Tag: Arab-Jewish relations/ Six-Day War

Jews in Arab countries paid price for Six Day War victory

The first week of June is often a time when the meda look back at Israel’s lightening victory in the Six Day War. But the remnant Jews in Arab countries paid the price. We reprint a blog by Lyn Julius in the Times of Israel:

The Tunisian Great synagogue was damaged in the 1967 riots 

“They had everything in their hands; fire, axes, knives, swords… They were banging, trying to break the doors and they set the curtains on fire.” Doris Keren-Gill, a Jew from Libya, well remembers the dark days of June 1967 when rioters destroyed her home and nearby synagogue. Doris escaped with her life. 

Today not a single Jew is left in Libya.

While the media focus on the events leading to Israel’s lightening Six Day War victory, the impact on the few thousand Jews remaining in Arab countries is forgotten. In 1967 all these communities were shadows of their former selves, 90 percent of their Jews having already fled: some 76,000 Jews remained out of a 1948 population of 900,000. 

Almost all had been deprived of civil rights but could still quietly pursue their education, run businesses and enjoy a social life. But the vindictive Arab reaction to Israel’s victory changed all that.

Sudan, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Jews in Libya, taunted by enraged mobs, and Aden, where Jewish property was set on fire, were evacuated for their own safety. In almost all Arab countries there were demonstrations and anti-Jewish riots. 

Some governments actively persecuted their Jews as if they were Israelis. Already Jews in Iraq had to carry yellow identity cards and were unable to leave.

But Arab rage led to property seizures, beatings and arrests. Jews were sacked, telephones were cut off. On 27 January 1969, nine Jewish “spies” were executed and their bodies strung up in Baghdad’s Liberation Square. A million Iraqis came to celebrate. The arrests continued until 1972: some 50 Jews disappeared. 

Not permitted to leave, almost 2,000 Jews escaped Iraq with the help of Kurdish smugglers, leaving their homes and possessions behind.

Jewish migration from Lebanon, which accelerated in 1964, reached epidemic levels after the 1967 war due to fears of impending riots. The mass exodus was followed by the abduction and murder of individual Jews.

Some of the fiercest riots broke out in Tunisia on 5 June 1967.

 The Great Synagogue in was set on fire. Panicking Jews abandoned their homes. Within five years, only about 7,000 remained.

In Morocco, a massive security deployment prevented loss of life during mass demonstrations. When the propaganda of an Arab victory turned out to be false, two Jews were murdered. An economic boycott against Jewish businesses was declared. Some 10,000 Jews left, mostly to France and North America.

 In Syria, curfews were imposed. Jews were housebound hostages, deprived of telephones and radios. Some 2,300 Jews were smuggled into Israel from Syria, but it would be another 25 years before the rest would be allowed to emigrate. 

In the Libyan pogroms, more than 100 shops were destroyed and 18 Jews were killed. The Libyan exodus left fewer than 100 Jews behind.

In 1969, Colonel Qaddafi ordered all Jewish property confiscated and debts to Jews cancelled.

 In Egypt, the authorities arrested Jews up to the age of 60 as ‘Israeli PoWs’.

They were interned for up to three years. The prisoners were abused and fed dirty bread containing cigarette butts and nails. The Rabbi of Alexandria was tied to the prison bars and beaten senseless.

The Six Day War thus marked the irrevocable and silent demise, within a few years, of Jewish communities which had pre-dated Islam by 1,000 years. 

Although they played no part in Israel’s victory and despite representations by Jewish groups and foreign governments, Jews in Arab countries paid a terrible price. Pursuing revenge, Arab regimes committed serious human rights abuses. They have never been held to account. 

 Read article in full

Jews in Morocco: a privileged but precarious history

This is a fascinating document, unearthed by Lhaj Mohamed Nacik and uploaded to the Academia website. Written in 1968 in Casablanca by the British Consul, Mr P. M. Johnston, the report focuses on the history of Jews in Morocco, their origin, relationship with the Muslim majority, emigration from Morocco and their future in the country after The Six-Day War. The author argues that throughout Moroccan history,  Jews have been a minority whose status has been both privileged and precarious. 

Jewish woman from Tangiers wearing the Berberisca pre-nuptial costume

first critical event of this chronology dates back to 320 BC when Palestine was invaded byPtolemy Lagos. It extends to The Six-Day War of 1967 that has tremendously impacted the Jewish community in Morocco.Overall, the report describes how Jews were treated under the successive

dynasties in Morocco from the Almohad (1143-1269) to the Alaouite(1631-present). It argues that Jews were subjected to continued oppression and suffering in their
dhimmi status, forced to pay special taxes and wear distinctive clothing. 

