The false equation between the Palestinian refugees and the Arab Jews as refugees

By Yossi Schwartz, ISL the section of the RCIT in Israel/Occupied Palestine, 30.11.2021

The lie about the agreement of the Zionist to have a Palestinian state

Yesterday, the 29 of November, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called the decision to hold an event in the General Assembly aimed at strengthening the Palestinian “right of return” on this day “outrageous.” He also said: “The Palestinians and the Arab countries not only attacked Israel, the Jewish state, they also persecuted, massacred, and ultimately expelled the Jewish communities in their own countries,” he added, accusing the international community of ignoring those events and only focusing on the Palestinians” [i]

He only forgot to claim that the UN supports a new Jewish holocaust.

The Zionist propaganda is that if the Palestinians had accepted the partition a Palestinian state would be formed. This is a lie. On the eve of the war, the Zionists offered King Abdulla of Jordan to annex the West Bank.  “Just days before Israel will declare its independence, Golda Meir, and then Head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency travels to Amman to meet with King Abdullah of Transjordan. This is the second meeting between the two, with the first occurring in early November 1947 at Naharayim on the banks of the Jordan River. Underlying Abdullah’s contacts and interest in cooperating with Zionist leadership is his desire for an expanded Arab state in the region. His “Greater Syria” plan envisages a unitary Arab state, under his leadership, which encompasses Transjordan, Syria, and Palestine. Abdullah agrees to a meeting in Amman. Meir is accompanied by Ezra Danin, a Haganah intelligence expert who has familial relationships with the King. 

Meir and Danin disguise themselves as an Arab couple and travel through enemy lines to Transjordan. She confronts Abdullah about breaking the promise he made to her in November 1947. The King explains that he is no longer able to act independently, that he is now “one of five,” referring to Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq. He urges the Zionist leadership to postpone their planned declaration of statehood as the only way to prevent war. Reiterating his desire for expanded territory, he tells Meir, “But why don’t you wait a few years? Drop your demands for free immigration. I will take over the whole country and you will be represented in my parliament. I will treat you very well, and there will be no war.” [ii]

Ben Gurion the chief Zionist leader already in 1937 when the first partition plan was offered wrote to his son Amos: “Does the establishment of a Jewish state [in only part of Palestine] advance or retard the conversion of this country into a Jewish country? My assumption (which is why I am a fervent proponent of a state, even though it is now linked to partition) is that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning…. This is because this increase in possession is of consequence not only in itself, but because through it we increase our strength, and every increase in strength helps in the possession of the land as a whole. The establishment of a state, even if only on a portion of the land, is the maximal reinforcement of our strength at the present time and a powerful boost to our historical endeavors to liberate the entire country” [iii]

The second lie is that the Jews from the Arab and Muslim states are refugees.

In the real world, the Jews who arrived to the Zionist state from Arab and Muslim countries were not refugees but immigrants that the Zionist state wanted to use to replace the Arab cheap labor and as soldiers. Iraqi Jews left their country because of the conflict in Palestine. The deteriorating relations between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, the terrorist activities of the state of Israel in Iraq, the British imperialists’ policies, and the inability of Iraqi ultranationalists to distinguish between Judaism and Zionism are the key reasons for their migration. Even after a wave of urban rioting in 1941, the Farhud, in which more than 150 Jews were killed and many more wounded, only a few Jews had left Iraq. Thus, no love for Zionist racist nationalism was behind the emigration of the Iraqi Jews to the Zionist state.

Until the 1970s the official version of Israel was that these Jews came to Israel because of their love for the Jewish state and were “Olim” (Those who step up to Israel). Only in the 1970s, this narrative was changed and the Zionists began to claim that the Arab Jews were refugees like the Palestinians.

