Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries

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Yemenite Jews en route from Aden to Israel, during the Magic Carpet operation (1949–1950)

The Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries or Jewish exodus from Arab countries (Hebrew: יציאת יהודים ממדינות ערב‎, Yetziat yehudim mi-medinot Arav; Arabic: هجرة اليهود من الدول العربية والإسلاميةhijrat al-yahūd min ad-duwal al-ʻArabīyah wal-Islāmīyah) was the departure, flight,[1] migration and expulsion of Jews, primarily of Sephardi and Mizrahi background, from Arab and Muslim countries, mainly from 1948 until the early 1970s.

Though Jewish migration from Middle Eastern and North African communities began in the late 19th century and Jews began leaving some Arab countries in the 1930s and early 1940s, it did not happen on a large scale until after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Although estimates vary, about 800,000 Jews lived in Arab countries prior to the creation of Israel in 1948, of which just under two-thirds lived in the colonial-controlled Maghreb region, 15-20% in the Kingdom of Iraq, approximately 10% in the Kingdom of Egypt and approximately 7% in the Kingdom of Yemen. A further 200,000 lived in Pahlavi Iran and the Republic of Turkey. Today around 6,500 Jews live in Arab countries and around 30,000 in Iran and Turkey.[citation needed]

From the onset of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War until the early 1970s, 800,000–1,000,000 Jews left, fled, or were expelled from their homes in Arab countries. Some place the emigration peak to a slightly earlier time window of 1944 to 1964, when some 700,000 Jews moved to Israel from Arab countries and were dispossessed of nearly their entire property.[2] 260,000 Jews from Arab countries had immigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1951 and amounted for 56% of the total immigration to the newly founded State of Israel.[3] 600,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries had reached Israel by 1972.[4][5][6] By the Yom Kippur War of 1973, most of the Jewish communities throughout the Arab World, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan, were practically non-existent.

The reasons for the exodus included push factors, such as persecution, antisemitism, political instability, poverty and expulsion; together with pull factors, such as the desire to fulfill Zionist yearnings or find a better economic status and secured home in Europe or the Americas.[1] The history of the exodus is politicized, given its proposed relevance to a final settlement Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13] When presenting the history, those who view the Jewish exodus as equivalent to the 1948 Palestinian exodus, such as the Israeli government and NGOs such as JJAC and JIMENA, emphasize "push factors", such as cases of anti-Jewish violence and forced expulsions,[7] and refer to those affected as "refugees".[7] Those who argue that the exodus does not equate to the Palestinian exodus emphasize "pull factors", such as the actions of local Zionist agents who encouraged Zionist ideology,[9] highlight good relations between the Jewish communities and their country's governments,[11] emphasize the impact of other push factors such as the decolonization in the Maghreb and the Suez War and Lavon Affair in Egypt,[11] and argue that many or all of those who left were not refugees.[7][9]

Following the United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine, Anti-Jewish demonstrations in cities such as Aden and Aleppo were particularly violent[14] which prompted a sharp increase in Jewish exodus. Soon after the 1947 Aleppo pogrom more than half of the city's Jewish population had left, mainly to the Israel, Turkey and Lebanon.[15][16] In 1948, Anti-Jewish demonstrations which followed the 1948 Arab-Israeli War resulted in Jewish deaths in the Moroccan city of Oujda and the Libyan city of Tripoli.[14] At the same time, some independent Arab countries began to encourage Jewish emigration to Israel.[17][18][19] From 1948 to 1949, the Israeli government secretly airlifted 50,000 Jews from Yemen and from 1950 to 1952, 130,000 Jews were airlifted from Iraq. From 1949 to 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.[20] Most Libyan Jews fled to Israel by 1951, while the citizenship of the rest was revoked in 1961, and the community remnants were finally evacuated to Italy following the Six Day War; almost all of Yemeni and Adeni Jews, were evacuated during 1949–1950 in fear of their security; Iraqi and Kurdish Jews were encouraged to leave in 1950 by the Iraqi Government, which had eventually ordered in 1951 "the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism".[21] The Jews of Egypt began fleeing the country in 1948,[22] and most of the remaining, some 21,000, were expelled in 1956 in wake of the Suez Crisis;[23] Algerian Jews were deprived of their citizenship in 1962 and feared for their future in independent Algeria, as a result almost all algerian Jews immediately abandoned the country for France and Israel; Moroccan Jews began leaving for Israel in great numbers as a result of the 1948 pogroms, with most of the community leaving in 1960s after Morocco received its independence; Lebanon was the only Arab country to see a temporary increase in its Jewish population after 1948, which was due to an influx of refugees from other Arab countries.[24] However, by mid-1970s the Jewish community of Lebanon also dwindled due to hostilities of the Lebanese Civil War. Many Jews were required to sell, abandon, or smuggle their property out of the countries they were fleeing.[25][26][27] By 2002 Jews from Arab countries and their descendants constituted almost half of Israel's population.[6] In the aftermath of the exodus wave from Arab League states, an additional mass-migration of Iranian Jews peaked following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and during the Iran–Iraq War, when around 80% of Iranian Jews left the war-torn country for US and Israel.[28] Through the 20th century, Turkish Jewry had mostly emigrated due to economic reasons and Zionist aspirations, but since the 1990s a number of terrorist attacks against Jews caused security concerns, with the result that some Jews left for Israel.


Many Jews had experienced tension within Arab countries, similar to other minorities.[vague] 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 many generations. Insecurity was exacerbated by the process of the Arab struggle for independence[citation needed] and the conflict in Palestine.

