Letter from Israel
29 November 2015
The Letter from Israel has not ceased publication. I intended this Letter to be sent towards the end of November 2014. However, the research for this Letter took far longer than anticipated. The Letter covers a subject which is important, regretfully is largely unknown, is much, much longer than usual, does not make for easy reading but I respectfully suggest is compulsory reading. Simply, it is the story of Jews from Arab countries.
I offer no excuse for the length of this Letter. The story and history of Jews in Arab lands has been overlooked for far too long and needs to be told and retold.
First, I set out UN Resolution 181 of 29 November 1947..
I continue by explaining why I wanted to issue this letter towards the end of November 2014 but settled for end November 2015.
This is followed by the recommended legislation drafted by the Arab League in 1947.
I provide a repeat of a description of the place of Jews and indeed other non-Moslems minorities in Moslem society.
Then follows a general history of Jews living in Arab lands and, specifically, the story of a traveler (non-Jewish) visiting Morocco in 1805.
I deal in some detail but generally with the events of 1947 to about 1972 and the results.
I have a short paragraph estimating the value of property abandoned by the Jewish exodus.
I then set out a short history of Jews of, and “the last days of the Jews” and pogroms in, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Algeria. It should be noted that many of the pogroms were carried out well before the UN Resolution of 29 November 1947 which recommended the partition of Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State.
I add a short note on a riot in Tunisia in 1928.
I have added a short paragraph on the relatively unknown Jewish community of Bahrain.
I end with two amazing but forgotten stories: the rescue of the Jews of Yemen (and Iraq) carried out by Alaska Airlines and the almost completely unknown and totally forgotten story of how the small and mainly Jewish Algerian underground facilitated one of the first, if not the first, Allied victories of the Second World War.
With regard to Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab countries, two important sentences are required.
The number of Arabs (not yet Palestinians) leaving Palestine/Israel in 1947/1948 is estimated to be between 350,000 and 550,000.
The number of Jews leaving Arab lands is known to be about 850,000 of which about 650,000 left for Israel (which had a population of about 700,000 at that time) and most of the remainder left for France.
I learnt much on this journey into the history of the Jews in Arab countries. You may wish to follow up on your own into this largely unknown but important history.
For my research, I have in the main read and used articles in the internet and the Jewish Virtual Library, using the Wikipedia to substantiate my findings. My thanks to the unknown authors of so many articles on Jews in Arab lands.
As usual, you are welcome, indeed encouraged, to distribute all or part of this Letter to your friends and family.
If I do not succeed in sending another letter from Israel in the near future, then I send both Hanukka greetings and Seasons greetings with my wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful and successful new year.
As always, shalom from Israel.
Charles M. Abelsohn
Truth be Told
November 29, 1947: the UN General Assembly adopts Resolution 181.
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution, no 181, which adopted the plan recommending the partition of Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State. 33 states voted in favor of the resolution and 13 voted against. 10 states abstained.
It was a historic resolution that expressed the then-prevailing view of most of the major states of the United Nations, which voted in favor of it. It provided for two states for two peoples. All Arab States voted against.
The adoption of the partition resolution by the General Assembly was received by the Jewish community with great joy and thousands went out to the streets to celebrate, even though it was clear that the Arab states would embark on both measures against Jewish communities in Arab lands as well as a relentless war against the realization of the plan to establish a Jewish state. This Letter relates to the fate of the Jewish communities in Arab lands.
November 30: Commemorating the expulsion of Jews from Arab lands
Who Is a Refugee? “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.” —United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Definition
The story of Jews forced out of Arab countries after 1948 is not well known. Approximately 850,000 Jews became refugees. Sometimes referred to as “the forgotten refugees,” they never received recognition or help from the international community or compensation for their great losses. No international body, similar to UNRWA formed to assist the Palestinian Arabs, recognized them or assisted them. It was left to the relatively poor 700,000 Israelis to absorb the equally poor 650,000 Jews from Arab countries.
On June 23, 2014 the Knesset adopted a law which designates November 30th as an annual, national day of commemoration for the 850,000 Jewish refugees who were displaced from Arab countries and Iran in the 20th century. I wanted to issue this letter on or about November 30th 2014; the extensive research resulted in this letter being issued one year later but nevertheless still about November 30th (2015).
