Jews in Arab Countries

  • Alongside the departure of Israeli Arabs to Arab countries, there was, as noted, a reverse phenomenon of Jewish refugees fleeing Arab countries as a result of persecution, to the Land of Israel. In effect, the process was one of population exchange, as had occurred in other places around the world. For instance, in the 1950s India and Pakistan carried out a massive exchange of population: eight and a half million Sikhs moved from Pakistan to India, and six and a half million moved from India to Pakistan (Page 39).
    • In 1939 a member of the Arab Committee for the Protection of Palestine proposed a population exchange: “… all Arabs will leave the Land of Israel, and will be divided among neighboring countries. In return, all Jews residing in Arab countries will move to Israel. The exchange will take place in the same manner in which Turkey and Greece exchanged population…” (Page 38).
    • Beirut newspaper Al-Nahar “… We doubt whether this is the place to describe how Jews from Arab countries were exiled from their ancient homes. They were exiled in a shameful manner, after all of their property had been seized or stolen. The Israelis will say: we may have caused the exile of 700,000 Palestinians, but you, the Arabs, have caused the exile of the same number of Jews from Arab countries. And therefore, in effect, what happened was an exchange of population and property…” (Page 42).


  • The story fabricated by the Arab states is that relations between Jews and Arabs were wonderful in the past, and that the Zionists (Israel) ruined them. But this is pure propaganda.
    • King Hussein of Jordan told the New York Times (1962): “The relationships that allowed Arabs and Jews to live together for centuries as neighbors and friends were destroyed by the Zionists’ ideas and actions.” And yet, the Jordanian Citizenship Law states that Jews cannot become citizens. Another example: a Jordanian middle school textbook from 1966 states that “Jews in Europe were persecuted and held in contempt thanks to their corruption, villainy and treachery” (Page 82).
    • The Hadith, the oral doctrine ascribed to Mohammed, establishes the proper way for dealing with Jews. A hadith published many times in the Egyptian press in the thirties and forties said: “The resurrection of the dead shall not come to pass until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them… the trees and rocks will say, “O Muslim, O Abdullah, here is a Jew behind me, come and kill him” (Page 83).
    • Muslim holy texts also feature positive references to Jews, which are often quoted in order to reinforce the myth of good relations between Muslims and Jews. But in all Muslim countries, the Jews are described as the negative party in these tales (a variety of Koran quotes on Page 83-84). These quotes, which show Jews in a negative light, were mentioned, for instance, in the Cairo Religious Conference (1968).
    • The British consul to Jerusalem reported (1839): “The spirit of tolerance toward Jews is not yet known here, to the same degree as in Europe. In Jerusalem, Jews are not yet seen as much better than dogs” (Page 85).
    • The Iraqi Prime Minister (1951): “Jews always were, and always will be, a source of evil and harm to Iraq” (Page 87).


Breakdown in Relations with Jews with the Rise of Islam

Humiliating Jews was common in all generations, just the degree of cruelty changed, in accordance with the nature of the current governor.

  • Before the rise of the Prophet Mohammed, relations between Jews and Arabs were normal. Mohammed founded Islam by taking concepts directly from Jewish sages. He also negated the positive image of Jews that had existed at the time. The Jews rejected Mohammed and his efforts to convert them. As a result, he resented them and even hated them. Much of this hostility made its way into the Koran. His approach to them including eradicating Jewish tribes and writing humiliating laws for dhimmi under Islamic rule (Page 47).
  • The first Jewish refugees to run away from the Romans, fled to the Arabian Peninsula and settled in the city of Medina, where a large and prosperous Jewish colony was created. The reason behind the Jews’ success was their knowledge of agriculture as well as their spirit and determination. Within a few decades, Jews went from refugees to landowners and dominant figures in the finance and trade sectors. Their success became a threat in the eyes of the Arabs, specially to the Quraysh—Mohammad’s tribe, which coveted the wealth of the Jews (p. 148).
  • Jews were tasked with cleaning public latrines; they underwent physical humiliation; false allegations were made about them (for instance, in 1840 a false tale was spread of Passover matzah being made from the blood of a priest and his assistant); they were forced to wear clothing that set them apart, like a yellow patch or shoes of a different color on each foot. Jews were forced to live in crowded and squalid ghettos called “Hara” and “Malakh”. Until the start of the Twentieth Century, they were charged a special tax that only they paid. Massacres of Jews were a regular occurrence, particularly during economic and political times of crisis, in order to divert public attention from these crises (Page 48).
  • Blood libel was repeated and emphasized by academia, by leaders such as King Feisal and the press. Example from Egyptian newspaper, 1982: “… the Israelis are Israelis, and their favorite drink is Arab blood….” (Page 49).
  • Dhimmi laws were eventually replaced by stereotypes (Page 50).