A marginal flow of Jews from Middle Eastern and North African communities to Ottoman Syria increased during the Ottoman period.[citation needed] However, only by the end of the 19th century a more significant immigration from Middle Eastern communities had begun.[citation needed] The Yemeni Jews, first to arrive[citation needed] in 1880s, were driven primarily by Messianic and religious Zionist aspirations,[citation needed] in addition to being faced periodic suppression[citation needed] and violence in Yemen. Some Tunisian and Kurdish Jews also left for their Holy Land by the end of 19th century,[citation needed] and in 1896, Urfalim fled their hometown due to insecurity arisen from Hamidian massacres.[citation needed] The waves of sporadic anti-Jewish violence[citation needed] in the 19th and the early 20th century across the Middle East and North Africa provided a solid ground for many Jews to consider a new home,[citation needed] whether Holy Land or elsewhere.


The British mandate over Iraq came to an end in June 1930, and in October 1932 the country became independent. The Iraqi government response to the demand of Assyrian autonomy (a Semitic tribe, affiliated to Nestorian church), turned into a bloody massacre by Iraqi army in August 1933. This event was the first sign to the Jewish community that minority rights were meaningless under Iraqi monarchy. King Faisal, known for his liberal policies, died in September 1933, and was succeeded by Ghazi, his nationalistic anti-British son. Ghazi began promoting Arab nationalist organizations, headed by Syrian and Palestinian exiles. With 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, they were joined by rebels, such as the Mufti of Jerusalem. The exiles preached pan-Arab ideology and fostered anti-Zionist propaganda.[29]

Under Iraqi nationalists, the Nazi propaganda began to infiltrate the country, as Nazi Germany was anxious to expand its influence in the Arab world. Dr. Fritz Grobba, who resided in Iraq since 1932, began vigorously and systematically to disseminate hateful propaganda against Jews. Among other things, Arabic translation of Mein Kampf was published and Radio Berlin had begun broadcasting in Arabic language. Anti-Jewish policies had been implemented since 1934, and the confidence of Jews was further shaken by the growing crisis in Palestine in 1936. Between 1936 and 1939 ten Jews were murdered and on eight occasions bombs were thrown on Jewish locations.[30]

In 1941, immediately following the British victory in the Anglo-Iraqi War, riots known as the Farhud broke out in Baghdad in the power vacuum following the collapse of the pro-Axis government of Rashid Ali while the city was in a state of instability. 180 Jews were killed and another 240 wounded; 586 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 99 Jewish houses were destroyed.[31]

In some accounts the Farhud marked the turning point for Iraq’s Jews.[32][33][34] Other historians, however, see the pivotal moment for the Iraqi Jewish community much later, between 1948-51, since Jewish communities prospered along with the rest of the country throughout most of the 1940s,[35][36][37][38][37] and many Jews who left Iraq following the Farhud returned to the country shortly thereafter and permanent emigration did not accelerate significantly until 1950-51.[39][36]

Either way, the Farhud is broadly understood to mark the start of a process of politicization of the Iraqi Jews in the 1940s, primarily amongst the younger population, especially as a result of the impact it had on hopes of long term integration into Iraqi society. In the direct aftermath of the Farhud, many joined the Iraqi Communist Party in order to protect the Jews of Baghdad, yet they did not want to leave the country and rather sought to fight for better conditions in Iraq itself.[40] At the same time the Iraqi government which had taken over after the Farhud reassured the Iraqi Jewish community, and normal life soon returned to Baghdad, which saw a marked betterment of its economic situation during World War II.[41][42][43]

Maghreb region[edit]

During the Second World War Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya came under Nazi or Vichy French occupation and these Jews were subject to various persecution. In 1942, German troops fighting the Allies in North Africa occupied the Jewish quarter of Benghazi, plundering shops and deporting more than 2,000 Jews across the desert. Sent to work in labor camps, more than one-fifth of that group of Jews perished. At the time, most of the Jews were living in cities of Tripoli and Benghazi and there were smaller numbers in Bayda and Misrata.[44]

In other areas Nazi propaganda targeted Arab populations in order to incite them against British or French rule.[45] National Socialist propaganda contributed to the transfer of racial antisemitism to the Arab world and is likely to have unsettled Jewish communities.[46] An anti-Jewish riot took place in Casablanca in 1942 in the wake of Operation Torch, where a local mob attacked the Jewish mellah.[47] However, according to Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Dr. Haim Saadon, "Relatively good ties between Jews and Muslims in North Africa during World War II stand in stark contrast to the treatment of their coreligionists by gentiles in Europe".[48]

Following the liberation of North Africa by allied forces, antisemitic incitements were still on the high. The most severe racial violence between the start of WWII and the establishment of Israel erupted in Tripoli (Libya) 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 (displaced) 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.[49] The same year, violent anti-Jewish violence also occurred in Cairo (Egypt), which resulted in 10 Jewish victims. Gil Shefler writes that "As awful as the pogrom in Libya was, it was still a relatively isolated occurrence compared to the mass murders of Jews by locals in Eastern Europe".[48]

Other countries[edit]

Main exodus waves[edit]


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.[50] 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,[51] though this has been refuted by local research.[52]

In June 1948, soon after Israel was established and in the midst of the first Arab-Israeli war, violent anti-Jewish riots broke out in Oujda and Djerada, leading to deaths of 44 Jews. In 1948–9, after the massacres, 18,000 Moroccan Jews left the country for Israel. Later, however, the Jewish exodus from Morocco slowed down to a few thousand a year. Through the early 1950s, Zionist organizations encouraged emigration, particularly in the poorer south of the country, seeing Moroccan Jews as valuable contributors to the Jewish State:

The more I visited in these (Berber) villages and became acquainted with their Jewish inhabitants, the more I was convinced that 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[53]
Jews of Fez, c. 1900

Incidents of anti-Jewish violence continued through the 1950s. In August 1953, riots broke out in the city of Oujda and resulted in the death of 4 Jews including an 11 year old girl.[54] In the same month French security forces prevented a mob from breaking into the Jewish Mellah of Rabat.[55] In 1954, a nationalist event in the town of Petitjean (known today as Sidi Kacem) turned into an anti-Jewish riot and resulted in the death of 6 Jewish merchants from Marrakesh.[56] In 1955, a mob broke into the Jewish Mellah in Mazagan (known today as El Jadida) and caused its 1700 Jewish residents to flee to the European quarters of the city. The houses of some 200 Jews were too badly damaged during the riots for them to return.[57]

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.[58] 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 officialdom, which exhibited attitudes that ranged from traditional contempt to outright hostility".[59] 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.[59] As a result, emigration to Israel jumped from 8,171 persons in 1954 to 24,994 in 1955, increasing further in 1956.

