Arab Jews Seek Recognition


Platinum Member
Mar 26, 2003

LONDON (Reuters) - Edwin Shuker fondly recalls swimming in the cool, dawn waters of the river Tigris in his hometown of Baghdad, but the memories pale when he relives the fear he felt about being a Jew there.

"I miss the river. In the evening we would have the traditional Iraqi Mazgouf fish caught from the river and meet friends," he reminisced in London, where he now lives.

"But all my memories are tinged with terror."

Shuker, 48, who left for Britain in 1971, is one of many thousands of Iraqi-born Jews who fled or were expelled from the country as conditions deteriorated due to discriminatory legislation, pogroms and public executions.

Thousands more suffered the same fate across the Arab world after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, an event that sparked persecution and property confiscation by Arab governments that slowly drove many Jews out.

In recent months, Jewish groups have increased the call for recognition of the plight of these displaced Jews.

Shuker plans to revisit Baghdad this month and is campaigning for a truth and reconciliation commission in Iraq modeled on that established in South Africa after the end of apartheid.

He said Kanan Makiya, a prominent intellectual and former Iraqi opposition exile, was aiming to set up a museum in Iraq chronicling repression under former President Saddam Hussein and he was working with him to build a Jewish section.

Iraq's 2,600-year-old Jewish community numbered around 150,000 in 1947 and has dwindled to a handful today.


The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has estimated that around 900,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes in Arab countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Around 620,000 went to Israel, the rest seeking sanctuary in France, Britain, the United States and other countries.

"This is the forgotten exodus as it has been ignored by the international community, by the U.N. and this is a central element in the Arab-Israeli conflict. We feel this has to be incorporated in any peace settlement in the area," said WJC secretary general Avi Beker.

"There was a de facto exchange of population in the Middle East. When the Palestinians speak of the right of return, people should be aware that Jews were expelled."

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, a U.S.-based coalition of Jewish organizations, is another body calling for recognition of this issue on the international stage.

Stanley Urman, its executive director said: "On the agenda when they discuss refugees must also be, as a matter of law and equity, former Jewish refugees."


The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, founded in the 1970s and part of the Justice for Jews coalition, has estimated that Jews lost more than $100 billion in personal and community assets through confiscations by various Arab governments.

While some individuals have filed suits for lost property, there has so far not been a concerted effort by Jewish groups to seek reparations.

The WJC was at the forefront of negotiations with governments and financial institutions to secure reparations for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust during the 1990s.

"The restitution here will take a different shape and form because this is part of the Arab-Israeli conflict," WJC's Beker said. "We are not really engaged in restitution in this campaign. This is something that should be left to the parties in the peace process."

Israel's Ministry of Justice says it is collecting and registering testimonials, affidavits and property claims. It has received thousands of claims to date.

"As for the future use of the claims forms, it will be left to the discretion of the government of Israel," the ministry's Department for the Rights of Jews from Arab Countries said in a statement.


Despite the cultural richness and skills that Jews contributed to the region, Arab commentators say that the linkage with the Palestinian issue is invalid.

Lebanese-based lawyer Chibli Mallat said: "I support the right of return of Jewish Arabs in addition to an acknowledgment of their mostly forgotten suffering and compensation for it."

"One key element missing is the activism of Zionist organizations to persuade and sometimes force Arab Jews to leave their countries for Israel. How does one account for that cruel realpolitik in terms of reparations?"

Abbas Shiblak, a British-based Palestinian writer and author of a book on the Jews of Iraq, said the issue was being skewed.

"We are not responsible as Palestinians for what happened to the Arab Jews in Iraq and other Arab countries. This is something Israel has to settle with each Arab country," he said.

"The claims by Jews from Arab countries are valid claims. But the Israeli political establishment is linking both issues together at a time when they are not seriously resolving the Palestinian refugee issue."


Diamond Member
Jul 21, 2000
I'm not sure what the point of posting articles verbatim are if you're not going to comment on them?

This is not a new issue- Jews have been persecuted all over the world, including the Middle East and Africa. In the past 20yrs there have been many airlifts conducted by Israel of Jews out of countries like Ethiopia and the Sudan.

Once again- what's your point?


Golden Member
Dec 31, 2001
I'm all for displaced Jews being able to return to their homeland and live their lives securely and in peace. Just because I advocate the same for Palestinians does not meen I don't beleive the same should apply to Jews or anyone else.


Sep 10, 2001
Originally posted by: LilBlinbBlahIce
I'm all for displaced Jews being able to return to their homeland and live their lives securely and in peace. Just because I advocate the same for Palestinians does not meen I don't beleive the same should apply to Jews or anyone else.
Right on. I too support their plea to return home, but I find it hypocritical that at the same time, Israelis who support WJC are strongly opposed to Palestinians returning to their home and receiving compensation. The pedulum does not swing both ways for them.