degrades the dignity of many Mizrahi Jews, and harms prospects for genuine Jewish-Arab reconciliation." [10]

Jewish population in Arab countries, 1948-2008


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Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue (Alexandria) Egypt

In 1945, there were between 758,000 and 881,000 Jews (see table below) living in communities throughout the Arab world. Today, there are fewer than 8,600. In some Arab states, such as Libya, which was about 3% Jewish, the Jewish community no longer exists; in other Arab countries, only a few hundred Jews remain.

Jewish Populations of Arab Countries: 1948 and 2001/2008
Country or territory 1948 Jewish
Estimated Jewish
population 2001[26]
Estimated Jewish
population 2008
Aden 8,000[27] ~0 ~0
Algeria 140,000[27][28] ~0 ~0
Bahrain 550-600[29] 36 around 50[30]
Egypt 75,000[27]-80,000[28] ~100 fewer than 100[citation needed]
Iraq 135,000[27]-140,000[28] ~200 fewer than 100[31][dead link]
7-12 in Baghdad[32][33][34]
Lebanon 5,000[27]-20,000[35] < 150 20-40 exclusively in Beirut[36][37]
Libya 35,000[28]-38,000[27] 0 ~0
Morocco 250,000[28]-265,000[27] 5,230 2,500-4,000[citation needed]
Sudan 350[38] ~0[39] ~0
Syria 15,000[28]-30,000[27] ~100 fewer than 300 remain.[40]
Tunisia 50,000[28]-105,000[27] ~1,000 in 2004 estimated 1,500 remain.[41]
Yemen 45,000[28]-55,000[27] 400-600 330[42]-350.[43]
Total 758,350 - 881,350 <7,300 <9,400
Jewish Populations of non-Arab Muslim Countries and territories: 1948 and 2009
Country or territory 1948 Jewish
Estimated Jewish
population 2008-2009
Afghanistan 5,000 1 [44]
Bangladesh Unknown 175, up to 3,500[45]
Iran 70,000-120,000,[46] 100,000, 140,000–150,000 25,000-40,000 remain.[citation needed]
Kurdistan (N.Iraq) 50,000[47] A small number in Sanandaj and Mahābād.[47]
Pakistan 2,000, 2,500[48] A tiny community in Karachi, about 200.[45]
Turkey 80,000[49] 18,000-23,000[50]
Total 202,000 - 282,500 43,500 - 74,500



A Jew of Algiers, late 19th century

Almost all Jews in Algeria left upon independence in 1962. Algeria's 140,000 Jews who had French citizenship since 1870 (briefly revoked by Vichy France in 1940) left mostly for France, although some went to Israel.[51]

Following the Algerian Civil War most of the thousand-odd Jews living mainly in Algiers and Blida, Constantine, and Oran, left the country. The Algiers synagogue was consequently abandoned after 1994.

Jewish migration from North Africa to France led to the rejuvenation of the French Jewish community, which is now the third largest in the world.


Bahrain's tiny Jewish community, mostly the Jewish descendants of immigrants who entered the country in the early 1900s from Iraq, numbered 600 in 1948. In the wake of the November 29, 1947 U.N. Partition vote, demonstrations against the vote in the Arab world were called for December 2–5. The first two days of demonstrations in Bahrain saw rock throwing against Jews, but on December 5 mobs in the capital of Manama looted Jewish homes and shops, destroyed the synagogue, beat any Jews they could find, and murdered one elderly woman.[52]

Over the next few decades, most left for other countries, especially England; as of 2006 only 36 remained.[53]

Relations between Jews and Muslims are generally considered good, with Bahrain being the only state on the Arabian Peninsula where there is a specific Jewish community and the only Gulf state with a synagogue. One member of the community, Rouben Rouben, who sells electronics and appliances from his downtown showroom, said “95% of my customers are Bahrainis, and the government is our No. 1 corporate customer. I’ve never felt any kind of discrimination.”[53]