However, they were exceptions in which their positions improved. In fact, the Saadian dynasty, for example, witnessed the appointment of many Moroccan Jews as ambassadors in various European countries. Namely, the Pellas Family (Simon Pellas, his brother and his son David,) in addition to Rabbi Sasportas, the brothers Joseph and Haim Toledano, and Samuel ben Sunbal. 

During the Alaouite Dynasty, Mawlay Suleyman assigned various Jews to positions of high authority including Abraham Sicsu as the de facto Minister of Finance, Isaac Pinto as Treasurer, and successively Mesod Cohen and his son Meir as ambassadors to the court of St. James. 

The mid-nineteenth century witnessed the establishment of the
first Alliance Israelites chool in Tetouan in 1862, followed by the visit of Sir Moses Montefiore in1863 who obtained from Mohamed Ben Abd al-Raḥmān a Dahir granting protection to the Jews. 

The 30th March 1912 was marked by the establishment
of French Protectorate by the Treaty of Fez. The author pointed out that theSultan Mohamed Ben Youssef (Future King Mohamed V) refused in 1940to give effect to anti-Jews legislations passed by the French government ofVichy.After the establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, the UnitedHebrew Immigrant Aid Service (HIAS) representative visited the French zone and Tangier. 

On the same year, CADIMA (Caisse d’Aide aux Immigrants Marocains), a local organization that promotes emigration of Jews to Israel was founded. As King Mohamed V returned to Morocco in 1955, the FirstMoroccan government was formed including a Jew, Dr. Leon Ben Zaquen, as Minister of Posts and Telegraphs. Shortly after the independence, CADIMA closed down in 1956. This period has seen a big wave of emigration as well as the arrest of many Jews in 1961.

The paper reported that the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, MrAhmed Balafrej visited the U.S where it was said that he has agreed withAmerican Jewish organizations to permit Moroccan Jews to emigrate to Israel in return for a gift aid of wheat.

 In the eve of the Six-Day War of 1967,“al-’Alam” newspaper published by al-Istiqlal party called for the boycott of Jewish shops and the Minister of Information issued a statement condemninganti-Jewish boycott. On the 14
th of August, organized emigration to Israel resumed.

In part one, the report portrays the origin of Jews as well as the evolution of their status in Morocco. The events stated in this part are an extension to the ones mentioned above in the chronology. 

Read paper in full


Baghdad hangings: the family which got away

Exclusive to Point of No Return

Corpses hanging in Liberation Square on 27 January 1969

Today is the 52nd anniversary of the public hangings of nine Jews in Liberation Square in Baghdad on trumped-up spying charges.

The date  is especially meaningful for Dora Saddik and her family.

Dora will never forget the night of 27 January 1969 when  nine Jews, who had been given a hurried show trial, were executed. Then aged 24, Dora was jailed, also on trumped-up spying charges, together with her mother and twin brothers aged 22 and a younger brother aged 16. 

 Only one wall separated Dora from the condemned men.” We were forced to clap hands and call them traitors,” she recalls. That same night a helicopter picked up the corpses and ferried them to Liberation Square. Half a million Iraqis came to sing, dance and ‘eat chocolates’ the next day under the gallows. The regime had declared a public holiday. 

Dora is convinced that she and her family would have been ‘next on the list’ for execution. They were freed following a visit from the Red Cross, which came to see if there were any Jews in Iraqi prisons.

During the three months that Dora and her family were in jail, they were tortured. Her brothers were strung up to the ceiling fan and hit with rubber hoses and iron bars. That was the least of it.

On their release, the family were told that if they said they were treated badly, their house or car would ‘accidentally’ catch fire. 

 The family were finally able to to be smuggled out of Iraq in December 1971. Some 2,000 Iraqi Jews took such illegal and risky routesout of the country. Dora has lived in Israel since. She has vowed never again to set foot in an Arab country.

Montreal  ZOOM Commemoration of the Baghdad  hangings

Wiesenthal recalls MENA Holocaust as well as Baghdad hangings

Today, January 27,  is Holocaust Memorial Day. According to the records of the Wannsee conference in January 1942, it is clear that the Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews, including those in North Africa and the Middle East. January 27 is also the date in 1969 when ten Jews were executed by the Ba’ath regimein Iraq on trumped-up spying charges. In this article for the Jerusalem Post, Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the leading organisation fighting antisemitism, has incorporated the impact of the Holocaust on Middle East and North African Jewry. He also mentions the Farhud in Iraq and the Baghdad hangings. It was noted that Samuels was present at aZoom commemoration of the Baghdad hangings organised by the Spanish synagogue in Montreal on 24 January. 

The villa at Wannsee where the Nazis planned to exterminate 11 million Jews. The figure listed for Jews in France is 7000, 000, thus incorporating the North African Jewish communities, and the figure for Italy is 59,000, including the Jews of Libya and Ethiopia.

