Tag: Arab-Jewish relations/ Six-Day War

Let’s not forget that over 40 Iraqi Jews were murdered

Every 27  January, the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day, but in the minds of Iraqi Jews,  the day is also indelibly associated with the public hangings of nine Jews in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on 27 January 1969.  Moreover, this year marks fifty years since the culmination of a murderous terror campaign against the 3,000 Jews still remaining in Iraq, resulting in the deaths of over 40 Jews. Most were randomly arrested and disappeared, never to be seen again.

Half a million Iraqis came to sing, dance and picnic under the gibbets in Baghdad’s Tahrir square on 27 January 1969

 

After a show trial on charges of trumped-up spying charges, nine Jews were among 14 innocent individuals executed. Several were under the age limit for execution. A tenth man and his sister were murdered in a Basra jail. Others narrowly averted death.

Jack Salman Hikmet, 16 at the time, lost his uncle Saul when the secret police came to take him away in 1972. A year later, five members of the Kashkoush family were brutally murdered in their home and their bodes put into the suitcases with which they were planning to leave Iraq just days later. He recalls:

“My Uncle Saul was the one who sat me down after the hangings in 1969 and told me about what befell our people, the Jews (my parents didn’t, nor was our school allowed to track anything about “Zionist” history.)
His words,  that I remember to this day, were: ”Salman, we  (the Jews) are only few in number but would have by now numbered  in the 40 million because of a man called Hitler.”
He turned around and pulled a book from his extensive library: the book was the diaries of Anne Frank, and proceeded to tell me about the Holocaust and the creation of Israel.
Imagine at a time when Jews were hiding their siddurim, this brave man had such a book in Baghdad!
Shaoul (Saul) Rijwan was giving lunch to my younger brother  (9 years old) and sister (5 years old) at his house when they came for him. He was brave enough to ask them to let the children go, and somehow  they found their way home, crying, traumatised told my parents what had happened.
We know they killed him the same day, as the next day they emptied his house, business, and took his car. My siblings were the last to see him alive.
I always go back to the pictures of my barmitzvah a year before that day where uncle Saul and also Suad Kashkoush (nee Haskell) were congratulating me after putting my tefillin on.”
Jack Hikmet being congratulated by his uncle Saul at his Barmitzvah