Between 1956 and 1961, emigration to Israel was prohibited by law; 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 Morocco; the negative publicity associated with this prompted King Muhammad V to allow Jewish emigration, and over the three following years, more than 70,000 Moroccan Jews left the country.[60] By 1967, only 50,000 Jews remained.[61]

The 1967 Six-Day War led to increased Arab-Jewish tensions worldwide, including Morocco, and significant Jewish emigration out of the country continued. By the early 1970s, the Jewish population of Morocco fell to 25,000; however, most of the emigrants went to France, Belgium, Spain, and Canada, rather than Israel.[61]

Despite their dwindling 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. Despite this, Jewish targets have sometimes been attacked (notably the 2003 bombing attacks on a Jewish community center in Casablanca), and there is sporadic anti-Semitic rhetoric from radical Islamist groups. The late King Hassan II's invitations for Jews to return to Morocco have not been taken up by the people who had emigrated.

According to Esther Benbassa, the migration of Jews from the Maghreb countries was prompted by uncertainty about the future.[62] In 1948, over 250,000[63]-265,000[64] Jews lived in Morocco. By 2001 an estimated 5,230 remained.[65]


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

As the Algerian Civil War began to intensify in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most of Algeria's 140,000 Jews began to leave.[66] The community had lived mainly in Algiers and Blida, Constantine, and Oran.

Almost all Jews of Algeria left upon independence in 1962, particularly as "the Algerian Nationality Code of 1963 excluded non-Muslims from acquiring citizenship",[67] allowing citizenship only to those Algerians who had Muslim paternal fathers and grandfathers.[68] 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.[69]

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.


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

In 1948, approximately 105,000 Jews lived in Tunisia.[70] 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[citation needed] 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,[71][72] 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).


In 1942, German troops fighting the Allies in North Africa occupied the Jewish quarter of Benghazi, plundering shops and deporting more than 2,000 Jews across the desert. Sent to work in labor camps, more than one-fifth of that group of Jews perished. At the time, most of the Jews were living in cities of Tripoli and Benghazi and there were smaller numbers in Bayda and Misrata.[44]

The most severe post-WWII anti-Jewish violence in Arab countries was in Tripolitania (North-West Libya), 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 (displaced) 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.[49]

In 1948, about 38,000 Jews lived in Libya.[64][73] 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.[49] The pogroms continued in June 1948, when 15 Jews were killed and 280 Jewish homes destroyed.[74]

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 November 1948, a few months after the events in Tripoli, the American consul in Tripoli Orray Taft Jr. reported that: "There is reason to believe that the Jewish Community has become more aggressive as the result of the Jewish victories in Palestine. There is also reason to believe that the community here is receiving instructions and guidance from the State of Israel. Whether or not the change in attitude is the result of instructions or a progressive aggressiveness is hard to determine. Even with the aggressiveness or perhaps because of it, both Jewish and Arab leaders inform me that the inter-racial relations are better now than they have been for several years and that understanding, tolerance and cooperation are present at any top level meeting between the leaders of the two communities."[75][76]

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.[77][78]

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 Gaddafi justified this on the grounds that "the alignment of the Jews with Israel, the Arab nations' enemy, has forfeited their right to compensation."[79]

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.[80]


Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Alexandria, Egypt

In 1948, approximately 75,000 Jews lived in Egypt. The exodus of Egyptian Jews had begun following the 1945 Anti-Jewish Riots in Egypt, though such emigration was not significant as the government stamped the violence out and the Egyptian Jewish community leaders were supportive of King Farouk. Around 20,000 Jews left Egypt during 1948-49 following the events of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (including the 1948 Cairo bombings).[39] A further 5,000 left between 1952–56, in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 and later the false flag Lavon Affair.[39] The Israeli invasion as part of the Suez Crisis caused a significant upsurge in emigration, with 14,000 Jews leaving in less than six months between November 1956 and March 1957, and 19,000 further emigrating over the next decade.[39]

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.[81] The Arabic version of the protocols was cited and recommended by Nasser himself.[82]According to Prof. Richard S. Levy, the policy to pressurize and expel Jews from Egypt was, in part, guided by former Nazis, who had found refuge in Egypt.[83] In 1954, the Lavon Affair served as a pretext for further persecution of Egyptian Jews,[citation needed] though it didn't bring out any significant anti-Jewish reactions.[83]

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 as "Zionists and 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. Thousands of Jews were ordered to leave the country. They 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 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 left, mainly for Europe, the United States, South America and Israel, after being 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.[14]

In 1960, the American embassy in Cairo wrote of Egyptian Jews that: "There is definitely a strong desire among most Jews to emigrate, but this is prompted by the feeling that they have limited opportunity, or from fear for the future, rather than by any direct or present tangible mistreatment at the hands of the government."[84][85]

In 1960, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were the subject of an article by Salah Dasuqi, military governor of Cairo, in al-Majallaaa, the official cultural journal.[86] 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.[87] In 1967, Jews were detained and tortured, and Jewish homes were confiscated.[4][not in citation given] Following the Six Day War, the community practically ceased to exist, with the exception of several dozens of elderly Jews.[citation needed]


Iraqi Jews leaving Lod airport (Israel) on their way to ma'abara transit camp, 1951

In 1948, there were approximately 150,000 Jews in Iraq. The community was concentrated in Baghdad and Basra. By 2003, there were only about 100 left of this previously thriving community. Around 8,000 Jews left Iraq between 1919–48, with another 2,000 leaving between mid-1948 to mid-1950.[39] However, in the wake of the 1950 Denaturalisation Act and the 1950-51 Baghdad bombings, more than 120,000 Jews left the country in less than a year.[39] The Iraqi government convicted and hanged a number of suspected Zionist agents for perpetrating the bombings, but the issue of who was responsible remains a subject of scholarly dispute.