Members play a prominent role in civil society: Ebrahim Nono was appointed in 2002 a member of Bahrain's upper house of parliament, the Consultative Council, while a Jewish woman heads a human rights group, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the active Jewish community is "a source of pride for Bahraini officials".[53]

In Bahrain's 2006 parliamentary election, some candidates have specifically sought out the Jewish vote; writer Munira Fakhro, Vice President of the Leftist National Democratic Action, standing in Isa Town told the local press: "There are 20-30 Jews in my area and I would be working for their benefit and raise their standard of living."[54]



Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo

In 1948, approximately 75,000 Jews lived in Egypt. About 100 remain today, mostly in Cairo. In June 1948, a bomb exploded in Cairo's Karaite quarter, killing 22 Jews. In July 1948, Jewish shops and the Cairo Synagogue were attacked, killing 19 Jews.[2] Hundreds of Jews were arrested and had their property confiscated. The 1954, the Lavon Affair served as a pretext for further persecution of Egyptian Jews. In October 1956, when the Suez Crisis erupted, 1,000 Jews were arrested and 500 Jewish businesses were seized by the government. A statement branding the Jews "enemies of the state" was read out in the mosques of Cairo and Alexandria. Jewish bank accounts were confiscated and many Jews lost their jobs. Lawyers, engineers, doctors and teachers were not allowed to work in their professions. In 1967, Jews were detained and tortured, and Jewish homes were confiscated.[2]

In 1951, the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion was translated into Arabic and promoted as an authentic historical document, fueling anti-Semitic sentiments in Egypt.[55] In 1960, the Protocols were the subject of an article by Salah Dasuqi, military governor of Cairo, in al-Majallaaa, the official cultural journal.[56] In 1965, the Egyptian government released an English-language pamphlet titled Israel, the Enemy of Africa and distributed it throughout the English-speaking countries of Africa. The pamphlet used the Protocols and The International Jew as its sources and concluded that all the Jews were cheats, thieves, and murderers.[57]



1932 photograph of Ezekiel's Tomb at Kifel. The area was inhabited by Iraqi Jews who appear in the photo.

In 1948, there were approximately 150,000 Jews in Iraq. The community was concentrated in Baghdad and Basra. By 2003, there were only approximately 100 left of this previously thriving community. In 1941, following Rashid Ali's pro-Axis coup, riots known as the Farhud broke out in Baghdad in which approximately 180 Jews were killed and about 240 were wounded, 586 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 99 Jewish houses were destroyed.[58]

Like most Arab League states, Iraq initially forbade the emigration of its Jews after the 1948 war on the grounds that allowing them to go to Israel would strengthen that state. However, by 1949 Jews were escaping Iraq at about a rate of 1,000 a month (Simon, Reguer, and Laskier, p 365).

Hoping to stem the flow of assets from the country, in March 1950 Iraq passed a law of one year duration allowing Jews to emigrate on condition of relinquishing their Iraqi citizenship. They were motivated, according to Ian Black, by "economic considerations, chief of which was that almost all the property of departing Jews reverted to the state treasury" and also that "Jews were seen as a restive and potentially troublesome minority that the country was best rid of.". Israel was at first reluctant to absorb all the Jews, but eventually yielded and mounted an operation called "Ezra and Nehemiah" to bring as many of the Iraqi Jews as possible to Israel.

At first, the Zionist movement tried to regulate the amount of registrants, until several issues relating to their legal status were clarified. Later on it gave up on that position and allowed everyone to register. Two weeks after the law went into force, the Iraqi interior minister demanded a CID investigation as to why the Jews were not registering. A mere few hours after the movement allowed registrations, a bomb attack injured four Jews at a café on Abu-Nawas street in Baghdad.

