Religious Persecution of Jews by Arabs
Before the Jewish state was established, there existed nothing to harm good relations between Arabs and Jews. -- The late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, November 1973, to Henry Kissinger
We are not against the Jews. On the contrary, we are all Semites and we have been living with each other in peace and fraternity, Muslims, Jews and Christians, for many centuries. -Yasser Arafat, head of the PLO
Since the rebirth of Israel, hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands have swarmed into the new state. In 1948 more than 850,000 Jews lived in the Arab world. Today there are fewer than 29,000, a shadow of the former ancient community. Most of those Jewish refugees fled to Israel. Where did they come from with such urgency -- and why?
Contrary to the myth that Jews lived in harmony with the Arabs before the Zionist state, innumerable authoritative works document decisively the subjugation, ppression, and spasmodic anti-Jewish eruptions of violence that darkened the existence of the Jews in Muslim Arab countries.
In truth, before the seventh-century advent of the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, Jews and Arabs did have harmonious relations, and words of praise regarding the noble virtues of the Jews may be found in ancient Arab literature. (Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History, 4th rev. ed. (New York, Evanston, San Francisco, London: Harper-Colophon Books, 1966), pp. 31-32; S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society, vols. I and 11
[Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: 197-1), p. 28; see also H.Z. Hirschberg, The Jews in Islamic Lands, 2nd rev. ed. (Leiden, 1974). ]
Before the Arab conquest, in fact, some rulers of Arabia "had indeed embraced Judaism," as Muslim historians attest.
The Koran itself has been witness to the Jewish nature of the "Israelite communities of Arabia": Koranic references appear about the rabbis and the Torah, which they read, and the prestige and reverence with which the earlier community viewed them.
[2.S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs, Their Contacts Through the Ages, 3rd ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1974), p. 49.]
The Koran contains so many legends and theological ideas found in Talmudic literature that we are able to draw a picture of the spiritual life of the Jews with whom Mohammed must have come into contact.. [Ibid., p. 50. ]
It was the Prophet Muhammad himself who attempted to negate the positive titage of the Jew that had been prevalent earlier. According to historian Bernard Lewis, the Prophet Muhammad's original plan had been to induce the Jews to adopt Islam;
[Lewis, Arabs in History, p. 42; also see Norman A. Stillman, The Jews ofArab Lands.- A History and Source Book (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979), pp. 113-114. For further information and fascinating reading, the Stillman work provides new and in-depth insights into the "Jewish social history in the Arab world, spanning 1500 years," with original translations from Arabic and other languages.]
When Muhammad began his rule at Medina in A.D. 622 he counted few supporters, so he adopted several Jewish practices-including daily prayer facing toward Jerusalem and the fast of Yom Kippur-in the hope of wooing the Jews. But the Jewish community rejected the Prophet Muhammad's religion, preferring to adhere to its own beliefs, whereupon Muhammad subsequently substituted Mecca for Jerusalem, and dropped many of the Jewish practices.
Three years later, Arab hostility against the Jews commenced, when the Meccan army exterminated the Jewish tribe of Quraiza.
[Lewis, Arabs in History, p. 45, pp. 38-48. See Chapter 8.]
As a result of the Prophet Muhammad's resentment, the Holy Koran itself contains many of his hostile denunciations of Jews
[See examples in Chapter 4; also see Stillman, The Jews, "Some Koranic Pronouncements on the Jews," pp. 150-151.]
…and bitter attacks upon the Jewish tradition, which undoubtedly have colored the beliefs of religious Muslims down to the present.
Omar, the caliph who succeeded Muhammad, delineated in his Charter of Omar the twelve laws under which a dhimmi, or non-Muslim, was allowed to exist as a "nonbeliever" among "believers." The Charter codified the conditions of life for Jews under Islam -- a life which was forfeited if the dhimmi broke this law. Among the restrictions of the Charter:
Jews were forbidden to touch the Koran;
forced to wear a distinctive (sometimes dark blue or black) habit with sash;
compelled to wear a yellow piece of cloth as a badge (blue for Christians);
not allowed to perform their religious practices in public;
not allowed to own a horse, because horses were deemed noble;
not permitted to drink wine in public;
and required to bury their dead without letting their grief be heard by the Muslims.