Fifty years since I left the hell of Iraq

David Kheder Basson is celebrating a special anniversary – 50 years since he left his country of birth for good. But first he and his family under went a rollercoaster of shocks, raised and dashed expectations,  before he could obtain a precious passport to freedom. He told his story in the Arabic Al-Gardenia:
David Kheder Basson: waiting for a passport
Dedicated to all those who sought freedom from tyranny and persecution by leaving their birth homeland.
Fifty years ago, on Sunday  Jan 9 1972, for the first time in my life I boarded a plane –  a BOAC flight that originated in Karachi, stopped in Baghdad and was bound for London. This is how I left the hell of Iraq, never to return again.
Following the Six Day war in June 1967, when Israel defeated the combined three armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, the remaining Jews, particularly in radical Arab countries,  became scapegoats.
Iraq at that time was ruled by a nationalist government headed by prime minister Taher Yahia and president Abd al-Rahman Aref. Iraqi Jews numbered  3,500, mostly living in Baghdad and Basra, with a few families in other towns.
Soon after the war, persecution of the community resumed at a level not seen before – houses and  businesses were under constant surveillance, telephones were disconnected, bank accounts were frozen  and only limited withdrawals were allowed, and import licenses were either rescinded or not granted. In addition, secondary school graduates were not allowed to attend university, men were fired from their jobs, families and individuals were expelled from social and sports clubs and our community and sports club (Mahlab Menahem Daniel) was expropriated by the army.
Dozens of men were imprisoned and tortured. Many were later released but other measures remained, including restrictions on movement beyond five kilometres, with the need to inform the security authorities and getting  prior permission to travel.
In July 1968, after a coup d’état led by the Ba’ath party, the status of Iraqi Jews deteriorated  further. The presidency and government were headed by Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr from the military wing of the Ba’ath party, but the strongman was Saddam Hussein from the civil arm of the party. To show force and frighten potential opponents as well as the people in general, the government started attacking the weakest component in Iraqi society – the Jews. They rounded up Jews from Basra and Baghdad, threw them in jail and tortured them. Then they claimed they caught a spy ring for Israel and under torture some of those imprisoned died, others confessed to the fabricated charges.
A kangaroo court headed by a clown Colonel Ali Hadi Woutwout sentenced nine Jews to death by hanging in mid-January 1969.
Horror struck on the morning of Jan 27, 1969 when the bodies of nine innocent Jews, who were hanged in prison a few hours earlier, were displayed in Baghdad’s Tahrir square and Um Albrum square in Basra. Also hanged were another five innocent people, one whose father was Jewish, two Christians and two Muslims (just to show that this farce was not directed against the Jews only). Some half a million Iraqis chanted pro-government chants and danced in Tahrir Square on that terrible date. They even consumed  food with the bodies in full view.
Members of the government attended this cannibalistic display. They delivered revolutionary speeches that inflamed the masses. They affirmed their intention to eradicate the fifth column (the Jews). Despite international protests, the government and its security forces continued, for the next two years, to execute, kill and torture Jews, and by the spring 1973, the number of executions and murders reached nearly 50 men and women. The Jews realized that there was no hope in Iraq, but they were trapped. They were eager to get out of Iraq, whenever the opportunity arose.
The central government in Baghdad was at war with the Kurds in northern Iraq in intermittent rounds  since Iraq gained its independence. In the spring of 1970, a ceasefire was reached between the government in Baghdad and Kurdish forces and large-scale military operations ceased. Northern and Iraqi Kurdistan became open to “tourism” and the Jews were keen to travel to the north for recreation, after the lifting of restrictions on internal travel, and to explore how and what routes they would take to escape.
In June 1970, the Jewish family of Fouad Sawdayee managed to escape to Iran, taking a very difficult and dangerous road through the mountains. In the summer months, dozens of individuals and families escaped with the help of Kurdish smugglers (most of them through Erbil to Haj Omran and from there across the border). They left their homes, with all their contents, carrying one suitcase of clothes.  They continued to escape until mid-September, when a large number of Jewish men, women and children were arrested in Kurdistan as they were waiting to escape. They were returned to Baghdad and imprisoned in a center belonging to the Baha’i’s. They were later released after paying a very large bail arranged by an Iraqi Jewish lawyer, Yaqoub Abdel Aziz (who was kidnapped in 1972  – his body was never found).
The escapes resumed during the harsh winter months through Sulaymaniyah and then to the Iranian border. They stopped for a few months. In the summer of 1971, fleeing Iraq resumed again in a serious and more organized way with the help of the Kurds and in coordination between Iran and Israel. Iran allowed escapees to stay for a few weeks in Tehran until the procedures were completed to transfer them to Israel or to other countries granting entry visas.
