Tag: Jewish refugees/ Palestinians

Israel’s UN envoy intends to fight for justice for Jewish refugees

The signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and certain Arab states has brought about a sea change in their relationship. But as far as the way Jews of the Middle East are viewed, it is not enough. In this significant Israel Hayom piece, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s UN ambassador who was recently elected of one 21 annual vice-presidents – a role which allows him to  help set the agenda – says he is determined to raise awareness of the forgotten Jewish  refugees from Arab countries and the billions of dollars’ worth of plundered Jewish property. (With thanks: Imre)

'UN must recognize Jews from Middle East countries as refugees'
Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan: building on the Abraham Accords (Photo: Shahar Azran)

One of the main events Erdan organized was a special demonstration outside the UN headquarters on Nov. 29, 2021, in response to the “Solidarity with the Palestinian People” conference that was held the same day in the UN General Assembly. The goal of the conference – which was attended by the president of the General Assembly, the president of the Security Council, and the Palestinian Authority envoy – was to strengthen support for “right of return” for Palestinians.

During the protest, Erdan sent trucks onto the streets of New York decorated with signs, and when they arrived at the UN headquarters, they displayed pictures of Jews expelled from Arab countries. The ambassador also attacked the UN for ignoring of the story of the expulsion of Jews and the plunder of their property.

“The UN strengthens the false and dangerous narrative of the Palestinians,” he declared. “In doing so it erases the Jewish history, distorts the truth and silences the tragic stories of the Jewish refugees – we won’t allow it to cause their stories to be forgotten. On Nov. 29, the day on which the Jews’ right to a state was recognized, and the day on which the Arabs and the Palestinians rejected the decision and tried to annihilate us – the UN dares to support only Palestinians and to promote the imaginary ‘right of return’ that would lead to the elimination of the Jewish State. What a disgrace!”

“Since that moving day that I was privileged to be a part of, when on the White House lawn, the historic Abraham Accords were signed with Bahrain and the UAE, more than a year has passed,” says Erdan. “We have managed to do so much: relations with the [Abraham Accords] countries have become closer with economic, cultural and strategic partnerships, and we have gone from being ‘friends on paper’ to becoming ‘real friends.’

“Since then, I’ve held joint meetings and events with Abraham Accords countries, including one mark International Women’s Day with the Moroccan ambassador to the United States, lighting Hanukkah candles with the Moroccan ambassador to the UN, planting a tree in honor of Earth Day with the Emirati ambassador to the United States – countries with whom we never dreamed we would achieve such intimacy.”

But as far as a change in how Jews from Middle East countries are viewed, Erdan says “it’s still not enough.”

“Although I held the protest event and I have worked to raise awareness of the issue, I intend to fight more – it’s just the beginning of the struggle,” he says, promising he will “utilize all the platforms – including the General Assembly that will take place in June and the different meetings that will be part of it – in order to place this important issue on the daily agenda, and to put forward a significant resolution at the UN for recognizing the Jewish refugees from Arab countries and Iran.”

Read article in full





Jews never relinquished rights to the Western Wall

Today is Jerusalem Day, when Jews celebrate the re-unification of the city under Israeli rule after the Six-Day War. However,  Arabs have been disputing Jewish rights over  the Western Wall since the 1920s. Rav Kook Torah reminds us of an interesting episode in 1930, when  Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Abraham Isaac Kook appeared before a League of Nations Committee to assert that, according to Jewish law,  Jews  had never relinquished their ownership rights to the Western Wall. (with thanks: Nelly)

Rav Kook: ‘God-given rights’

Already in the time of the first British High Commissioner, Hajj Amin al-Husseini was appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, spiritual and national leader of the Arabs. One of the many devices that the infamous mufti employed in his fight against the Jewish national return to Eretz Yisrael was to repudiate all Jewish rights to the Kotel HaMa’aravi, the Western Wall.

