The Lost Jewish Communities of the Arab world

This memorial day commemorates the tragedy of people who were forced to flee from their homes and to leave the countries where they had lived for millennia, solely because of their Jewish identity. ?

 

The lost Jewish communities of the Arab worldThis memorial day commemorates the tragedy of people who were forced to flee from their homes and to leave the countries where they had lived for millennia, solely because of their Jewish identity. ​
The lost Jewish communities of the Arab world
​On 30 November, Israel and the Jewish world remember the fate of more than 850,000 Jews who were forced out of Arab countries and Iran in the 20th century.
This memorial day commemorates the tragedy of people who were forced to flee from their homes and to leave the countries where they had lived for millennia, solely because of their Jewish identity. Many were deprived of their belongings and many suffered from violence and persecution.
The story of the expulsion of entire Jewish communities from Arab lands is an important part of modern Jewish history that profoundly affected the Jewish nation as a whole as well as the demographic composition of the Middle East and North Africa. This is a story that has to be told.
Current research estimates that the number of Jews living in Arab countries and Iran totaled more than 850,000 at the time of Israel’s independence. Some scholars even think the number is closer to one million. In the North African region, 259,000 Jews fled from Morocco, 140,000 from Algeria, 100,000 from Tunisia, 75,000 from Egypt, and another 38,000 from Libya. In the Middle East, 135,000 Jews were exiled from Iraq, 55,000 from Yemen, 34,000 from Turkey, 20,000 from Lebanon and 18,000 from Syria. Iran forced out 25,000 Jews.
The following descriptions typify what Jews living in Arab countries and Iran went through in the 1940s and following Israel’s declaration of independence up to the second half of the 20th century.
Iraq 
In Iraq, where a large community of Jews lived for 2600 years, violent riots known as the Farhud erupted in June 1941, targeting the Jewish population, mainly in Bagdad.  Dejected soldiers of a failed coup took advantage of a power vacuum and swarmed into Jewish communities together with a bloodthirsty mob, killing 179 innocent people, injuring more than 2,100, and leaving 242 children orphans. This act of violence was celebrated across the Arab world and in Nazi Germany.
In 1948 as a response to UNGA Resolution 181 (“the Partition Plan”)  and Israel’s independence, laws were passed making Zionism a criminal offense, allowing the police to raid and search thousands of Jewish homes for any evidence of Zionism. Jews were removed from thousands of government positions and their homes were valued at 80% less than those of their Arab neighbors.
In the years 1948-1951, over 120,000 Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel to forge a new life. In doing so, they forfeited their citizenship and (after March 1951) their property. The ancient Jewish community in Iraq (which at one time constituted nearly one-third of the total population of Baghdad) is now non-existent.
Egypt 
The story of the Jewish population of Egypt is similar. In the 1940s, hostility against the Egyptian Jewish community, which numbered around 80,000 people, increased. Laws were passed setting limitations for employing Egyptians of Jewish descent, as well as requiring majority shareholders of companies to be Egyptian nationals. Since Jews were denied citizenship as a rule, many Jews lost their jobs and businesses.
During the 1948 War of Independence, thousands of Egyptian Jews were put into internment camps, forced from their jobs, and arrested for supposed collaboration with an enemy state, Jewish synagogues, homes, and businesses were bombed; many Jews were killed and wounded. More than 14,000 Jews immigrated to Israel during this time seeking safety. Between 1948 and 1958, more than 35,000 Jews fled Egypt. While much of this immigration was due to systematic oppression, another contribution factor was Zionism and the desire to live in the newly reestablished Jewish homeland in Israel.
Between 1956 and 1968 another 38,000 Jews fled Egypt, mostly to Israel, to escape systematic injustices such as government expropriation of their homes and businesses and arbitrary arrests of Jewish citizens.
Yemen
The Yemeni Jews faced some of the worst persecution. At the end of November 1947, the Arab population of Aden in Yemen decided to hold a 3-day strike in protest against UNGA Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan). The protest quickly turned violent. Over 80 innocent Yemeni Jews were slaughtered, over 100 Jewish-owned businesses were completely looted, and homes, schools, and synagogues were burnt to the ground. This was one of the most violent attacks on any Jewish population in the Arab world.
A unique and creative solution was found for saving the persecuted Yemeni Jews. From 1949 to 1950, the Israeli government enacted Operation Magic Carpet (known in Hebrew as “On the Wings of Eagles”). The operation was implemented by US and British aircraft, which flew to Aden and airlifted the Jews from Yemen to Israel. By the end of the operation, over 47,000 Yemeni Jews were rescued from persecution and taken to their new home in the State of Israel.
Libya
Jews had lived in Libya for more than 2,300 years, and had a thriving culture, with a population of over 37,000. During World War II, The Libyan regime implemented their own Nazi-inspired holocaust, where more than 2,000 Jews were transported to desert concentration camps, and hundreds of them died. In post-war Libya, Arab nationalism grew in popularity, resulting in violent pogroms against the Jewish community. In 1945, in the city of Tripoli, more than 140 Jews were killed in a violent antisemitic riot, and a few years later in 1948, another pogrom erupted, resulting in 12 Jewish deaths and the destruction of over 280 Jewish homes. In the three years between 1948 and 1951, 30,972 Jews fled to Israel due to the hostile Arab government of Libya.
Remembering their stories
The descendants of these immigrants from Arab countries now account for a majority of Israel’s Jewish population. The Jewish exiles who were forced to flee their homes overcame personal and communal tragedy and not only persevered, but thrived; many have risen to important positions in the national government and in the public and private sectors. They have made an invaluable contribution to the fabric of Israeli society, and their vibrant cultures are an integral part of the colorful mosaic of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. It is time for the world to hear their story.