Attitude toward Yemenite Jews

  • There were once fifty thousand Jews in Yemen, while today there are just a handful left, living as individuals (and not in a community). The Jews’ situation worsened following the Arab conquest of the Seventh Century – they suffered from poor treatment deriving from the strict interpretation of the Omar Treaty (Page 51-53).
    • A Yemenite law stated that Jewish children under the age of 13 must be taken from their mothers and raised as Muslims in Muslim homes.
    • According to S.D. Goitein, one of the greatest historians of Jewish history in Muslim lands, there was an ancient custom of stoning Jews, which existed until the Jews left Yemen in 1948.
    • The Jews’ situation grew much worse in the 12th Century, until the greatest Jew of his generation, Maimonides, wrote the “Yemen Letter”, in which he empathized with their pain and cautioned them to keep their faith.
    • Their situation grew even worse in the 18th Century, due to the famine of 1724. The authorities destroyed synagogues, and forbade public prayer. Many Jews tried to immigrate to Israel in the footsteps of false Messiah Sabbetai Zvi, but were tortured to death along the way.
    • The ghettos in which they lived were squalid and neglected, and were a target of repeated attacks in which attackers wrought ruin and carried out murders and robberies.
    • Despite the high birth rates, many of the Jews died of hunger.

Attitude toward Iraqi Jews

  • Of the Jewish community in Iraq, which numbered 150,000 people, more than 123,000 people escaped to Israel or were forced to run. This had been a well-respected community known for its scholarship, some 1200 years before the Muslim conquest (Page 55-58).
    • It was only from the Ninth Century onward that the dhimmi laws were applied, Jews were forced to pay a poll tax, they were required to wear a yellow patch and their housing was restricted.
    • Synagogues were robbed and destroyed in Baghdad.
    • A massacre took place against the Jews of Basra in 1776, and many were forced to flee.
    • Before the First World War, the Jews were forced to finance the military. Those who refused were persecuted and hanged. In 1932, the German Ambassador opened a base in Baghdad that served as a center of Nazi propaganda. A year later, a massacre was carried out against the Jews with the military’s and police’s approval and with civilian assistance. Attacks included cases in which nitrous acid was poured on Jews in the streets and bombs were thrown into synagogues. In the pogrom that broke out in 1941, the number of victims was estimated at 150 to several hundred dead, hundreds wounded and over a thousand homes and businesses ransacked and destroyed.
    • With the founding of the State of Israel, Zionism was declared a capital crime, and many Jews were hanged in city squares. In addition, millions of dollars were taken from Jews, by way of discriminatory laws and the need to bribe officials to act in violation of the discriminatory law.
    • In 1950 a law was passed allowing the Jews to leave Iraq permanently. Thus, most Iraqi Jews were forced to leave. Between 1969 and 1973 at least 17 Jews were publically hanged, and at least 26 were murdered in their homes or in prisons.
    • By 1982, most Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel and several thousand found refuge elsewhere. Fewer than 300 were left in Iraq. Today, there are only eight Jews in Iraq.