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.[88]

In March 1950, hoping to stem the flow of assets from the country, Iraq passed a law of one year duration allowing Jews to emigrate on the 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.

The Zionist movement at first tried to regulate the amount of registrants until issues relating to their legal status were clarified. Later, it allowed everyone to register. Two weeks after the law went into force, the Iraqi interior minister demanded a CID investigation over why Jews were not registering. A few hours after the movement allowed registration, four Jew were injured in a bomb attack at a café in Baghdad.

On August 21, 1950, Nuri As-said, the Iraqi minister of interior, threatened to revoke the license of the company transporting the Jewish exodus if it did not fulfill its daily quota of 500 Jews. On September 18, 1950, he summoned a representative of the Jewish community and claimed Israel was behind the delay, threatening to "take them to the borders" and forcibly expel the Jews. On October 12, 1950, Nuri as-said summoned a senior official of the transport company and made similar threats, justifying the expulsion of Jews by the number of Palestinian Arabs fleeing from Israel.

Two months before the law expired, after about 85,000 Jews had registered, a bombing campaign began against the Jewish community of Baghdad. All but a few thousand of the remaining Jews then registered for emigration. In all, about 120,000 Jews left Iraq.

Between April 1950 and June 1951, Jewish targets in Baghdad were struck five times. Iraqi authorities then arrested 3 Jews, claiming they were Zionist activists, and sentenced two — Shalom Salah Shalom and Yosef Ibrahim Basri — to death. The third man, Yehuda Tajar, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.[89] In May and June, 1951, arms caches were discovered which allegedly belonged to the Zionist underground, allegedly supplied by the Yishuv after the Farhud of 1941.[citation needed] There has been much debate as to whether the bombs were planted by the Mossad to encourage Iraqi Jews to emigrate to Israel or if they were planted by Muslim extremists to help drive out the Jews. This has been the subject of lawsuits and inquiries in Israel.[85][90]

The emigration law expired in March 1951, but it was extended after the Iraqi government froze and eventually seized the assets of all departing Jews, including those who had left. In 1951, the Iraqi Government made advocating Zionism or belonging to a Zionist organization a crime and ordered the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism.[21]

In 1969, about 50 of the Jews who remained were executed; 11 were publicly executed after show trials and hundred thousand Iraqis marched past the bodies in a carnival-like atmosphere.[91]


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 November 1945, fourteen Jews were killed in anti-Jewish riots in Tripoli.[92] 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.[24]

In 1948, there were approximately 24,000 Jews in Lebanon.[93] 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]

However, negative attitudes toward Jews increased after 1948, and, by 1967, most Lebanese Jews had emigrated—to Israel, the United States, Canada, and France. 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.

The remaining Jewish community was particularly hard hit by the civil war in Lebanon, and, by mid-1970s, the community collapsed. 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.[94][95]


Jewish wedding in Aleppo, Syria (Ottoman Empire), 1914.

In 1947, rioters in Aleppo burned the city's Jewish quarter and killed 75 people.[96] As a result, nearly half of the Jewish population of Aleppo opted to leave the city.[3] 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,[97] in smuggling Jews out of Syria, and bringing their plight to the attention of the world, raised awareness of their situation.

Although the Syrian government attempted to stop Syrian Jews from exporting their assets, the American consulate in Damascus noted in 1950 that "the majority of Syrian Jews have managed to dispose of their property and to emigrate to Lebanon, Italy, and Israel"[98][99]

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. The majority of the Jewish community left for the United States, although some went to France and Turkey, and those who wanted to go to Israel were brought there in a two-year covert operation. 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.[100]

Yemen, Aden and Djibouti[edit]

If one includes Aden, there were about 63,000 Jews in Yemen in 1948. Today, there are about 200 left. In 1947, rioters 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.[101] Emigration continued until 1962, when the civil war in Yemen broke out. A small community remained unknown until 1976, though it has mostly immigrated from Yemen since.


Bahrain's tiny Jewish community, mostly the Jewish descendants of immigrants who entered the country in the early 20th century 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.[102]

Over the next few decades, most left for other countries, especially Britain; as of 2006 only 36 remained.[103]


The 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 1960s.[104][105]

Exodus from other Muslim countries[edit]


By 1948, about 5,000 Jews existed in Afghanistan, and after they were allowed to emigrate in 1951, most of them moved to Israel and the United States.[106] By 1969, some 300 remained, and most of these left after the Soviet invasion of 1979, leaving 10 Afghan Jews in 1996, most of them in Kabul. More than 10,000 Jews of Afghan descent presently live in Israel. Over 200 families of Afghan Jews live in New York City in USA.[106]


Historian Ervand Abrahamian estimates 50,000 Jews were living in Iran around 1900,[107] with majority of them residing in Yazd, Shiraz, Tehran, Isfahan and Hamadan.[107] The violence and disruption in Arab life associated with the founding of Israel in 1948 drove an increased anti-Jewish sentiment in neighbouring Iran as well. This continued until 1953, in part because of the weakening of the central government and strengthening of clergy in the political struggles between the shah and prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh. From 1948–1953, about one-third of Iranian Jews, most of them poor, emigrated to Israel.[108] According to the first national census taken in 1956, Jewish population in Iran stood at 65,232,[109] but there's no reliable data about migrations in the first half of the 20th century. David Littman puts the total figure of emigrants to Israel in 1948–1978 at 70,000.[110] After the deposition of Mossadegh in 1953, the reign of shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the most prosperous era for the Jews of Iran. The community however began to experience hardships due to political instability in the 1970s.


