World Jewish Congress

Jews From Arab Lands

The story of the Jews in Arab lands still forms a major gap in most of the world's knowledge of the history of the Middle East and North Africa. Jewish presence in what are now Arab lands long predates Islam and the Arab conquest of the Middle East and North Africa and goes back to Biblical times. In 1945, there were approximately 866,000 Jews living in communities throughout the Arab world. Today, there are fewer than 10,000. In many Arab states, once thriving Jewish communities have all but disappeared. According to official statistics, 856,000 Jews, persecuted and under duress, were exiled from their homes in Arab countries between 1948 and the early 1970s leaving behind substantial property and other assets.


With the signing of the Abraham Accords, new conversations are being held regarding the place of Jews in each respective national identity. As attitudes towards Jews and Jewish history in the Middle East and North Africa are starting to change, we notice a shift in government policies - albeit originating from several strands of political motivations, increased production of literature/art, and improved attention to Jewish heritage sites.

News

This Week in Jewish History | Farhud kills nearly 200 Iraqi Jews, derailing centuries of peaceful coexistence

The Farhud (Arabic for ‘violent dispossession’) was shocking for the Jewish community, who represented some of the country’s most successful businessmen, cultural figures, and intellectual leaders. Within a decade, the overwhelming majority would emigrate to Israel, leaving a small community of vulnerable Jews behind. 

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What we’re doing

The WJC has a long history of pursuing the preservation of heritage and legacy of Jews from the MENA region, with diplomatic efforts stretching as far back as 1948. 

On 18 January 1948, the president of the World Jewish Congress, Dr. Stephen Wise, appealed to U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall: “Between 800,000 and a million Jews in the Middle East and North Africa, exclusive of Palestine, are in ‘the greatest danger of destruction’ at the hands of Muslims being incited to holy war over the Partition of Palestine ... Acts of violence already perpetrated, together with those contemplated, being clearly aimed at the total destruction of the Jews, constitute genocide, which under the resolutions of the General Assembly is a crime against humanity." In May 1948, The New York Times echoed Wise’s appeal, and ran an article headlined, "Jews in Grave Danger in all Muslim Lands: Nine Hundred Thousand in Africa and Asia face wrath of their foes." 

Today, in line of this history, the World Jewish Congress has continued to raise awareness of this issue among Jewish communities, elected officials and governmental dignitaries in North America, Europe, and in the United Nations.

We have held conferences, special events, lectures, panels, and parliamentary hearings, and so that more people would know about it. While the issue is better known and we have come a long way, there is still too much ignorance.  The plight of Jews who fled from, or still live in, Arab lands and their specific concerns are not yet well-known and still needs to be raised with governments and international organizations. To that end, the WJC, in cooperation with organized Jewish community, has urged the United States House of Representatives to propose and pass legislation to mandate that the issue of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands be raised in all relevant talks concerning the Middle East peace process, and reported on to the Congress. We pro-actively engage governments, international organizations, and security authorities, to support them in guaranteeing their citizens’ security, and the well-being of Jewish communities.

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