With many of my friends escaping and no future in Iraq, I was also anxious to flee, but  my father being a well-known figure and reluctant to leave illegally, I was afraid he would be arrested and harmed. So I waited with growing frustration every day – My father was one the pioneering journalists in Iraq, thought of himself as an Iraqi patriot and did not leave in the mass emigration of Iraqi Jews in 1950-51. Now, several events came altogether.
First, I finished my first degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Baghdad in 1970. I applied to universities in England, on the basis that it could help my departure. I was not expecting to be accepted because the university refused to supply me with a graduation certificate, being a Jew. But based on recommendations from the head of  the Chemical Engineering department, the late Dr. Suham al-Madfai, and from other foreign lecturers as well as my school headmaster, I got accepted to study for my Master ‘s degree in several British universities.
Second,  my secondary school – Shamash, where I taught for couple of years – was able to revitalize a scholarship funding program in England for Iraqi-Jewish students.  I was informed by those responsible for the management of the Fund (who had not received a request for more than eight years), that they had agreed to grant me a scholarship for the scholastic year 1971-72, whenever I could reach England.
Third, in the summer of 1970, my father convinced me to give him a chance to use his political and journalistic connections to try to get me a passport rather than my having to flee.  At that time, in the government of Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr there were two ministers who were good friends of my father – Aziz Sharif and Saleh al-Yousefi. My father had known Aziz Sharif, who was  Minister of Justice, since the mid-Forties when Sharif founded the al-Shaab (People) Party. My father was member of another party, al-Ithad al-Watani (National Union), headed by Abd Al-Fattah Ibrahim, editor of its newspaper. The two parties merged and my father was appointed editor-in-chief of al-Watan (the Motherland) newspaper which the mouthpiece of the new party. After the dissolution of this new party, Sharif joined the Iraqi Communist Party and also issued a left-wing liberal magazine called al-Thaqafa al-Jadidah 
( “the New Culture”) in which my father published articles. In the early 1970s, Sharif was invited to join the Ba’ath government as representative of the “National Democratic Forces” sympathetic to the liberal democrats and communist parties.
In March 1970,  a ceasefire (“The March agreement”) was signed between the government of Iraq and the Kurdish forces headed by Mustapha al-Barazani. Saleh al-Yousefi was elected on behalf of  the Kurdistan Democratic Party to be in the government as minister without portfolio. My father befriended al-Yousefi in the 1960s when he founded the al-Taakhi ( Brotherhood) newspaper as the mouthpiece of the party. My father wrote for al-Taakhi in the early sixties when he retired as a full-time journalist after the 1963 coup d’état against Abdul Karim Qasim.
As far as I know, my father asked the two ministers to mediate with the government (Saadoun Ghaidan was the Minister of the Interior) on my behalf to allow me to travel to England to continue my studies. The request to the two ministers was on the groundsthat my father, though an Iraqi Jew, was  an Iraqi patriot who had served his country faithfully and had suffered imprisonment and deportation, and remained in Iraq after most of the Jews had left. His son is now accepted into universities in Britain and would like to travel for postgraduate studies.”
 No passports were granted to Jews since 1964, except for very rare cases such as the family of Dr. Gourgi Raby, Shaul Sasson Kadoorie, son of the chief rabbi and his wife(Shaul was imprisoned and tortured in Qasr alNahaya (the Palace of the End) for a year and a few elderly Jews known for their well-connected ties. Therefore, being able to obtain a passport for a young Jew was at that time an impossibility.
The first stage in applying for a passport was to obtain the approval of al-Amen (the Public Security Directorate), headed by the notorious butcher Nazim Kazar – assuming that one does not have  an open “file” in al-Amen. After the mediation of Aziz Sharif and Saleh al-Yousefi, the minister of the Interior, Saadoun Ghaidan, presumably gave instructions to the al-Amen, signaling his approval. Accordingly, al-Amen gave its approval on 7th September 1971. It was big news that a young Jew had obtained this approval.
The next stage, after al-Amen approval, was to send the file to the Ministry of Interior, and within a few days the approval was given routinely. Then the file was  transferred to the Department of Travel and Nationality to issue a passport. So, we waited impatiently to get the approval of the Ministry of Interior, with no idea that there could be a problem on the horizon.
Weeks passed without news, and finally, after more than three weeks, the Ministry rejected the request. It was an unexpected shock.
We went back to the al-Amen, and after a week, they told us that the application was approved and that there was no update to withdraw the approval. My file was transferred again to the Ministry of Interior and after a few weeks we were told that the Ministry of Interior also declined to give approval, for the second time. Meanwhile, the university course for a Master’s degree had started and I had to write to inform them of the delay in my departure and to request a deferment. This they  agreed to.
