Moshe Marzouk (left ) and a stamp commemorating Samuel Azar
On 31 January 1955, Moshe Marzouk and Samuel Azar, two Egyptian Jews who had been convicted of espionage and acts of sabotage on behalf of Israel, were executed in Cairo. They were convicted for their part in Operation Suzannah, also known as the Lavon Affair or the Unfortunate Business. David Green writes in Haaretz (with thanks: Lily):
The first bomb was detonated at an Alexandria post office on July 2, 1954. Two weeks later, on July 14, bombs were set off at the offices of the U.S. Information Agency in that city and in Cairo. An additional bomb, intended for the Rio Cinema, a British-owned theater in Alexandria, went off prematurely. Finally, on July 23, fires were set at several public buildings in Cairo.
The bombs were as primitive as could be, and all were timed to go off when the targets were empty of people. And in fact, the only injury caused by the operation was to Philip Nathanson, an Israeli agent, when the phosphorus bomb in his pocket detonated before he could plant it at the Rio Theater.
The fact that Egyptian police were present to arrest Nathanson when he had his mishap led to the conclusion that someone had tipped them off. In time, it became evident that the double agent was Avri Elad, who was arrested after being caught trying to sell information to the Egyptians. He was tried and convicted for illegal contacts with an enemy.
The Egyptians arrested another 11 suspects, two of whom died in custody, with the remainder going on trial in December 1954.
Six were sentenced to prison sentences of various lengths, two acquitted, and Marzouk and Azar were condemned to death.
Though Nasser received many appeals, both formal and unofficial, to show mercy for Marzouk and Azar, he was unmoved, and the hanging went ahead on this day. In April 1977, the remains of both men were transferred to Israel, and were reinterred on Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem.
Degraded, despised and exposed to all kinds of abuse: such was the condition of the Jews throughout the Muslim world in the mid-19th century. Rev JW Brooks set down his observations in The history of the Hebrew Nation, published in 1841. Via Elder of Ziyon. (Emphasis is EoZ’s) (With thanks: Michelle):
“As regards the present political condition of the Jews,
notwithstanding the decrees in their behalf which have been passed, the
Christian reader will be deceived if he concludes that the reproach of
Israel is yet “rolled away from off all the earth.” The public mind has
recently been startled by the report of cruelties and injustice to which
the Jews of Damascus and Rhodes have been subjected, as if such
instances of persecution and oppression were a novelty in these times.
But in the East the Jews have all along been exposed to them, though
their wrongs have failed until now in arresting particular attention. In
the year 1823, at the same Damascus, all the Jews suspected of
having property were thrown into prison, and compelled to pay forty
thousand purses or lose their heads. At Safet, in 1834, their houses were stripped, and great personal cruelties inflicted upon them, for the like purpose of extorting money; and generally in Syria they were compelled to work for the Turks without payment, being bastinadoed if they remonstrated. The lowest fallaah would stop them when travelling, and demand money as a right due to the Musselman; which robbery was liable to be repeated several times a day upon the same Jew.
Throughout the East they are obliged to affect poverty in order to
conceal their wealth ; the rulers in those countries making no scruple
of seizing what they can discover. And though not interdicted from
holding land, yet the enormous taxes demanded of them (equal to one-third of the produce, whilst the Mahometans pay only one-tenth), effectually exclude them from agriculture.
“The occupation of Syria by the Egyptians did not mitigate the hard
condition of the Jews of Palestine’ They were still defrauded and
insulted; the commonest soldier would seize the most respectable
Israelite, and compel him by blows to sweep the streets, and to perform
the most degrading offices. The contempt indeed in which they are
held by Mahometans, however difficult to be accounted for, exceeds that
which they have experienced in Christian lands. In the East they are
truly become a proverb, the term Jew being applied despitefully, as the most reproachful and degrading known.