  In the spirit of the Abraham Accords, there is a growing interest in the Holocaust and its impact on the Jews of MENA (Middle East/North Africa).
On this Yom Ha’Shoah / International Holocaust Commemoration Day on January 27, we should contemplate what the fate of MENA Jewry would have been had German general Rommel won the Desert Campaign. Would the Mufti Haj Amin al Husseini’s
calls for Nazi Germany’s extermination of the Jews have been activated across the Arab world, despite the stories of protection from Vichy by Moroccan King Mohammed V and Tunisia’s Moncef Bey?


Italo-German occupied Libya was a story of deportation persecution. Even after the Allied victory, a November 1945 pogrom in Tripoli killed 130 Jews (36 of them children), destroyed five synagogues and plundered most remaining homes and


In brief, the Jews of French North Africa, Syria and Lebanon and the British mandates of Palestine and Iraq, and even – until the British/Soviet invasion – the millennial community of Persia (Iran) were all in danger.
On June 1, the United Nations will mark the 80th anniversary of the Farhud (violent dispossession in Arabic) in Iraq. The pogrom was orchestrated by Rashid Ali al Gaylani, a pro-Nazi antisemite, who fled to Germany after the return of
British forces. Hitler dubbed him “head of the Iraqi government in exile.”

 The pogrom in Baghdad and Basra left 600 dead, hundreds raped and beaten – with the corpses dumped in a mass grave.
Following the 1948 establishment of Israel, most of MENA Jews were expelled or fled – many to France, the United States and the United Kingdom, but most to Israel.

 In the case of the 2,600 year-old Iraqi Jewish community, most left for
Israel as a realization of the Biblical prophecy, “By the waters of Babylon we laid down and wept as we remembered Zion.”
Of the 120,000 Iraqi Jews, some 2,000 remained in Iraq, becoming a target of the Baathist coup d’etat in 1968. The Jewish community was accused of “treason and collaboration with the Zionist On January 27, 1969, nine Jews were charged with espionage for of Israel (together with three Muslims and two Christians) and were hung in a public execution in Baghdad. 500,000 Iraqis were, reportedly, bused in to dance around the
corpses. Another three Jews were executed on August 26. Baghdad Radio broadcast, “We hang spies, but the Jews sacrificed Christ.”

Read article in full

Albert Nissan remembers his mother the rebel

Widowed in 1952, Albert Nissan’s mother Victoria remained in Iraq through the 1950s, witnessing the exodus of her nieces and nephews to Israel, and the crack-down on the Iraqi Communist party in the 1960s. But she was wise enough to use her connections, and brave enough to stand her ground against injustice and extortion.  Albert Nissan was deported from Iraq in 1970 but Victoria obtained a passport to leave the country legally. Her son looks back on her remarkable life:

Albert Nissan: deported from Iraq in 1970
Free thinker, independent, self confident, clear-headed with excellent social skills. That was my mother.

 The youngest of five sisters, she decided to pursue a career in teaching. She shed her abaya, changed her name to Victoria (hence the name Albert for her firstborn), applied to be a teacher and got her certification from The Teachers’ Institute.

 She got assigned to a position in Khanekin, some 150 kilometers north-east of Baghdad. Mother insisted on going to her post while her friend Sit Simha resigned her post. Her family sent one of her nephews with her as chaperone. In Khanekin she registered her nephew in an Islamic school.
But mother’s assignment did not last more than a few months as she was offered a job in the Alliance for Girls in Baghdad and quit her job in Khanekin. But not before her nephew received  praise for knowing more about Islam that the Muslims in school. 


On Wings of Eagles 

Victoria was excited by the prophecy of Isaiah to the exiles of Babylon; that they would return to their land on wings of eagles. She saw the possibility of seeing the realisation of  the prophecy during her lifetime. She used to tell me that in more than two thousand years, Jews did not know how to interpret the prophecy until she saw Jews returning to Israel on (wings of) planes. 

She walked in pro-Zionist demonstrations and walked against anti-Zionist demonstrations. She told me that in the anti Zionist demonstrations she was shouting “Down with Arabism”. And together with my father, they bought land in Palestine. 

Sefer Berlik سفر بر 

Mother always whispered when she talked about her uncle not returning from the war in the Balkans. In 1912, Montenegro rebelled against the Ottomans. It was  later followed by other Balkan nations. Sefer Berlik was a “Call to Arms” by the Ottomans. Muslims in Iraq and the Levant had to join the army. Non-Muslims who did not want to go to war had to pay 40 gold Turkish pounds, a large sum in those days. Those who could not pay the Jizya, had to join the army, but many young Jews went into hiding.
The Balkan war was a disaster and it showed the Turkish organizational deficiency. People say that when the Ottoman army arrived to a frozen lake, they received the order to cross without verifying if the ice could support the weight of the army and its mechanized equipment. The ice collapsed and a large part of the army drowned. 

