Minorities in the Middle East: Jewish Communities in Arab Countries 1841–1974

(13) 978-1-84097-120-0   Extent:  6 volumes, 3,870 pages
Editor: B. Destani    Published: 2005
Paper: Printed on acid free paper
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish
See sample pages: not available

This group of six volumes is the first available set in the multi-part collection of Minorities in the Middle East. It covers the arrangements and conditions for Jewish communities living under Islam, throughout the Arab world, from 1840 to 1974. The situation of Jewish communities has varied according to the country of habitation and the particular time period although it is thought generally to have deteriorated from 1800 with the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Up to 1948 more than a million Jews lived in the Muslim countries of the Middle East. By 1992, excluding the non-Arab states of Turkey and Iran, the number was only c. 20,000. Although they cover more than 100 years the papers do not form a continuous record of events but rather provide a series of snapshots of history from which it is possible to ascertain something of the contemporary position of Jewish communities at particular points.


These documents explore the treatment and position of Jewish communities in Arab countries in the modern period and provide detailed accounts of treatment both of individuals at a local level and of regulation of the community at an institutional level. The first two volumes study the position of Jews during the Ottoman Empire in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Later volumes consider conditions in Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, Egypt and the Maghreb states: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The documents reflect the acknowledged historical generalisation that the Jews found greater toleration under Muslim than under Christian rule; however, the situation changed abruptly in 1948, with anti-Jewish feeling increasing after the the founding of the Israeli state, and succeeding years saw dramatic reductions in Jewish communities in the Arab world as emigration to Israel and elsewhere proceeded apace.


This is the first title in a series of more than 30 volumes presenting a documentary record of conditions in modern times for the numerous ethnic and religious minorities in the Arab world. The documentation starts in the mid-19th century and continues up to the last quarter of the 20th century; many governmental records remain closed after this point. Geographically the collection covers the Arab Middle East and the Maghreb countries, but excludes the (non-Arab) states of Turkey and Iran.


Volume 1: 1841–1861
Volume 2: 1861–1913
Volume 3: 1917–1943
Volume 4: 1943–1951
Volume 5: 1952–1968
Volume 6: 1969–1974


Draft despatch No. 33 to Lord Ponsonby, Foreign Office, 17 February 1841, regarding the expediency of the provision of Turkish security for the Jews in Palestine [document 1,
volume 1]
…You will endeavour to impress upon the minds of the Turkish Ministers that it would be highly advantageous to the Sultan that the Jews who are scattered through other countries in Europe and Africa, should be induced to go and settle in Palestine; because the wealth and habits of order and of industry which they would bring with them, would tend greatly to increase the Resources of the Turkish Empire, and to promote the progress of civilization therein.
But the Turkish government must be aware that no men would be inclined to abandon the security for Person and Property which the Laws and practice of European Countries afford, in order to go and render themselves liable to all the violence, injustice and oppression to which the Jews have hitherto been exposed living in the Turkish Dominions, and especially in Syria…

Despatch No. 12 from James Finn, Jerusalem, to Viscount Palmerston, 23 March 1849
[document 20, volume 1]
…A few days ago a communication arrived from the Vice-Consul at Jaffa, to be read in the synagogues to Jewish subjects of Russia… It announced that the Emperor [of Russia] finding so many of his Jewish subjects had overstayed their passports, was yet willing to allow the renewal of them, on condition of the persons returning to Russia within 6 months and paying the arrear of taxes due by their long absence – promising also that in case of their failure to do this, his Majesty’s paternal care would provide them with sufficient protection by surrendering them to another Power.
This last clause inspired great alarm lest it should mean the Turkish dominion.
Briefing note for conversation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs about the attacks on Jews and Europeans, 20 July 1948 [document 36, volume 4]
The Egyptian Government cannot disclaim responsibility for the present state of affairs. It is clear that extremist elements such as the “Ikhwan el Muslimeen” have for some time past been deliberately working up the feelings of the populace against Jews in a way which was obviously bound to end in mob violence…Now the “Ikhwan” are trying to turn opinion against the British as well as the Jews…In view of the developments of the last 24 hours, I think that the Ambassador would be justified at the end of his representations in reminding Khashaba Pasha that there is still a considerable British force stationed in the Canal zone and that they can hardly be expected to remain there as spectators if a situation arises where the lives of British subjects are in imminent danger.

Confidential despatch No. 1572/85/51 from Mr H. Beeley, Baghdad, to Mr G.W. Furlonge, Foreign Office, 27 June 1951 [document 161, volume 4]
There has been considerable excitement here during the past week as a result of the alleged discovery of a Zionist Fifth Column in Baghdad. It has been difficult to discover the facts since the police have been unusually secretive and the press have indulged in the wildest exaggerations. .. It is well known that the Jews in Iraq have been collecting arms and ammunition for their own protection since Rashid Ali’s coup d’etat in 1941 when they suffered greatly… As a result of the discovery of the arms dumps the airlift of Iraqi Jews to Israel was interrupted for two days last week. By the beginning of this week 100,000 Jews had been flown out to Israel…Ibrahim al Kabir estimated…that when the airlift was completed not more than 5000 Jews would be left in Iraq out of an original population of between 120,000 and 125,000.

Letter from Mr G.O. Roberts, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, to Mr A.J. Marks, Board of Deputies of British Jews, 8 October 1968 [document 234, volume 5]
You wrote to me on 27 September about the difficult problem of the situation of Jewish communities in the Arab countries…you will appreciate that, in our affirmative vote for the recent Resolution of the Security Council on the question of displaced civilian populations … there was no implication that we are happy about the situation as regards the Jewish communities…our sole objective was to support the efforts of the Secretary General of the United Nations to carry out the request of the Security Council to follow the effective implementation of its Resolution No. 237 of 14 June 1967, which… called specifically on the Government of Israel to ensure the safety, welfare and security of the inhabitants of the areas where military operations had taken place and to facilitate the return of those inhabitants who had fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities.