Weinstock: mass Jewish flight was unprecedented

 Front cover of the French edition of Nathan Weinstock’s book

In the second part of this Haaretz interview with Adi Schwartz, ex-Trotskyist Nathan Weinstock explains the about-turn in his thinking which led him to write a book on the exodus of Jews from Arab countries, now published in Hebrew. Part 1 here. (With thanks: Yoram)

He was born in Antwerp in 1939, but spent the war years in London. Soon
after, he returned with his family to Belgium, and was sent by his parents
– despite the fact that they were not Orthodox – to the School of Agudath
Israel .
It was quite embarrassing for him , he says, but at least one good thing came out of it – he learned to speak and read Yiddish.When young, he wanted to study history,  but Mum and Dad forced him to study law. Against
his will Weinstock registered to study Law and Criminology at the
University of Brussels and began to frequent Trotskyist groups.

Like the generation coming of age when Fidel Castro triumphantly entered Havana,  he firmly believed that a world
revolution was taking shape in Cuba, Algeria and Vietnam.
later, in an article published in the French – Jewish journal L’ Arche  in 2006, Weinstock explained that
the short-sightedness of the Left in the West at that time led them to
support a Third World of the imagination, which was far from reality
. “We must celebrate the worst atrocities of that time ,” he wrote, because
supporting brutal dictatorship of the Third World will usher in a bright future .”

Even before the Six Day War developed, Weinstock was anti-Zionist and pro- Palestinian. With
his father, who supported Mapai, he  used to conduct spirited debates,
until one day he noticed that his father drew his arguments from a Yiddish
newspaper published in Belgium which supported Ben-Gurion.

 To prepare  arguments to use against his father, he went to the
city and looked at the paper stands that day
before the paper boy brought it to his father in the afternoon. Thanks
to his anti -Zionism,  he was invited three weeks before the Six Day War
to address the Palestinian Students’ Association in Paris.

At that time a writer for ” Ma’ariv ” in France, Uri Dan, wrote this description of the event
the next day : “The Jew Nathan Weinstock sat on the platform in a place of honour
and delivered the keynote lecture … Weinstock was even more extreme than the
Arabs in his curses ​​against
Israel. Contrary to what Mapam preached about
revolution, you could not be a Zionist and socialist at the same time.
It was shameful to hear the cries of ‘ destroy Israel’ , and this to
Arab students. 

Looking back, says Weinstock, “this event  demonstrated how all those years I played the role of ” useful idiot “. 
I was very excited when I went to talk to the  Palestinian students ,”
he says today, describing the event from his perspective, ” because I wanted to
convey them a message for Matzpen ( ‘Compass’ – the far left-Israeli party) movement. I thought I could break down the
wall of non-understanding.
I was very naive, I was convinced that the Palestinian students would
embrace the pacifist message I brought. I was convinced that they would at least
ask for the address and names of the members of  Matzpen’s apparent
ideological partners.  Imagine my surprise when no-one – not one of the
organizers and students in the audience
– was interested at all in what I said.  They had better things to
do : they listened to Cairo radio in ecstasy, savoring every word and
absorbing the messages bragging about Arab armies soon throwing the
Jews into the sea.” 

years later, in 1969, he published the book  Zionism – false Messiah 
(Le Sionisme Contre Israël), an anti-Zionist pamphlet which quickly became
the Bible of  anti-Israel propaganda in France. As he stood on the anti –
Israel left, he received a flood of invitations to lecture f
rom all sides. “Everyone wanted to hear me
condemn Israel,” he says , ” but every time the scene in Paris was
repeated : total support of the public actions of the worst of the Palestinian
terrorists and boundless hatred of Israelis,  no matter
who they were.

 His anti-Israel articles continued to be published in the 70s in the Journal of Palestine Studies, but doubts began to gnaw at him. Slowly, slowly, to him the anti-Semitic nature of
the attack on the blinded Israelis became clear. Initially, they denounced the ‘ Zionists ‘ ,
then the Zionist’ takeover of the media , and finally the ‘ Zionist
control of the banks’. 

“When I was quoted the least criticism I had of the Palestinians was always omitted. My daughter finally rescued me.  My
listeners had no interest in me at all.  I was for them an anti-Jewish alibi Jew. When I started to examine my views critically, and find
many shades of gray, I noticed that support for me
almost disappeared. As long as it came in slogans,  I won sympathy.”

deep into the ’90s Weinstock was still torn between his agony at the major
attacks that took place in the cities of Israel, and the need to protect the
right of Palestinians to fight for their rights.
straw that broke the camel’s back for him was the failure at Camp David in 2000. 

