"If the UN decides to amputate a part of Palestine in order to establish a Jewish state...Jewish blood will necessarily be shed elsewhere in the Arab world...to place in certain and serious danger a million Jews."
— Egyptian delegate to the United Nations, 1947
On November 30, 1947, the day after the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate for Palestine into one Jewish and one Arab state, the authorities in Aleppo organized the local Arab population to target its Jewish inhabitants in retaliation. Angry mobs destroyed 10 synagogues, five Jewish schools, numerous Jewish shops, and 150 Jewish homes, setting them on fire. Perhaps most heartbreaking was the destruction and desecration of a Torah manuscript dating back to medieval times; in 1958, the Torah reappeared in Israel with numerous pages missing.
We don’t know for a fact how many Jews were murdered, but most estimates stand at about 75, with many more hundreds wounded. The Syrian government seized Jewish assets and properties.
Wealthier Syrian Jews escaped the next day, as they had the resources to leave. Others trickled out in the following months, many leaving for Palestine in rescue operations. On December 22, 1947, the Syrian government forbade Jews from selling their properties.
About half of the Jewish community in Aleppo fled following the November 30 pogrom. In December of 1947, the Syrian government began placing serious restrictions on its Jewish population, such as banning the sale of Jewish properties. The Syrian police also began seriously monitoring all Jewish activity. A few years later, Jewish assets were frozen.
In 1949, the Menarsha synagogue was attacked with a grenade, killing 12, including 8 children.
The Syrian government tried to prevent Jews from exporting their assets, but they were unsuccessful.
In the 1940s, the Yemenite port city of Aden was under British rule. During this period, antisemitic sentiments in Yemen increased, particularly after Palestinian Arabs began visiting Yemen; additionally, the access to antisemitic propaganda coming from Egypt also inflamed antisemitic sentiments.
Immediately following the partition vote on November 29, 1947, large-scale protests broke out in the Jewish quarters of Yemen and Aden. The protests quickly turned violent, with Arabs throwing stones and bottles at the Jewish population. For various days, Arabs looted Jewish homes and businesses.
The situation continued to escalate. By December 4, about 80 Jews had been murdered, 100 Jewish shops were destroyed, and 30 Jewish homes were burnt to the ground. Jewish schools were also set on fire. As the British desperately and ineffectively tried to control the situation, 33 Arabs, 4 Muslim Indians, one Somali, and two British military officers were killed. The riots were deeply embarrassing for the British, as things had gotten out of hand so quickly.
In early 1948, as the war in Israel raged on, six Jews were falsely accused of murdering two Arab girls. This led the government to forcefully evict Jews from their homes.
Following the riots, the Adeni Jewish community fled, along with the rest of Yemen’s Jewish population. In 1948, 55,000 Jews lived in Yemen, with the community dating back over 2000 years. Between June 1949 and September 1950, around 50,000 of those Jews fled Yemen in a secret operation known as Operation Magic Carpet.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, political incitement against the Jewish community of Egypt came to a head.
In May 1926, Egypt passed the first Nationality Code, reserving Egyptian nationality only to those who "belong racially to the majority of the population of a country whose language is Arabic or whose religion is Islam." It's important to note that the Egyptian Jewish community was highly diverse, an amalgamation of Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews, Jews whose ancestors had resided in Egypt continuously for thousands of years, Egyptian Karaite Jews, and even Ashkenazi Jews. As such, this decree served as a pretext to expel the Jewish population.
In July of 1947, Egypt passed another law decreeing that companies must employ 90 percent Egyptian nationals. Because Jews were denied citizenship, this law marginalized them economically.
Between June and September of 1948, Jewish neighborhoods in Cairo were bombed, resulting in 70 deaths. After Israel's Declaration of Independence on May 14 of 1948, scores of Jews were arrested and imprisoned in Abu Qir detention camp. Professor Chacham Choureka, who was later arrested in the 1950s, described the situation: "The authorities didn't differentiate between teaching Judaism and Zionist activity. In reality though, part of teaching Torah is about Israel.”
Denationalized, economically marginalized, widely arrested, and terrorized by bombings and riots, the Jews of Egypt were desperate to escape. To their aid came Israeli emissaries from Aliyah Bet, who arranged ships and visas and helped Jews escape Egypt. An estimated 20,000 Jews fled Egypt during the 1948 war.
After Israel declared its independence in 1948, Zionism became a capital crime in Iraq. A Jew only had to be denounced by two or more Muslims to be convicted, and there was no system of appeal.
Throughout the war, Jews were widely accused of "Zionism" — both with and without cause — and were dismissed from their jobs. They were arrested on trumped up charges, tortured, executed, and their assets were seized, all worth an estimated 80 million dollars. In one case, for example, a man was sentenced to 5 years of hard labor for having a Biblical Hebrew inscription, which the accusers claimed was a "coded Zionist message."