With more than half of Iraq’s Jews fleeing (we don’t know the exact number), the Iraqi government seemed to conclude that it would be easier to allow Jews to leave legally and confiscate their property after they leave. Meanwhile, the government could claim that it was not violating human rights and discriminating against the Jews. In any case, the Jews in the early Seventies became a secondary issue, as Saddam began to liquidate his rivals before seizing power at the end of the decade. The Iraqi authorities slowly began to grant approval for passports to elderly Iraqi Jews and then to others, including young people (as long as they were not on the banned list).
But  my own approval was not forthcoming. I and my parents were mentally exhausted and my father felt remorse for not “being able to do what he had promised”. We went back for the third time to al-Amen, and their response was, “What is your problem, why do you come back to us – the application was approved!  “
From the documents in my possession, it appears that Aziz Sharif or Saleh al-Yousefi presented the matter to Saadoun Ghaidan again, and he gave his consent. As a result, the Ministry of Interior wrote to the Directorate of Nationality (Identity Division) on November 23, informing it of its approval, but when we went to the Identity Division, it informed us that it was necessary write to the Ministry of Interior again to get its opinion because there was a previous refusal, despite the approval of the minister!
So, the obstacles persisted and after more than three weeks of not hearing from the Ministry of Interior, we decided that there was no point in approaching the Ministry in the same way we had done before. What made matters worse for me psychologically was that it was now December and the beginning of the harsh winter in northern Iraq, where it was difficult and dangerous to escape through the mountains of Kurdistan. I was like a bird imprisoned in a cage.
To make matters worse, I was granted an entry visa to Britain even without the need for a passport. This is another sub-story worth mentioning. The British government knew that any Iraqi Jew leaving Iraq, by any means, would not return, and therefore would seek asylum as a refugee. Hence the British Consulate in Iraq was instructed not to grant any entry visa to Iraqi Jews. The entry visa had to come directly from the Home Office in London after a guarantor promised to take financial responsibility. Therefore, the head of the Jewish community asked the British Embassy to send, via diplomatic mail, my visa application with the necessary supporting documentation to the Anglo-Jewish Association (AJA). The AJA, based in London, was responsible for administering the Iraqi Jewish Students Scholarship Fund, hence they would act as the guarantor (with the Jewish Refugees Committee). At the time, it was not known to me which of these Jewish organizations would be helping or financing me. I found out about AJA only after I opened a sealed letter on my flight from Iraq. That letter was given to me a few days earlier and was told not to open it until after I left Iraq. Three weeks after contacting the AJA, I was informed that I had an entry visa to Britain waiting for me at the British Consulate.
Now I go back to the main story. I was without hope and very angry after getting my British visa because I was not able to leave –  legally or illegally. I remember how I had a gold chain on my neck with the word Shaddai in Hebrew engraved on it. Shaddai is one of the names of God. My mum ordered the gold chain for me as a safety net – if I needed money I could sell it. Out of  desperation, I took off the chain and gave it to my mother saying: “I have everything a young man dreams of – admission to the most prestigious universities in Britain, a scholarship, an entry visa, but I am forbidden from traveling and there is no way to escape. Why does God do this to me? I am like a hungry person standing at the door of a room with a table laid with the most delicious foods, but I am only allowed to look at them.”
We decided to write a letter addressed to the Minister of Interior on December 15, in which I would raise my case and plead for his mercy. But how could we ensure that he got  it? Now the bravest woman I’ve known – my mother (maybe like other mothers) –  decided to take the letter and deliver it personally to the minister! She went to the ministry and waited for Ghaidan to leave. After several hours of waiting in the cold December weather, she saw the minister’s car leaving the gate and jumped in front of it and stopped it. The guards leapt up with their machine guns, but the minister realized that she was a relatively oldish woman (in her mid-forties), so he lowered the car window and inquired about the matter. My mother pushed the letter in front of his face and told him that this was a letter from her son, Khedher Selim al-Basson, requesting a passport. He replied, “I remember his name mentioned in the cabinet months ago, and we agreed to issue him a passport.” My mother answered bravely: “Yes, but your ministry refuses the request”. With an angry face, he said “What?” and took the letter and signed his approval.
Now, of course, no one in the ministry or Directorate of Travel and Nationality could refuse, so the approval came within days on December 21. We  thought my problem was over.  We discovered that it still lay with the Ministry of Interior. A low-ranking clerk put up obstacles to show other Jews that he could stop even a solid application like mine, so they had better pay him a bribe. My mother cursed him and months later he had a traffic accident:  he broke his legs and could never walk again.
