Arab Persecution of Jews

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



The Jews in Arab Lands


   In 1948, after Israel had declared its independence, 850,000 Jews who had lived in the Arab world at once streamed into the new country. The reasons for this immense migration was centuries old subjugation, oppression, and anti-Jewish violence that made the lives of Jews in most of the Arab countries as miserable as it had been in Christian society. Although Jews and Arabs had gotten along well prior to the seventh century and the development of Islam, the teachings of Mohammed and his followers became catastrophic for the Jews living among them.

   While Mohammed at first hoped that the Jews among whom he lived would accept him and his new religion, he became as virulent a persecutor of Jews in his day as did Martin Luther nine centuries later.

    The fact is that the Muslim world's second holiest city, Medina, a Hebrew word for community, was actually first settled by Jewish tribes. Because that Jewish city was successful and wealthy, it attracted numerous Arabs from surrounding areas until they outnumbered the Jews in their own town. Then, when the Arabs attained both superiority in numbers and unity through the new religion of Islam, they attacked the Jews and eliminated them entirely from Yathrib, which was another name for Medina.

   Persecution of Jews began during the lifetime of Mohammed.  His anger at the Jews was principally fueled by their refusal to recognize him as a prophet but was further enhanced by their economic superiority.  Moreover, the Jews would not accept the new religion preached by Mohammed because it included Jesus and Ishmael as messengers of God.

   Upon the death of Mohammed in 630 C.E., his successor, Omar, issued a charter consisting of 12 laws under which a non-Muslim or dhimmi was allowed to live among believers or Muslims.  This charter codified the conditions of life for Jews under Islam and specified that any Jew who broke these codes forfeited his life. Included in this charter was a prohibition forbidding Jews to touch the Koran. It also compelled Jews to wear distinctive clothes, usually dark blue or black, and further compelled them to wear a yellow piece of cloth as a badge (This yellow cloth became the inspiration for the yellow star which the Nazi government of Germany  forced upon Jews). Jews were also prohibited from performing their religious practices in public.  Jews were not allowed to own a horse nor to drink wine in public. The anti-Jewish laws went so far as to prohibit Jews from letting their grief be heard by Muslims during or after a Jewish burial.

   Both Jews and Christians had to pay a special head tax and a special property tax as protection money to the Muslim government.  This tax came from an edict in the Koran: "Fight against those Jews and Christians who believe not in Allah …. until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.”

   At all times Jews faced the danger of entering into a dispute with a Muslim, in which case the Muslim could charge, however falsely, that the Jew had cursed Islam. Jews were not allowed to defend themselves against such an accusation. Instead, a Muslim could murder any Jew with impunity except for the obligation to pay a small amount of money to the family of the slain “infidel”. Even this penalty was most unlikely because the law held the testimony of a Jew or Christian invalid against that of a Muslim.  In fact, that penalty could only be demanded under the unlikely the condition that two Muslims were willing to testify against a third Muslim for the sake of a Jew.

   These laws and others were enforced upon the Jews in Muslim lands for centuries.  In Yemen, for example, Jews were forced to clean the street of animal carcasses and clean the latrines on their Sabbath without pay. In short, in Yemen, Jews were slaves.  It was also in Yemen that Jewish women had to wear one white and one black shoe, while in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Turkey a variety of other chicaneries were used to torment the Jews. In all Muslim countries the greed of the Muslims demanded money, even as physical humiliation accompanied daily Jewish life.

   The Sultan of Morocco in 1884 forced Jews to work on the Sabbath and other holy days; carry heavy burdens on their backs; clean the latrines; sell merchandise at half price; accept false coinage instead of real currency; hold their beds and furniture at the disposal of government guests and act as beasts of burden for Muslims without pay.

    Jews living in Arab lands were forced to live in Jewish ghettos or haramellah. These were “close, miserable, and dirty quarters intersected by lanes, many of which are so narrow as hardly to admit two persons passing each other in them.”

