The Unspoken Mideast Refugees: Jews

11 08 2017

by Harun Yahya

Refugees are undoubtedly those who suffer most from the unabated wars and conflicts raging in the Middle East and various African countries. There are tens of millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, leaving their homelands and dispersing throughout almost the entire world. The tragedy of millions of Arab, Muslim or Christian refugees who have been forced to leave the countries they had lived in for hundreds of years, the homelands they were born and raised, have been on the global agenda particularly throughout the last decades. As a matter of fact, there is another downtrodden community in the Middle East, which has been suffering similar tragedies for a longer period of time.  These are the forgotten and unknown refugees of the Middle East: Jews.

Since the end of World War I, almost the entire Jews in Arab countries have been forced to migrate from their motherland. The documentary “The Forgotten Refugees,” directed by Michael Grynszpan, relays the following information on the subject:

– In 1945, up to one million Jews lived in the Middle East outside of the Palestine Mandate. Within a few years, only a few thousand remained. Once vivacious, bustling centers of life, the old Jewish neighborhoods of Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad have today fallen silent.

– The striking words of Levana Zamir, who managed to escape from Egypt at the time, basically sums up the situation “Now, you can find in Egypt only perhaps 20 or 30 old Jews.”

– In the 1920s, 40% of the population of Baghdad, considered the ‘New York’ of the Middle East, was Jewish.

– In 1944, 55,000 Jews were living in Yemen; 150,000 in Iraq; 140,000 in Algeria; 80,000 in Egypt; 38,000 in Libya; 265,000 in Morocco; 105,000 in Tunisia; 100,000 in Iran; 27,000 in Syria and 5,666 in Lebanon. But today, except for a few thousand Jews in Morocco, Tunisia and Iran, the Jewish population in the aforementioned countries does not exceed “dozens”.[i]

Jewish communities were first directly deported from these lands they had lived in for hundreds of years. Then, as a result of increasing social pressure, restrictive laws, discrimination and escalating anti-Jewish violence, the rest were forced to leave their countries over time.

However, difficult days full of arrests, executions, assaults and massacres were waiting the aggrieved Jews who chose to stay in their ancestral lands despite all these pressures. Rising Arab nationalism and the bigoted mentality dominating in many parts of the Islamic world in the name of religion fueled a collective animosity towards the Jews.

Former ambassador and historian Michael Oren’s book, “Six Days of War” included similar sections:

“Mobs attacked Jewish neighborhoods in Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco, burning synagogues and assaulting residents.  A pogrom in Tripoli, Libya, left 18 Jews dead and 25 injured; the survivors were herded into detention centers. Of Egypt’s 4,000 Jews, 800 were arrested, including the chief rabbis of both Cairo and Alexandria, and their property sequestered by the government. The ancient communities of Damascus and Baghdad were placed under house arrest, their leaders imprisoned and fined. A total of 7,000 Jews were expelled, many with merely a satchel.”[ii]

These are only a few of the thousands of atrocious incidents that occurred in the aforementioned countries and similar others.

Today, Arabs and Muslims are the first mental images that come to mind when the Middle East and North Africa are mentioned. However, the majority of the present generations do not even know that these lands are actually the thousands-of-years-old ancestral homeland of the Jews, and that they bear the traces and relics of their thousands-of-years-old civilization.

For example, Mizrahi Jews live as the indigenous people of the Middle East and North Africa who have never left the region for about 4,000 years. In addition, most of the Jews who had been expelled to neighboring countries following the Babylonian occupation of Jewish lands in 586 BC, settled in countries such as contemporary Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and have continued to live there for thousands of years.[iii]

In that sense, the Jews came to settle in the region centuries before the Arabs did. Therefore, exiling the Jews, who are at least as indigenous to the region as the Arabs, from their ancestral lands cannot have anything to do with justice, law, or any religious or conscientious notions. Neither does persecuting, humiliating, killing them, preventing their acts of worship, or burning their synagogues have a place in Islam, the Qur’an or humanity. In fact, these are deeds that stand in flagrant contradiction with – and are explicitly condemned by – the Qur’an.

In the Qur’an, God commands the believers to be just towards all at all times (5/8, 4/135, 60/8); He informs that righteous Jews will have their reward in the Hereafter (3/113-115) and feel no fear (5/69). God also praises the Jews, who are sincere and faithful (7:159, 3/199); allowing Muslims to socialize through marriage and dining (5/5). Again according to the Qur’an, their synagogues are under the protection of God (22/40) and they are left completely free in their beliefs and worship (29/46, 2/256). Therefore, some people’s mixing oppression, hostility and injustice with their faith in Islam respresents a grotesque error, not to mention great cruelty.

All the atrocities and injustices that the Jewish community had to face in Muslim majority countries are the ugly consequences of the bigoted mentality that is entirely opposite to God’s message in the Qur’an and a racial deviance condemned again by the Qur’an (49:13). That is why, it is imperative that an intellectual struggle based on a reasonable, sincere interpretation of the Qur’an – be carried out against radicalism, in order for all people to enjoy their God-given rights and freedoms and not suffer further persecution and injustice. This ideological campaign is the only way to prevent the oppression faced by any and all downtrodden people of any religion, language or ethnicity. Hence, it is a very important duty that falls upon sincere Muslims who take the Qur’an as their guide and, of course, on all believers.

The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science. He may be followed at @Harun_Yahya and www.harunyahya.com


[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH8RL2XRr48

[ii] Six Days of War, Michael Oren, 2002, pp. 306-307

[iii] http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/jews-of-the-middle-east/