On August 21, 1950, the Iraqi minister of interior threatened the company flying the Jews to have its license revoked if it does not fulfil the quota of 500 Jews per day. Later on, on September 18, 1950, Nuri As-said summoned a representative of the Jewish community and told him that he knows that Israel is behind the delay in the departure of the Jews, and threatened to "take them to the borders". On October 12, 1950, Nuri as-said summoned a senior official of the company and made similar threats again, equating the expulsion of Jews with the expulsion of Palestinians.

Two months before the expiry of the law, by which time about 85,000 Jews had registered, a bombing campaign against Jews in Baghdad began. The law expired in March 1951, but was later extended after the Iraqi government froze and later appropriated the assets of departing Jews (including those who had already left).In 1951 the Iraqi Government passed legislation that made affiliation with Zionism a felony and ordered, "the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism."[59]

Between April 1950 and June 1951, five bombings of Jewish targets in Baghdad occurred. Iraqi authorities eventually arrested 3 Zionist activists for the bombings, sentencing 2 - Shalom Salah Shalom and Yosef Ibrahim Basri - to death and a third - Yehuda Tajar - to 10 years in jail .[60] Over the decades, there has been much heated debate over whether the bombs were in fact planted by the Mossad in order to encourage Iraqi Jews to emigrate to the newly created state of Israel or whether they were the work of genuine anti-Jewish extremists in Iraq. The issue has been the subject of lawsuits and inquiries in Israel.[61] In May and June 1951, the arms caches of the Zionist underground in Iraq, which had been supplied from Palestine/Israel since the Farhud of 1941, were discovered.

Historian Moshe Gat contends that the claim that the bombings were carried out by Zionists is contrary to the evidence, and in any event the impetus for the Jewish-Iraqi exodus was the imminent expiration of the denaturalisation law (allowing Jews to leave), not the bombing.[62][63]

However, anti-Zionist[64] Naeim Giladi's position that the bombings were "perpetrated by Zionist agents in order to cause fear amongst the Jews, and so promote their exodus to Israel" is shared by other anti-Zionist[65] authors and journalists such as Israeli Black Panthers (1975), David Hirst (1977),[66] Uri Avnery (1988),[66] Abbas Shiblak (1986) ,[67] and Marion Wolfsohn (1980).[66] Wilbur Crane Eveland held a similar view, outlining the allegation in his 1980 book Ropes of Sand.[68]

During the months after the first bomb, all but a few thousand of the remaining Jews registered for emigration. In total, about 120,000 Jews left Iraq.

In 1969 some 50 of the remaining Iraqi Jews were executed, 11 were publicly executed after show trials and several hundred thousand Iraqis marched past the bodies amid a carnival-like atmosphere.[69]


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Maghen Abraham Synagogue in Beirut, Lebanon

The area now known as Lebanon was the home of one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, dating back to at least 300 BCE. In 1948, there were approximately 24,000[70] The largest communities of Jews in Lebanon were in Beirut, and the villages near Mount Lebanon, Deir al Qamar, Barouk, Bechamoun, and Hasbaya. While the French mandate saw a general improvement in conditions for Jews, the Vichy regime placed restrictions on them. The Jewish community actively supported Lebanese independence after World War II and had mixed attitudes toward Zionism.[citation needed]

Unlike in other Arab countries, the Lebanese Jewish community did not face grave peril during the 1948 Arab-Israel War and was reasonably protected by governmental authorities. Lebanon was also the only Arab country that saw a post-1948 increase in its Jewish population, principally due to the influx of Jewish refugees coming from Syria and Iraq.[1]

However, negative attitudes toward Jews increased after 1948, and, by 1967, most Lebanese Jews had emigrated - to the United States, Canada, France, and Israel. The remaining Jewish community was particularly hard hit by the civil wars in Lebanon, and, by 1967, most Jews had emigrated. In 1971, Albert Elia, the 69-year-old Secretary-General of the Lebanese Jewish community was kidnapped in Beirut by Syrian agents and imprisoned under torture in Damascus along with Syrian Jews who had attempted to flee the country. A personal appeal by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Prince Sadruddin Agha Khan to the late President Hafez al-Assad failed to secure Elia's release. In the 1980s, Hezbollah kidnapped several Lebanese Jewish businessmen, and in the 2004 elections, only one Jew voted in the municipal elections. There are now only between 20 and 40 Jews living in Lebanon.[36][37]