” The Palestinian leadership once again avoided taking
responsibility ,” he says .
” The Palestinian leadership cowardly denied telling its people to know
when to finish the fight, because the main goal has been achieved.

How do you explain this dramatic turnabout your approach – from the anti
– Zionist radical leftism of your youth to supporting Israel today ?

 “In the ’60s I was under strong Trotskyite influence, and I adopted a dogmatic approach, not a genuine attempt to analyze but to
adapt ideas to simplistic positions and prejudices I had. The radical left did
some soul-searching about the same period, and in many ways they still sound
the same.

“They who are shocked to the depths of their souls by the toppling of Saddam
Hussein by the Americans remained silent when Sunnis set fire to a bus
full of  Shi’ite kids. When you look at who supports the Palestinians
in Europe – and it is clear that the Palestinians have indeed rights
that need to be fulfilled – you see they do not care about anyone else : not the
, not the Greek-Cypriots and what is happening in Western Sahara. They are interested in only one thing, and that I cannot accept.

had a lot of illusions about the Palestinians, I thought they had a ‘case’, and
through Marxism they would become universalists and learn to respect the
rights of Jews. For years I hoped the Palestinian terrorist attacks –
which shocked me greatly – are a step – an intermediate step only, which would
ultimately lead
recognition of the national rights of the Israelis. These were
illusions and after a while I got rid of them, but I believed this for a
long time .

“We should also remember that at that time Israel was in the right,
and it was very difficult to criticize its conduct. Meanwhile a generation of ” new historians” emerged, such as Benny Morris, who
looked at history soberly. Every country, even Israel, has dark zones to test it.
is there a country whose history has no hidden dark corners ? In Israel
this process is taking place today – but where are the Palestinian new historians? In order to get out of the woods, the Palestinians need to
show courage and to choose the way of co-existence with Israelis. It’s a task
that no one else can do for them.


1945, Weinstock recognises that nearly a million
Jews lived in Arab countries. There are currently about 4,500 ( mostly Moroccan).
said there is no precedent for so dramatic an elimination of Jewish
communities around the world, even when compared with the flight of the
Jews from Tsarist Russia, and Germany in the 30s or massive
immigration from Eastern Europe after World War II.

“It is absolutely clear that more than 99 percent left Arab countries,” he writes. “This figure is indicative of a
stifling atmosphere redolent of a reign of fear.
What if it led to a massive exodus of Jews from Arab countries in the second half of the 20th century?” Weinstock weighs up the myths created over the years in this regard , and refutes them one by one. It
was not Zionism which uprooted them from their surroundings, he says – quite the contrary : In most cases, the Zionist movement had trouble
finding supporters.
Jews also tried to integrate into the Arab national liberation movements. Egypt’s
Chief Rabbi Haim Nahum, for example, often expressed reservations
about Zionism, and in Iraq the Communists established the ” League against  Zionism.”

 Active Communist Jews in North Africa expressed solidarity with
the peoples of the Maghreb, and led national liberation movements.
14 chapters, each devoted to a different Muslim country,
and based on more than 900 references, Weinstock tells of a singular dramatic
deterioration in the lives of the Jewish communities in the first half
of the 20th century.
He mentions a long series of attacks and pogroms in Jewish communities that have
barely been the object of substantial historical studies in Israel. In 1912 in Shiraz,
Iran ( 12 killed) , Constantine, Algeria in 1934 ( 25 killed), and in
1912 in Fez, Morocco (51 killed).
In Iraq there
took place in June 1941 the Farhud,  a three-day pogrom in the Jewish
community, which killed 150 people. Thousands of shops and businesses
were looted and thousands of families were left homeless.

Seven years later, with the creation of Israel, Iraq imposed martial law and began a wave of persecution against the Jews. Many were arrested and convicted, some of them were sentenced to death and others  had imprisonment and heavy fines imposed on them. Jews were dismissed from public service, Jewish institutions were
sequestered and Jews were forced to donate money for the benefit of the
military struggle against Israel.
this time Jews were forbidden to leave the country, but in March 1950,  Iraqi Jews were allowed to emigrate within a year, provided they renounced
their citizenship. 