Attitude toward Egyptian Jews

  • In 1948, the Jewish community in Egypt numbered 75,000 people. Its roots go back even before the Babylonian Exile (Page 58-61).
    • Caliph Al-Hakim, who ruled Egypt from 996 to 1021, forced Jews to wear small images of the golden Calf around their necks. When they refused to convert, they were forced to wear bells, and eventually wooden logs. In 1021 he ordered the destruction of the Jewish Quarter and all of its residents.
    • Under the Ayyubi Dynasty (a family of 12th-Century Muslim rulers), followed by the Mamelukes (13th Century), dhimmi and humiliating laws were passed. Under the Burji Dynasty (14th and 15th centuries), the Jews suffering from repeated harassment. The number of Jews dropped precipitously.
    • In 1926, the first Egyptian citizenship law stated that Egyptian citizenship would only be granted to those who belong “to the majority of the country’s population in racial terms whose language is Arabic or whose religion is Islam.” The law was made stricter in 1956, adding that “Zionists” could not receive citizenship.
    • Many Jews were killed and wounded in anti-Jewish riots in the 1940s. The horrifying absurd was that a report produced by the Jewish Agency for the Land of Israel in March 1946 described that “the economic situation of Jews in Egypt was far better than it has been in any other [Arab and Muslim] country to date…”.
    • In 1948, when the State of Israel was founded, Jews were forbidden from leaving Egypt, and a wave of attacks took place against Jews, and according to eye witness testimony, some 150 Jews were severely injured, their homes were robbed and synagogues were attacked. From August to November 1949, over twenty thousand out of 75,000 Egyptian Jews fled, and many ended up in Israel.
    • After the 1956 Suez Crisis, thousands of Jews were arrested without trial. Thousands of others received deportation notices with just a few days warning, their property was confiscated and their assets frozen.
    • In 1958, the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior put the “citizenship law mentioned above into effect, and stated that any Jew between the ages of 10 and 65 who departed Egypt would not be allowed to return.
    • In 1964 Jamal Abd al-Nasser, in an interview, stated that Egypt was loyal to the old Nazi ideal. Egypt was flooded with anti-Jewish publications, many distributed by the government.
    • There are at most 250 Jews left in Egypt. Since the peace agreement was signed in 1979, its attitude toward Jews has been ambivalent, as could be seen in the official reception Egypt held for Prime Minister Menachem Begin in his first state visit (Page 132).
    • Many claimed that the peace treaty was just a trick. Opponents claimed that Egypt was just taking advantage of its old goal of taking whatever the Israelis were giving. Upon the assassination of President Anwar Sadat and the subsequent rise of Hosni Mubarak, the foundations laid by Sadat may have held, but the hostile approach and religious and anti-Jewish education were still very evident on the streets (Page 137).

Attitude toward Moroccan Jews

  • Morocco: some 300,000 Jews came to Israel from North Africa (the Maghreb), of which 250,000 of these were from what today is Morocco (Page 62-66).
    • Almost from the start of the Arab conquest, Moroccan Jews were forced to live in ghettos called Malakh or “Hara” (a name corresponding to “Ghetto” among Ashkenazic Jews).
    • Jews generally lived in poor and crowded conditions. They suffered from dhimmi laws and their various interpretations. Slaps when paying the poll tax, threats, insults, rape, robbery, burning synagogues, tearing Torah scrolls and murder were too common to count.
    • In 1032, 6,000 Jews were murdered in the city of Fez, with robbers taking their property and rioters kidnapping Jewish women. Some one hundred thousand were murdered in 1146. 120,000 were murdered in Marrakesh for refusing to convert to Islam. In 1160 Maimonides send a letter to strengthen their spirits so that they keep their faith.
    • Jews who converted to Islam were defined as “Muslims of Jewish origin” and were forced to remain humiliated and separate (for instance, they were forced to wear humiliating clothing). One of the cruelest customs was forbidding them from raising their children, who were considered Muslim from birth, while their parents – the converts – were not considered real Muslim.
    • There have been many attacks against Moroccan Jews over the course of history. Among others, there were the al-Khada persecutions in 1640, in 1864 500 Jews were massacred in Marrakesh and Fez, and in 1912 – even under French rule – some sixty Jews were murdered, and naturally the events of 1948.


Attitude toward Algerian Jews

  • Algeria: according to records, in 1948 the Jewish community consisted of 140,000 people; within a handful of months, 120,000 immigrated to France, and thousands to Israel. (Page 66-68).
    • When the Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492, they reached North Africa, but received no respite from persecution. Many were murdered, looted and forced to wear humiliating clothes, claiming that they were not following discriminatory laws.
    • In 1801 one of the contenders for the throne promised to allow his soldiers to loot the Jews for three days. In the subsequent 15 years, hundreds of Jews were murdered. In an outbreak of rage, some 300 Jews were massacred within hours, which encouraged additional bloodshed.
    • When the Jews welcomed the French conquest in 1830, hostile acts against them increased, many with European encouragement.