In 1948, about 38,000 Jews lived there.[27][71] A series of pogroms started in Tripoli in November 1945; over a period of several days more than 130 Jews (including 36 children) were killed, hundreds were injured, 4,000 were left homeless, and 2,400 were reduced to poverty. Five synagogues in Tripoli and four in provincial towns were destroyed, and over 1,000 Jewish residences and commercial buildings were plundered in Tripoli alone.[72] The pogroms continued in June 1948, when 15 Jews were killed and 280 Jewish homes destroyed.[73]

Between the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and Libyan independence in December 1951 over 30,000 Libyan Jews emigrated to Israel. In 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Jewish population of 4,000 was again subjected to pogroms in which 18 were killed, and many more injured. The Libyan government "urged the Jews to leave the country temporarily", permitting them each to take one suitcase and the equivalent of $50. In June and July over 4,000 traveled to Italy, where they were assisted by the Jewish Agency. 1,300 went on to Israel, 2,200 remained in Italy, and most of the rest went to the United States. A few scores remained in Libya.[74][75]

In 1970 the Libyan government issued new laws which confiscated all the assets of Libya's Jews, issuing in their stead 15 year bonds. However, when the bonds matured no compensation was paid. Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi justified this on the grounds that "the alignment of the Jews with Israel, the Arab nations' enemy, has forfeited their right to compensation."[76]

Although the main synagogue in Tripoli was renovated in 1999, it has not reopened for services. The last Jew in Libya, Esmeralda Meghnagi died in February, 2002. Israel is home to about 40,000 Jews of Libyan descent, who maintain unique traditions.[77]


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Jewish Wedding in Morocco by Eugène Delacroix, Louvre, Paris

In Morocco the Vichy regime during World War II passed discriminatory laws against Jews; for example, Jews were no longer able to get any form of credit, Jews who had homes or businesses in European neighborhoods were expelled, and quotas were imposed limiting the percentage of Jews allowed to practice professions such as law and medicine to two percent.[78] King Muhammad V expressed his personal distaste for these laws, and assured Moroccan Jewish leaders that he would never lay a hand "upon either their persons or property". While there is no concrete evidence of him actually taking any actions to defend Morocco's Jews, it has been argued that he may have worked behind the scenes on their behalf [79] though this has been refuted by local research.[80]

In June 1948, soon after Israel was established and in the midst of the first Arab-Israeli war, riots against Jews broke out in Oujda and Djerada, killing 44 Jews. In 1948-9, 18,000 Jews left the country for Israel. After this, Jewish emigration continued (to Israel and elsewhere), but slowed to a few thousand a year. Through the early fifties, Zionist organizations encouraged emigration, particularly in the poorer south of the country, seeing Moroccan Jews as valuable contributors to the Jewish State:

...These Jews constitute the best and most suitable human element for settlement in Israel's absorption centers. There were many positive aspects which I found among them: first and foremost, they all know (their agricultural) tasks, and their transfer to agricultural work in Israel will not involve physical and mental difficulties. They are satisfied with few (material needs), which will enable them to confront their early economic problems.
—Yehuda Grinker, The Emigration of Atlas Jews to Israel[81]
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Jews of Fez, c. 1900

