All you wanted to know about Muslim antisemitism

The January 2009 edition of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s Israzine is devoted to the topic of Muslim antisemitism. It contains a useful compendium of book extracts and articles by Andrew Bostom, Efraim Karsh, Lyn Julius, Albert Memmi and SD Goitein.

Also included is a section called Perspectives where excerpts from Martin Gilbert’s The Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean before and after the Arab conquest (Routledge Atlas of Jewish history) are reproduced. Here is ‘ethnic cleansing’ at a glance – a population of 870,000 Jews in Arab lands reduced to less than 5,000:


1933: 20 Jews murdered in Mosul.

1935: Jews removed from Government Service. Many Jews forbidden to travel to Palestine

1936: 10 Jews killed by Arab riots in Baghdad and Basra. Teaching of Hebrew prohibited.

July 1937: Violent anti-Jewish demonstrations in Baghdad. Jewish property destroyed.

June 1941: Baghdad – During riots following collapse of pro-Nazi Government of Rashid Ali, 175 Jews killed and 1,000 injured. Much looting of Jewish property. 900 Jewish houses destroyed. Many Jews tortured.

July 1946: Baghdad – Anti-Jewish riots. Hundreds of Jews wounded and much property destroyed.

1947: No Jewish children accepted in Government schools

May 1947: Following destruction of much Jewish property by mob attack, Jews were forced to move from Faluja to Baghdad. A Jeew murderered by a mob in Baghdad which accused him of giving poisoned sweets to an Arab child.

December 1947: A Jew accused of trying to inject cholera germs in water drunk by Arab children.

August 1948: Zionism declared a crime (with Nazism, Communism, Atheism and Anarchism). Many Jews imprisoned, some hanged.

September – October 1948: Basra – Many wealthy Jews arrested. One millionaire hanged and his fortune seized. His cousin died after 4 months in prison. All were accused of allegedly supplying arms to Zionists.

October 1948: President of the local Jewish Community in Sulaimaniya arrested on charge of maintaining contact with his sons in Israel.

December 1949: Baghdad – Anti-Jewish riots, many injured.

March 10, 1950: Official decree confiscates all property of Jews leaving for Israel, and appoints a special custodian to sell it by public auction. All emigrants’ bank accounts seized by the State.

February 25, 1958: Abolition to Jewish Community Status. All community property, including schools and hospital, transferred to Government.

March 3, 1968: Law No. 10 forbids Jews to receive more than 100 Iraqi dinars per month for sale of immovable property (in 1948 the Jewish community had been made to pay 250,000 dinars towards the Iraqi war effort against Israel and towards the Palestinian Arab refugees).

1969: 9 Jews hanged for “Zionist” activities in January; 2 hanged for “spying for Israel and the CIA”; in August 2 killed in September; 4 killed in November.

October 1972: Many Jews arrested. 16 disappear without trace. More than 20 murdered.

April 1973: A family of 5 Jews murdered in their home.

THE JEWS OF SYRIA 1936 –1975

1936 -9: Damascus – Headquarters of anti-Jewish propaganda, intensified after visit of Nazi officers from Germany.

1938: Damascus – Jews frequently stabbed on streets

June 1945: Damascus – A Jewish educationalist murdered.

November 18, 1945: Aleppo – Great Synagogue looted. Prayerbooks burnt in the street

December 2, 1947: Aleppo – Anti-Jewish riots. Many Jews killed; 140 Jewish homes, 50 shops, 18 synagogues and 5 schools burned.

April 1948: Aleppo – Further anti-Jewish riots. Many Jews in hiding, in fear of their lives.

August 5, 1949: Damascus – Bomb thrown in synagogue on Sabbath eve. 12 killed, 26 injured.

December 1949: Damascus – Jewish Community Council dissolved.

November 1950: Haifa – 30 Syrian Jews murdered at sea by Arab seamen paid to take them by boat to Israel. 20 bodies washed ashore at Haifa.

February 8, 1967: Damascus – Ministry of Defense Circular lists 47 Jewish merchants and forbids army personnel to trade with them.