The biggest shock came to the Jewish community when the wealthiest Jew in Iraq, an anti-Zionist named Shafiq Ades, was accused of Zionism, tried in a show trial, and executed. After this, Iraqi Jews felt that there was no future for them in Iraq.
Initially during the war, Iraq banned Jewish emigration, on the assumption that Jews would flee to Israel. As such, an underground network smuggled nearly a thousand Jews a month. Later, the government changed its mind, with politicians openly stating that they wished to expel the Jews. The Jews were then allowed to leave on the condition that they renounce their citizenship. In total, 85,000 registered to leave. Though Israel rescued some in a secret operation, it struggled to keep up with the demand.
Since most Iraqi Jews had registered for emigration and were now stateless, they took to sleeping on the streets, which aggravated the Iraqi authorities, who threatened to imprison them in concentration camps or drive them across the border themselves.Between 1950 and 1952, Operation Ezra and Nehemiah airlifted some 120,000 to 130,000 Iraqi Jews to safety in Israel.
As Jews poured into rescue trucks en route to the airport by the thousands, Iraqi crowds cheered and stoned the vehicles.
IRAQ JEWISH QUARTER BOMBINGS
Between April 1950 and June 1951, five bombings targeted the Jewish community of Iraq. Over the years, the source of the bombs has been a matter of great controversy, with anti-Zionist historians frequently alleging that the bombs were planted by the Mossad to prompt Iraqi Jews to emigrate. The Iraqi government itself charged, tried, and executed two members of the Zionist underground, Shalom Salih and Yosef Basri, claiming that they planted the bombs to "tarnish Iraq's image." There are a few problems with the claim that the Zionists planted the bombs to encourage the Jewish community to emigrate to Palestine:
(1) as mentioned, Iraqi Jews were only permitted to register for emigration for up to a year. By January 1951, 105,000 Jews had already registered for emigration; 40,000 had already left the country. The Citizenship Law expired before the third bombing. Therefore, the last few bombs wouldn't have prompted Jews to flee Iraq because it would've been impossible to flee Iraq by then.
(2) the last of the bombs went off when Salih and Basri had already been arrested. It was later revealed that their friend and fellow Zionist activist Yosef Habaza planted the bomb, to convince the Iraqi police that it couldn't have possibly been Salih and Basri who detonated the other bombs, since they were now sitting in prison.
(3) the Jews who witnessed the synagogue bombing actually identified the perpetrator, an Iraqi army officer, Major Jamil Mamo.
(4) as explained prior, the Israeli authorities were so overwhelmed with the absorption of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees that they actually tried to slow down the emigration of Iraqi Jews.
(5) the only evidence against Salih and Basri was Salih's confession after severe torture, as well as the discovery of a weapons depot of an underground Zionist spy ring. Salih later stated, "[The torture] forced me to tell them that I, together with Yusuf Khabaza and Yosef Basri, threw the bombs. I was also taken by the investigators to certain places, and they made me point to these places as the locations where the bombs were placed."
Historian Moshe Gat suggests that the bombings were actually carried out by the antisemitic Istiqlal Party. Others have suggested the Muslim Brotherhood. The Israeli government has denied any link to the bombings. Regardless, it's evident that the bombings were not the reason most Iraqi Jews fled Iraq.
When Jordan occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria -- which was then renamed the "West Bank" -- it expelled some 40,000 Jews, the entire remaining Jewish population of the region. Jews in East Jerusalem were given one hour to pack their bags and leave. It's important to note that the Jewish communities of East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria were not usually comprised of recent Zionist arrivals, but rather, of some of the most ancient continuous Jewish communities in the Land of Israel.
The Jordanians themselves boasted, “For the first time in 1000 years not a single Jew remains in the Jewish Quarter. Not a single building remains intact. This makes the Jews' return here impossible.”
As early as the 1930s, a wave of pogroms across the Arab and Muslim-majority nations ravaged the Jewish communities. For example, 25 Jews were massacred in Constantine, Algeria in 1934. Turkish Jews were murdered in pogroms in 1934. In 1941, up to 1000 Jews were murdered in the Nazi-inspired pogrom known as the Farhud. In Libya, hundreds of Jews were massacred by their own neighbors in 1945.
Retaliatory violence against Jewish communities in Arab countries continued throughout the course of the 1948 war. Though the Jewish community in Bahrain was small, numbering at no more than 600, pogroms between December 2-5 of 1947 resulted in the death of an elderly Jewish woman. In Morocco, for instance, 44 Jews were murdered in the towns of Oujda and Djerada on June 8, 1948. In June of 1948, 15 Jews were killed and 280 homes were destroyed in pogroms in Libya.
After the Algerian War, non-Muslims were denied Algerian citizenship. About 130,000 of Algeria’s 140,000 Jews fled for France, while the remaining 10,000 fled to Israel.