1956-57 exodus and expulsions from Egypt
|Jewish exodus from
Arab and Muslim
|History by country|
|This article's factual accuracy is disputed. (May 2014)|
The exodus of the foreign Mutamassirun ("Egyptianized") community, which included the British and French colonial powers as well as Jews, Greeks, Italians, Syrians, Armenians, began following the First World War, and by the end of the 1960s the exodus of the foreign community was effectively complete. According to Andrew Gorman, this was primarily a result of the "decolonization process and the rise of Egyptian nationalism." In addition, there was a small indigenous Jewish community, although most Jews in Egypt in the early twentieth century were recent immigrants to the country, who did not share the Arabic language and culture. Until the late 1930s, the foreign minorities, including both indigenous and recent immigrant Jews, tended to apply for foreign citizenship in order to benefit from a foreign protection.
In October 1956, following the invasion of Britain, France and Israel in the Suez Crisis, President Gamal Abdel Nasser brought in a set of sweeping regulations abolishing civil liberties and allowing the state to stage mass arrests without charge and strip away Egyptian citizenship from any group it desired. Some lawyers, engineers, doctors and teachers were not allowed to work in their professions. As part of its new policy, 1,000 Jews were arrested and 500 Jewish businesses were seized by the government. Jewish bank accounts were confiscated and many Jews lost their jobs.
The actions taken to encourage emigration or expel the foreign minorities applied to the whole Mutamassirun community, and after 1956 large majority of Greeks, Italians, Belgians, French, and British, including Jews, left the country. The decree was also relevant to Egyptian Jews suspected as Zionist agents, especially those with free professions and relatives in Israel.
The expellees were allowed to take only one suitcase and a small sum of cash, and forced to sign declarations “donating“ their property to the Egyptian government.
Foreign observers reported that some members of Jewish families were taken hostage, apparently to insure that those forced to leave did not speak out against the Egyptian government. Some 25,000 Jews, almost half of the Jewish community in Egypt left, mainly for Israel, Europe, the United States and South America. Many were forced to sign declarations that they were leaving voluntarily and agreed with the confiscation of their assets. Similar measures were enacted against British and French nationals in retaliation for the invasion. By 1957 the Jewish population of Egypt had fallen to 15,000.
The Guardian correspondent Michael Adams noted in 1958 that the Egyptian government ultimately only expelled a small minority of the Jewish population of Egypt, though many Jews also left of their own accord.
- Laskier, Michael (1995), "Egyptian Jewry under the Nasser Regime, 1956–70", Middle Eastern Studies 31 (3): 573–619
- Gorman, Anthony (2003), "The Mutamassirun", Historians, State and Politics in Twentieth Century Egypt: Contesting the Nation, Psychology Press, ISBN 9780415297530
- Kazamias, Alexander (2009), "The 'Purge of the Greeks' from Nasserite Egypt: Myths and Realities'", Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora 35 (2): 13–34
- Krämer, Gudrun (1989), The Jews in Modern Egypt, 1914-1952
- Gorman 2003, p. 174-5.
- Gorman 2003, p. 176 #1: "In the course of the 40 years from the end of the First World War until the early sixties, this considerable mutamassir presence was effectively eliminated, a casualty of the decolonization process and the rise of Egyptian nationalism. The relation between these two phenomena was exacerbated by British policy."
- Gorman 2003, p. 176 #2: "During the Second World War, at the insistence of British authorities, adult male Italian citizens were incarcerated as enemy aliens. In 1948, the foundation of Israel made the position of all Jews in Egypt increasingly tenuous, no matter what their nationality, and the position of Greeks was affected by the vicissitudes of the Greek Civil War in the 1940s. Another critical setback came during the Suez crisis in 1956 when all those who held British and French citizenship were deemed enemy aliens and expelled from the country."
- Laskier 1995, p. 573: "The Jews, like other minorities in Egypt - Greeks, Italians, Syrians, Armenians - did not make up a significant percentage of the total population of 19 million in 1948. Yet, like these minorities, they had made important contributions to the economic modernization of the country, particularly since the latter half of the nineteenth century."
- Krämer 1989, p. 233.
- Krämer 1989, p. 31.
- Laskier 1995, p. 579.
- Laskier 1995, p. 581.
- Laskier 1995, p. 579-80.
- Adams, Michael (1958), Suez and after: year of crisis, Beacon Press, p. 89: "After various contradictory orders had been given, the Egyptian government only expelled a small minority of the Jewish population of Egypt, though since that time a good many Jews have left Egypt of their own accord."
- Hofstadter, Dan (1973), Egypt & Nasser: 1952-56 1, Facts on File, pp. 226–227, ISBN 9780871962034: "The Egyptian government Nov. 26 issued a statement denying that it had ever planned the mass expulsion of British and French nationals and saying that British and French citizens in Egypt were free to remain or to leave "at their own discretion." But Max Koenig, Swiss minister in Egypt, said Dec. 9 that expulsions of individual British and French citizens from Egypt and the sequestration of their property were "continuing relentlessly" on a large scale. Egyptian Interior Min. Zakaria Mohieddin said Dec. 9 that, of some 18,000 British and French citizens in Egypt, 1,452 had been ordered expelled from the country."