1956–57 exodus and expulsions from Egypt

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The 1956–57 exodus and expulsions from Egypt was the exodus and expulsion of Egypt's Mutamassirun, which began during the latter stages of the Suez Crisis in Nasserist Egypt.


The exodus of the Mutamassirun ("Egyptianized"), which included the British and French colonial powers as well as Jews, Greeks, Italians, Syrians, Armenians,[1] began following the First World War, and by the end of the 1960s the exodus of the foreign population was effectively complete. According to Andrew Gorman, this was primarily a result of the "decolonization process and the rise of Egyptian nationalism".[2][3][4] In addition, there was an indigenous Jewish population, although Krämer argues that many Jews in Egypt in the early twentieth century were recent immigrants to the country, who did not share the Arabic language and culture.[5] Until the late 1930s, the foreign minorities, including both indigenous and recent immigrant Jews, tended to apply for dual-citizenship in addition to their Egyptian birth citizenship order to benefit from a foreign protection.[6]

In October 1956, following the invasion by 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.[7] Some lawyers, engineers, doctors and teachers were not allowed to work in their professions.[8] As part of its new policy, 1,000 Jews were arrested and 500 Jewish businesses were seized by the government.[9] Jewish bank accounts were confiscated and many Jews lost their jobs.[8]


The actions taken to encourage emigration or expel the foreign minorities applied to the whole Mutamassirun population, and after 1956 a large majority of Greeks, Italians, Belgians, French, and British, including Jews, left the country.[10][failed verification] The decree was also relevant to Egyptian Jews suspected as Zionist agents, especially those with free professions and relatives in Israel.[8]

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.[citation needed]

Foreign observers reported that some members of Jewish families were taken hostage, apparently to ensure that those forced to leave did not speak out against the Egyptian government.[citation needed] Some 23,000—25,000 Jews out of 60,000 in Egypt left,[11] mainly for Israel, Europe, the United States and South America.[citation needed] Many were forced to sign declarations that they were voluntarily emigrating and agreed to 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.[citation needed]

The Guardian correspondent Michael Adams noted in 1958 that the Egyptian government ultimately expelled a minority of the Jewish population of Egypt, though many Jews left as a result of increasing pressure.[12] This is supported by Laskier[13] who claims: "It is estimated that as early as the end of November 1956 at least 500 Egyptian and stateless Jews had been expelled from Egypt". In contrast, Max Elstein Keisler claims that "around 25 000 Jews were expelled that year (1956)",[14] equivalent to all of the Jews who left Egypt in 1956.[13]

On December 9, 1956, Egyptian Interior Minister Zakaria Mohieddin stated that of Egypt's 18,000 British and French citizens, 1,452 had been ordered to be expelled.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gorman 2003, p. 174–5.
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ Krämer 1989, p. 233"Not only were they not Muslim, and mainly not of Egyptian origin; most of them did not share the Arabic language and culture, either. Added to these factors was their political diversity."
  6. ^ Krämer 1989, p. 31.
  7. ^ Laskier 1995, p. 579.
  8. ^ a b c Laskier 1995, p. 581.
  9. ^ Laskier 1995, p. 579–80.
  10. ^ Krämer 1989, p. 233: "These developments concerned all local foreign minorities, and after 1956 the large majority of Greeks, Italians, Belgians, French, and British did, indeed, leave the country as well. Non-Muslim and non-Arab minorities had smaller chances to integrate into the Egyptian nation once it came to be increasingly defined on Arab and Islamic lines."
  11. ^ Fischbach, Michael R. (14 August 2012). Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231503402.
  12. ^ 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."
  13. ^ a b Michael M. Laskier (1995). "EGYPTIAN JEWRY UNDER THE NASSER REGIME, 1956-70". Historical Society of Jews from Egypt.
  14. ^ Max Elstein Keisler (2013). "Abbas Claims Jews Were Not Expelled From Egypt". The Algemeiner.
  15. ^ 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."

Further reading[edit]