The Israeli Iraqi sociologist Yehuda Shenhav Wrote: “In 1942 (after Ben Gurion understood that he cannot rely on European Jews to establish a viable state Y.S)) Ben Gurion presented to experts and to leaders of the Yishuv (pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine) his ‘Plan for Mass Immigration’ (Tochnit ha Million) which aimed to bring a million Jews to Palestine. The plan to bring Jews from Arab countries was not implemented until after Israel’s establishment. In Israel, the Mizrahim (Jews from Arab countries) were subjected to a process of de-Arabization. As Ben Gurion put it, “We do not want the Israelis to be Arabs. It is our duty to fight against the spirit of the Levant that ruins individuals and societies” (Shohat 1988:6). In 1941 a two-day pogrom (known as the Farhud) was perpetrated in Baghdad. It was the only pogrom in the history of Iraqi Jews and it did not spread to other cities: it was confined to Baghdad alone. Historians agree that this was an exceptional event in the history of Jewish-Muslim relations in Iraq (see Cohen 1996). It occurred a few hours before the British entered Baghdad during the world war after the pro-Nazi Prime Minister Rashid Ali al Kilani had fled the country, leaving a state of political anarchy in Baghdad. The British themselves delayed their entry into the city by 48 hours. It is possible that the British wanted passions to boil over in the city and actually had an interest in a clash between Jews and Muslims. Within the realms of memory of Zionist historiography, the Farhud is a site that ratifies the “from the Holocaust to the revival” Despite the minor misgivings, it was generally accepted that WOJAC (The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries) functioned for approximately 25 years (1975-1999) had been established as a tool to assist the State of Israel and the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the national arena. (Meeting of the WOJAC Actions Committee, 11/3/76, p.13) Upon the establishment of WOJAC, Ben-Porat posited that the State of Israel had not made effective use of the past of Jews from Arab countries, and argued that this past was instrumental in the political arena in which Israel was active. The organization’s Executive formulated three major political assertions, all of which were intended to offset the main three claims of the Palestinian national movement; One that of the historic nature of a Jewish national and religious presence in the Middle East (the Primordiality thesis). Two, that the Middle East had witnessed a de-facto mutual population exchange of Arab refugees and Jewish refugees (the Population Exchange thesis); and three, that the property of these Arabs and Jews could be counterbalanced due to the population exchange (the Property Exchange thesis).

These three positions, which were formulated in the mid-1970s, gained additional validity after the peace treaty with Egypt and the beginning of the debate regarding the Palestinian refugees. According to the members of WOJAC’s Executive, these assertions would enable Israel to argue for the legitimate rights of the Jews in the Land of Israel, against the legitimacy of a Palestinian right of return, and for the denial of Palestinian demands for compensation for property that had been confiscated by Custodian of Absentee Property. Members of the organization’s Executive established a direct linkage between the establishment of WOJAC and activities of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Years later, Dr. Jaques Barnes declared: “We are the Jewish answer to the PLO…to the right of return…that is why we exist.” (4th National Convention, Tel Aviv, 16/12/93, p.48) [iv]

According to the Israeli historian Ester Meir -Glitzenstein in 1948 around one million Jews were living in the Arab and Muslim countries half of them in North Africa (Algeria 130,000, Morocco 250,000 Tunisia 85,000 Libya 40,000. The others in Iraq 135,000, Yemen, and Aden 50,000 Syria and Lebanon 30,000 Iran 90,000 and Turkey 80,000). Jews lived in these countries for hundreds and thousands of years. After the establishment of Israel, 350,000 Jews from these countries arrived to Israel. Various forces caused the uprooting of the Jews from their countries: Imperialism, Zionism, the reaction to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the reactionary policies of the local rulers of these countries.

Most of these Jews prior to 1948 were not Zionists. The imperialists that controlled these countries used the old tactic of divide and rule and granted the Jews citizenship and other privileges. A large number of Jews worked in the administration of the imperialists. This forms a negative feeling among the Muslims who saw the Jews as collaborators with the imperialists. The Zionist state-initiated provocations including terrorist acts and later on agreements with the local Arab rulers to allow the Jews to immigrate to Israel. The history of Jewish immigration from these countries is well researched in Yemen and in Iraq.


In 1948 there were 40,000 Jews in Yemen and most of them left for Israel. Yemen was a very poor country and the Yemen Jews were aware of the fact that in Israel the level of living was much higher. In addition, most Yemenite Jews were encouraged to believe that the establishment of Israel is a step in the return of the Messiah.