[Andre Chouraqui, Between East and West, A History of the Jews of North Africa, trans. from French by Michael M. Bernet (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968), pp. 45-46; D.G. Littman, Jews Under Muslim Rule in the Late Nineteenth Century, reprinted from the Weiner Library Bulletin, 1975, vol. XXVIII, New Series Nos. 35/36 (London, 1975), p. 65].
As a grateful payment for being allowed so to live and be "protected," a dhimmi paid a special head tax and a special property tax, the edict for which came directly from the Koran: "Fight against those [Jews and Christians] who believe not in Allah ... until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low."
[The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, Surah IX, v. 29, Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, ed. (New York: Mentor Books, 1953).]
In addition, Jews faced the danger of incurring the wrath of a Muslim, in which case the Muslim could charge, however falsely, that the Jew had cursed Islam, an accusation against which the Jew could not defend himself Islamic religious law decreed that, although murder of one Muslim by another Muslim was punishable by death, a Muslim who murdered a non-Muslim was given not the death penalty, but only the obligation to pay "blood money" to the family of the slain infidel. Even this punishment was unlikely, however, because the law held the testimony of a Jew or a Christian invalid against a Muslim, and the penalty could only be exacted under improbable conditions-when two Muslims were willing to testify against a brother Muslim for the sake of an infidel.
[Chouraqui, Between East and West, p. 46. Also see Hayyim Cohen, The Jews of the Middle East 1860-1972 (New York, 1973); S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs. ]
The demeanment of Jews as represented by the Charter has carried down through the centuries, its implementation inflicted with varying degrees of cruelty or inflexibility, depending upon the character of the particular Muslim ruler. When that rule was tyrannical, life was abject slavery, as in Yemen, where one of the Jews' tasks was to clean the city latrines and another was to clear the streets of animal carcasses-without pay, often on their Sabbath.
The restrictions under Muslim law always included the extra head tax regardless of the ruler's relative tolerance. This tax was enforced in some form until 1909 in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey; until 1925 in Iran; and was still enforceable in Yemen until the present generation. The clothing as well as the tax and the physical humiliation also varied according to whim. Thus, in Morocco, Jews had to wear black slippers,
[World Jewish Congress, The Jews of French Morocco and Tunisia (New York, 1952).]
…while in Yemen, Jewish women were forced to wear one white and one black shoe.
[Saul Friedman, "The Myth of Arab Toleration," Midstream, January 1970; Goitein, Jews and Arabs, p. 67T ]
[* The edict set by the Sultan of Morocco in 1884 varies somewhat, as did most interpretations of the dhimma law. His restrictions also included insistence that Jews work on their sacred day of rest; carry heavy burdens on their backs; work without pay; clean foul places and latrines; part with merchandise at half price; lend beasts of burden without payment; accept false coinage instead of negotiable currency; take fresh skins in return for tanned hides; hold their beds and furniture at the disposal of government guests, etc.]
Jews were relegated to Arab-style Jewish ghettos -- hara, mellah, or simply Jewish Quarter were the names given the areas where Jews resided -- recorded by travelers over the centuries, as well as by Jewish chroniclers. A visitor to forteenth-century Egypt, for example, commented in passing on the separate Jew-quarter,
[Ibn Battuta, Ibn Battuta Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354, trans. and selected with introduction and notes by H.A.R. Gibb (London, 1929), p. 125.]
2and five hundred years later another visitor in the nineteenth century verified the continuation of the separated Jewish existence:
"There are in this country about five thousand Jews (in Arabic, called 'Yahood'; singular, 'Yahoodee'), most of whom reside in the metropolis, in a miserable, close and dirty quarter, intersected by lanes, many of which are so narrow as hardly to admit two persons passing each other in them."
[Edward William Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians 1833-1835 (London, New York, Melbourne: 1890), p. 512.]
In 1920, those Jewish families in Cairo whose financial success had allowed them out of the ghetto, under relatively tolerant rule, had been replaced by "poor Jewish immigrants." Thus, although the character of the population may have changed, the squalor and crowding remained.
As one writer, a Jew, observed:
“Our people are crowded and clustered into houses about to collapse, in dark cellars, narrow alleys and crooked lanes choked with mud and stinking refuse, earning their meagre living in dark shops and suffocating workshops, toiling back to back, sunscorched and sleepless. Their hard struggle for existence both inside and outside the home is rewarded by a few beans and black bread.”