Still, why November 30th? United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 called for the partition of the British-ruled Palestine Mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state (note: NOT a Palestinian state). It was approved on November 29, 1947 (with ALL Arab states opposing). Jews had lived in the Arab lands for thousands of years, and many of their communities preceded the advent of Islam. But in the 20th century, with the rise of Arab nationalism and the conflict in Palestine, the new Arab regimes began a campaign of massive violations of the rights of their Jewish citizens. Arab states expropriated property of their native Jews, and denaturalized, expelled, arrested, tortured and murdered many of them. To a large extent, 30th November 1947 marks the beginning of the end of Jewish communities in Arab lands.
The narratives of the departure of the Jews from Arab lands differ in detail by country, and from one family to another, but in the substance the stories are similar.
Draft Resolution Recommended by the Arab League to its Arab State Members to take effect on 29 November 1947
The Arab League (founded in 1945) enacted measures to marginalize and persecute Jewish citizens in their states, even though some of the Jewish communities were 2,000 years old and predated the Arab-Muslim conquest.
The following is the draft resolution recommended by the Arab League to its Arab state members to take effect in Arab states on the adoption on 29 November 1947 of the Palestine Partition Resolution providing for “a Jewish State and an Arab State” (the terminology used in the United Nations Resolution). This is the reason for Israel designating 30th November as the day of commemoration for Jews displaced in Arab countries.
- “Beginning with November 28, 1947, all Jewish citizens of (Name of Arab Country) will be considered as members of the Jewish minority State of Palestine and will have to register with the authorities of the region wherein they reside, giving their names, the exact number of members in their families, their addresses, the names of their banks and the amounts of their deposits in these banks. This formality is to be accomplished within seven days.
- Beginning with (November 28, 1947), bank accounts of Jews will be frozen. These funds will be utilized in part or in full to finance the movement of resistance to Zionist ambitions in Palestine.
- Beginning with (November 28, 1947), only Jews who are subjects of foreign countries will be considered as “neutrals”. These will be compelled either to return to their countries, with a minimum of delay, or be considered as Arabs and obliged to accept active service with the Arab army.
- Jews who accept active service in Arab armies or place themselves at the disposal of those armies, will be considered as “Arabs”.
- Every Jew whose activities reveal that he is an active Zionist will be considered as a political prisoner and will be interned in places specifically designated for that purpose by police authorities or by the Government. His financial resources, instead of being frozen, will be confiscated.
- Any Jew who will be able to prove that his activities are anti-Zionist will be free to act as he likes, provided that he declares his readiness to join the Arab armies.
- The foregoing (para.6) does not mean that those Jews will not be submitted to paragraphs 1 and 2 of this law.”
Aspects of the Arab League draft resolution were adopted by individual Arab governments. The human rights lawyer and Canadian ex-Justice minister Irwin Cotler has called them ”Nuremberg-style measures.”
The Status of Non-Muslim Minorities Under Islamic Rule – Dhimmitude
This is a repeat of a note I sent on 22 August 2014. It summarizes Jewish and non-Moslem life in Islamic countries.
The term Dhimmitude is derived from Dhimmi, which means a non-Muslim living in an Islamic country. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary has defined it as “a person living in a region overrun by Muslim conquest who was accorded a protected status and allowed to retain his original faith”. According to orthodox Islamic law (Shari’ah), those who are qualified for Dhimmi status within the Muslim society are the free (i.e non-slave) Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Adherents of other religions, as well as those without religion, are asked to convert to Islam; if they refuse, they are to be forced to convert. However, historically, adherents of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other religions, have lived as Dhimmis within Muslim states.
According to the Qur’an and hadith (oral tradition), Jizyah tax must be paid by the dhimmis as a sign of submission. Specifically, it is the TAXING of non-muslims in exchange for tolerating their presence AND as a coercive means of converting conquered remnants to Islam. This gives dhimmis some legal protection in return. Dhimmis usually are not allowed to carry arms to protect themselves, serve in the army or government, display symbols of their faith, build or repair places of worship, they must wear distinctive clothing which includes the Zunar (a kind of belt) wherever they go, etc. Many of these laws are still enforced today in Muslim countries, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which enforce various aspects of Shari’ah. If the conquered do not wish to pay or convert, their fate may very well be slavery (under which, rape is permitted) or death. Dhimmis are forbidden to ride horses and camels, and may only ride donkeys, and only on packsaddles.