At the time of Pakistani independence in 1947, some 1,300 Jews remained in Karachi, many of them Bene Israel Jews, observing Sephardic Jewish rites. Other communities of Baghdadi Jews and Mizrahi Jews from Iran were found in the city. A small Ashkenazi population was also present in the city. Some Karachi streets still bear names that hark back to a time when the Jewish community was more prominent; such as Ashkenazi Street, Abraham Reuben Street (named after the former member of the Karachi Municipal Corporation), Ibn Gabirol Street, and Moses Ibn Ezra Street - although some streets have been renamed, they are still locally referred to by their original names. A small Jewish graveyard still exists in the vast Mewa Shah Graveyard near the shrine of a Sufi saint. The neighbourhood of Baghdadi in Lyari Town is named for the Baghdadi Jews who once lived there. A community of Bukharan Jews was also found in the city of Peshawar, where many buildings in the old city feature a Star of David as exterior decor as a sign of the Hebrew origins of its owners. Members of the community settled in the city as merchants as early as the 17th century, although the bulk arrived as refugees fleeing the advance of the Russian Empire into Bukhara, and later the Russian Revolution in 1917. Both the Jewish communities in Karachi and Peshawar have since been almost entirely decimated.

The exodus of Jewish refugees from Pakistan to Bombay and other cities in India came just prior to the creation of Israel in 1948, when anti-Israeli sentiments rose. By 1953, fewer than 500 Jews were reported to reside in all of Pakistan. Anti-Israeli sentiment and violence often flared during ensuing conflicts in the Middle East, resulting in a further movement of Jewish refugees out of Pakistan. Presently, a large number of Jews from Karachi live in the city of Ramla in Israel.


The Jews of Turkey were little affected by the 1948 events in the Arab World, and thus no significant Jewish immigration emerged from Turkey due to persecution, but rather Zionist reasons.

Even though historically speaking populist antisemitism was rarer in the Ottoman Empire and Anatolia than in Europe,[111] since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, there has been a rise in antisemitism. On the night of 6/7 September 1955, the Istanbul pogrom was unleashed. Although primarily aimed at the city's Greek population, the Jewish and Armenian communities of Istanbul were also targeted to a degree. The caused damage was mainly material - more than 4,000 shops and 1,000 houses belonging to Greeks, Armenians and Jews were destroyed - but it deeply shocked minorities throughout the country, and 10,000 Jews subsequently fled Turkey.[112]

Table of Jewish population since 1948[edit]

In 1948, 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 Population by country: 1948, 1972, 2000 and recent times
Country or territory 1948 Jewish
1972 Jewish
Modern estimates
Morocco 250,000[63]–265,000[64] 31,000[113] 2,500-2,700 (2006)[114]
Algeria 140,000[63][64] 1,000[113] ~0
Tunisia 50,000[63]–105,000[64] 8,000[113] 900 - 1,000 (2008)[115]
Libya 35,000[63]–38,000[64] 50[113] 0
Maghreb Total 475,000–548,000 40,050 3,400-3,700
Iraq 135,000[64]–140,000[63] 500[113] 5[116]
Egypt 75,000[64]–80,000[63] 500[113] 100 (2006)[117]
Yemen and Aden 53,000[63]–63,000[64] 500[113] 330[118]–350.[119]
Syria 15,000[63]–30,000[64] 4,000[113] 100 (2006)[117]
Lebanon 5,000[64]–20,000[120] 2,000[113] 20–40[94][95]
Bahrain 550–600[121] 50[122]
Sudan 350[104] ~0
Arab Countries Total 758,350–881,350 <4,500
Afghanistan 5,000 500[113] 1[123]
Bangladesh Unknown 175-3,500[124]
Iran 65,232 (1956)[109] 62,258 (1976)[109][125] - 80,000[113] 9,252 (2006)[126] - 10,800 (2006)[117]
Pakistan 2,000, 2,500[127] 250[113] 200[124]
Turkey 80,000[128] 30,000[113] 17,800 (2006)[117]
Non-Arab Muslim Countries Total 202,000–282,500 110,750 32,100


In Arab League countries[edit]

While most Jews had left the Arab League by the wake of the 1973 October War, there were still sizable communities residing in Lebanon and Morocco, which however also continued to decrease over the years. A 2,000 strong Syrian Jewish community remained in Syria during Hafez al-Assad rule, but almost entirely left the country in early 1990s, leaving for the United States.

The remaining Jewish community of Lebanon was particularly hard hit by the civil war in Lebanon, and, by mid-1970s, the community collapsed. In the 1980s, Hezbollah kidnapped several Lebanese Jewish businessmen, and in the 2004 elections, only one Jew voted in the municipal elections. By 1990s, there were only between 20 and 40 Jews living in Lebanon.[94][95]

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. The majority of the Jewish community left for the United States, although some went to France and Turkey, and those who wanted to go to Israel were brought there in a two-year covert operation. 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.[129]

Exodus of Iranian Jews[edit]

Prior to the Islamic revolution in 1979, some 80,000 Jews lived in Iran, primarily in the capital Teheran. Since the revolution, the Persian Jewish community has experienced a collapse, plunging to about one fourth of its size within three decades, and continues to shrink to this day. The current Jewish population of Iran is 8,756 according to the most recent Iranian census.[130][131][132]

As a result of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, 60,000 of the 80,000 Jews in Iran fled, of whom 35,000 went to the United States, 25,000 went to Israel, and 5,000 went to Europe (mainly to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland).[citation needed] About 15% of the Persian Jewish community in Israel were admitted between 1975 and 1991. They emigrated from Iran in anticipation of religious persecution.[133]

Dwindling of Jewish community in Turkey[edit]

Since 1986, increased attacks on Jewish targets throughout Turkey impacted the security of the community, and urged many to emigrate. The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul has been attacked by Islamic militants three times.[134] First on 6 September 1986, Arab terrorists gunned down 22 Jewish worshippers and wounded 6 during Shabbat services at Neve Shalom. This attack was blamed on the Palestinian militant Abu Nidal.[135][136][137] In 1992, the Lebanon-based Shi'ite Muslim group of Hezbollah carried out a bomb against the Synagogue, but nobody was injured.[135][137] The Synagogue was hit again during the 2003 Istanbul bombings alongside the Beth Israel Synagogue, killing 20 and injuring over 300 people, both Jews and Muslims alike.