In 1956, Morocco attained independence. Jews occupied several political positions, including three parliamentary seats and the cabinet position of Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. However, that minister, Leon Benzaquen, did not survive the first cabinet reshuffling, and no Jew was appointed again to a cabinet position.[82] Although the relations with the Jewish community at the highest levels of government were cordial, these attitudes were not shared by the lower ranks of officialsdom, which exhibited attitudes that ranged from traditional contempt to outright hostility".[83] Morocco's increasing identification with the Arab world, and pressure on Jewish educational institutions to arabize and conform culturally added to the fears of Moroccan Jews.[83] Emigration to Israel jumped from 8,171 in 1954 to 24,994 in 1955, increasing further in 1956. Beginning in 1956, emigration to Israel was prohibited until 1961; during that time, however, clandestine emigration continued, and a further 18,000 Jews left Morocco. On January 10, 1961, a boat carrying Jews attempting to flee the country sank off the northern coast of the country; the negative publicity associated with this prompted King Muhammad V to again allow emigration, and over the three following years, more than 70,000 Moroccan Jews left the country.[84] By 1967, only 50,000 Jews remained.[85]

The Six-Day War in 1967 led to increased Arab-Jewish tensions worldwide, including Morocco, and Jewish emigration continued. By the early 1970s the Jewish population was reduced to 25,000; however, most of this wave of emigration went to France, Belgium, Spain, and Canada, rather than Israel.[85]

Despite their current small numbers, Jews continue to play a notable role in Morocco; the king retains a Jewish senior adviser, André Azoulay, and Jewish schools and synagogues receive government subsidies. However, Jewish targets have sometimes been attacked (notably in the bombing of a Jewish community center in Casablanca, see Casablanca Attacks), and there is sporadic anti-Semitic rhetoric from radical Islamist groups. The late King Hassan II's invitations for Jews to return have not been taken up by the people who emigrated; in 1948, over 250,000[28]-265,000[27] Jews lived in Morocco. By 2001 an estimated 5,230 remained.[26]

According to Esther Benbassa, the migration of Jews from the Maghreb countries was prompted by uncertainty about the future.[86]


Jewish community in Sudan was concentrated in the capital Khartoum, and had been established in the late 19th century. By the middle of the 20th century the community included some 350 Jews, mainly of Sephardic background, who had constructed a synagogue and a Jewish school. Between 1948 and 1956, some members of the community left the country, and it finally ceased to exist by the early sixties.[38][39]



Jewish wedding in Aleppo, Syria, 1914.

Rioters in Aleppo in 1947 burned the city's Jewish quarter and killed 75 people.[87] In 1948, there were approximately 30,000 Jews in Syria. The Syrian government placed severe restrictions on the Jewish community, including on emigration. Over the next decades, many Jews managed to escape, and the work of supporters, particularly Judy Feld Carr,[88] in smuggling Jews out of Syria, and bringing their plight to the attention of the world, raised awareness of their situation. Following the Madrid Conference of 1991 the United States put pressure on the Syrian government to ease its restrictions on Jews, and on Passover in 1992, the government of Syria began granting exit visas to Jews on condition that they do not emigrate to Israel. At that time, the country had several thousand Jews; today, under a hundred remain. The rest of the Jewish community have emigrated, mostly to the United States and Israel. There is a large and vibrant Syrian Jewish community in South Brooklyn, New York. In 2004, the Syrian government attempted to establish better relations with the emigrants, and a delegation of a dozen Jews of Syrian origin visited Syria in the spring of that year.[89]


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Jews of Tunis, c. 1900. From the Jewish Encyclopedia.

In 1948, approximately 105,000 Jews lived in Tunisia. About 1,500 remain today, mostly in Djerba, Tunis, and Zarzis. Following Tunisia's independence from France in 1956, a number of anti-Jewish policies led to emigration, of which half went to Israel and the other half to France. After attacks in 1967, Jewish emigration both to Israel and France accelerated. There were also attacks in 1982, 1985, and most recently in 2002 when a bomb in Djerba took 21 lives (most of them German tourists) near the local synagogue, in a terrorist attack claimed by Al-Qaeda. (See Ghriba synagogue bombing).