June 1967: Kamishliye – 57 Jews killed by the mob during anti-Jewish riots

February 8, 1967: Ministry of Defense Circular lists 47 Jewish merchants and forbids army personnel to trade with them

March 1974: 4 young Jewesses murdered while attempting to leave Syria. Since 1971 at least 50 Jews (men, women and children) arrested. Many tortured. Beatings in streets commonplace.

Restrictions in force since 1967:

  1. Jews’’ right to emigrate is completely forbidden. This applies even to Jews in Syria who hold foreign passports.

  2. Jews are forbidden to move more than 3 kilometres from their place of residence. Those wishing to travel further must apply for a special permit.

  3. Identity cards issued to Jews are stamped in red with the word “Mussawi” (Jew).

  4. Jews are normally subject to a 10 p.m. curfew

  5. Jews allowed 6 years elementary schooling only

  6. Jewish houses in Kamishliye are marked in red

  7. Jews barred from jobs in the public service, in public institutions or in banks

  8. Government and military personnel are forbidden to purchase from Jewish shops

  9. Foreigners may not visit the Jewish quarter unescorted

  10. Jews forbidden to own radios or telephones, or to maintain postal contact with outside world

  11. No telephones are installed in Jewish homes

  12. The possessions of deceased Jews are confiscated by the Government. Their heirs must then pay for the use of the property. If they cannot, it is handed over to the Palestinian Arabs

  13. Only two Jewish schools open in Damascus. Their directors and most of their teachers are Muslims. Exams usually ordered to be held on the Sabbath


1900: By 1900 Jews had lived in Yemen for over 2,000 years.

1905: Reintroduction of earlier laws forbids all Jews to build higher houses than Muslims, to raise their voices in front of Muslims, or to engage in religious discussion or in any traditional Muslim trade or occupation.

1920’s: Jews ousted from textile and soap trades, and forced to train Muslims to take thseir place.

1922: Anti-Zionist propaganda spread by Palestinian Arabs. A special law orders forcible conversion to Islam of all Jewish orphans under 13, even when the mother was still alive; another common Muslim law reimposed.

1929: Jews forbidden to emigrate to Palestine. Some managed to flee to Aden.

1948: Anti-Jewish violence following rumour that 6 Jews had been arrested in Sana for murdering 2 Arab girls for ritual purposes.

1949: Jews, allowed to go to Aden, seek refuge there en route to Israel.

1933: Anti-Jewish attacks. Many Jews stoned and stabbed by Arab rioters.

November 1947: Broadcasts from Egypt relayed in the cafes, inciting anti-Jewish feeling.

December 1947: 3 days of anti-Jewish rioting leave 82 Jewish dead, 106 shops looted (out of 170), 220 Jewish houses destroyed and 4 synagogues burnt to the ground.

1965: Synagogue looted and burnt

June 1967: Some Jews murdered, 3 synagogues destroyed and Jewish property looted. Britain supervises evacuation of remaining 132 Jews to Israel.


1882, 1919, 1921, 1924: Alexandria – Jews attacked in anti-foreigner riots.

1938 – 39: Towns in which there were serious anti-Jewish riots and violent protests against Jewish immigration from Nazi Germany to Palestine

November 2, 1945: “Balfour Day” riots throughout Egypt. 10 Jews killed, 350 injured. Shops looted and synagogues wrecked. Scrolls of the Law burnt in the streets.

May 15, 1948: 2,000 Jews arrested. Two weeks later a Law was passed confiscating the property of those arrested.

June i6, 1948: New York Times reports large Jewish financial contributions to the anti-Israeli War Chest and to Arab refugee relief.

June – July 1948: Over 50 Jews killed, some after savage mutilations. Many Jewish homes destroyed.

September 22, 1948: 20 Jews killed and 61 injured after an explosion in the Jewish quarter of Cairo, followed by Arab looting of Jewish houses, and seizure of Jewish property by the Government.

1956: 4,000 Jews expelled. Some allowed to take only a single suitcase out of Egypt. Those expelled were forced to renounce all property rights and financial claims.

1957: All Jews not in “continuous residence” since 1900 deprived of citizenship.

1960: Many synagogues closed down. Jewish orphanages, schools and old peoples’ homes forced to close. The Jewish hospital confiscated; its medical staff arrested

May-June 1967: All Jews in official employ dismissed. 500 Jews, including rabbis, arrested. Some brutally tortured, some released only in 19970, others expelled with only meager personal belongings.