Attitude toward Tunisian Jews

  • Tunisia: according to records, in 1948 the Jewish community numbered some 105,000 people. Within a handful of months, some fifty thousand of them immigrated to Israel, with the same number immigrating to France (Page 68-71).
    • Jews were forced to wear yellow head covering, in order to identify them and set them apart. Here too there were harassed, and suffered from discriminatory edicts and outbreaks of rage.
    • Since the Seventh Century, he Jews had suffered in a manner similar to their brethren in neighboring countries. In the 13th Century, Kairouan near Tunis became a holy Muslim city, and the Jews were forced out of it. In the 16th Century, Muslims in Tunisia rioted against Jews, who were hated and held in contempt. They were encouraged to harm Jews on their way to Mecca.
    • In 1855 King Mohammed Bey (a Turkish title) attempted to change the Jews’ inferior status, but the attempt was unsuccessful – the public objected, and demanded that the old dhimmi laws be restored in full. The public was unwilling to accept new liberal laws, and the King withdrew the reforms in 1864.

Attitude toward Syrian Jews

  • Syria: there were some ten thousand Jews living in Damascus as far back as 70 CE. Of the 35,000 Jews in Syria in 1917, just 13,000 remained by the beginning of 1947, and thousands escaped the country (Page 71-76).
    • Since the Arab conquest, the Jews had an inferior status, and various restrictive and humiliating dhimmi laws and regulations were used against them. Among other things, there were not allowed to bear arms, wear Muslim clothing, repair homes and synagogues. Jews in Syria were oppressed, extorted, and harmed by the authorities and local residents.
    • One Jew who had risen to the position of Head of the Treasury in the late 18th Century was arrested, had one of his eyes plucked out and had his nose and ears cut off.
    • In 1920, the Jewish Quarter of Damascus was attacked. Many were murdered, homes were robbed and shops were set on fire.
    • In 1936 riots broke out against Damascus Jews, notwithstanding the fact that the Jews supported the Arab nationalists. The 1930s saw a large number of attacks against Jews.
    • In 1937 a Nazi delegation visited Syria, and as a result anti-Jewish propaganda increased, boycotts were implemented and actions were taken against them. In 1941, with the Allied occupation, the equilibrium was mostly restored to its former state.
    • In 1947 anti-Jewish riots reached their peak. Most of the synagogues were burned down. In the Aleppo Hara, 150 Jewish homes were burned down, with the police helping the rioters. A bomb was thrown near the Kol Israel Haverim School. In 1949, all Jewish bank accounts were frozen.
    • There were still some 4,500 Jews in Syria by the 1980s, and all were forbidden to leave the country. The homes of the Jews in the Damascus ghetto were filled by Palestinian Arab residents (Page 125).
    • The Mukahabarat, an SS-style special intelligence bureau, which mainly dealt in Jewish matters, made arrests and tortured Jews. According to a report from 1981, the government allowed it to employ terror and intimidation, including warrantless searches, extrajudicial punishment, torture and executions. Reports from foreign reporters and investigators are horrifying (Page 125).
    • In 1974, Ramsey Clark, the Attorney General of the United Stated from 1967 to 1969, said: “The Jews living in Syria today face highly thorough and brutal persecution… youths and children are harassed in the street. The elderly were knocked down. Rocks are thrown at homes. Jews are not allowed to work in most professions” (Page 126).
    • In the past, the authorities stopped attempts at interviewing residents of the Jewish Quarter. Fake ‘interviews” were subsequently published, presenting the world with a situation very different from reality. The interviews feature s single specific Jewish family, who received special relief in return for the interviews, which presented a misleading state of affairs. After Jews severely criticized it, National Geographic, for instance, issued a retraction for the way by it had presented Syria, based on the same testimony, as if it were a moderate country (Page 126).
    • All interviews with Jews required the accompaniment of an intelligence agent, to make sure that they presented the official state line (Page 127).