“Even the Christians of Syria manifest a degree of malignity and contempt
for the Jews, not witnessed in other places: the Nestorians in
particular entertain a bitter hatred toward them; and were a Jew to set
his foot within the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, he would
be stoned by the Christians of all denominations. …
“In Persia the condition of the Jews is worse even than in Syria. Often
whilst they are assembled in their synagogues, a soldier enters with an
order from the Shah for money; they are compelled to work without
payment; and their women are unceremoniously taken from them, without their daring to murmur. Their
poverty and wretchedness may be best understood by the following
graphic description given to Dr. Wolff, before he visited Shiraz, by a
Mahometan: “Every house in Shiraz with a low, narrow entrance is a
Jew’s. Every coat much torn and mended is a Jew’s. Every man with a
dirty camelhair turban is a Jew. Every one picking up broken glass and
asking for old shoes and sandals is a Jew.” This description was
afterwards confirmed by the doctor’s own observation, who found old and
young in the street of their quarter sitting and crying to every
stranger, with outstretched hand and feeble voice, “Only one pool
(penny) for poor Israale !”
“In Morocco they are equally ground down by a barbarous despotism. The
Moors consider that the object of a Jew’s birth is to serve Musselmen,
and he is consequently subject to the most wanton insults. The boys for their pastime beat and torment the Jewish children: the men kick and buffet the adults. They walk into their houses at all hours, and
take the grossest freedoms with their wives and daughters, the Jews
invariably coming off with a sound beating if they venture to resist.
In 1804 those of Algiers were subjected to horrible tortures, being
suspended from the walls by long ropes with hooked nails at the ends,
merely because they had unsuspectingly lent money to persons who were
secretly conspiring against the Dey; nor were they released without the
payment of a large sum.”
Years after it ended, the story of the extraordinary rescue of Jews from Syria by Judy Feld Carr is filtering out. An interview with her was broadcast on Holocaust Memorial Day on the Australian radio programme ‘The Spirit of Things’(segment between 1:30 and 31:25: article here). There follows a brief account in Arabic by the last rabbi of Syria, Rabbi Abraham Hamra, of the effect on him of the destruction of the Jobar synagoguenear Damascus. The Jewish Women’s Archive blog (extract below) carries a fuller account of Judy’s work in Syria. She was responsible for rescuing 3,228 Jews out of 4, 500 over a 28-year period until the Mossad told her to ‘stay home and wash windows’. Only 17 Jews remain of a community of 30,000.
How did a musicologist from Canada end up saving thousands of lives?
Judy’s incredible story began in 1972, when she read a
newspaper article describing how a group of Jews tried to flee Syria
only to stumble into a minefield and die while border guards watched.
Outraged, Judy and her husband, Dr. Ronald Feld, wanted to help, but in
those pre-internet days, with no Syrian free press, how could you even
figure out whom to contact, let alone get a message to them?
Judy Feld Carr: threats on her life
After weeks of trying to place a call to anyone in the Syrian
Jewish community, Judy managed to get through, but little did she know
that the woman she had reached was an informer for the secret police.
Luckily, the woman was away, or Judy’s attempt to help would have been
over before it started. The woman’s husband hurriedly gave Judy contact
details for the local rabbi and the Jewish school in Damascus. “He was
so scared, I thought he was going to have a heart attack on the phone.
And the line went dead.” She then sent a telegram to the rabbi, who
answered with a request for books. Remembering something she had once
read, Judy decided to send a hidden message in the shipment of books
with a code used by Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. “I figured,
Jews in Syria, some of them came during the Inquisition.” The rabbi’s
next telegram used the right countersign. They were in business.
Word got around Toronto that Judy was raising money to send
more books to Jews in Syria. A Syrian woman in the community told Judy
she was determined to visit her brother in Aleppo before he died of
cancer, and asked what she could do for Judy while she was there. The
woman was with her family less than a day before the secret police
captured her for interrogation, grilling her on her connection to Judy
and brandishing the telegrams Judy had been sending to the local rabbi.