THE JEWS OF LIBYA: 1942- 1975

1942: During German occupation Jewish quarter sacked and looted; 2,000 Jews deported across the desert; as many as a fifth died.

November 4 – 7, 1945: Zavia; Zansur: Tripoli; Amrus: Kussabat; Tawarga; Benghazi – Towns in which more than 100 Jews were murdered (some tortured first, some burnt alive) during the anti-Jewish riots.

June 1948: Tripoli – 12 Jews and 4 Arabs killed in anti-Jewish riots. 280 Jewish houses destroyed.

1951: With Libya’s independence, all Jewish ties cut with Israel and Jewish organizations abroad.

1963: Jewish right to vote rescinded. Mass arrests. Jews forbidden to hold public office.

June 1967: Tripoli – Jewish shops ransacked and burned. 18 Jews killed. Those wishing to leave for Israel allowed only a single suitcase and 20 lbs. sterling.

1967: Six day war marked by wide-spread destruction of Jewish property. Synagogues, shops and homes looted and burned. 100 Jews killed.


1880: Nabel – 7 Jews killed

1881: French protectorate, condition of Jews improved. With Tunisian independence in 1956, the treatment of Jews rapidly worsened.

August 1917: Bizerta; Tunis; Susa; Mehdia; Sfax – Towns, whose Jewish quarters were looted by Tunisian troops during rebellion

July 1932: Sfax – Jews attacked by an Arab mob protesting at the Jews of Europe going to Palestine.

November 23, 1942: Germans arrest over 4,000 Jews, confiscate Jewish money, and deport some Jews to European concentration camps.

September 27, 1957: Rabbinical tribunal abolished. All matters of personal status to be judged by lay courts.

1958: Tunis – Ancient synagogue and cemetery destroyed for urban renewal.

July 22, 1958: The Jewish councils of Tunis and Sfax dissolved, and community work restricted to religious and charitable activity.

1964: Severe limitations imposed on Jewish economic activity

June 5, 1967: Anti-Jewish riots. Great Synagogue burned. Scrolls of the Law destroyed. One Jew killed. President Bourguiba publicly condemned the riot, apologized to the Chief Rabbi, and ensured that the rioters were punished, compensation paid, and the synagogue rebuilt.

“We should have liked to be Arab Jews. If we abandoned the idea, it is because over the centuries the Muslim Arabs systematically prevented its realization by their contempt and cruelty…Not only were the homes of Jews in Germany and Poland torn down, and scattered to the four winds, demolished, but our homes as well.” Albert Memmi (a Jew born in Tunis), in “Who is an Arab Jew”, 1975.


May 18, 1887: Mostaganem – Sacking of synagogue marks beginning of widespread anti-Jewish violence throughout Algeria.

1933: Algiers – French pro-Nazi elements lead anti-Semitic demonstrations.

August 5, 1934: Constantine – 25 Jews killed and much property destroyed during Muslim attacks on Jews.

1936: Algiers – A Jewish soldier killed in the street for tearing down anti-Semitic poster

1956: Jews were slowly forced to abandon their shops and professional jobs as a result of Arab boycott and their replacement by Arabs.

1956: Oran – Jewish shops sacked. Mobs march on Grand Synagogue.

1960: Algiers – During anti-French riots, the Great Synagogue desecrated and destroyed.

1960: Oran – Jewish cemetery desecrated.

1961: Algerian Provisional Government opposes Jewish emigration to Israel.

1962: With independence the Algerians deprive the Jews of their principal economic rights

1965: Algerian Supreme Court declares that Jews are no longer under the protection of the law. All Jewish commerce boycotted.

1966: A Jew executed on the Jewish New Year for “economic crimes”.

May 1967: Constantine – Grenade thrown at Jewish owned café. 13 injured.

1967: Synagogues desecrated, following Six Day War.


1875: Debdou – 20 Jews killed.

1903: Taza – 40 Jews killed by Muslims during anti-Jewish riots.

1903 – Azemmour – Many Jews killed in Muslim attacks.

1907: Mazagan – 30 Jews killed; 200 women, girls and boys abducted, raped, and then ransomed.