Attitude toward Lebanese Jews

  • Lebanon: There had been Jews in the area now known as Lebanon since the year 40 CE. Until 1958, unlike all other neighboring countries, the number of Jews increased – to circa 9,000 (Page 76-77).
    • The crusaders had massacred all 35 families living in Beirut. But a small number of Jews lived in other areas, and to them were added another small number of Spanish exiles; this, of course, involved the mandatory poll tax.
    • The lives of the handful of Jews living in Lebanon were relatively comfortable. There were 55 families in 1826 – until the blood libels reached Beirut and Tripoli (in Lebanon). With the dissemination of the libel came attacks and riots, to which were added assaults during the Druze Rebellion.
    • Compared to their brethren in other Arab countries, there were only a few anti-Jewish events that troubled the Jews in the 1930s. 12 Jews were murdered in Tripoli in 1945, and in 1950 a bomb was thrown into a Jewish school, killing the principal.
    • In 1968 the Lebanese government began to officially support terrorist activity by the Palestinian Arab revolution. Many of the Jews remaining in Lebanon left.

Attitude toward Libyan Jews

  • Jews lived in Libya for thousands of years; during the Egyptian exile (300 BCE), some one hundred thousand Jews were transported from Israel to Libya. There were 38,00 Jews in 1948, and just 8,000 in 1951 (Page 77-81).
    • In the Seventh Century, during the Arab conquest, dhimmi laws were passed as elsewhere in the Arab world. From that period on, Bedouin nomads would rob and loot Jews. These would also punish Jews arbitrarily, as instructed by local leaders.
    • In the 12th Century, the Almohad (a radical Muslim sect) acted barbarously, persecuted Jews, and forced many of them to convert to Islam.
    • In the 16th Century, hundreds of Jews were murdered in persecutions under Ali Gorzi Pasha.
    • The Ottoman conquest provided only slight relief. Until the late 19th Century, Libyan Jews were subject to arbitrary abuse and had illogical taxes imposed on them, which destroyed their finances and left them penniless.
    • The Italian conquest in 1911 improved the Jews’ condition, until the rise of Mussolini, when the Jewish population suffered from fascist propaganda.
    • During WW2, Jews suffered from attacks and murders. This, until the British took Tripoli. A horrific pogrom took place in November 1945, which stunned the Jewish community. A large number of Jews were murdered, Jewish girls were raped in front of their families, homes and shops were destroyed – all based on claims that “Zionist activities” had angered the Arabs.

Attitude toward Saudi Arabian Jews

  • Jews are forbidden to live in Saudi Arabia, which is considered a moderate country. This, despite the fact that it once had flourishing Jewish communities in the Seventh Century, with the rise of Islam. As the Saudi ambassador to The Hague said in 1975, “The official line is that Jews are not allowed into the country, as they support Israel as a state”. An addition prohibition on Jews in Saudi Arabia is Israeli press coverage.  In addition, anti-Semitic creed was disseminated: when the Dutch Foreign Minister visited Saudi Arabia in 1975, a London-based reporter reported that during their visit to Saudi Arabia, the guide insisted on giving him (the journalist) a copy of the “Protocols of the Elder of Zion”, which was given to all reporters landing in Saudi Arabia (Page 122).

Attitude toward Jordanian Jews

  • Mandatory Jordan was established as a kingdom in 1946. During the previous 150 years, the Jews had been expelled by riots and looting, until the cities were considered “free” of Jews. The Jews who lived in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley were considered Jewish Palestinian refugees. The State of Israel ignored their existence. According to a 1954 Jordanian law, Palestinians residing in Jordan were entitled to Jordanian citizenship only if they were not Jewish (Page 123).