The woman insisted she knew nothing, and was finally released. But when
she returned to Canada, she had a letter for Judy signed by three
rabbis, which she had smuggled out in her underwear. It read: “Remember,
we are all Jews. Our children are your children. You must take our
children out of Syria.” Judy recalled being overcome: “It was like a
letter out of the Shoah. I just cried. I don’t know how to do this.”
Now the woman begged Judy to help rescue her dying brother.
Judy pointed out that at the time, “Syria was a steel trap. There is no
communication outside of the country for the Jewish community. They’re
living in only three cities, and we later found out that they can’t
travel further than three kilometers from their homes without special
permission from the secret police.” The brother was in Aleppo. The
embassy was in Beirut; it might as well have been on the moon.
pleaded with the Canadian ambassador to visit the local rabbi at a
school in Damascus and give him the travel papers to smuggle to the
brother in Aleppo. “I made the only mistake I ever made in all the years
of rescue. I told him to go to the school at 2:30. I thought the secret
police left the school at 2:00. They actually stayed until 3:00. But
that day, God was looking down on us: the agent of the secret police was
sick with the flu.” The rabbi got the papers.
Judy had an ambulance waiting at the airport for the brother’s
arrival in Canada. “When he came into the hospital, I had a Jewish
doctor who had been in the Canadian army during WWII. He told me, ‘I
haven’t seen a body like that since Auschwitz.’ They had beaten him
brutally every time one of his children escaped. His back was covered in
scars. And his arms, my God. And this was a man who was dying of cancer
of the bladder and kidneys.”
Before he died, he told Judy, “I have one last thing to ask
you. I have a daughter. She’s pretty. She’s single. She’s nineteen years
old. I’m worried that without me, there will be no one to protect her.
She’s either going to go into a forced marriage or be raped by Syrian
army officials. Can you get her out?”
Judy rescued the girl. And then the girl’s sister. Then more families. Even people in prison.
Through all this, she avoided any hint of publicity. “I’ve had
four threats on my life. Physical threats. This isn’t a joke.” But it
wasn’t just about the risk to her personally; she had to make sure the
corrupt Syrian officials kept taking bribes and had no reason to save
face by cracking down on her underground railroad. “No one in Canada
knew I was doing this; no one in Europe knew I was doing this. Until the
Mossad came on the scene and told me to stay home and wash windows and
take care of my kids.” She ignored them and kept working, and eventually
they began supporting her efforts.
“I was working on an escape the day of my father’s funeral,”
she remembered. “I had to go from bank to bank—I needed a lot of money
for this escape—and then a courier was going to pick this up and take it
to Israel and then Turkey. My father’s funeral was delayed by two hours
‘for an emergency.’ What could be a greater emergency than a funeral?
But I had to. There was a mother and four or five daughters, and they
told her if she tried to escape, they would gouge out her eyes. I never
told my mother the reason, but I did tell the rabbi afterwards, because I
had to tell somebody. He nearly fell off his chair.”
The New York Times has issued an unprecedented apology for an article by Diaa Hadid about property disputes in the old city of Jerusalem. There could be some 100 such properties, according to an Arab source. The NYT correction admits that the homes concerned were owned by Jews before they were expelled during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Israeli courts ruled against the Arab tenants only because of non-payment of rent. Contrary to Hadid’s claims, Arabs have received fair compensation for properties they may have abandoned in West Jerusalem, while not a single claim for property lost by Jews in Arab countries has been honoured.
View of the Old City of Jerusalem towards the Mount of Olives
Here is the New York Times’ correction:
“The Jerusalem Journal article on Jan. 15 about Palestinian residents
of Jerusalem’s Old City who face eviction by Israeli organizations gave
an incomplete description of the legal disputes in several cases. The
descriptions were based on the tenants’ accounts; the article should
have included additional information from court documents or from the
landlords. (The landlords are organizations that have reclaimed
properties owned by Jews before Israel was established in 1948.)
In the case of Nazira Maswadi, the article said her new landlord was
trying to evict her based on a claim that her estranged husband was dead
(he is still alive). In fact, the landlord claims in court filings that
the Maswadi family has not proved that it has paid rent.