Despite the increasing anti-Israeli[138] and anti-Jewish attitudes in modern Turkey, the country's Jewish community there is still believed to be the largest among Muslim countries, numbering about 23,000.[citation needed]


Of the nearly 900,000 Jewish emigrants, approximately 680,000 emigrated to Israel and 235,000 to France; the remainder went to other countries in Europe as well as to the Americas.[139][140] About two thirds of the exodus was from the Maghreb region, of which Morocco's Jews went mostly to Israel, Algeria's Jews went mostly to France, and Tunisia's Jews departed for both countries.[141]


Ma'abarot transit camp, 1950
Bet Lid camp. Israel, 1950

The majority of Jews in Arab countries eventually immigrated to the modern State of Israel.[142] Hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees to Israel were temporarily settled in the numerous tent camps throughout the country. Those were later transformed into ma'abarot (transit camps), where tin dwellings were provided to house up to 220,000 residents. The ma'abarot existed until 1963. The population of transition camps was gradually absorbed and integrated into Israeli society. Many of the North African and Middle-Eastern Jews had a hard time adjusting to the new dominant culture, change of lifestyle and there were claims of discrimination.[citation needed] By 2003 they and their offspring, (including those of mixed lineage) comprised 3,136,436 people, or about 61% of Israel's Jewish population - see Israeli_Jews#Jewish_ethnic_divisions_in_Israel.


France was also a major destination and about 50% (300,000 people) of modern French Jews have roots from North Africa. In total, it is estimated that between 1956 and 1967, about 235,000 North African Jews from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco immigrated to France due to the decline of the French Empire and following the Six-Day War.[143]

United States[edit]

The United States was a destination of many Egyptian, Lebanese and Syrian Jews.

Advocacy groups[edit]

Advocacy groups acting on behalf of Jews from Arab countries include:

WOJAC, JJAC and JIMENA have been active in recent years in presenting their views to various governmental bodies in the US, Canada and UK,[153] amongst others, as well as appearing before the United Nations Human Rights Council.[154]


United States Congressional resolutions[edit]

In 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution concerning Jewish refugees. Part of the resolution states that any "comprehensive Middle East peace agreement to be credible and enduring, the agreement must address and resolve all outstanding issues relating to the legitimate rights of all refugees, including Jews, Christians and other populations displaced from countries in the Middle East.”[155]

In 2012, bipartisan Congressional lawmakers sponsored a bill to recognize the plight of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, as well as other refugees, such as Christians from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf. In addition, the resolution encourages President Barack Obama and his administration to mention Jewish and other refugees when mentioning Palestinian refugees at international forums. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who sponsored the bill, said that "the suffering and terrible injustices visited upon Jewish refugees in the Middle East needs to be acknowledged. It is simply wrong to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees without recognizing the rights of nearly 1 million Jewish refugees who suffered terrible outrages at the hands of their former compatriots."[156][157]

Israeli government position[edit]

The issue of comparison of the Jewish exodus with the Palestinian exodus was raised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry as early as 1961.[158]

In 2012, a special campaign on behalf of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries was established and gained momentum. The campaign urges the creation of an international fund that would compensate both Jewish and Palestinian Arab refugees, and would document and research the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.[159] In addition, the campaign plans to create a national day of recognition in Israel to remember the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, as well as to build a museum that would document their history, cultural heritage, and collect their testimony.[160]

On 21 September 2012, a special event was held at the United Nations to highlight the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor asked the United Nations to "establish a center of documentation and research" that would document the "850,000 untold stories" and "collect the evidence to preserve their history," which he said was ignored for too long. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that "We are 64 years late, but we are not too late." Diplomats from approximately two dozen countries and organizations, including the United States, the European Union, Germany, Canada, Spain, and Hungary, attended the event. In addition, Jewish refugees from Arab countries attended and spoke at the event.[159]

The conference was criticized by Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, who stated that the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were in fact responsible for the Palestinian displacement and that "those Jews are criminals rather than refugees." This came after a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee stated that Jewish refugees fleeing Arab lands because of persecution was a fabrication and that they "voluntarily and collectively left".[161][162]

Deliberate expulsion policy claims[edit]

WOJAC, an organization representing Jewish refugees from Arab states asserts that a major cause of the Jewish exodus was a deliberate policy decision taken by the Arab League.[163]

In 2007, a Jewish advocacy group JJAC (Justice for Jews from Arab Countries) has too alleged that Arab League members formulated a coordinated policy to expel or force the departure of the Jewish population.[164][165][166]

Jewish "Nakba"[edit]

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:[167]

However, there is another Nakba: the Jewish Nakba. During those same years [the 1940s], 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.[168]

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:[169]

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.

Israeli historian Yehoshua Porath has rejected the comparison, arguing that while there is a superficial similarity, the ideological and historical significance of the two population movements are entirely different. Porath points out that the immigration of Jews from Arab countries to Israel, expelled or not, was the "fulfilment of a national dream". He also argues that the achievement of this Zionist goal was only made possible through the endeavors of the Jewish Agency's agents, teachers, and instructors working in various Arab countries since the 1930s. Porath contrasts this with the Palestinian Arabs' flight of 1948 as completely different. He describes the outcome of the Palestinian's flight as an "unwanted national calamity" that was accompanied by "unending personal tragedies". The result was "the collapse of the Palestinian community, the fragmentation of a people, and the loss of a country that had in the past been mostly Arabic-speaking and Islamic. "[170]

Objecting views[edit]

The assertion that Jewish emigrants from Arab countries should be considered refugees has received mixed reactions from various quarters.

