Lyn Julius, journalist, author and co-founder of the charity Harif, which aims to educate people about Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, appeared on the most recent episode of Podcast Against Antisemitism where she explained how the persecution of Jews in the Arab world resulted in a destroyed civilisation almost overnight, and the lasting impact this had on modern Jewry.
Ms Julius said: “The decline was extremely dramatic. In a generation and a half, it went from tens of thousands of Jews to maybe zero or less than ten for most of these countries.”
“So how do we explain this dramatic decline?” she continued. “Arab nationalism played its part. Also, the rise of Islamism, which actually goes back to the 1930s, to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in Egypt, and they incited riots against the Jews of Egypt as early as the 1930s. Then, of course, there was the influence of Nazim on Arab nationalists. There was the import of Christian and Nazi antisemitism into this region, Nazi ideas of Jewish conspiracy and control.”
The author added that another contributing factor was the “backlash against Israel’s victory in the first Arab-Israeli war and subsequent wars. The Arab governments really took their frustrations out on what remained of their Jewish communities. It was all these factors, really, that contributed towards the ethnic cleansing of these Jewish communities.”
Elaborating on the role of countries’ governments, Ms Julius said that “there was a lot of state-sanctioned persecution. The Arab League actually drafted anti-Jewish laws stripping them of their citizenship, dispossessing them of their property, freezing their bank accounts.
“But the main thing they did was to criminalise Zionism and that meant that Jews could be arrested, they could be jailed and they could even be executed for being Zionists. But how do you define Zionism? Is having a Magen David on your tallit, on your prayer shawl, is that Zionist? Is that Zionism? And so all sorts of spurious excuses were produced in order to criminlise Jews, and this of course put Jews in a very precarious and dangerous position.
“Coupled with outbreaks of violence, and then there were riots in several of these countries in the 1940s, Jews were physically under threat. They could not rely on the forces of law and order to protect them.”
Throughout the interview, Ms Julius touched upon a wide variety of topics which included the challenges faced by Mizrachi Jews and why we still hear the antisemitic “Khaybar” chant at rallies around the world today.
Podcast Against Antisemitism, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, talks to a different guest about antisemitism each week. It streams every Thursday and is available through all major podcast apps and YouTube. You can also subscribe to have new episodes sent straight to your inbox.