Yes. The New York Times reported on May 16, 1948 on a series of measures taken by the Arab League to marginalize and persecute the Jewish residents of Arab League member states. TheTimes article reported on a “text of a law drafted by the Political Committee of the Arab League which was intended to govern the legal status of Jewish residents of Arab League countries. It provides that beginning on an unspecified date all Jews except citizens of non-Arab states, would be considered ‘members of the Jewish minority state of Palestine.’ Their bank accounts would be frozen and used to finance resistance to ‘Zionist ambitions in Palestine.’ Jews believed to be active Zionists would be interned and their assets confiscated.”
The Times article further reported the following:
“Already in some Moslem states such as Syria and Lebanon there is a tendency to regard all Jews as Zionist agents and ‘fifth columnists.’ There have been violent incidents with feeling running high. There are indications that the stage is being set for a tragedy of incalculable proportions.”
“In Syria, a policy of economic discrimination is in effect against Jews. ‘Virtually all’ Jewish civil servants in the employ of the Syrian Government have been discharged. Freedom of movement has been ‘practically abolished.’ Special frontier posts have been established to control movements of Jews.
“In Iraq no Jew is permitted to leave the country unless he deposits £5,000 ($20,000) with the Government to guarantee his return. No foreign Jew is allowed to enter Iraq even in transit.
“In Lebanon Jews have been forced to contribute financially to the fight against the United Nations partition resolution on Palestine. Acts of violence against Jews are openly admitted by the press, which accuses Jews of ‘poisoning wells,’ etc.
“Conditions vary in the Moslem countries. They are worst in Yemen and Afghanistan, whence many Jews have fled in terror to India. Conditions in most of the countries have deteriorated in recent months, this being particularly true of Lebanon, Iran and Egypt. In the countries farther west along the Mediterranean coast conditions are not so bad. It is feared, however that if a full-scale war breaks out, the repercussions will be grave for Jews all the way from Casablanca to Karachi.”
The Times article also makes references to
“Statements made by Arab spokesmen during the General Assembly session last autumn, to the effect that if the partition resolution was put into effect, they would not be able to guarantee the safety of the Jews in any Arab land.”
The following excerpt from “Why Jews Fled the Arab Countries,” by Ya’akov Meron, in The Middle East Quarterly, September 1995 (for the full article, click here) explores the nature of these statements made by the Egyptian, Palestinian and Iraqi delegates to the U.N. during the debate on the partition resolution.
In a key address before the Political Committee of the U.N. General Assembly on November 14, 1947, just five days before that body voted on the partition plan for Palestine, Heykal Pasha, an Egyptian delegate, made the following key statement in connection with that plan:
The United Nations . . . should not lose sight of the fact that the proposed solution might endanger a million Jews living in the Moslem countries. Partition of Palestine might create in those countries an anti-Semitism even more difficult to root out than the anti-Semitism which the Allies were trying to eradicate in Germany. . . If the United Nations decides to partition Palestine, it might be responsible for the massacre of a large number of Jews.
Heykal Pasha then elaborated on his threat:
A million Jews live in peace in Egypt [and other Muslim countries] and enjoy all rights of citizenship. They have no desire to emigrate to Palestine. However, if a Jewish State were established, nobody could prevent disorders. Riots would break out in Palestine, would spread through all the Arab states and might lead to a war between two races.
Heykal Pasha’s thinly veiled threats of “grave disorders,” “massacre,” “riots,” and “war between two races” did not at the time go unnoticed by Jews; for them, it had the same ring as the proposition made six years earlier by the Palestinian leader Hajj Amin al-Husayni to Hitler of a “final solution” for the Jews of Arab countries, including Palestine (see above). But the statement appears to have made no lasting impression, to the point that a historian of the Jews in Egypt has described Heykal Pasha as “a well-known liberal.”
Particularly noteworthy is that although Heykal Pasha spoke at the United Nations in his capacity as a representative of Egypt, he continuously mentioned the Jews “in other Muslim countries” and “all the Arab states,” suggesting a level of coordination among the Arab governments. Indeed, four days after his statement, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fadil Jamali declared at the United Nations that “interreligious prejudice and hatred” would bring about a great deterioration in the Arab-Jewish relationship in Iraq and in the Arab world at large, thereby reinforcing the impression that Heykal Pasha was talking not just on behalf of Egypt but for all the independent Arab states. Further confirmation came several days later, after the General Assembly had decided in favor of partitioning Palestine, when, “following orders issued by the Arab League,” Muslims engaged in outrages against Jews living in Aden and Aleppo.
Another indication that Arab rulers coordinated the expulsion of Jews from their territories comes from a Beirut meeting one and a half years later of senior diplomats from all the Arab States. By this time, March 1949, the Arab states had already lost the first Arab-Israeli war; they now used this defeat to justify an expulsion that had been officially proclaimed before the war even began. As reported in a Syrian newspaper, “If Israel should oppose the return of the Arab refugees to their homes, the Arab governments will expel the Jews living in their countries.”
According to Walid Khalidi, perhaps the leading Palestinian nationalist historian and a highly reputable source, “The (Palestinian) Arabs held their ground throughout the period from November 1947 to March 1948. Up to March 1, not one single Arab village had been vacated by its inhabitants, and the number of people leaving the mixed towns was insignificant.” The mass departure from Palestine of 590,000 Arabs began only in April 1948; yet, Heykal Pasha had publicly and very formally announced a program to expel Jews from Arab countries fully five months earlier.