My mother took the file containing the approval of the al-Amen and the Ministry of Interior to the Directorate of Travel and Nationality. A few days later, on December 25, the Travel Directorate issued its approval : a passport was issued to me on December 27, 1971. Although the passport was valid for two years, for Jews it was for a period of  three months:  hence they had trouble obtaining entry visas. I went to the British Consulate just a few days before it was closed due to a dispute with the Iraqi government and I was able to get the entry visa stamped on the passport.
I booked to travel to London by BOAC from Karachi on Sun 2 January 1972. Since I was only allowed to take only 200 dinars  and since we didn’t know what financial aid I would receive in the UK, my mother decided she should supply me with four suitcases, full of clothes and many other necessary and non-essential items, so that I would not need to spend money for the next 10 years! “. I also packed useful college Engineering books and  personal items including my stamp collection, photos, etc. My father sent some of his books with me in preparation for his future departure. In total, on Saturday 1 January 1972, we sent about 120 kilograms of unaccompanied luggage!
I said farewell to the few remaining childhood friends who had not left Iraq by then and two of my college friends. On the morning of Sunday  January 2, my mother threw water behind me in the front yard (an Iraqi custom symbolizing travelling and returning safely) and I left with the family for Baghdad airport. There at the inspection desk, I received the greatest shock of all. The security officer in charge of checking took my passport, looked at it, then looked at some papers and disappeared with the passport for what seemed to me ages. What now? I asked myself.
After more than half an hour the officer appeared again to say that I was forbidden to leave Iraq.
What ? The passport was newly issued!
He replied” “Yes, we have a travel ban on an engineer born on September 2, 1949, with all your descriptions, his name is Khedher Selim al-Basoom – (not al-Basson, a common mistake mixing n & m), but despite the misspelling of your name, it is certainly you”. He then added that the delay was due the difficulty in reconciling how I obtained the passport on December 27 while my name was on the “No Travel List” in a memo issued on December 16. We asked who initiated the memo and he told us that the ban request was issued by the University of Baghdad.
I went home and we couldn’t believe what had happened – ‘the bite reached my throat,’ as the Arabic saying goes, and stopped there. We checked the next day about the issue of Baghdad University requesting a travel ban. We discovered that the university required, before approving the rescinding of the ban, that I pay 1000 dinars – 250 dinars for each academic year. This was because I got a free college education. Usually, a graduate serves four years in a government job ( as a chemical engineer it meant working in a factory). After that his debt was paid.  But jobs were not available to Jews! and I was already working in our private school as a teacher. Now we had to solve this problem. We did not have such an amount  to pay in a short period (large in those days – equivalent to 12-18 months of a good salary).
I pledged to pay the full amount in monthly instalments of twenty dinars for “violating the commitment to service.” My mother guaranteed me for the one thousand dinars, and we were able to find a joint guarantor for my mother – a school colleague where she worked. This was how we were able to lift the ban on my travel on January 4, 1972. I was only interested in the airport but my name was on the travel list ban at more than 40 border crossing and exit points.  After I left Iraq, my mother started paying the monthly instalments. When my parents got ready to travel in July 1973, my mother paid the remaining amount to her colleague – about 600 dinars, so that so she would not bear any responsibility in case she wanted to leave Iraq and lift any potential travel ban.
Again, we booked the flight to London on January 9, 1972 – 50 years ago. That morning I forbade my mother from throwing water behind me: I didn’t want to return! This time I really boarded the flight in the middle of the morning – I couldn’t believe I was actually on board. I was afraid that at the last minute I would be blocked and even thought that the ‘plane would return to the airport. After 20 minutes of flying, the air hostess came to me where I was sitting in economy class, having bought a cheap ticket as a student. Fear returned for a moment, but the air hostess told me that she was arranging the seats and asked me if I wanted to move to first class! What a surprise and of course I said yes – perhaps luck finally smiled at me. I sat next to a Frenchman who worked for the French Oil Company ERAP. Since I knew French, I told him it was my first time flying, but talked no more.
I looked out of the window and saw a large body of water. I asked him what it was, and if I remember correctly, it was al-Tharthar lake, north west of Baghdad. After about an hour into the flight, I saw mountains and asked him again where we were. He told me that we had crossed the Iraqi border and these were the mountains of Turkey. I shouted “Thank God”. He looked at me with a surprised and questioning face. Only then did I realize that there was no chance of forcibly returning me to the hell that I had left behind.
I told him my story.
To be continued