  • Testimony from Jewish immigrants from Arab countries indicates the way they were treated by Arabs in the Arab countries (Page 105).
    • Raffi, an Iraqi Jew, was born in 1923 and escaped to Israel in the early 1930s (Page 106-107).
      • “There were spontaneous riots against Jews, which increased with time.”
      • “Many Jews (like my family) preferred to flee the country, if they could.”
      • “The humiliating treatment grew worse when Hitler came to power.”
      • “In the 1948 war, the Jews could not get out as the area was full of Arab armies. As a result, many fled to Persia.”
      • “After that, the Jews were permitted to escape at the cost of losing their citizenship and all of their property – like with the Nazi laws.”
    • Shaul, an Iraqi Jew, was born in 1927, and fled to Israel illegally in 1950 (Page 108-109).
      • “From the age of four I knew that Muslims hate the Jews and harassed them.”
      • “I was forced to go to a Muslim school in 1940, as we had no money. The students would beat me up because they knew I was Jewish. The teachers picked on the Jewish students. They forced us to sing songs saying we would never immigrate to Israel.”
      • “The community always believed strongly in reaching the Land of Israel, there was real yearning for it.”
      • “A painful memory: on the last day of Passover, we were travelling home by bus with our friends, and singing songs in Hebrew. The driver beat us and threw us into the street. There we were attacked by hundreds of Arabs, including clergy and military. I was rescued by a kindly Arab woman who drove us away.”
    • Menachem, an Iraqi Jew, was born in 1935 and came to Israel in 1950 (Page 109-110).
      • “Our uncle was one of those who were hanged in 1969. One of the leaders of the Baath party wanted to make a show of strength, so he grabbed nine Jews, and left them hanging in the street for four days.”
      • “In 1947, before the partition decision, I remember Muslim children learning at the Jewish school would beat me up on a regular basis. Sometimes I had to hide at home for days.”
      • “We fled Iraq empty-handed, we had to give away all of our property.
      • “When we fled, the children and the parents had a special password. In order to receive the bribe, the children had to reach the border and provide the Arabs with the password they received from the children. These told it to the parents, and received payment for smuggling them in return. Without this payment agreement in return for escaping from there, we would have all been murdered, parents and children.”
    • Shimon, an Iraqi Jew, was born in 1937, and fled Baghdad in 1950 (Page 110-111).
      • “I can clearly remember feeling afraid of being beaten in the streets.”
      • “My father, a simple man, always said that we needed to go live in Israel, or they’d take everything from us. The neighbors said similar things.”
    • Yaakov and Shlomo, Egyptian Jews (Page 111-112).
      • “Murders took place once every couple of years, for no reason we could see.”
      • “We were persecuted, we were abused, and we grew used to living as second-class citizens, as dhimmis.”.
    • Mordechai, a Libyan Jew (Page 113-114).
      • “I remember that there was a horrible pogrom in Tripoli in 1945, with 150 Jews murdered. All of the Arabs the British indicted for the pogrom were released; on the other hand, ten Jews were put in jail for self-defense. They tried another pogrom in 1948, but this time we Jews were better prepared, and the damage was relatively small.”
      • “I remember that after Libya became independent in 1951, we could no longer send letters to Israel. After that, they closed our Jewish schools. We were forced to go to eh Muslim of Christian schools, and learn Arabic for two hours a day.”
      • “Jewish girls were victims of the Arabs’ lust.”
      • “Matters grew worse, and new laws and edicts were passed that restricted us more and more, and the place provided no protection.”
      • “If the Arabs that are called Palestinians demand compensation for their property, you need to know that we, Jews from Arab countries, were forced to leave our larger amount of property behind.”
    • Helena, a Moroccan Jew (Page 114-115)
      • “We were never given full rights as Moroccans, despite the fact that we had been in Morocco long before Mohammed preached Islam.”
      • “We always felt like we were kept apart. Despite the fact that King Hassan was more flexible than other Arab rulers, I got the impression that I was an outsider. I was always told, ‘get out of here, go back to your own country, go back to where the Jews are… this is not your country.”

All Syrian Jews interviewed for the book spoke of Syria with visible terror.

  • Moshe and the Professor. Moshe, a young immigrant from Syria, managed to get out before 1973. The Professor, an Algerian Jew, is studying the histories of Jewish communities in North Africa (Page 119-121).
    • Moshe: “I fled Syria by pretending to be an Albanian, without telling my parents and friends, with no papers or money, with no indications to raise suspicions I might be Jewish. I knew that if I were captured, I would be sent to prison indefinitely”.
    • “At the Jewish school, most of the students were Muslims. They would throw rocks at us and repeat over and over that Jews are evil and that they want to drink everyone’s blood.”
    • “After 1967, the Syrians were looking for excuses to come to our homes and take someone to prison.”
    • “All information on all Jews aged 15 to 26 is kept in Syrian files. For each Jew, it says where they studied, what they studied, how many years of education they have and what their occupation is.”