The Franco-British Boundary Convention

The Franco-British Boundary Convention of December 6, 1920.

The San Remo Resolution (April 24-25, 1920) stipulated that the borders of the Jewish National Home in Palestine should be determined by the Principal Allied Powers.  On December 6, 1920 Britain and France signed a treaty delineating the borders of the territory that would be placed under the Mandates System.

The territory included in the 1920 convention included most of the land that had been under Jewish rule during Biblical times. However, there were some modifications. It was realized that much of the territory north of the Golan Heights was supposed to be part of the Syrian Mandate (see the Adam Smith map of the Kingdoms of David and Solomon). As a result, the Jewish National Home was given extra land in what today is eastern Jordan.

The Convention involved bitter negotiations. The French were opposed to giving up control of the Roman Catholic sites in Palestine. The Turks who ruled in Palestine for the four-hundred years prior to World War I did limited access to the sites. In the end, the British had guaranteed they would protect access of Catholics to their religious sites.

Additionally, the British gave the French administered mandates large amounts of land that were supposed to be included in the Jewish National Home. The land in the Upper Galilee, from what today is the Israel/Lebanon border extending north to the Litani River bend as well as the central Golan Heights was removed from the demarcated borders of Palestine.

…to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate

According to Article 25 of the Mandate for Palestine, the Mandatory (His Britannic Majesty) had the right to separate the administration of the Mandate in Trans-Jordan from the rest of the Palestine territory. This had to be done with the approval of the League of Nations:

“In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions, provided that no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.”

The wording, “postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions” is by the nature of the wording a temporary action. That action was only valid until there was a change in the conditions leading to that decision. It did not authorize the British to permanently cut off portions of the land and turn it over to a foreign people.

Furthermore, according to Article 25, the postponement or withholding of the application of the Mandate in Trans-Jordan could not be inconsistent with Article 15 of the Mandate for Palestine which states:

“No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.”

The British “White Papers” policies, which prohibited Jewish settlement East of the Jordan, while allowing a foreign group of Arabs (the Hashemites) to settle and eventually be given all of Trans-Jordan, was in clear violation of Article 15, as well as Article 5 of the Mandate which stated that “no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power.

The full text of  Articles 5, 15, and 25:

ARTICLE 5. The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power.

ARTICLE 15. The Mandatory shall see that complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals, are ensured to all. No discrimination of any kind shall be made between the inhabitants of Palestine on the ground of race, religion or language. No person shall be excluded from Palestine on the sole ground of his religious belief.

ARTICLE 25. In the territories lying between the Jordan and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined, the Mandatory shall be entitled, with the consent of the Council of the League of Nations, to postpone or withhold application of such provisions of this mandate as he may consider inapplicable to the existing local conditions, and to make such provision for the administration of the territories as he may consider suitable to those conditions, provided that no action shall be taken which is inconsistent with the provisions of Articles 15, 16 and 18.

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“… and to make such provision for the administration of the territories… suitable to those conditions….”

The wording, “for the administration of” is by the nature of the wording a temporary provisio. That “provision for the administration of the territories” was only valid until there was a change in the conditions leading to that administration, as mandated by Article 2. It did not authorize the British to permanently cut off portions of the land and turn it over to a foreign people (the Hashemites, Bedouin and Arabs of Palestinian extraction) by granting the Arabs of Palestinian and Meccan extraction independence and sovereignty over Mandate for Palestine territory.

The Arabs (the Hashemites in Particular) were granted political independence with the Mandates for Mesopotamia (Iraq), Lebanon and Syria. Political independence for Jews was through the Mandate for Palestine whose borders were determined by the Franco-British Boundary Convention of 1920.

Until “such political, administrative and economic conditions” exist for the “close Jewish settlement” of Eastern Palestine “as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home,” the Mandatory was entitled, with the consent of the League of Nations to place such territory under administrative control of the Mandatory but not in violation of Articles 5 and 15.

The British are responsible for establishing the APARTHEID Hashemite [ Jordanian ] Kingdom and the enactment of the Jordanian Citizenship Law which prohibits Jews from settling in Mandatory Eastern Palestine (Eretz Yisrael) in violation of the Mandate for Palestine.

ARTICLE 2. The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of selfgoverning institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.