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A bride in traditional Yemenite Jewish bridal vestment

If one includes Aden, there were about 63,000 Jews in Yemen in 1948. Today, there are about 200 left. In 1947, riots killed at least 80 Jews in Aden, a British colony in southern Yemen. In 1948 the new Zaydi Imam Ahmad bin Yahya unexpectedly allowed his Jewish subjects to leave Yemen, and tens of thousands poured into Aden. The Israeli government's Operation Magic Carpet evacuated around 44,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel in 1949 and 1950.[90] Emigration continued until 1962, when the civil war in Yemen broke out. A small community remained unknown until 1976, but it appears that all infrastructure is lost now.[citation needed]

Jewish refugee advocacy

Advocacy groups acting on behalf of Jewish refugees from Arab countries include:

In March 2008, "[f]or the first time ever, ... a Jewish refugee from an Arab country" appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council. Regina Bublil-Waldman, a Jewish Libyan refugee and founder of JIMENA, "appeared before the UN Human Rights Council wearing her grandmother's Libyan wedding dress."[96] Justice for Jews from Arab Countries presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council about oppression Jews faced in Arab countries that forced them to find amnesty elsewhere.

At a July 2008 joint session of the United Kingdom’s House of Commons and House of Lords convened by Labour MP John Mann and Lord Anderson of Swansea, in co-operation with Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler said Arab countries and the League of Arab States must acknowledge their role in launching an aggressive war against Israel in 1948 and the perpetration of human rights violations against their respective Jewish nationals. Cotler cited evidence from a report titled Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: The Case for Rights And Redress which documented for the first time a pattern of state-sanctioned repression and persecution in Arab countries – including Nuremberg-like laws – that targeted Jewish populations.[97]

Among other notable advocates are historian Bat Ye'or who considers herself an Egyptian refugee and considers that experience as one that shaped her perspective.


The official position of the Israeli government is that Jews from Arab lands are considered refugees, and it considers their rights to property left in countries of origin as valid and existent.[98]

Nonetheless, the assertion that Jewish emigrants from Arab lands should be considered refugees has received mixed reactions from various quarters.

Iraqi-born Ran Cohen, a former member of the Knesset, said: "I have this to say: I am not a refugee. I came at the behest of Zionism, due to the pull that this land exerts, and due to the idea of redemption. Nobody is going to define me as a refugee". Yemeni-born Yisrael Yeshayahu, former Knesset speaker, Labor Party, stated: "We are not refugees. [Some of us] came to this country before the state was born. We had messianic aspirations". And Iraqi-born Shlomo Hillel, also a former speaker of the Knesset, Labor Party, claimed: "I do not regard the departure of Jews from Arab lands as that of refugees. They came here because they wanted to, as Zionists."[99][dead link]

In 2008, the Orthodox Sephardi party, Shas, announced its intention to seek compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab states.[100] In 2009, Israeli lawmakers introduced a bill into the Knesset to make compensation for Jewish refugees an integral part of any future peace negotiations by requiring compensation on behalf of current Jewish Israeli citizens, who were expelled from Arab countries after Israel was established in 1948 and leaving behind a significant amount of valuable property. In February 2010, the bill passed its first reading. The bill was sponsored by MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) and follows a resolution passed in the United States House of Representatives in 2008, calling for refugee recognition to be extended to Jews and Christians similar to that extended to Palestinians in the course of Middle East peace talks.[101]

The type and extent of linkage between the Jewish exodus from Arab lands and the Palestinian Exodus has also been the source of controversy. Advocacy groups have suggested that there are strong ties between the two processes and some of them even claim that decoupling the two issues is unjust.[102][103][104]

Holocaust restitution expert Sidney Zabludoff has published a calculation that the losses sustained by the Jews who fled Arab countries since 1947 amounts to $6 billion, in contrast to the losses of the Palestinian Arab refugees which he estimates at $3.9 billion (both sums in 2007 dollars).[105]

