The establishment of the State of Israel was considered to have made the Jews kaffir harbi, Infidels at war with Islam, whose contract of protection (dhimma) was thus revoked. These expulsions and killings followed. “November Is the Cruelest Month,” by Lyn Julius in (of all places) the Huffington Post, November 25:
To paraphrase TS Eliot, November was always a cruel month for Jewish citizens of Arab states – and never more so than in the 1940s.
Three popular myths surround the 870,000 Jews who left Arab countries after Israel was born. The first is that they departed of their own free will. Second, if they did flee as refugees, it was because Arab states lashed out spontaneously against their Jewish citizens like a bull to a red rag (and who could blame them?). Third, the Arab states took revenge on their Jews for the plight of Arabs driven out of Palestine.
There are several things wrong with this reading of history. First, the pressures on Jews were shared with other non-Muslim and ethnic minorities. Secondly, Arab leaders were making threats against their own Jewish citizens, and devised a coordinated plan to persecute them, before the 1947 UN Partition Plan was passed. Thirdly, violent riots against defenseless Jews in Arab countries preceded the outbreak of war in Palestine and the resulting flight of several hundred thousand Arab refugees.
Sixty-six years ago this week, the Political Committee of the UN General Assembly sat down to debate the proposed Partition of Palestine. The Egyptian delegate, Heykal Pasha, made the following remarks:
“The United Nations…should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in the Muslim countries. Partition of Palestine might create antisemitism in those countries even more difficult to root out than the antisemitism which the Allies tried to eradicate in Germany…If a Jewish state is established, nobody could prevent disorders. Riots would break out in Palestine, would spread through all the Arab states and might lead to a war between two races.”
Sure enough, a wave of violence spread in Egypt following the vote in favor of Partition on 29 November 1947. Demonstrations were called for 2 – 5 December. It was only because the police prevented the mob from attacking the Cairo Jewish quarter that lives were spared.
In Bahrain, beginning on 5 December, crowds began looting Jewish homes and shops and destroyed the synagogue. Two elderly ladies were killed.
In Aleppo, Syria, the Jewish community was devastated by a mob led by the Muslim Brotherhood. At least 150 homes, 50 shops, all 18 synagogues, five schools, an orphanage and a youth club were destroyed. Many people were killed, but the exact figure is not known. Over half the city’s 10,000 Jews fled into Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine.
In Aden, the police could not contain the rioting. By the time order was restored on 4 December, 82 Jews had been killed. Of 170 Jewish-owned shops, 106 were destroyed. The synagogue and two schools were among the Jewish institutions burnt down.
Arab statesmen were making threats against their Jewish citizens six months before Ben Gurion declared Israel established.
More alarming still, Jews had been targeted for violence years earlier. In Iraq, 179 Jews were murdered in a Nazi-inspired pogrom, the Farhud, seven years before Israel was created.
In November 1945, two years before Israel was declared, and before the UN Partition Plan vote, a series of anti-Jewish riots broke out in several Arab countries on the anniversary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
In Egypt, anti-Zionist demonstrations were called by the Muslim Brotherhood, Misr al-Fatat and the Young Men’s Muslim Association. Mass demonstrations took place on Balfour Day (2 November) in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities.
Jewish businesses in Cairo and in the Jewish Quarter were looted and the Ashkenazi synagogue ransacked. The disturbances soon spilled over into anti-dhimmi violence, with Coptic, Greek Orthodox and Catholic institutions also attacked. Of 500 businesses looted, 109 belonged to Jews.
Amazingly, only one policeman was killed in Cairo. Five Jews were among six killed in Alexandria.
Far worse was the pogrom in Libya which began on 4 November 1945 in Tripoli. Thousands went on the rampage in the Jewish quarter and bazaar. Jewish homes and businesses had been marked out beforehand for exclusive attack.
The violence spread to other towns. Over three days of rioting, the police stood by and British and US servicemen on the outskirts waited until three days later to impose a curfew. By then 130 Jews were dead including 36 children. Women were raped, some 4,000 Jews were left homeless and nine synagogues destroyed.
In Syria a mob broke into the great synagogue in Aleppo and beat up two elderly men. In Iraq, the government avoided a repeat of the 1941 Farhud by banning public demonstrations.
But in November 1947, the blood-curdling threats coming from Arab officials were none other than state-sanctioned incitement….