The continuing deterioration of the Jews and the atmosphere of hatred
that surrounds them, bring about a mass flight from the state,” writes
The vast majority of Iraqi Jews (about 90 percent of a community of  150, 000 ) left during that year, while a huge amount of 
property was stolen by the authorities. The
exodus from Libya began in 1945, after a pogrom in Tripoli : 130 Jews
were killed and 266 were injured after rumors spread of
the murder of Arabs and the destruction of mosques in Israel.
of thousands rioted in Jewish neighborhoods for four days, desecrated
synagogues and burned shops, and many Jewish families were left homeless.
Weinstock cites a report by the Joint in August 1947, that ” Jews live
in constant fear” in Tripoli and one hundred percent of the population
wished to emigrate.

June 1948, there took place a wave of pogroms against the Jews of
Tripoli, where 14 Jews were killed and at least 122 injured.
At that time emigration was prohibited, but in 1949 the ban was lifted. In response, tens of thousands of Jews fled the country. Weinstock cites the testimony of one of them : “We had to leave the
country with only twenty pounds in our pocket and one suitcase per
person, to leave behind us all our possessions, homes, furniture, our
commercial business – and 2, 300 years of history .”

In Egypt there lived in the 40s about 85, 000 Jews. Some were established and some very wealthy. Anti-Jewish
riots occurred in November 1945, on the anniversary of Balfour Declaration, but the
declaration of the State of Israel gave the signal for real
Hundreds of Jews were arrested, accused of Zionism or Communism, and their assets foreclosed. As
of June 1948, successive assassinations occured: the Jewish
quarter was bombed and Jewish areas in Cairo and Alexandria set on fire.
of the community then leave, and others are deported after the Sinai
Campaign in 1956. 

” Police came and pulled from their beds shopkeepers,
carpenters, carpenters, glaziers,  even well-known lawyers,” writes
Weinstock .
Jews were deported without an opportunity to take their possessions and were forbidden to sell their assets. They were forced to sign declarations that they give up their property and will not return to Egypt. 

Did you find a common denominator to the history of Jewish communities in different countries ? 

in terms of legal status and social standing. They were shared by Jews under Islam. The status is called  and means ‘protected people’. It gave the
Jews, on the one hand, protection by the government, but in return became inferiors, degraded and debased. For
example, Jews
were not allowed to carry weapons in those countries. To bear
arms was considered a sure sign of masculinity. Sometimes Jews were
forced to walk barefoot, as in Morocco in the early 19th century, or to wear
humiliating clothing. 

In return for protection from the government, the Jews had to pay a special tax articulating their subordination.
Nothing better describes the contempt (for the Jews)”,  writes Weinstock , ” than the ritual humiliation that accompanied
Morocco, no later than the end of the 19th century, the annual tax payment : every year on a fixed date, the head of each of the
Jewish communities would deliver the requisite

amount to the Sultan, who in turn had to slap him or hit him with a stick to highlight the natural inequality between the giver and the receiver.”

 In the same spirit, Yemen required the Jewish community to do periodic cleaning of sewage pits and
removing animal carcasses blocking public roads  (the law remained in
effect until 1950).
describes a completely different reality from the myth often heard
– about the harmony that existed between Jews and Arabs under Islam.
mentions that ” the Christian West in  Sicily took on the Muslim mark of shame on their clothes, the yellow star,
so they could more easily be identified.”

Less than a century after the Ottoman Sultan ordered the Jews expelled
from Spain to settle throughout his empire, one of his
successors, Murat III,  ordered that  all Jews be eliminated.
The Sultan ‘s Jewish doctor persuaded his mother to intervene and the order was cancelled. 

” Dhimmitude gave Jews protected status, and this protection did really exist,” says Weinstock. “My
friend, a member of the Jewish community in Marrakech, told me that in 1967, during the
Six Day War, the Jewish community was very frightened. A local leader sent his son to sleep in the doorway of my friend. The message was that the leader guards the family: whoever touches it entangles
the leader. It was protection, but it meant
that a Jew could not carry weapons or protect himself, and therefore is
considered despised and humiliated. The absolute dependence of the
Jews on power meant that every time the government collapsed for any reason, the Jewish community took the rap.
When the government was brought down, the Jews were left without
protection. This is precisely the meaning of dhimmi.”