1907: Azemmour – Many Jews killed in Muslim attacks.

April 28, 1912: Fez – At start of French rule, Muslims riot, killing 60 Jews and sacking the Jewish quarter of the city.

1942: Casablanca – Synagogue desecrated in anti-Jewish riots.

June 1948: Djerada – 43 Jews killed during Muslim riots. Over 150 wounded.

1952: Following internal political strife, much anti-Jewish mob violence by Muslims.

Summer 1954: Much pillaging of Jewish property and destruction of Jewish schools

1955: Mazagan – Anti-Jewish violence. Much Jewish property destroyed. Several Jews killed also in Safi and Oued Zem.

February 1957: Exit visas for Jews abolished.

1958: Number of Jewish officials in Government deliberately decreased. All Zionist activity forbidden.

Summer 1960: Many Jewish schools nationalized.

1965: Publication of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.

Read Israzine edition in full


  • oops, first, sorry (3) was supposed to read this way:

    3) Jews with one parent as (1) or (2), and one non-Arab, Jewish parent?

    So, for example, a Romanian Iraq Jew, like me.

    Second, I doubt that the vast majority of the Arab world can trace their lineage, substantially, to an invader from the Arabian peninsula. Rather, over time, the notion of the Arab emerged as local Muslim populations. Surely some ethnic groups remained distinct, like the Kurds, but why, for example, are Christian Arabs considered Arabs?

    I submit that this is the result of a political process from within the Christian community to legitimize themselves as Arabs, and has a lot to do with the Arab Nationalist movement.

    Why Kurds remained ethnically distinct from Arabs while the pre-Islam population of Israel/Palestine became Arab (with some converting to Islam, some remaining Christian) while Jews from Iraq were not considered Arab, this is a complicated issue, and one that cannot be divorced from politics.

    I certainly agree with your project! But I think it might be more short-term effective to begin to reassert the Arab identity of Israel.

  • What you say about the widespread misconception that Israelis are colonialist Europeans is absolutely right, and it is through blogs like this one that I am attempting to correct [eople’s [erceptions. However, don’t fall into the trap of confusing Middle Eastern with Arab. There are plenty of indigenous Middle Eastern peoples who would object quite violently to being called ‘Arab’, eg Kurds, Berbers, Assyrians – and Jews
    See Masri Feki
    What we need to do is refashion our idea of the region in order to reflect the cultural religious ethnic and linguistic diversity currently smothered by Arab-Muslim dominion.This remaking of the Middle East would in turn give Israel a new legitimacy.

  • Thank you. This is an important figure. I myself a Romanian-Iraqi Jew. Politically, however, these intermarriages have huge consequences. The (false) perception where I live in the West is that Israelis are European. This contributes to the notion that we are settlers and colonials.

    In a recent NY Times op-ed, Rashid Khalidi quotes the number of Gazan refugees to include those who are of mixed Gazan and refugee descent. If the same method is applied to Israelis, I wonder if we wouldn’t find that more than 80% of the country can trace some part of its heritage to Arab Jews. With Arab Jews, partial descendants, and Israeli Arabs, the country is overwhelmingly Arab.

    In that case, it would be politically advantageous if Israelis begin to reassert their Arab heritage. It would dramatically affect European perceptions of Israel. Israel is comprised mostly of the “colonized”, not “colonials”. It is the first, and most robust Arab Democracy. It is the most productive Arab state. You may think I’m crazy, but I think Israel should, under this context, apply for membership to the Arab League.

    Redefining Israeli identity would go miles and miles towards softening the (mostly external) ideological forces that perpetuate a lot of conflict today.

  • There are no exact figures but is thought there are some 2.5 million Jews descended of refugees from Arab countries in Israel. There is growing intermarriage between all the different communities in Israel, but I don’t think statistics exist on how many Israelis are of ‘mixed Jewish parentage’. Marriage with Arabs is extremely rare.

  • Bataween,

    This is interesting. Do you happen to know the percentage of Israeli Jews who are now either:

    1) Refugees from Arab countries,

    2) “Full-blooded” descendants of refugees from Arab countries, or

    3) Jews with one parent as (1) or (2), and one non-Jewish Arab parent?


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