    As late as the 19th century a visitor to Cairo, Egypt observed the Jews were “crowded and clustered into houses about to collapse, in dark cellars, narrow alleys and crooked lanes choked with mud and stinking refuse, earning their meager living in dark shops and suffocating workshops, toiling back-to-back, sunscorched and sleepless. Their hard struggle for existence both inside and outside the home is rewarded by a few beans and black bread.”

   Although there were here and there a few individual Jews who succeeded despite these persecutions, in general Jews were treated in this most brutal manner throughout the Arab world unto the present time.  It was only the establishment of Israel which rescued the Jews from Arab lands and gave them for the first time in their history an opportunity to live in decency and freedom.

   The Jews in Arab lands were also the target of sporadic mass murders. These murders were often precipitated by the claim that Jews bake their Passover bread or Matzah with the blood of non-Jewish children and that furthermore Jews drink the blood of non-Jews. 

   In 1840 a Christian priest disappeared from Damascus, Syria. The priest was a Frenchman.  Thereupon the Christian community and the French government claimed that the Jews had murdered the priest in order to drink his blood and use it for ritual purposes.  The Muslim government of Syria, controlled by the Pasha of Egypt, tortured numerous Jews so as to get confessions from them concerning this alleged crime.  It was through the intervention of the English Jew Sir Moses Montefiore and the French Jewish lawyer Adolphe Crėmieux (1796-1880) that the Jews who survived the torture were finally released.

   In 1962 the Egyptian Ministry of Education published a book entitled Human Sacrifices in the Talmud which claims that Jews use human sacrifices and make it a religious obligation to drink the blood of non-Jews.

   In 1964, a professor at the University of Damascus published a pamphlet which stated that mothers must be warned against letting their children out late at night lest the Jews take their  blood for the purpose of making matzot for Passover.

   In 1973 a minister in the Egyptian foreign service published a play based on this 1840 blood libel in Damascus, showing gory descriptions in a widely circulated Egyptian weekly. The play was called The Tragedy of Good Father Thomas.

   Additional recitations of this insane blood libel have appeared in the Arab media continuously throughout the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st century.

    In the 1940s, the Mufti of Jerusalem proposed to the Nazi government in Germany that they "settle the question of Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries in accordance with the national and racial interests of the Arabs and along lines similar to those used to solve the Jewish question in Germany and Italy."

   The mass murder of six million Jews by Hitler and his cohorts was also defended and justified by numerous Arab writers, including an open letter to Hitler written by Anwar Sadat, the later president of Egypt. That letter was published in 1950 in the hope that Hitler was still alive. Sadat sympathized with Hitler and his cause.  Sadat claimed that Hitler was maligned and slandered, for he did no more to the Jews than Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar,  the Romans, the Byzantines, Titus, Mohammed and the Europeans, all of whom wanted to save the world from “this malignant evil”. This was the same Anwar Sadat who, as president of Egypt, attacked Israel in 1973 and, with the help of President Jimmy Carter, browbeat Israel into relinquishing the Sinai in 1981.

      Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian authority, published his doctoral dissertation, which he completed at Moscow Oriental College in 1983. This dissertation is called: The Other Side: the Secret Relations between Nazism And The Leadership of the Zionist Movement.  This book claims that the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis was far less than 6 million and that the historian Raoul Hilberg estimates the number  murdered at 890,000. The truth is that Hilberg, the author of  The Destruction of the European Jews, never wrote such a thing.  Furthermore, Abbas absolves the Nazi leadership of these murders and claims that the Zionist leadership was to blame for these killings. Abbas argued that the Zionists “offered human beings under any name to raise the number of victims.” According to Abbas, this policy served the Zionist purpose in promoting the immigration of Jews to the Holy Land.

    Anis Mansour, a prominent Egyptian writer, wrote that the vicious medieval blood libel was historical truth. Claiming that Jews have confessed that they killed children and used their blood, he justified the persecution of Jews on the grounds that they are all “wild beasts”.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Fraud (2007).

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