[The visit to Harat al-Yahud, Cairo's Jewish Quarter, was recorded in letters from a journalist in Arabic dated June I I and June 18, 1920, cited by Jacob M. Landau, Jews in Nineteenth Century Egypt (New York, 1969), pp. 30-31.]
Under no circumstances were Jews considered truly equal. Among the Jews in Arab lands were many individual personal successes and regionalized intermittent prosperity, but the tradition of persecution was characteristic throughout most of Jewish history under Arab rule.
[Hayyim J. Cohen, The Jews of the Middle East 1860-1972 (Jerusalem, 1973), pp. 1-3.]
If the dhimmi burdens were light in one particular region, the Jew had the residue of fear left from the previous history of pogroms and humiliations in his area. These harsh and ancient dhimma restrictions persisted even up to the present time to some degree, in some Arab communities, and their spirit -- if not their letter -- continued generally throughout the Arab world.
[See interviews in Chapter 6.]
Throughout the centuries, the Jews were the first to suffer persecution in times of economic turmoil or political upheaval,
[Goitein, Jews and Arabs, pp. 6-7, 87, 88, for examples. ]
and the cumulative effect of the sporadic mass murders left their mark on the Jews even in periods of relative quiescence. In Syria, the infamous blood libel of 1840 brought about the death, torture, and pillage of countless Jews falsely accused of murdering a priest and his servant to collect the blood for Passover matzoth!
[Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, 5 vols. (New York, 1927), vol. 5, pp. 634-639. ]
Before the Jews were finally vindicated of this slander, word of the charges had spread far from Damascus, causing terror in numerous Jewish communities.
The scurrilous blood libel has not been purged from Arab literature, however. In fact, the Arabs seem in the past two decades to have seized upon this primitive old calumny with renewed vigor. In 1962 the UAR (Egyptian) Ministry of Education published "Human Sacrifices in the Talmud" as one of a series of official "national" books. Bearing on its cover the symbol of the Egyptian Institute for Publications, this modem book is a reprint of an 1890 work by a writer in Cairo.
[By Habib Faris, 1890, original title in newspaper, 1890: "The Cry of the Innocent with the Trumpet of Freedom," originally published in Egyptian newspaper al-Mahrusa, then as 1890 book, Human Sacrifices in the Talmud Book republished in 1962 as one of a series of information pamphlets, "National Books," no. 184, 1962, 164 pages, listed as one of the publications by UAR Ministry of Education, # 393 1, edited by Abd a]-Ati Jalal, introduction dated June 16, 1962. Cited by Y. Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel (Jerusalem, 1971), pp. 270-271. ]
In the introduction, the editor shares his discovery: "conclusive evidence ... that this people permits bloodshed and makes it a religious obligation laid down by the Talmud." The editor's description becomes more vile as it purports to become more explicit regarding the "Indictment."
[Ibid., cited in Harkabi, Arab Attitudes, p. 271.]
Two years later, in 1964, a professor at the University of Damascus published his own affirmation of the nineteenth-century blood libel, stating that the wide attention given the story served a valid purpose: to wam mothers against letting their children out late at night, "lest the Jew ... come and take their blood for the purpose of making matzot for Passover."
[Abd al-Karim Gharayiba, Suriyyafi al-Qarn al-TosiAshar 1840-1876 (Cairo, 1961-62), p. 47, cited by Moshe Ma'oz, The Image of the Jew in Official Arab Literature and Communications Media (Jerusalem, 1976), p. 21.]
Still another version, also published in the 1960s, "The Danger of World Jewry to Islam and Christianity," alleges that thousands of children and others disappear each year, and all of them are victims of guess who?
['Abdallah al-Tall, The Danger of World Jewry to Islam and Christianity (in Arabic) (Cairo, 1964), p. 104, cited by Harkabi, Arab Attitudes, pp. 273-274. ]
They've even dramatized the infamous canard for the theater. In November 1973, a former minister in the Egyptian Foreign Service published a play based on the 1840 blood libel in Damascus-replete with gory descriptions-in a widely circulated Egyptian weekly.
[Mustafa Sa'adani, "The Tragedy of Good Father Thomas," Akhir Saah, November 28, 1973, cited by Ma'oz, The Image of the Jew, p. 22. ]
During the same month the late Saudi Arabian King Faisal stressed the importance of the blood libel of 1840 in Damascus as a requisite to understanding "Zionist crime."