Within Israel[edit]

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."[11]

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."[171][better source needed]

Iraqi-born Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, speaking of the wave of Iraqi Jewish migration to Israel, concludes that, even though Iraqi Jews were "victims of the Israeli-Arab conflict", Iraqi Jews aren't refugees, saying that "nobody expelled us from Iraq, nobody told us that we were unwanted."[172] He restated that case in a review of Martin Gilbert's book, In Ishmael’s House.[173]

Yehuda Shenhav has criticized the analogy between Jewish emigration from Arab countries and the Palestinian Arab exodus. 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." He has stated that "the campaign's proponents hope their efforts will prevent conferral of what is called a 'right of return' on Palestinians, and reduce the size of the compensation Israel is liable to be asked to pay in exchange for Palestinian property appropriated by the state guardian of 'lost' assets."[174]

In the Arab World[edit]

In 2012 Sami Abu Zuhri, a Gaza Strip-based Hamas official, claimed that Arab Jews "are criminals not refugees,"[175] suggesting that the so-called "Jewish refugees" in fact secretly migrated to Palestine from Arab countries in advance, in order to expel the Palestinians and take their land. Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi have argued that Jews from Arab lands are not refugees at all and that Israel is using their claims in order to counterbalance to those of Palestinian refugees against it.[175] Ashrawi said that “If Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees’; they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision.”[175]

Property losses and compensation[edit]

In Libya, Iraq and Egypt many Jews lost vast portions of their wealth and property as part of the exodus because of severe restrictions on moving their wealth out of the country.

In the Maghreb, the situation was more complex. For example, in Morocco emmigrants were not allowed to take more than $60-worth of Moroccan currency with them, although generally they were able to sell their property prior to leaving,[176] and some were able to worke around the currency restrictions by exchanging cash into jewelry or other portable valuables.[176] This led some scholars to speculate the Maghrebi Jewish population, comprising two thirds of the exodus, on the whole did not suffer large property losses.[177] However, opinions on this differ.[citation needed]

Yemeni Jews were usually able to sell what property they possessed prior to departure, although not always at market rates.[178]

Estimated value[edit]

Various estimates of the value of property abandoned by the Jewish exodus have been published, with wide variety in the quoted figures from a few billion dollars to hundreds of billions.[179]

A body representing the Jewish refugees, the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) estimated in 2006, that Jewish property abandoned in Arab countries would be valued at more than $100 billion, later revising their estimate in 2007 to $300 billion. They also estimated Jewish-owned real-estate left behind in Arab lands at 100,000 square kilometers (four times the size of the state of Israel).[4][25][180][181][25]

The type and extent of linkage between the Jewish exodus from Arab countries and the 1948 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.[182][183][10]

Holocaust restitution expert Sidney Zabludoff, writing for the Israeli-advocacy group Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, suggests that the losses sustained by the Jews who fled Arab countries since 1947 amounts to $700m at period prices based on an estimated per capita wealth of $700 multiplied by one million refugees, equating to $6 billion today, assuming that the entire exodus left all of their wealth behind.[184]

Israeli position[edit]

The official position of the Israeli government is that Jews from Arab countries are considered refugees, and it considers their rights to property left in countries of origin as valid and existent.[185]

In 2008, the Orthodox Sephardi party, Shas, announced its intention to seek compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab states.[186]

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.[187]

Films about the exodus[edit]

  • I Miss The Sun (1984), USA, produced and directed by Mary Hilawani. Profile of Halawani's grandmother, Rosette Hakim. A prominent Egyptian-Jewish family, the Halawanis left Egypt in 1959. 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. Presents a history of Jews in the Middle East.
  • The Forgotten Refugees (2005) is a documentary film by The David Project, describing the events of the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries
  • The Silent Exodus (2004) by Pierre Rehov. 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) by Vivienne Roumani-Denn. Describes how European colonialism, Italian fascism and the rise of Arab nationalism contributed to the disappearance of Libya's Sephardic Jewish community.

Further reading[edit]

Whole region[edit]