The Arabs gained a partial victory in 1922, when the British Mandatory Government issued a ban against placing benches near the Kotel. In 1928, British officers interrupted the Yom Kippur service and forcibly dismantled the mechitzah separating men and women during prayer.

A few months later, the Mufti and his cohorts devised a new provocation. They began holding Muslim religious ceremonies opposite the Kotel, precisely when the Jews were praying. To make matters worse, the British authorities granted the Arabs permission to transform the building adjacent to the Kotel into a mosque, complete with a tower for the muezzin, the crier calling Moslems to prayer five times a day. The muezzin’s vociferous trills were certain to disturb the Jewish prayers.

Active Arab turbulence reached its peak during the bloody riots of 1929. On the 10th of Av, some 2,000 Arabs swarmed the Kotel, chasing away the Jews praying there and burning several Torah scrolls. The following week, rioting broke out in Jerusalem and spread throughout the country. Nearly a hundred Jews were slaughtered in the riots, mainly in Hebron and Jerusalem.In the summer of 1930, the League of Nations dispatched a committee to Eretz Yisrael to clarify the ownership of the Western Wall. The Arabs claimed to be the rightful owners, not only of the Temple Mount but of the Kotel as well. They rejected any agreement that permitted Jews to pray at the Kotel. It is solely a Muslim site, the Mufti claimed; the Jews may pray at the Kotel only by the good grace of the Arabs.
When Rav Kook appeared before the Commission, he turned to the chairman with deep emotion:

“What do you mean when you say, ‘The Commission will decide to whom the Wall belongs’? Does this commission or the League of Nations own the Wall? Who gave you permission to decide to whom it belongs? The entire world belongs to the Creator, blessed be He; and He transferred ownership of the entire Land of Israel — including the Kotel — to the Jewish people [Rashi on Gen. 1:1]. No power in the world, not the League of Nations, nor this commission, can take this God-given right away from us.”

The chairman retorted that the Jews have not been in control of the Land of Israel or the Wall for close to two thousand years. At this point, Rav Kook decided the members of the commission needed to learn a lesson in Jewish law. Calmly and respectfully, he explained:

“In Jewish law, the concept of yei’ush be’alim [‘owner’s despair’] applies also to real estate. [That is, the owner of a stolen tract of land forfeits his ownership if he gives up hope of ever retrieving it.] However, if a person’s land is stolen and he continuously protests the theft, the owner retains his ownership for all time.” 1

Rav Kook’s proud appearance before the commission made a powerful impact on the Jewish community.

Read article in full

Addendum: Yet by the Muslim clerics’ own admission,  the Jewish identity of Temple Mount and the Western Wall was acknowledged as ‘beyond dispute’. According to MEMRI, the Jerusalem-based Supreme Muslim Council, which was headed by Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, published a 16-page informational booklet in 1925 about the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound titled A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif. The booklet establishes that the site is holy to Jews and that the ancient Jewish temples had stood there. (With thanks:Lily).

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)

No UN agency was set up for Jewish refugees

In reaction to an article by the historian Benny Morris mentioning Palestinian refugees, CEO of the American Jewish Committee David Harris notes  in the Wall street Journal the double standard operating at the UN with regard to the world’s actual refugees, and Jewish refugees from Arab countries:

David Harris of the AJC

Unrwa’s mission made no reference to refugee resettlement, and its definition of a Palestinian refugee included future generations without any time limit.

Meanwhile, some 20 million non-Palestinian refugees are under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), whose mandate is limited to actual refugees, whose aim is to resettle as many as possible in countries where they can find safety and opportunity, and whose workforce is smaller than Unrwa’s. This triggers the question of why Unrwa operates on its own, rather than under the UNHCR structure, and how long its open-ended mandate will continue.

Finally, it should be noted that there were also some 850,000 Jewish refugees as a result of persecution and violence in Arab lands, beginning largely in the 1940s. No special U.N. agency was set up for them. They eventually found new homes in Israel, Europe and North and South America, and their trauma has largely been ignored by history.