[AI-Soyyad, November 29, 1973, as cited by Ma'oz, The Image of the Jew, p. 23. ]
And in 1982, shortly after Israel transferred its much coveted Sinai territory to Egypt for a more coveted peace, the Egyptian press (government-run) dredged up inflammatory variations on the horrible theme. Two examples: ". . . The Israelis are Israelis and their favorite drink is Arab blood... ."
["Sanctifying War and Hating Peace," by Salem al-Yamani, Al-Gumhuriya, June 22, 1982. ]
and "A Jew ... drinks their blood for a few coins."
["The Arabs and the Jews-Who Will Destroy Whom?" by Dr. Lutfi Abd Al-Azim, AI-Ahram Iktisadi, September 27, 1982. ]
The departure of European colonists in the twentieth century brought into being a highly nationalistic group of Arab states, which increasingly perceived their Jews as a new political threat.* The previous Arab Muslim ambivalence -- an ironic possessive attitude toward "their" Jews, coupled with the omnipresent implementing of the harsh dhimma law -- was gradually replaced by a completely demoniacal and negative stereotype of the Jew. Traditional Koranic slurs against the Jews were implemented to incite hostility toward the Jewish national movement. The Nazi anti-Semitism in the 1930s and 1940s flourished in this already receptive climate.
[* The Arab reaction seems not dissimilar to that of a Ku Klux Klansman in the United States, responding vehemently to the question I once asked about his attitude toward integration: "They're our 'Niggers,' and we've taken good care of'em, but I'll be damned if I'll let 'em take over.... Our 'Niggers' don't really wanna vote, y'know." (The epithet is his.) Chicago Daily News, April 10, 1965.]
Although Arabs themselves frequently speak of "anti-Semitism" as synonymous with anti-Jewishness -- before the 1947 partition, for example, Egyptian UN Representative Haykal Pasha warned the General Assembly that partition would bring "anti-Semitism" worse than Hitler's
[Official Records of the Second Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Summary Record of Meetings 25 September-25 November, 1947, p. 185. During the proposed partition of Palestine, in November, 1947, Egyptian Representative in the United Nations General Assembly, Haykal Pasha, declared that "The Arab governments will do all in their power to defend the Jewish citizens in their countries, but we all know that an excited crowd is sometimes stronger than the police. Unintentionally, you are about to spark an anti-Semitic fire in the Middle East which will be more difficult to extinguish than it was in Germany." The Egyptian spokesman's threat made clear that the Arab world has interpreted the term "anti-Semitism" correctly -- in the only sense it has been used historically -as a definition of anti-Jewish attitude and action. Arabs do not, as Egypt's President Sadat and others have occasionally claimed, use it themselves as a term connoting both Arabs and Jews. ]
Frequently they justify or obscure an anti-Jewish action by saying, "How can I be anti-Semitic? I'm a Semite myself." According to Professor S. D. Goitein, "the word 'semitic' was coined by an l8th-century German scholar, concerned with linguistics.... The idea of a Semitic race was invented and cultivated in particular in order to emphasize the inalterable otherness and alien character of the Jews living in Europe."
[Goitein, Mediterranean Society, vol. II, p. 283. ]
Another eminent Arabist, Bernard Lewis, dates the invention of the term "anti-Semitism" to 1862, although "the racial ideology that gave rise to it was already well established in the early 19th century. Instead of -- or as well as -- an unbeliever ... the Jew was now labeled as a member of an alien and inferior race...
[Bernard Lewis, Islam in History: Ideas, Men and Events in the Middle East (New York: The Library Press, 1973), p. 136. ]
As early as 1940 the Muffi of Jerusalem requested the Axis powers to acknowledge the Arab right "to settle the question of Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries in accordance with the national and racial interests of the Arabs and along lines similar to those used to solve the Jewish question in Germany and Italy."
[Fritz Grobba, Manner und Machte im Orient (Zurich, Berlin, Frankfurt, 1967), p. 194-197, 207-208. Bernard Lewis notes that "this draft was an Arab request to the Germans, not a German offer to the Arabs." Also see: Jon Kimche, The Second Arab Awakening (London, 1970); L. Hirszowicz, The Third Reich and the Arab East (London, 1966), particularly regarding Mufti's 1937 contact with the Nazis: p. 34. ]
[* For a discussion of Jewish-Arab relations in Palestine, see The Myth of Palestinian Nationalism, narrowly defined, anti-Semitism]
Hitler's crimes against the Jews have frequently been justified in Arab writings and pronouncements. In the 1950s, Minister Anwar Sadat published an open letter to Hitler, hoping he was still alive and sympathizing with his cause. Important Arab writers and political figures have said Hitler was "wronged and slandered, for he did no more to the Jews than Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, the Romans, the Byzantines, Titus, Mohammed and the European peoples who slaughtered the Jews before him." Or that Hitler wanted to "save ... the world from this malignant evil..."