  • Abu Shakrah (2001). "Deconstructing the Link: Palestinian Refugees and Jewish Immigrants from Arab Countries" in Naseer Aruri (ed.), Palestinian Refugees: The Right of Return. London: Pluto Press:208-216.
  • Cohen, Hayyim J. (1973). The Jews of the Middle East, 1860–1972 Jerusalem, Israel Universities Press. ISBN 0-470-16424-7
  • Cohen, Mark (1995) Under Crescent and Cross, Princeton, Princeton University Press.
  • Cohen, Mark (1986) "Islam and the Jews: Myth, Counter-Myth, History", Jerusalem Quarterly, 38, 1986
  • Fischbach, Michael R. (2008), Claiming Jewish Communal Property in Iraq, Middle East Report, retrieved 2010-04-05 
  • Goldberg, Arthur. 1999. "Findings of the Tribunal relating to the Claims of Jews from Arab Lands." in Malka Hillel Shulewitz (ed.) The Forgotten Millions. London:Cassell:207-211.
  • Gilbert, Sir Martin (1976). The Jews of Arab lands: Their history in maps. London. World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries : Board of Deputies of British Jews. ISBN 0-9501329-5-0
  • Harris, David A. (2001). In the Trenches: Selected Speeches and Writings of an American Jewish Activist, 1979–1999. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. ISBN 0-88125-693-5
  • Landshut, Siegfried. 1950. Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East. Westport: Hyperion Press.
  • Levin, Itamar (2001). Locked Doors: The Seizure of Jewish Property in Arab Countries. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-97134-1
  • Lewis, Bernard (1984). The Jews of Islam. Princeton. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00807-8
  • Lewis, Bernard (1986). Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice, W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-02314-1
  • Lewis, Bernard (2010). In Ishmael's house: a History of Jews in Muslim Lands. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300167153. 
  • Massad, Joseph. 1996. "Zionism's Internal Others: Israel and The Oriental Jews." Journal of Palestine Studies, 25(4):53-68.
  • Meron, Ya'akov. 1995. "Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries." Middle East Quarterly, 2(3):47-55.
  • Morris, Benny. Black, Ian. (1992). Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3286-4
  • Parfitt, Tudor. Israel and Ishmael: Studies in Muslim-Jewish Relations , St. Martin's Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-312-22228-4
  • Roumani, Maurice (1977). The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, Tel Aviv, World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977 and 1983
  • Schulewitz, Malka Hillel. (2001). The Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands. London. ISBN 0-8264-4764-3
  • Shapiro, Raphael. 1984. "Zionism and Its Oriental Subjects." in Jon Rothschild (ed.) Forbidden Agendas: Intolerance and Defiance in the Middle East. London: Al Saqi Books: 23-48.
  • Shohat, Ella. 1988. "Sephardim in Israel: Zionism from the Standpoint of its Jewish Victims." Social Text 19-20:1-35.
  • Stearns, Peter N. Citation from The Encyclopedia of World History Sixth Edition, Peter N. Stearns (general editor), © 2001 The Houghton Mifflin Company, at
  • 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
  • Swirski, Shlomo. 1989. Israel The Oriental Majority. London:Zed Books.
  • Woolfson, Marion. 1980. Prophets in Babylon: Jews in the Arab World. London: Faber and Faber.
  • Zargari, Joseph (2005). The Forgotten Story of the Mizrachi Jews. Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal (Volume 23, 2004 – 2005).

Country or region specific works[edit]

  • André Chouraqui (2002), "Between East and West: A History of the Jews of North Africa". ISBN 1-59045-118-X
  • De Felice, Renzo (1985). Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835–1970. Austin, University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-74016-6
  • Gruen, George E. (1983) Tunisia's Troubled Jewish Community (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1983)
  • Simon, Rachel (1992). Change Within Tradition Among Jewish Women in Libya, University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-97167-3
  • Beinin, Joel (1998), The Dispersion Of Egyptian Jewry Culture, Politics, And The Formation Of A Modern Diaspora, University of California Press, c1998. Amer Univ in Cairo Pr, 2005, ISBN 977-424-890-2
  • Lagnado, Lucette (2007) The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World . Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-082212-5
  • Cohen, Ben. 1999. Review of "The Jewish Exodus from Iraq". Journal of Palestine Studies, 27(4):110-111.
  • Gat, Moshe (1997), The Jewish Exodus from Iraq, 1948–1951 Frank Cass.
  • Haim, Sylvia. 1978. "Aspects of Jewish Life in Baghdad under the Monarchy." Middle Eastern Studies, 12(2):188-208.
  • Hillel, Shlomo. 1987. Operation Babylon. New York: Doubleday.
  • Kedourie, Elie. 1989. "The break between Muslims and Jews in Iraq," in Mark Cohen & Abraham Udovitch (eds.) Jews Among Arabs. Princeton: Darwin Press:21-64.
  • Rejwan, Nissim (1985) The Jews of Iraq: 3000 Years of History and Culture London. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-78713-6
  • Shiblak, Abbas. 1986. The Lure of Zion: The Case of the Iraqi Jews. London: Al Saqi.
  • Nini, Yehuda (1992), The Jews of the Yemen 1800–1914. Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 3-7186-5041-X
  • Parfitt, Tudor (1996) The Road to Redemption: The Jews of the Yemen 1900-1950. Brill's Series in Jewish Studies vol. XVII. Leiden: Brill.
  • Schulze, Kristen (2001) The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict. Sussex. ISBN 1-902210-64-6

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries, by Ya'akov Meron, September 1995, pp. 47-55
  2. ^ "How Arabs stole Jewish property". Ynet. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  3. ^ a b Shindler, Colin. A history of modern Israel. Cambridge University Press 2008. pp. 63–64.
  4. ^ a b c Schwartz, Adi (January 4, 2008). "All I Wanted was Justice". Haaretz. 
  5. ^ Malka Hillel Shulewitz, The Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands, Continuum 2001, pp. 139 and 155.
  6. ^ a b Ada Aharoni "The Forced Migration of Jews from Arab Countries, Historical Society of Jews from Egypt website. Accessed February 1, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d Changing tack, Foreign Ministry to bring 'Jewish refugees' to fore ""To define them as refugees is exaggerated,” said Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry"
  8. ^ Changing the refugee paradigm
  9. ^ a b c Israel scrambles Palestinian 'right of return' with Jewish refugee talk "Palestinian and Israeli critics have two main arguments: that these Jews were not refugees but eager participants in a new Zionist state, and that Israel cannot and should not attempt to settle its account with the Palestinians by deducting the lost assets of its own citizens, thereby preventing individuals on both sides from seeking compensation."
  10. ^ a b Philip Mendes The causes of the post-1948 Jewish Exodus from Arab Countries
  11. ^ a b c d Yehouda Shenhav The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity
  12. ^ Avi Shlaim No peaceful solution
  13. ^ A new hasbara campaign: Countering the 'Arab Narrative'
  14. ^ a b c "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries". JVL. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  15. ^ Yaron Harel. "Aleppo Riots (1947)." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online, 2014
  16. ^ Colin Shindler (2008). A history of modern Israel. Cambridge University Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-521-61538-9. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  17. ^ Ya'akov Meron. "Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries", Middle East Quarterly, September 1995.
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