Between December 1948 and March 1949 Israel airlifted 10,000 Jews from Aden most of them Yemenites. In April 1949 the Yemenite Imam Ahmad permitted the Jews to leave on condition they sell all their property. The British granted them entry to Aden. An agreement was reached between the Zionist state, the American Join Distribution Committee, the British rulers of Aden, and the Imam to transfer the Jews. The Jews of Yemen, many of whom had properties like lands, arrived in Aden very poor. In July 1949, the British decided that Israel would accept 20,000 Yemenite Jews within two months. The Jews were pushed into a transit camp (Hashed) in Aden where they lived in harsh conditions. Hundreds of them died. The Zionist state brought the remaining Jews in the camp to Israel,


In 1948 out of the 135,000 Jews of Iraq 90,000 lived in Baghdad. Iraq was a British colony and many Jews collaborated and worked for British rule. This led to resentment of the Jews by the Moslems. With the war of 1948, Iraq declared Zionism in Iraq a crime. Thousands of Jews lost their jobs and hundreds were jailed. All the Jews were wrongly perceived as Zionists. In 1950 the Iraqi government had passed a law allowing the Jews to leave Iraq and to immigrate to Israel. 

The Iraqi government intended to get rid of a few thousand young Jews perceived as troublemakers but the entire community emigrated especially under the influence of the upper-class Jews those who lost their privileged position under the British. In January 1951, to push the Iraqi Jews to immigrate to Israel Zionist agents threw a grenade on Mas’uda Synagogue in Bagdad killing 3 Jews and wounding 20. Jews who left Iraq lost their Citizenship and their property. They received from the government a laissez passer document that allowed them to immigrate only to Israel. [v]

The Zionists government itself says: “Between 1950-1951 some 125,000 Iraqi Jews were airlifted to Israel by an American airline company and with the special permission of the Iraqi government. This wide-ranging operation was named “Operation Ezra and Nehemiah” after the two leaders of the return from Babylon (the forerunner of modern-day Iraq) at the beginning of the Second Temple Period.”

In 1948, following the declaration of the establishment of the State, thousands of Iraqi Jews were arrested and imprisoned and the Zionist organizations were declared illegal. Jews who requested to make Aliyah (emigration to Israel) faced the death penalty. Various additional restrictions were imposed upon Iraqi Jews; among them the prohibition against moving from one location to another within Iraq, restrictions preventing attendance at schools and hospitals, and other harsh measures. A much-awaited change came in 1950 when the Iraqi government permitted the Jews to immigrate on condition that they renounce their Iraqi citizenship, relinquish their property, and forfeit the right to ever return in the future.

The aliyah of each community was managed via shalichim (messengers from Israel) of the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee. American planes began to fly directly to Lod airport.” [vi]

In another article, Shenav wrote that in January 1952, “two Zionist activists, Yosef Basri and Shalom Salah, were hanged in Baghdad. They had been charged with possession of explosive materials and throwing bombs in the city center. A classified document from Moshe Sasson, of the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East Division, to then Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett maintained that many Iraqi immigrants, residents of the transit camps, greeted the hanging with the attitude: “That is God’s revenge on the movement that brought us to such depths. It suggests that a good number of them did not view their immigration as the joyous return to Zion depicted by the community’s Zionist activists. Rather, in addition to blaming the Iraqi government, they blamed the Zionist movement for bringing them to Israel for reasons that did not include the best interests of the immigrants themselves.

Shortly after his government assumed power, in January 1949, Nuri Sa’id toyed with the idea of deporting the Iraqi Jews to Israel. However, the British ambassador in Palestine warned him that such an act could have serious unanticipated repercussions. Israel, the ambassador explained, would welcome the arrival of cheap Jewish labor and would demand that in return the Arab states resettle Palestinian refugees. (Tsimhoni, 1991).

The Jews in Iraq expressed a primeval, albeit abstract, yearning for Zion. Still, they were as remote from political Zionism as the east is from the west. The majority refused to view themselves as Zionists and opposed the Zionist movement, which began to penetrate Iraq beginning in the 1930s for its own social, economic, and political purposes.

