Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries

Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries by Ya’akov Meron

Ya’akov Meron holds a doctorate in law from the Faculté de Droit de Paris and is an authority on Islamic law and the law of Arab countries. He was a member of the Israeli delegation to negotiate the peace treaty with Egypt and to solve the Taba issue.

In a key address before the Political Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on November 14, 1947, just five days before that body voted on the partition plan for Palestine, Heykal Pasha, an Egyptian delegate, made the following key statement in connection with that plan:

The United Nations . . . should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in the Moslem countries. Partition of Palestine might create in those countries an anti-Semitism even more difficult to root out than the anti-Semitism which the Allies were trying to eradicate in Germany. . . If the United Nations decides to partition Palestine, it might be responsible for the massacre of a large number of Jews.

Heykal Pasha then elaborated on his threat:

A million Jews live in peace in Egypt [and other Muslim countries] and enjoy all rights of citizenship. They have no desire to emigrate to Palestine. However, if a Jewish State were 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. 1

Heykal Pasha’s thinly veiled threats of “grave disorders,” “massacre,” “riots,” and “war between two races” did not at the time go unnoticed by Jews;2 for them, it had the same ring as the proposition made six years earlier by the Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husayni to Hitler of a “final solution” for the Jews of Arab countries, including Palestine. [Smooth: Hajj Amin al-Husayni, also spelled Husseini, was originally appointed as the Mufti of Jerusalem by the British. It is interesting to note that in addition to hundreds of Jews who were killed by Arabs, some 3,000 Arabs died in this revolt at the hands of other Arabs and at the hands of the British. ] But the statement appears to have made no lasting impression, to the point that a historian of the Jews in Egypt has described Heykal Pasha as “a well-known liberal.”3

Particularly noteworthy is that although Heykal Pasha spoke at the United Nations in his capacity as a representative of Egypt, he continuously mentioned the Jews “in other Muslim countries” and “all the Arab states,” suggesting a level of coordination among the Arab governments.

1 U.N. General Assembly, Second Session, Official Records, Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, Summary Records of Meetings, Lake Success, N.Y., Sept. 25-Nov. 15, 1947, p. 185. The original language of this statement is French, so we have altered the U.N’s English translation to bring it into harmony with the equally official French text.
2 For example, Emile Najjar, the last president of the Egyptian Zionist Federation and a future Israeli diplomat, pointed out Heykal Pasha’s remarks in a lecture delivered in Paris at the Centre d’Etudes de Politique Etrangére on Dec. 20, 1947.
3 Gurdron Krämer, “Aliyatah u-shki’atah shel Kehilat Kahir,” Pe’amim, Spring 1981, pp. 28-30-34.

Read the rest of this excellent expose’ of the persecution suffered by the Iraqi Jewish community here.

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