The Jews were dhimmis. The dhimmi is a second-class citizen. If they [the ruling Muslims] tolerate him it is a calculated step, whether because they cherish the hope of converting him or for material reasons, because they force him to shoulder virtually the entire burden of taxation. They provide a place for him in the state, but not without reminding him continually of his inferior status. They prevent him from occupying high positions in society, and if by merit or intrigue he manages to climb to such places everything conspires to relegate him once again to obscurity. If the dhimmi acquires an independent legal status or privileges associated with his personal position, if he is permitted even his own courts, it is only because he cannot share with the Faithful the advantages of their own justice, which is essentially religious. In no case is the dhimmi the equal of a Muslim. He is condemned to social inequality and forms part of a despised caste: inequality so far as his personal rights are concerned, inequality in taxation, and inequality before the law, since his testimony is neither accepted by the Muslim courts of justice nor even, for the same minor crime, is the punishment the same … No social relationship, no fellowship is possible between Muslims and dhimmis.
A Very Short History of Jews in Arab Lands
“Jews who lived in Islamic countries were well-treated by the Arabs.”
While Jewish communities in Islamic countries generally fared somewhat better overall than those in Christian lands in Europe, Jews were no strangers to persecution and humiliation among the Arabs. As Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis has written: “The Golden Age of equal rights was a myth”.
Muhammad, the founder of Islam, traveled to Medina in 622 A.D. to attract followers to his new faith. When the Jews of Medina refused to recognize Muhammad as their Prophet, two of the major Jewish tribes were expelled. In 627, Muhammad’s followers killed between 600 and 900 of the men, and divided the surviving Jewish women and children amongst themselves.
The Muslim attitude toward Jews is reflected in various verses throughout the Koran, the holy book of the Islamic faith. “They [the Children of Israel] were consigned to humiliation and wretchedness. They brought the wrath of God upon themselves, and this because they used to deny God’s signs and kill His Prophets unjustly and because they disobeyed and were transgressors” (Sura 2:61). According to the Koran, the Jews try to introduce corruption (5:64), have always been disobedient (5:78), and are enemies of Allah, the Prophet and the angels (2:97-98).
Jews were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors; peaceful coexistence between the two groups involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews. In the ninth century, Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany.
At various times, Jews in Muslim lands lived in relative peace and thrived culturally and economically. The position of the Jews was never secure, however, and changes in the political or social climate would often lead to persecution, violence and death.
When Jews were perceived as having achieved too comfortable a position in Islamic society, anti-Semitism would surface, often with devastating results. On December 30, 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Spain, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. The riot was incited by Muslim preachers who had angrily objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power.
Similarly, in 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier treated a Muslim woman in “an offensive manner.” The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco.
Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by the Muslim ruler Idris I; North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities; Libya in 1785, where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830; and Marrakesh, Morocco, where more than 300 Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880.
Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293-4, 1301-2), Iraq (854-859, 1344) and Yemen (1676). Despite the Koran’s prohibition, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 and 1790-92) and Baghdad (1333 and 1344).
The situation of Jews in Arab lands reached a low point in the 19th century. Jews in most of North Africa (including Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco) were forced to live in ghettos. In Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in the Islamic Diaspora, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes of straw when outside the ghetto. Even Muslim children participated in the degradation of Jews, by throwing stones at them or harassing them in other ways. The frequency of anti-Jewish violence increased, and many Jews were executed on charges of apostasy. Ritual murder accusations against the Jews became commonplace in the Ottoman Empire.
As distinguished Orientalist G.E. von Grunebaum has written:
It would not be difficult to put together the names of a very sizeable number Jewish subjects or citizens of the Islamic area who have attained to high rank, to power, to great financial influence, to significant and recognized intellectual attainment; and the same could be done for Christians. But it would again not be difficult to compile a lengthy list of persecutions, arbitrary confiscations, attempted forced conversions, or pogroms.
The danger for Jews became even greater as a showdown approached in the UN. The Syrian delegate, Faris el-Khouri, warned: “Unless the Palestine problem is settled, we shall have difficulty in protecting and safeguarding the Jews in the Arab world.”
On 24 November 1947 the head of the Egyptian delegation to the General Assembly, Muhammad Hussein Heykal Pasha, said that “the lives of 1,000,000 Jews in Moslem countries would be jeopardized by the establishment of a Jewish state”.
Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Said said that if the United Nations solution was not “satisfactory”, “severe measures should be taken against all Jews in Arab countries”.
More than a thousand Jews were killed in anti-Jewish rioting during the 1940’s in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen.
. This helped trigger the mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries.