According to the anti-Israel narrative, Jews and Arabs lived peacefully together – until of course the ‘Zionists’ arrived to spoil the ‘beautiful’ relationship.
This is one of the most offensive rewrites of history. It may be true that the Jews had a worse time in Europe – a deflective phrase I have even heard academics use – but let’s face it, is the industrial slaughter of 6 million Jews really the bar we want to measure things by?
The reality is that Jews in Islamic lands knew their place. Jews in Islamic lands were often third class citizens, with special taxes to pay, and a myriad of degrading rules to live by. Even looking a Muslim in the eye could result in death. This from Algiers (current Jewish population = zero) in the 19th century:
Sometimes, specific periods of acceptance or calm in nations such as Morocco are held up as examples – but this too is deceptive. Whilst a few Jewish families may have been given privileges now and again – the majority still lived in perpetual fear, and at the mercy of the Muslim majority population that surrounded them. Jews could be brutally attacked – but dared not complain.
Whilst doing research I have stumbled on numerous newspaper reports laying out the horror of the treatment of Jews in Islamic lands. All of them long before Israel’s war of Independence in 1948. I intend to create country-specific pages on the website to let others use them as a reference – part of a wider plan to greatly bolster the historical evidence available on this site. A depository of truth to help do battle with the revisionists. For now, I will just give an example or two from each country.
This is what it was really like for Jews living under Muslim rule:
Jewish population was once 265,000. Today it is about 3000. This report is a description of the forced expulsion in 1807 of a Jewish community in Mogadore Morocco – and the theft of all their property.
Random acts of violence against Jews persisted wherever Jews resided. These reports are of a massacre in Tetuan (1858) and the pillage of a Jewish settlement at Tameslouht in 1889.
The next two give a taste of the status of Jews in Morocco, a report from Tangier in 1825 and Mogador in 1864:
There is evidence of persistent persecution throughout the 19th century. This continued into the 20th century, with this report of an attack at Fez, occurring in 1912, just five years before the Balfour declaration:
I have provided several examples of attacks and the level of persecution in Morocco because it is generally considered the ‘most favourable’ of the nations, with some almost describing a romantic, utopian existence. Reading the above the bitter truth is clear for all to see.. For the other Jewish communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa, I will restrict the evidence here to just one or two examples (the country pages when uploaded will contain multiple examples from each).
Jewish population was once 105,000. Today it is about 1000. The reports presented here are from a massacre of Jews in Tunis in 1857, and a description of how accusations against a Jew from a Muslim, could easily lead to court sanctioned executions:
Jewish population was once 140,000. Today it is zero. Two reports, one regarding a brutal massacre of Jews at Tlemecen in 1806 and a mob attack on the Jewish quarter of Algiers in 1897.
Jewish population was once 38,000. Today it is zero. These reports both highlight the vulnerability of the Jews and the persecution they faced.
Syria, and Southern Syria
The Jewish population in Syria was once 30,000. Today it is zero. ‘Southern Syria’ is now Israel, which took in Jewish refugees from all over the world – and now has a Jewish population of over 6 million. The following posts reference the infamous 1840 blood libel in Damascus, an 1834 massacre of Jews in Tzfat, and a massacre of Jews in Jerusalem:
Not to be left out, the Shi’ites were at it too (note here – Persia – Iran – is not an Arab country, but this is inserted due to its locality – and as with Turkey, further evidence of the regional Islamic abuse of Jewish residents). Here is a report of a massacre of Jews in Manzandaran in 1866, followed by a general description from 1873, which points out that whilst there was tolerance for some, the Jews suffered ‘under great oppression’:
Jewish population was once 63,000. Today it is close to zero. The report from 1857 in Sanaa is another that highlights the third-class nature of Jewish life under Islamic rule. The second, a report from 1923, details a massacre of Jews and the desire of the Yemenite Jews to leave for ‘Palestine’:
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire
For the next example, I am changing the time period. These events. like the final report from Yemen, took place after the fall of the Ottoman Empire but before the creation of Israel. It was this wave of violence – occurring in a world that held the promise of a Jewish state – that finally saw the collapse of 3000 years of Jewish civilisation in the Arab world. When rising Arab nationalism was added to the Islamic mix, there were frequent outbreaks of deadly violence committed against Jews throughout the MENA region. This report is of a massacre in Algeria in 1934:
After all the oppression, the massacres, forced conversions, kangaroo courts, expulsions, evictions, and being forced to live as third-class citizens in constant fear of their Muslim neighbours – the Jews were about to get a land of their own.
Jewish population was once 135,000. Today it is close to zero. These reports are from Basra, and Bagdad in 1941:
The most shocking part of doing research into the persecution of Jews, is not in what is found, but in what is not. There are so many occasions where a massacre of Jews is known to have occurred, and not a word of it was published in the media. There are several different reasons for this:
- Nobody cared. Unless there was a religious or political reason to mention the attacks, they went unreported.
- In the later part of the 19th century, massacres of Jews were taking place in Eastern Europe. These were much closer to home and more relevant to western media.
- Colonial struggles, especially in North Africa, sometimes meant it was self-harming to report troubles.
- Newspaper reports of the time often used town or city names rather than country names. Regional areas could go by various different tags. The spelling for town names could at times be imaginative – as could the description of the event. For example, news of ‘an outrage in Tetuan in Barbary’ is not an easy find.
- Often, Jews were simply a target in wider unrest. As chaos took hold, Jews always became a target – but sometimes, especially when Christians were attacked too, media in the UK and US had little interest in talking about the Jews that died.
- Within regions that experienced significant unrest, news of massacres just stopped getting out – especially if nobody was left alive to talk about it.
All this means that evidence of violence against Jews is difficult to put together. It is easier to read traveller descriptions of the way in which Jews were treated – and understand from these the awful picture of what life was like for many Jews in Muslim lands. But the truth remains. For centuries the Jewish people had suffered persecution, humiliation, and sometimes slaughter in Islamic lands. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. That continued into the 20th century. The only difference – and a huge one – is that after 1948, the Jews finally had somewhere to go.
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