In another case, the article quoted Nawal Hashimeh as saying she was
being evicted for replacing a door to her apartment. But according to
court documents, her rent payments had also been rejected because they
were submitted by her son, whom the landlord said it had no contractual
relationship with. (The landlord also claimed that three rent checks
fell short of the amount owed.)
In a separate case, the article said Nora Sub Laban faced accusations
that she had not continuously lived in her apartment, though she
claimed that she had never left it. While the article said that Ms. Sub
Laban had been battling eviction efforts for four decades and that the
Israeli Supreme Court must now decide whether to consider her appeal, it
should have noted that an Israeli court in 2014 upheld a lower-court
finding that she had not returned to live at the property after
renovations were completed in 2000 or 2001.
While the reporter tried to reach representatives of the landlord in
the Sub Laban case, The Times should also have tried to reach the
landlords involved in the other cases and their lawyers.”
“Hadid is also extremely misleading or completely wrong – it
depends on how devious she is trying to be – about the relevant Israeli
law regarding compensation for lost property, when she claims that
“compensation [is] based only on the 1949 value of the home or land.”
It’s hard to say because the phrase “based only on the 1949 value”
could have many meanings. For example it could mean one million times
the 1949 value, which would be very generous, or it could mean one tenth
the 1949 value, or not generous at all. Both methods could be said to
be “based only on the 1949 value,” but obviously couldn’t be more
The actual formula is the 1949 value, with yearly interest and cost
of living (or inflation) adjustments. Arabs who lost property in Israel
are eligible to file for compensation from Israel’s Custodian of
Absentee Property. As of the end of 1993, a total of 14,692 claims had
been filed, claims were settled with respect to more than 200,000 dunums
of land, more than 10,000,000 NIS (New Israeli Shekels) had been paid
in compensation, and more than 54,000 dunums of replacement land had
been given in compensation.
Israel has followed this generous policy despite the fact that not a
single penny of compensation has ever been paid to any of the more than
500,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who were forced by the Arab
governments to abandon their homes, businesses and savings.
In addition, it should not be ignored that many journalists,
including Hadid, write about Jews living in the Old City’s Muslim
Quarter as if this violates some unwritten moral or legal code, but they
never write about the large number of Arabs living in the nearby Jewish
For example, according to the 1995 Census of Population and Housing
at least 480 Muslims lived in the Jewish Quarter, making up 22.5% of
the quarter’s population. In contrast, Jews made up just 1.68% of the
Muslim Quarter’s population. Even in absolute terms, the 480 Muslims
living in the Jewish Quarter outnumbered the 380 Jews living in the much
larger Muslim Quarter.”
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Although the event is not remotely comparable to the mass extermination of six million Jews, it is also 47 years since the Ba’ath party regime hanged nine innocent Jews in Baghdad’s Liberation Square. Percy Gourgey OBE z”l was a tireless campaigner for Jews in Arab lands. This is the text of a speech he delivered 17 years ago in London at a memorial event for the hangings. From The Scribe:
The late Percy Gourgey OBE…tireless campaigner
“Thirty years ago today nine innocent Jews were publicly hanged
in Baghdad’s so-called ‘Liberation Square,’ falsely accused of spying for
Israel. This atrocity shocked the civilised world and focused world attention
on the cause of Jews of Arab Lands with all that implies especially in terms
of human rights.
In London the day after the hangings with lurid photographs
in the press, there was a mass protest demonstration outside the Iraqi Embassy
in Kensington, London of over 5,000 people, organised by the Board of Deputies,
the Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue and other communal bodies. So effective
was it that the Iraqi authorities summoned the British ambassador in Baghdad
to complain about it and he replied that Britain was a free, democratic country
and people were free to express their sense of outrage at such incidents.