Read article in full

More from David Harris

Why are Jews so quick to defend our enemies?

If we talk about the Arab nakba, we should, as a matter of law and equity, also talk about the Jewish nakba of 870,000 refugees from Arab countries, writes Lyn Julius in the Jewish Chronicle in response to a plea by a young Jew for schools to teach Palestinian views.

Infographic by Elder of Ziyon

Writing here last month, Sabrina Miller made a plea: Jewish schools should teach Palestinian views. Her argument was that this would help woefully ill-informed young Jews better to argue Zionism’s case once they arrive on campus. Although the plea came with the best of intentions, it risks falling into a trap. The nakba (an Arabic term for the ‘catastrophic’ exodus of 710,000 Palestinian refugees) is the self-inflicted consequence of the Arab decision to go to war in 1948 — a war which their side instigated and lost. To talk of the nakba without balance or context would be to promote a one-sided narrative of Palestinian victimhood.

If we mention the Arab nakba, we are compelled as a matter of law and equity to talk about the Jewish nakba (I use the expression for convenience). As many as 870,000 Jews (persecuted by the Arab League as the “Jewish minority of Palestine”) were driven from, or fled, the Arab world at around the same time as the Palestinian refugees — and as a consequence of the same conflict, merely because Jews in Arab lands shared the same religion and ethnicity as Israelis.

Why should we take only the Palestinian refugee cause seriously, while dismissing the Jewish refugees? Why are Jews so quick to empathise with our enemies, while failing to defend our own rights? Furthermore, no credible and lasting peace settlement could be reached if the grievances of more than half the Jews of Israel — refugees from Muslim lands or their descendants — are ignored.

Recognising the Jewish nakba, the mass displacement and dispossession of ancient Middle Eastern Jewish communities, is central to achieving reconciliation. It would mean acknowledging that an irreversible exchange of refugees took place, similar to exchanges which occurred as a result of other 20th Century nationalist conflicts.

One cannot teach about the Arab nakba without also teaching about its root cause: Arab rejectionism. Today, such rejectionism has religious overtones. The Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be divorced from the eliminationist intentions of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian ayatollahs and Islamist groups generally. These do not even bother to camouflage their genocidal aims in terms acceptable to western ears, such as “occupation”, “settlements” and “Palestinian human rights”.

Diaspora Jews do not make the right counter-arguments because our approach to Israel is frustratingly “Ashkenormative”. The tragedy of the Mizrahi (eastern) communities is not known to the majority of Ashkenazi Jews. Consequently, we don’t adequately make the case for Jews in general.

Israel is the vindication of an aboriginal Middle Eastern people’s aspirations for self-determination. Over half its Jewish population — Mizrahim from the Muslim world — never left the region and pre-dated the Arab conquest by 1,000 years or more. (The long sojourn of Ashkenazim in Europe does not make them any less Middle Eastern in origin, culture and identity.) Why should Arabs have 22 states, while other indigenous victims of Arab imperialism such as the Amazigh (Berbers) or the Kurds — 99 per cent of whom have voted for an independent state — have no political rights? To the latter, Israel is an inspiration.

Moreover, far from being a “white colonial settler” state, Israel is the native response to a long history of subjugation to Muslim antisemitism. The creation of Israel marked the final deliverance of Jews from a form of historic, but resurgent, Muslim colonialism towards non-Muslims which gave them “dhimmi” status. Like women, whose purpose is to serve Muslim men — witness their treatment today by the Taliban — dhimmi Jews and Christians under sharia law occupied the penultimate rung on the social ladder, just above slaves. They lived in the Muslim world under sufferance, not as of right.

Our children ought to see the Jews of Israel as a “people of colour” who have thrown off the yoke of submission.

Israel’s supporters could indeed deploy ironclad arguments, if only they are given the right facts.

Read article in full


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.