The Jewish Nakba: basic facts have been abandoned and forgotten

This week in the run-up to 14 May, the  day when  Israel’s independence was declared 74 years ago, articles about the Palestinian Nakba are already proliferating. Not one mentions the greater nakba of Jewish refugees driven from Arab countries. In fact only one doctoral thesis was produced about it in Israel while thousands of articles have appeared about the Arab nakba.  The good news, however, is that one Israeli organisation has devoted a whole chapter to the Jewish refugees lately. Im Tirzu has taken the Nakba by the horns in its booklet Nakba Nonsense. Chapter Four is entitled They Expelled: The Expulsion of Jews from Arab Countries. We reproduce an extract:

Jewish refugees from Iraq arriving at the Shaar Ha’Aliya camp near Haifa in 1950 (Zionist archives)

*This chapter is based upon the essential article by Ben Dror Yemini, “The Jewish Nakba,” published in Ma’ariv on May 16, 2009, as well as Adi Schwartz’s important essay, “The Destruction of the Communities in Arab States: The Hidden Catastrophe” in volume 43 of the journal, “Techelet.” Sometimes, the truth has no PR. With all the propaganda of the “Nakba” being pumped into us, basic facts such as the expulsion of Jews from Arab states have been abandoned and forgotten. In quantitative terms, the Jews who lived in Arab countries were not just viciously persecuted, tormented by pogroms and banished from their homes; they also left behind possessions – several times more than the amount left by the Arabs in Israel. Their suffering was not forgotten, but was deliberately concealed with the clear intention to tip the moral scale in favor of the Arabs.

There is no reason to pit a Palestinian narrative against a Zionist one. The truth is that narratives need to be avoided altogether, along with the word “narrative” itself, which has become a whitewashed generic term for Middle Eastern imagination, at best, and for an outright lie, most of the time. The Jews in Arab states went through hell; they were forcibly separated from their property, murdered by capricious mobs and in effect, expelled from their homes. So how is it that we never hear about it? First of all, because someone wanted to silence it, to hide the catastrophe of the Jews from Arab states and sweep it under the rug. The drama of their lives was muted. Pogroms accompanied by acts of rape, slaughter, robbery and pillaging of hundreds of thousands of Jews do not “sell,” and certainly, do not leave a mark on the Israeli public and its collective memory.

As Adi Schwartz pointed out in his article in the journal, “Techelet,” in the last decade, Israel’s five universities produced only one doctoral thesis on the destruction of the Jewish communities in Arab countries. In contrast, over the same in the last decade, Israel’s universities produced only one doctoral thesis on the destruction of the Jewish communities in Arab countries. over the same period, thousands of articles were written on the Arab “Nakba.”  period, thousands of articles and research papers were written by professors in Israeli academic institutions on the Arab “Nakba.” That fact – only one doctoral thesis – should arouse incredulity. While our “humanities” professors and elites join forces with the enemy’s claims and explain with furrowed faces full of gravity and forced compassion that Israel must correct the historical injustice caused to the Palestinians in 1948, a similar, if not worse, catastrophe – the catastrophe of the Jews in Arab countries – does not warrant even the smallest reference. Perhaps this is because it does not come with honors, awards and academic positions; perhaps because the parallel story ruins Palestinian “righteousness.”

Unfortunately, even official Israeli spokespeople do not mention the fact that masses of Jews became victims of persecution and methodical harassment throughout the Middle East. This disregard stems primarily from ignorance, but also from the apologetic atmosphere that is ingrained in and has taken hold of Israeli foreign policy and “hasbara.” It sometimes seems as if official spokespeople are neutral in the conflict. Some will say that Israel does not raise these claims in principle because we are not a nation of complainers. In the twentieth century, population exchanges occurred – all over the world. Tens of millions of people suffered this harsh experience as a result of wars and conflicts, yet only the Palestinians are busy pitying themselves and placing blame instead of taking responsibility for their crimes and the consequences. The Jews of Arab countries were expelled from their homes, but returned to their homeland and started new lives. The Arab refugees who live in Arab states, are continuously being used by their leaders as a cynical tool in the struggle against the Jewish state. In reality, the facts are clear: the Arabs are responsible for the consequences of their aggression and the creation of the problem of the Arab refugees, as well as for the much larger catastrophe they caused for the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Arab countries. The acts of slaughter and expulsion were conducted against the Jews in Arab countries without their involvement in any war, and without them having declared war on countries in which they lived for so long. They were loyal citizens and fell victim to religious, racist and murderous hatred. The Lie According to the accepted false historical narrative, the Jews of Arab countries lived in peace in their surroundings and enjoyed the protection of the authorities.