[Sadat's letter, Al Musawwar, No. 1510, September 18,1953, cited in D.F. Green, ed., Arab Theologians on Jews and Israel (Geneva, 1976 ed.), p. 87. Quoted also by Gideon Hausner, November 16, 1971, at New York. Also see Harkabi, Arab Attitudes, pp. 276-277, for other examples. ]
Arab defense of the Nazis' extermination of the Jews has persisted: prominent Egyptian writer Anis Mansour wrote in 1973 that-
"People all over the world have come to realize that Hitler was right, since Jews . . . are bloodsuckers . . . interested in destroying the whole world which has . . . expelled them and despised them for centuries ... and burnt them in Hitler's crematoria ... one million ... six millions. Would that he had finished it!"
[Al-Akhbar, August 19, 1973. ]
Mansour alleged at another time that the vicious medieval blood libel was historical truth: "the Jews confessed" that they had killed the children and used their blood; thus he justifies persecution and pogroms of "the wild beasts."
[Akhar Saah, Cairo, April 10, 1974, cited by Ma'oz, The Image of the Jew, p. 22. ]
That article was followed by a "report," after Mansour returned from representing Egypt at the Fortieth International PEN (writers') Conference in 1975 in Vienna. In it, Mansour continued the theme: "The Jews are guilty" for Nazism; ". . . the world can only curse the Jews ... The Jews have only themselves to blame." Mansour was angry that "the whole world" protested "all because" a "teacher" told the Jewish waiter serving him in Vienna that Hitler committed a grave error in not doing away with more of you ....'"
[Akhar Saah, Cairo, December 3, 1975. ]
It was from such a climate that the Jews had escaped, seeking refuge in Israel.
This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst
Brooklyn, New York
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THE PERSECUTION OF JEWS IN YEMEN PRIOR TO 1948
In Yemen from the seventh century on the Jewish populations suffered the severest possible interpretation of the Charter of Omar. For about 4 centuries, the Jews suffered under the fierce fanatical edict of the most intolerant Islamic sects. The Yemen Epistle by Rambam in which he commiserated with Yemen's Jewry and besought them to keep the faith, and in 1724 fanatical rulers ordered synagogues destroyed, and Jewish public prayers were forbidden. The Jews were exiled, many died from starvation and the survivors were ordered to settle in Mausa, but later, this order was annulled by a decree in 1781 due to the need of their skilled craftsmen.
Jacob Sappir a Jerusalem writer describes Yemeni Jews in Yemen in 1886:
"The Arab natives have always considered the Jew unclean, but his blood for them was not considered unclean. They lay claims to all his belongings, and if he is unwilling, they employ force...The Jews live outside the town in dark dwellings like prison cells or caves out of fear...for the least offense, he is sentenced to outrageous fines, which he is quite unable to pay. In case of non-payment, he is put in chains and cruelly beaten every day.
Before the punishment is inflicted, the Cadi [judge] addresses him in gentle tones and urges him to change his faith and obtain a share of all the glory of this world and of the world beyond. His refusal is again regarded as penal obstinacy. On the other hand, it is not open to the Jew to prosecute a Muslim, as the Muslim by right of law can dispose of the life and the property of the Jew, and it is only to be regarded as an act of magnanimity if the Jews are allowed to live. The Jew is not admissible as a witness, nor has his oath any validity.".
Danish-German explorer Garsten Neibuhr visited Yemen in 1762 described Jewish life in Yemen:
"By day they work in their shops in San'a, but by night they must withdraw to their isolated dwellings, shortly before my arrival, 12 of the 14 synagogues of the Jews were torn down, and all their beautiful houses wrecked".
The Jews did not improve until the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1912, when they were given equality and religious autonomy. However, during World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco.
In 1922, the government of Yemen reintroduced an ancient Islamic law that decreed that Jewish orphans under age 12 were to be forcibly converted to Islam.