The situation is very
complex, intimate and aggressive at the same time.
Weinstock’s book attempts to clarify as much as possible the meaning of the
term dhimmi, because that is what he believes to be the key to the
understanding of their relations with the Muslim world. Therein is also
buried one of the bad seeds that eventually led to the expulsion of the
the years, a long series of laws discriminated against Jews – a
ban on horse-riding, wearing certain clothes,  a prohibition on
giving evidence in court, a ban on dhimmis building tall buildings.
Weinstock stresses , however, that not every place and every time the laws were enforced equally. Genizah research, for example, suggests that the rules regarding dress were observed at all.

” There were periods when Jews were very successful in the Muslim world,” he says.
Sometimes they also were part of the elite.” The dhimmi regulations and
the degree of degradation changed from place to place and from time to
time. But the principle dictated the treatment of the Jews over
the years. Islam would always be dominant over the dhimmi.
In the book he quotes a statement about the Jews by the Moroccan Sultan in the 19th century : ” Our religion does not give them glory but signals shame and inferiority.”

A significant
change in the history of relations between Jews and Muslims took place
towards the end of the 18th century, with the arrival of Napoleon ‘s
troops on the coast of Egypt and the beginning of European penetration of the
Middle East and North Africa.
powers did everything in their power, at first by economic means
and then through the occupation of territories, to expand their control
over the Middle East.
One way to establish channels of influence was by granting
capitulations, meaning extending the legal protection of a Western power on the subject
of a Muslim state. P
rominent leaders in the Jewish communities in the
West (for instance Sir Moses Montefiore) jumped at this possibility: they tried to improve the status of the Jews
the capitulations
Jews in the Muslim world began to identify the West with equal rights,
and had hoped the European powers would end the oppressive
regulations imposed on them.

Read article in full (Hebrew)
Read Part 1 here


  • Apparently the translator translated the name "Matzpen" as well. It's like referring to the paper "Haaretz" as "The Land". But himself calls it Matzpen.

    In any case, they themselves don't refer to Matzpen as Compass. They have a paper -a newsletter of sorts – in Hebrew and English and it's called Matzpen.

  • the English translation of Matspen is compass. As if these goons had some special knowledge of where the world was and in what direction it should go.

  • Not only did he change his mind but
    1) he refuses his publisher to reprint it
    2) he publicly denied it :
    "C'est la raison pour laquelle j'ai interdit à mon éditeur de rééditer « Le sionisme contre Israël » . J'ajouterai que si j'avais cru naïvement – erreur de jeunesse – que ce livre pouvait nourrir un débat constructif aboutissant à la coexistence israélo-palestinienne, j'ai dû constater que j'avais fait preuve d'une impardonnable naïveté : cet ouvrage n'a servi qu'à alimenter la bonne conscience des antisémites avoués ou inconscients. "
    Read also "Le témoignage d’un ex-antisioniste, par Nathan Weinstock"

  • Thanks Sylvia. To the Anonymi: I would join her in urging you to take a different moniker (you needn't use your real name)to avoid confusion.

  • To the anonymuses:

    It is possible to post with a name without having to register. It's just as easy as posting as "anonymous".
    Here is how:

    Once you wrote the text and typed the code,
    1. click next to Name/URL
    2. write a name in the space provided for "Name" and leave "URL" blank
    3. Click "Publish your comment".

    That's it.

  • Aonymous 1:

    My understanding was that Benny Morris didn't change any of the facts, what he changed is the perspective on the same facts.

    For example he didn't say that there was a government plan to ethnic cleanse the Palestinians, but his talk of "crimes" and "atrocities" gave that impression.

    His epiphany consisted in clarifying that whatever the soldiers did was a necessity. he didn't put things in proportion and ended up being quoted by antisemitic sites. He wanted to create an impact and he did.

    As to New Historians, I understand that he was the one who coined the term in Israeli context and set himself in the same class as people like Ilan Pappe who, contrary to Benny Morris, always refused to apologize even for the frauds he committed.

  • I don't know about Compass, but Matzpen was a radical Israeli marxist group in the 60s.

    Just an idea of who they are, the Gan Shmuel native Udi Adiv who became a spy for Syria amd traveled there to train to be a terrorist was an active member of Matzpen. He was subsequently exchanged for Palestinian terrorists, later married the daughter of KGB spy in Israel Klingberg, and went on to pursue his academic studies and subsequently taught at the Hebrew University.

    Machover and others were among the founders and fled to England. If the name sounds familiar that's because their law office in England was the one who served papers on Israeli personalities (Tzipi Livni et al) just a few years ago – when they arrived to England.