At the time, Hassan al-Bakr was President of Iraq and Saddam
Hussein was his right-hand man, whose Ba’ath Party had seized power in a military
coup six months before. The Jewish community in Baghdad traced its origins
to Babylonian times, 2,500 years ago making immense contributions to the development
of Judaism through the Babylonian Talmud, the Religious academies, fruitful
exchange of rabbis and scholars with Spain, and subsequently. In fact, the
modern Baghdad is about 190 miles from the ancient Babylon and Iraq’s President
Saddam Hussein had plans to develop it as a major tourist attraction, which
was nullified by his invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, and the ongoing crisis
caused by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
This service is a Kiddush Hashem and reflects great honour
on the martyrs and all present here this evening. The Psalm 137 read earlier
refers specifically to the Babylonian community, beginning: ‘there by the
waters of Babylon, we hanged our harps on the willows and wept at the remembrance
of Zion.’ Later in the Psalm are the words, ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget her skill’ which Dr. Theodor Herzl used as the rallying
cry for the establishment in 1948. Two months before the 1969 hangings, the
World Jewish Congress was warning of the impending tragedy.
Following are extracts of a statement to the Maariv newspaper
in Tel-Aviv in March 1991 made by Mrs Selima Gubbay, widow of Fuad Gubbay
one of the martyrs, after Iraqi Scud missiles attacked Israel. Israel which
had not joined the coalition to drive Iraq out of Kuwait, in accordance with
‘Fuad and I were so happy when suddenly our lives were torn
apart. One day four Iraqi officers in a blue Volkswagen drove into our home
They went straight to the air conditioners and pulled out the transformers.
‘These are transmitters,’ they shouted, ‘you are spying for Israel.’ Fuad
was roughed up when he protested. Our younger son, David, was picked up and
thrown against the railings when he tried to kiss his father. He cut himself,
and his face was full of blood. The blood was an evil omen of the future.
It was 1968 and I was four months pregnant. Fuad was taken away to a jail
in Baghdad. Eventually, he was put on trial with other Jews, all accused of
spying for Israel. The trial was broadcasted live on radio and television.
Fuad pleaded not guilty. I travelled from Basra to Baghdad to see him in prison.
When I got there they pushed me into a room beat me up and kicked me out.
In the next room, separated only by a thin wall, the warders were telling
Fuad, ‘your wife is on the other side of the wall. She’s pregnant. If you
don’t admit your guilt, we’re going to rape her, and afterwards open her stomach
and cut up the child.’
‘The next day during the broadcast of the trial, I heard Fuad
pleading guilty, admitting that on such and such days, he was here and there,
sending secrets to Israel. When I checked the dates, I realised that Fuad
had been with me and the children all of those times. He had made up the story
in order to save us.
On the morning of January 27, 1969, the streets of Baghdad
were even more noisy and crowded than usual. It was the day of the hangings.
A day of national celebration. I could hear the neighbours shouting enthusiastically,
‘Hang the Israeli spies.’ Dancers were brought from far and wide to dance
under the gallows. There were free rides on the buses and trams so that people
could come and celebrate under the corpses. And what was all the celebration
about? The Iraqi nation was taking its collective revenge for defeat of a
division on the Jordan front in the Six Day War, and that is how Iraqi television
was broadcasting pictures of 9 hanging Jewish corpses, among them my husband
Fuad, all innocent people.
The loudspeakers announced that from 4 o’clock
that afternoon, the bodies would be brought down so that the mob could deal
with them in the streets. I returned to Basra and people, including Jews,
avoided me for fear of being linked with my husband’s so-called activities.’
Mrs Gubbay then described how she fled to Israel with her children
in July 1971.
Over 50 more Jews were, after 1969, executed or died through
torture in jail. Martyrdom is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon in Jewish
history. But the Jewish People, because of its adherence to the eternal Torah,
has acquired the characteristic of eternity. This is exemplified now by our
beloved State of Israel and the survival of the Jewish People in all lands
of freedom and democracy. May we go from strength to strength, mechayil lechayil.”
Rabbi Dr. Abraham Levy looks on as a candle
is being lit by David Khalastchy who was deputy Chairman of the Jewish Council
of Iraq at the time.
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Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries
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