In July 1949, the British, fearing the decline of their influence in the Middle East, put forward a proposal for a population transfer, and tried to persuade Nuri Sa’id to settle 100,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq. A letter sent by the British Foreign Office to its legations in the Middle East spoke of an “arrangement whereby Iraqi Jews moved into Israel, received compensation for their property from the Israeli government, while the Arab refugees were installed with the property in Iraq.” (Shiblak, 1986: 83)

The Zionist Foreign Ministry maintained that only if Iraq agreed to absorb 300,000 to 400,000 Arab refugees in return for the Iraqi Jews could Israel contemplate accepting the transfer agreement. This transfer plan faded with the enactment of the Iraqi naturalization law that enabled Jews to leave Iraq after renouncing their citizenship. Pressure for the law’s enactment was exerted by Prime Minister Tawfiq al-Suwaidi, a graduate of the French-Jewish Alliance network of schools. His many Jewish friends included the leader of the community, Yeskail Shemtob, and the Zionist emissary Mordechai Ben-Porat, who was also instrumental in getting the law passed. [vii]

Thus, clearly the emigration of the Iraqi Jews was based on a deal between the Zionist state and the reactionary government of Iraq.

The Iraqi Journalist Jew Naeim Giladi wrote: “in 1998 about 125,000 Jews left Iraq for Israel in the late 1940s and into 1952, most because they had been lied to and put into a panic by what I came to learn were Zionist bombs. Britain’s pro-Zionist attitude in Palestine, however, triggered a growing anti-Zionist backlash in Iraq, as it did in all Arab countries. Writing at the end of 1934, Sir Francis Humphreys, Britain’s Ambassador in Baghdad, noted that, while before WWII Iraqi Jews had enjoyed a more favorable position than any other minority in the country, since then “Zionism has sown dissension between Jews and Arabs, and bitterness has grown up between the two peoples which did not previously exist. The first bomb thrown directly at Jews occurred on April 8, 1950, at 9:15 p.m. A car with three young passengers hurled the grenade at Baghdad’s El-Dar El-Bida Café, where Jews were celebrating Passover. Four people were seriously injured. That night leaflets were distributed calling on Jews to leave Iraq immediately. On June 3, 1950, another grenade was tossed from a speeding car in the El-Batawin area of Baghdad where most rich Jews and middle-class Iraqis lived. No one was hurt, but following the explosion Zionist activists sent telegrams to Israel requesting that the quota for immigration from Iraq be increased.

On June 5, at 2:30 a.m., a bomb exploded next to the Jewish-owned Stanley Shashua building on El-Rashid Street, resulting in property damage but no casualties. On January 14, 1951, at 7 p.m., a grenade was thrown at a group of Jews outside the Masouda Shem-Tov Synagogue. The explosive struck a high-voltage cable, electrocuting three Jews, one a young boy, Itzhak Elmacher, and wounding over 30 others. Following the attack, the exodus of Jews jumped to between 600-700 per day Zionist propagandists still maintain that the bombs in Iraq were set off by anti-Jewish Iraqis who wanted Jews out of their country. The terrible truth is that the grenades that killed and maimed Iraqi Jews and damaged their property were thrown by Zionist Jews the next day, many Jews, most of them poor with nothing to lose, jammed emigration offices to renounce their citizenship and to apply for permission to leave for Israel.” [viii]

For the Zionists to equate the forced ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the 30-40 massacres with the emigration of the Iraqi Jews as a result of a deal between the Zionists and the reactionary government of Iraq and by using terror against the Iraqi Jews is like usual a gross distortion of history.

The Zionists themselves were very active in uprooting of the Iraqi Jews and should be blamed for it together with British imperialism and the reactionary government of Iraq that collaborated with the Zionist state.

For the return of the Palestinian refugees!

Down with the Zionist apartheid from the river to the sea!

For a Palestine red and free from the river to the sea!




[iii] Letter as translated by the Journal of Palestine Studies

[iv] Yehouda Shenhav, Jews from Arab Countries and the Palestinian Right for Return: An Ethnic Community in Realms of National Memory the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 29(1): 27-56, 2002.

[v] Ester Meir-Glitzenstein, Zionist or Refugees: The Historical aspect of the Uprooting of the Jews and their immigration to Israel 

[vi] Operation Ezra and Nehemiah – the Aliyah of Iraqi Jewry (1950-1951)


[vii] Yehuda Shenav, What do Palestinians and Arab-Jews Have in Common? Nationalism and Ethnicity Examined Through the Compensation Question

[viii] Naeim Giladi, The Jews of Iraq The Link, Volume 31, Issue 2, April-May 1998

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