    That Matzpen.

    Now Udi Adiv is another one who served the same worn out excuse: "I was naive". Naive to the point of spying for Syria?

    Another thing about Matzpen – and not the least important – is that they were the ones who coined early on all the anti-Israel terminology in use today that passes for "Jewish values" is in fact "marxist values". For exemple, they were the ones who coined the word "apartheid" in the immediate aftermath of the six day war.

  • Just self-publish an electronic version, with crowdsourcing subscription if necessary

  • More frequently, Morris's more recent findings are twisted or misquoted by the likes of Noam Chomsky and Morris promptly responds.

  • I don't think Benny Morris set out to bash Israel. He made certain conclusions based on the research he had conducted at that point in his career. Not all that many years later, based on more research, Morris came out with other conclusions. A very different case from the other "New Historians" who have, in some cases, intentionally distorted or suppressed history, and the non-experts like Shlomo Sand who seem mainly interested in selling books, however dishonest.

  • To go on:
    although the Trots did not take part in armed resistance during WW2, after the war they were coopted by certain Western intelligence services into vehemently supporting "Third-Worldist" [tiers-mondiste] guerrilla and terrorist movements. Weinstock's early political activity exemplifies what the Trots became after WW2. Trotsky himself was long dead. Their new leader, or one of them, was one "Pablo." This Pablo formulated an ideology which justified mass murder by Tiers-mondistes revolutionaries.

  • The group identified as Compass in the post is Matspen which Sylvia mentions. They were a so-called "international socialist" outfit. But words like leftist, international, and socialist, as well as Trotskyist don't mean much nowadays. Just bear in mind that the Trots in Belgium and France during WW2 did not take part in armed resistance activities. Rather, at least one Trot faction saw Wehrmacht troops as fellow "workers" and published a bulletin distributed to these troops with the name "Arbeiter und Soldat." In other words, the Wehrmacht goons were potential comrades. I would say that the Trots' political judgment was not very good, to put it mildly.

  • Granted, he stopped publishing of the calomnious pamphlet, but it is still spreading out there, albeit as used book or photocopies.

    Moreover, since 1969, imagine how many times he has been quoted. He has provided two generations of Jew-haters – and counting – with the rhetorical tools and terminology in use to this day.

    I am particularly perplexed by those "Orthodox" people who wouldn't carry a handkerchief on Shabbat, such as Yeshayahu Leibowitz and others, yet do not hesitate to slander right and left, a much more serious prohibition particularly when it taints the collective. Who, today, remembers that Leibowitz was a scientist or his fine lectures on Judaism. Twenty years after his death, the only ones who remember him are the Blumenthals and their ilk for having coined the term "judo-nazi".
    Yet, he and the self-proclaimed "Orthodox" should have known the difference between criticism and name-calling in Jewish ethics. Indeed our religion teaches that one can repent for all and any sin except for three for which there can be no absolution: they are those for which the damage can never be repaired.

    The Gaon Saadia Al Fayyumi (9th-10th century) already mentioned in that regard specifically those "spreading evil reports which is impossible to recall".

    Am I too harsh? Perhaps because the author was a member of Matzpen, the Marxist group who in the sixties rationalized that an ethnicity, the "Mizrahis" should be synonymous with "laborers", those who should serve them, the "thinking elites". By doing so they engaged in character assassination and stereotyping that are – to use Saadia's terms – "impossible to recall" and from which we suffer to this day.

  • I have oonnections in the world of academic publishing in Israel. I know for a fact that in the US there is now a reluctance to copublish books with Israeli academic publishers, if the particular book is not politically correct by biased "leftist" American standards

  • Yes but Israel-bashing followed by a change of heart is better than Israel bashing 'tout court' a la Chomsky, Beinin, Finkelstein, Blumenthal, MondoWeiss, Shabi, etc

  • Is his recent change of heart reason enough to forget and forgive his prior substantial contribution to antisemitism (by association with anti-Zionism)?

    That's a question I've been thinking about a lot lately.

    There are too many people, Benny Morris comes to mind, who make a name for themselves bashing Jews and Israelis and when people start quoting them to justify anti-Jewish/anti-Zionist abuse, they change course. OK, they exxagerated, so what?

  • I think they are both looking for an English publisher but it is a struggle!

  • Will this book or the Georges Bensoussan book be published in English?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.