According to this same distorted story, it was only because of the actions of the Zionist movement and the harm done to  the Arabs in Israel that the Jews begin to suffer at the hands of Muslims. But the truth is completely different. While there were periods during which the Jews lived in relative peace and quiet under Muslim rule and even integrated into society and flourished, these instances were the exception, not the rule. Throughout history, the lot of the Jews in Arab countries was that of daily humiliation, pogroms, deportation, revocation of rights and methodical discrimination. In Islamic countries, Jews were given the right to live under protection as “dhimmi.” Under the ordinance of Khalif Omar, the Jews lived with an inferior status. But often, while under Muslim rule, they were not even afforded the inferior status of those limited rights. The renowned expert in Middle Eastern affairs Bernard Lewis explains that unlike European anti-Semitism, “The Muslim attitude toward non-Muslims is one not of hate or fear or envy, but simply of contempt…The conventional epithets are apes for Jews, and pigs for Christians.”

It is worth noting that even in the modern era, there were times that the Jews in Arab countries thrived, like in Egypt and Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s and in Algeria in the 19th and 20th centuries. During these periods, these countries shared one common denominator: colonial rule. In most cases, the Jews’ situation was dire prior to the European invasion and worsened again with the end of the colonial period.

The racist harassment and persecution of the Jews in Arab countries can be divided into two time periods: The period of early history and hat of the years surrounding the founding of the State of Israel. We ask in advance for your patience with the length and detail of the following section and we emphasize that although the list of pogroms, acts of murder and harassments is long, it is partial and incomplete. In contrast to the recycled claim that the Jews of Arab countries were “Jewish Arabs,” reality does not recognize such a creature. The Jews in these states defined themselves as Jews of the East and emphasized the national, religious and cultural divide between themselves and the Arabs who lived beside them. The Jews of the East never identified themselves as Arab except in two cases – Communists in Iraq whose fate was the gallows or a frustrated exile to Israel ridden by imagined nostalgia (see for example, Sami Michael), and of course, the Bedouin Jewish tribes in the Arabian Peninsula whom Mohammed destroyed in a series of battles and persecutions. In In 1676, the Imam al-Mahdi decided upon the Mawza exile and drove the Jews into one of the most arid districts in Yemen. According to varying estimates, 60-75 percent of Yemenite Jews died due to the exile .

In the Hijaz, for example, the region of origin of the royal Hashemite dynasty, there lived three Jewish tribes: Banu Qaynuqa, Nadir and Banu Qurayzah. In the course of Islam’s takeover of Mecca and Medina, Mohammed’s army slaughtered the tribes, decimated their leaders, pillaged their property and took their wives and daughters captive. If you happen to hear the slogan, “Khaybar, Khaybar, ya yahud, jaish Mohammed sa-yaud” (Remember Khaybar, Khaybar, Jews, Mohammed’s army will yet return) at a Palestinian or Israeli Arab demonstration, you should know that this is a vulgar nationalist cry referring to the Battle of Khaybar, in which Mohammed, by means of lie and deceit, annihilated the proud Jewish tribe that lived there. In Spain as well, in a time and place that earned the title ‘The Golden Age’, at the glorious peak of Jewish integration into the culture and the fabric of life in the state under Islamic rule, the Jews’ lives were not always happy and content. The Golden Age included a series of harassments for the Jews. In 1011, in Muslim Cordoba, a massacre was orchestrated in which, according to various estimates, hundreds to thousands of Jews were murdered. In 1066, in Granada, Yosef Hanagid was executed, along with 4,000-6,000 Jews. One of the worst periods for the Jews began in 1148 with the rise of the Almohad dynasty (al Muwahhidūn) which ruled Spain and North Africa in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Today, Morocco is thought of as a place that was safe for Jews; there are those who remember fondly the history of the Jews in that country. Yet an examination of the facts teaches us that Morocco was a Muslim country where Jews suffered an extremely harsh series of massacres. In the eighth century, entire communities were wiped out by King Idris I. In Fez in 1033, 6,000 Jews were murdered by a Muslim mob. The rise of the Almohad dynasty caused a wave of mass murders. According to testimony from those times, several large massacres of Jews in Fez and Marrakesh were carried out. In 1465, there was another mass slaughter in Fez, one that spread to other cities in Morocco. In Tetouan, pogroms were conducted in 1790 and 1792. There, pillaging was rampant, women were raped and children murdered. Between 1864 and 1880, a series of pogroms were carried out against the Jews in Marrakesh and hundreds were massacred. In 1903, there was a pogrom in two cities, Taza and Settat, in which over 40 Jews were killed. In 1907, in Casablanca, approximately 30 Jews were murdered and many women were raped. In 1912, another massacre took place in Fez.

Read booklet in full (Chapter Four continues on page 58)

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