Sixty-five years ago almost to the day, as attacks escalated against the Jews of Palestine, the Arab states launched a war against their defenceless Jewish citizens. The Arabs went for their Jews BEFORE a single Palestinian Arab refugee had fled what was to become Israel. I am re-posting extracts from 'November is the cruellest month', a summary of the events that followed the Arab rejection of UN General Assembly resolution 181 on 29 November 1947 partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state.
Arab-Jewish tensions reached new heights in the autumn of 1947 as the UN debated Palestine. Dr Muhammad Husein Heykal, chairman of the Egyptian delegation warned that one million Jews in Arab countries would be endangered by partition.
A new wave of violence spread following the vote in favour of Partition on 29 November 1947. Demonstrations were called for 2 - 5 December. It was only because the police prevented the mob from attacking the Cairo Jewish quarter that lives were spared.
In Bahrain, beginning on 5 December, crowds began looting Jewish homes and shops and destroyed the synagogue. Two elderly ladies were killed.
In Aleppo, Syria, the Jewish community was devastated by a mob led by the Muslim Brotherhood. At least 150 homes, 50 shops, all 18 synagogues, five schools, an orphanage and a youth club were destroyed. Many people were killed, but the exact figure is not known. Over half the city's 10,000 Jews fled into Turkey, Lebanon and Palestine.
In Aden, the police could not contain the rioting. By the time order was restored on 4 December, 82 Jews had been killed. Of 170 Jewish-owned shops, 106 were destroyed. The synagogue and two schools were among the Jewish institutions burnt down.
In the Maghreb the French still kept tight control of the population. Morale was better there than among the Jews of the Middle East: these were desperate to leave but had nowhere to go. However, rioting in Morocco six months later was to claim 48 Jewish lives.
The Palestine Post ran an editorial entitled "Unwilling hostages" on 11 December 1947. It quoted an editorial in the Manchester Guardian the day before, entitled 'Hostages'. This deplored inflammatory statements made by Arab leaders which could be interpreted as threats against the Jewish minorities. Both in Syria and Iraq "pressure has been put on the Jews to denounce Zionism and support the Arab cause. One cannot help wonder what threats have been made to bring this about."
The riots of the previous week had been attributed by Arab governments to the 'fury of the people'. The editorial charged that " the governments concerned, if they do not activate or instigate them, look upon them with a benevolent eye."
The Lebanese government issued orders of expulsion against Palestinian Jews in Lebanon. The Palestine Post of 22 December 1947 carried a report about harsh measures that the Arab League was considering taking against Jews in Arab lands. They would first be denaturalised, their property confiscated, their bank accounts frozen, and they would be treated as enemy aliens.
'While there is no news of the acceptance of this resolution by the Arab League, it is significant and tragic that such a document should have been drafted," the editorial lamented. "It is easy for them to play the bully and to keep a sword hanging over the heads of many hundreds of thousands of Jews who are at their mercy."
Although it was not passed, aspects of the Arab League draft resolution were adopted by individual Arab governments. The human rights lawyers and ex-Canadian Justice minister Irwin Cotler has called them 'Nuremberg-style measures.'
By the time Israel was established on 15 May 1948, the Jewish communities in Arab countries had been rocked to their very foundations. As Norman Stillman says, the Palestine issue was a major contributing factor, but it was not the only one - it was more of a catalyst. Arab and Islamic nationalism could find no room for ethnic and religious groups that deviated from the norm, and Jews found themselves alienated and isolated from society at large.