There is an old song that goes like this: 

“The army of the Sultan 

Slept in the elements 

And drank salty water”

One can deduce that the Ottoman army was not equipped with adequate winter gear and there was a shortage of supplies. A large chunk of the army died from cold and malnutrition. It is said that only one to five percent came back from the war.
The husband of my eldest aunt used to tell the story that when he saw the Turkish gendarmerie approaching, he jumped on his horse and fled towards Iran. He reached safety but his horse died under him.

Nieces and Nephews 

When one of her sisters died leaving teenage kids, Victoria counselled them on their education and later arranged for some of them to get married.
Her house was open for all her nephews and nieces and at age three and four, I still remember them in  my home. Suddenly they weren’t there, as they left  for Israel. 

More than two decades later,  there was constant celebration when she was with them and later, every time she visited Israel.
Speaking to the Nissan young ladies, I wish that mother had lived to see you in adulthood because you have her tact, her clear-headedness and her approach in attaining goals.

Communist Purge 

In the early 1960s and following a coup d’état, there was a bloody purge of communists in Iraq. Those in power did not have a solid base. They armed their civilian party members and posted them around the capital and perhaps in other cities of Iraq too. Most of them were high school teens who went on the rampage collecting people under suspicion of being communists. And by the same token, the teens arrested young women and threw them in camps: cases of rape, pregnancies and suicides followed and were very common. The young women who were raped and pregnant were killed by their families to cleanse the family’s honour. 

And one day, people arrived at our home looking for Victoria the communist. Mother calmly told the group that she was staying in her own house. Then they started asking about the other Victoria. Little by little, with logic and tact, they were convinced that they should be looking somewhere else and left. 

Dealing with officers in positions of power

 In the mid 60s, someone arrived at our house, escorted by police, claiming that my brother “ Roubel” caused a car accident and killed a woman and heavily injured his brother. The man claimed his brother was dying in hospital and he was seeking justice for him. Now, Robin and Albert were both spoken of as “Roubel” in Iraqi slang. So we weren’t sure which person it was. But the claimant said that “Roubel” was heavy-set. 

In the police station, mother asked if the accuser could identify “Roubel” and he pointed to the only heavy-set guy. My mother wanted to see the dying brother and the police colonel asked the same question. The man changed his story and said his “dying” brother was coming to the police station. And suddenly the “dying” brother walks into the station without a scratch on him. And mother sarcastically asked the colonel if he thought that this guy was injured, And the case was dismissed.
We believe that this was a scheme to extract money from a heavy-set young Jewish man who fitted the Muslim name “Roubel” and was spending money in nightclubs. The brothers hit on the wrong “Roubel”. 

A lioness protecting her cubs 

 After our arrest ( in 1970 the author was detained for attempting to cross the northern border illegally – ed) mother wanted to monitor Lieutenant Muthanna*’s moves, as she mistrusted him. She started showering his warrant officer with gifts and money. And it paid off. The warrant officer told mother one day that Muthanna was sending a letter to all government deparments inquiring if I owed money to the government. A mean-spirited move intended to keep us for years in detention until all replies had come in. Upon hearing of Muthanna’s move, mother went above his head and complained to the chief. She was indignant, saying it was absurd if he believed that a “boy” in his early twenties owed money to the government.
Muthanna was ordered to destroy the letter and expedite our paperwork so we would get out of Iraq. 

Social Skills Pay-off 

After our deportation, mother requested from one of many of her contacts, a Kurdish sheikh, to get my future wife Rosy over the border. Rosy was in Iran in less than two months after our deportation and preparing to leave for Holland via Israel. 

No Harm in Asking 

Soon after our deportation, mother applied for a passport in a time when the issuing of passports was practically unattainable. In her application she wrote that she did not want to stay in this country after her children had been deported. She wanted to leave “this country” and she would not be coming back. She endured ridicule and sarcasm for her act. She arrived to Holland in less than 12 months after our deportation.

 I see a lot of mother in her three granddaughters. Their tact, their social skills, analytical approach and business sense remind me of our mother.
Mother lived 17 years after her arrival in Holland.

 I try never to miss the anniversary of her death where I go up to the sefer torah and sing the Haftarah to her. Her Haftarah could never be more appropriate. It talks about a woman whose husband died and left her with two boys (and one daughter).

* Lieutenant Muthanna was in charge of Jewish affairs at the Nationality and Passports office in Baghdad. He was a notorious antisemite, known for his humiliating treatment of Jews seeking his services.


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