In 1947, after the partition vote, Muslim rioters, joined by the local police force, engaged in a bloody pogrom in Aden that killed 82 Jews and destroyed hundreds of Jewish homes. Aden's Jewish community was economically paralyzed, as most of the Jewish stores and businesses were destroyed. Early in 1948, looting occurred after six Jews were falsely accused of the ritual murder of two Arab girls. (Howard Sachar, A History of Israel).
By 1948 there were some 270,000 Jews in Morocco. In an atmosphere of uncertainty and grinding poverty, many Jews elected to leave for Israel, France, the United States, and Canada.
Finally, nearly 50,000 traditionally religious Yemeni Jews, who had never seen a plane, were airlifted to Israel in 1949 and in 1950 in Operation "Magic Carpet.". Since the Book of Isaiah promised, "They shall mount up with wings, as eagles". The Jewish community bordered "The Eagles" contentedly; to the pilots consternation some of them lit a bon fire aboard, to cook their food.
THE PERSECUTION OF JEWS IN MOROCCO PRIOR TO 1948
The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. There were Jews living there, before it became a Roman province.
In 1032 AD,6000 Jews were murdered. Indeed the greatest persecution by the Arabs towards the Jews was in Fez, Morocco, nothing was worse than the slaughter of 120,000 Jews in 1146 and before that
In 1160 Maimonides in his Epistle concerning apostasy writes his fellow Jews:
"Now we are asked to render the active homage to heathenism but only to recite an empty formula which the Moslems themselves knew we utter insincerely in order to circumvent the bigot ... indeed, any Jew who, after uttering the Muslim formula, wishes to observe the whole 613 precepts in the privacy of his home, may do so without hindrance. Nevertheless, if, even under circumstances, a Jew surrenders his life for the sanctification of the name of God before men, he has done nobly and his reward is great before the Lord.
But if a man asked me, "shall I be slain or utter the formula of Islam?"
I answer, "utter the formula and live ... "".
In 1391 a wave of Jewish refugees expelled from Spain brought new life to the community, as did new arrivals from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497.
From 1438, the Jews of Fez were forced to live in special quarters called mellahs, a name derived from the Arabic word for salt because the Jews in Morocco were forced to carry out the job of salting the heads of executed prisoners prior to their public display.
Chouraqui sums it up when he wrote: "such restriction and humiliation as to exceed anything in Europe".
Charles de Foucauld in 1883 who was not generally sympathetic to Jews writes of the Jews: "They are the most unfortunate of men, every Jew belongs body and soul to his seigneur, the sid[Arab master]".
Similarly, in 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier treated a Muslim woman in "an offensive manner." The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco.
THE PERSECUTION OF JEWS IN MOROCCO AFTER 1948
In June 1948, bloody riots in Oujda and Djerada killed 44 Jews and wounded scores more. That same year, an unofficial economic boycott was instigated against Moroccan Jews.
In 1956, Morocco declared its independence, and Jewish emigration to Israel was suspended. In 1963, emigration resumed, allowing more than 100,000 Moroccan Jews to reach Israel.
In 1965, Moroccan writer Said Ghallab described the attitude of his fellow Muslims toward their Jewish neighbors.
“The worst insult that a Moroccan could possibly offer was to treat someone as a Jew....My childhood friends have remained anti-Jewish. They hide their virulent anti-Semitism by contending that the State of Israel was the creature of Western imperialism....A whole Hitlerite myth is being cultivated among the populace. The massacres of the Jews by Hitler are exalted ecstatically. It is even credited that Hitler is not dead, but alive and well, and his arrival is awaited to deliver the Arabs from Israel. (Said Ghallab, "Les Juifs sont en enfer," in Les Temps Modernes, (April 1965), pp. 2247-2251. ).
THE PERSECUTION OF JEWS IN TUNISIA PRIOR TO 1948
The first documented evidence of Jews in this area dates back to 200 A.D and demonstrates the existence of a community in Latin Carthage under Roman rule. Latin Carthage contained a significant Jewish presence, and several sages mentioned in the Talmud lived in this area from the 2nd to the 4th centuries.
During the Byzantine period, the condition of the community took a turn for the worse. An edict issued by Justinian in 535 excluded Jews from public office, prohibited Jewish practice, and resulted in the transformation of synagogues into churches. Many fled to the Berber communities in the mountains and in the desert.