Films about the exodus

  • I Miss The Sun (1984), USA, produced and directed by Mary Hilawani. Filmmaker Mary Halawani profiles her grandmother, Rosette Hakim, in this illuminating documentary short. A prominent Egyptian-Jewish family, the Halawanis fled their homeland in 1959 when anti-Zionist sentiments were on the rise and hundreds of Jews were interned in detention camps for alleged pro-Communist activities. Rosette, the family matriarch, chose to remain in Egypt until every member of the large family was free to leave.
  • The Dhimmis: To Be a Jew in Arab Lands (1987), director Baruch Gitlis and David Goldstein a producer. This comprehensive documentary details the centuries of persecution endured by Jews living in Arab lands. Using rare film footage, photographs, maps and interviews, we are presented with an excellent country by country recounting of Jewish life that flourished in the midst of ongoing conflict.
  • The Forgotten Refugees (2004) is a documentary film by The David Project, describing the events of collapse of Jewish communities across the Middle East and North Africa, following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • The Silent Exodus (2004) by Pierre Rehov. In 1948 nearly one million Jews lived in Arab lands. But In barely twenty years, they have become forgotten fugitives, expelled from their native lands, forgotten by history and where the victims themselves have hidden their fate under a cloak of silence. Silent Exodus was selected at the International Human Rights Film Festival of Paris (2004) and presented at the UN Geneva Human Rights Annual Convention (2004).
  • The Last Jews of Libya (2007). At the end of World War II, 36,000 Jews lived in Libya. Today, there are none. Filmmaker Vivienne Roumani-Denn tells how European colonialism, Italian fascism and the rise of Arab nationalism contributed to the disappearance of Libya's once vibrant Sephardic Jewish community.

See also


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  4. 4.0 4.1 Ada Aharoni "The Forced Migration of Jews from Arab Countries, Historical Society of Jews from Egypt website. Accessed February 1, 2009.
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  62. "Historian Moshe Gat argues that there was little direct connection between the bombings and exodus. He demonstrates that the frantic and massive Jewish registration for denaturalisation and departure was driven by knowledge that the denaturalisation law was due to expire in March 1951. He also notes the influence of further pressures including the property-freezing law, and continued anti-Jewish disturbances which raised the fear of large-scale pogroms. In addition, it is highly unlikely the Israelis would have taken such measures to accelerate the Jewish evacuation given that they were already struggling to cope with the existing level of Jewish immigration. Gat also raises serious doubts about the guilt of the alleged Jewish bomb throwers. Firstly, a Christian officer in the Iraqi army known for his anti-Jewish views was arrested, but apparently not charged, with the offenses. A number of explosive devices similar to those used in the attack on the Jewish synagogue were found in his home. In addition, there was a long history of anti-Jewish bomb-throwing incidents in Iraq. Secondly, the prosecution was not able to produce even one eyewitness who had seen the bombs thrown. Thirdly, the Jewish defendant Shalom Salah indicated in court that he had been severely tortured in order to procure a confession. It therefore remains an open question as to who was responsible for the bombings, although Gat suggests that the most likely perpetrators were members of the anti-Jewish Istiqlal Party. Certainly memories and interpretations of the events have further been influenced and distorted by the unfortunate discrimination which many Iraqi Jews experienced on their arrival in Israel." Mendes, Philip. The Forgotten Refugees: the causes of the post-1948 Jewish Exodus from Arab Countries, Presented at the 14th Jewish Studies Conference Melbourne March 2002. Retrieved June 12, 2007.
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  • André Chouraqui (2002), Between East and West: A History of the Jews of North Africa. ISBN 1-59045-118-X
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  • Simon, Rachel (1992). Change Within Tradition Among Jewish Women in Libya, University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97167-3
  • Stearns, Peter N. Template:Worldhistory
  • Stillman, Norman (1975). Jews of Arab Lands a History and Source Book. Jewish Publication Society
  • Stillman, Norman (2003). Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times. Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia. ISBN 0-8276-0370-3
  • Zargari, Joseph (2005). The Forgotten Story of the Mizrachi Jews. Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal (Volume 23, 2004–2005).

External links

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