 

Comment
Share

0 comments

 

 

Post-1967 prisoners’ ordeal described on video

It is a little known fact that Egypt took its revenge for its defeat at the hands of Israel in the Six Day War by arresting 400 Jews – almost the entire Jewish male population in the country between the ages of 16 and 65. They were paraded as Israeli PoWs and sent to the Abu Zaabal and Tourah detention camps near Cairo. Some were released after a few weeks; the last prisoners were only freed after three years and summarily deported.

Dr Rami Mangoubi: recording painful history

Scholars appear to have ignored this episode. Egyptian historians deny that Jews were imprisoned. The story is mentioned by the historian Michael Laskier. But it does not figure  in the book The dispersion of Egyptian Jewry  by  Joel Beinin, although while researching his book, Beinin had actually spoken to several people who had survived the ordeal.

It was to plug this gap that Dr Rami Mangoubi recorded a series of videos in October and November 2021 with Sami Douek of the organisation of Jews from Egypt in Brazil.

Rami Mangoubi was 15 in 1967. His brother  Sami was  interned in the notorious Abu Zaabal camp. The police  who came to take Sami away from the family apartment promised it would only be for 10 minutes. As Rami wrote in the Jerusalem Post, ten minutes turned into three years, nine days, 17 hours and 58 minutes.

The third and fourth of Rami’s video diaries carry a health warning – not for the faint-hearted : in them Rami describes the appalling conditions in the detention camps, where 70 inmates were crammed into a 9-square metre cell. Each prisoner had so little room he had to sleep on his side.  Disabled Jews were interned and abused, often by prison guards who boasted they had been trained by Nazi war criminals given  refuge in Egypt. Rami’s uncle was left with a  permanent twitch after he was tortured.  Inmates were made to walk on broken glass, the rabbi of Alexandria was chained to a door and publically beaten. Young and fair-skinned prisoners were sexually abused. Some were so traumatised they committed suicide after their release.

At long last, a book describing this painful chapter in Egyptian-Jewish history, Cinq minutes tout au plus, was published in Hebrew in 2018 and in French in 2019. It is by Ovadia Yeroushalmy who  spent two years incarcerated in the Cairo prison camps after the police had told him they wanted to see him for no  longer than five minutes. Yeroushalmy Hebraised  his  name  from Abdel Aziz Al-Afrangi. Al-Afrangi was not allowed to study at Cairo University’s Department of Economics and Political Science as he was not an Egyptian citizen. He moved to Israel on his release. His book was turned into a play.

To see the four videos click here

 

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

 The
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

 

About

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.