After the Arab conquest of Tunisia in the 7th century, Jews lived under satisfactory conditions, despite discriminatory measures such as a poll tax.
>From 7th century Arab conquest down through the Almahdiyeen atrocities, Tunisia fared little better than its neighbors. The complete expulsion of Jews from Kairouan near Tunis occurred after years of hardship, in the 13 century when Kairouan was anointed as a holy city of Islam.
In the 16th century, the "hated and despised" Jews of Tunis were periodically attacked by violence and they were subjected to "vehement anti-Jewish policy" during the various political struggles of the period. In 1869 Muslims butchered many Jews in the defenseless ghetto.
Conditions worsened during the Spanish invasions of 1535-1574, resulting in the flight of Jews from the coastal areas. The situation of the community improved once more under Ottoman rule.
During this period, the community also split due to strong cultural differences between the Touransa (native Tunisians) and the Grana (those adhering to Spanish or Italian customs).
Improvements in the condition of the community occurred during the reign of Ahmed Bey, which began in 1837. He and his successors implemented liberal legislation, and a large number of Jews rose to positions of political power during this reign.
Under French rule, Jews were gradually emancipated. However, beginning in November 1940, when the country was ruled by the Vichy authorities, Jews were subject to anti-Semitic laws.
From November 1942 until May 1943, the country was occupied by German forces. During that time, the condition of the Jews deteriorated further, and many were deported to labor camps and had their property seized.
Jews suffered once more in 1956, when the country achieved independence. The rabbinical tribunal was abolished in 1957, and a year later, Jewish community councils were dissolved. In addition, the Jewish quarter of Tunis was destroyed by the government. Anti-Jewish rioting followed the outbreak of the Six-Day War; Muslims burned down the Great Synagogue of Tunis. While the community was compensated for the damage, these events increased the steady stream of emigration.
THE PERSECUTION OF JEWS IN LIBYA PRIOR TO 1948
The Jewish community of Libya traces its origin back to the 3rd century B.C Under Roman rule, Jews prospered.
In 73 A.D, a zealot from Israel, Jonathan the Weaver, incited the poor of the community in Cyrene to revolt. The Romans reacted with swift vengeance, murdering him and his followers and executing other wealthy Jews in the community. This revolt foreshadowed that of 115 A.D, which broke out not only in Cyrene, but in Egypt and Cyprus as well.
In 1785, Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews.
With the Italian occupation of Libya in 1911, the situation remained good and the Jews made great strides in education. At that time, there were about 21,000 Jews in the country, the majority in Tripoli.
In the late 1930s, Fascist anti-Jewish laws were gradually enforced, and Jews were subject to terrible repression. Still, by 1941, the Jews accounted for a quarter of the population of Tripoli and maintained 44 synagogues.
In 1942 the Germans occupied the Jewish quarter of Benghazi, plundered shops, and deported more than 2,000 Jews across the desert, where more than one-fifth of them perished. Many Jews from Tripoli were also sent to forced labor camps. Conditions did not greatly improve following the liberation. During the British occupation, there was a series of pogroms, the worst of which, in 1945, resulted in the deaths of more than 100 Jews in Tripoli and other towns and the destruction of five synagogues.
The establishment of the State of Israel, led many Jews to leave the country.A savage pogrom in Tripoli on November 5, 1945 were more than 140 Jews were massacred and almost every synagogue looted. (Howard Sachar, A History of Israel).
In June 1948, rioters murdered another 12 Jews and destroyed 280 Jewish homes. Thousands of Jews fled the country after Libya was granted independence and membership in the Arab League in 1951. (Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times).
After the Six-Day War, the Jewish population of 7,000 was again subjected to pogroms in which 18 were killed, and many more injured, sparking a near-total exodus that left fewer than 100 Jews in Libya. When Col. Qaddafi came to power in 1969, all Jewish property was confiscated and all debts to Jews cancelled. Today, no Jews are believed to live in Libya.
Although emigration was illegal, more than 3,000 Jews succeeded to leave to Israel. When the British legalized emigration in 1949, more than 30,000 Jews fled Libya. At the time of Colonel Qaddafi's coup in 1969, some 500 Jews remained in Libya. Qaddafi subsequently confiscated all Jewish property and cancelled all debts owed to Jews. By 1974 there were no more than 20 Jews, and it is believed that the Jewish presence has passed out of existence.
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