Last updated on: 2/3/2009 | Author:

How Many Jews from Arab Countries Became Refugees following the First Arab-Israeli War?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)


This site was archived on Aug. 3, 2021. The two-state solution is no longer the most popular solution among the jurisdictions involved. A reconsideration of the topic is possible in the future.

Martin Gilbert, Honorary Fellow of Merton College at Oxford University, in the 2002 edition of his Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, wrote:

“In 1945 there were more than 870,000 Jews living in the Arab world, many of their communities dated back 2,500 years. Throughout 1947 and 1948 these Jews were subjected to continual pressure and persecution… Many Jews of the Arab world were thus driven to seek a refuge in the new State of Israel. Arriving in Israel destitute, they were absorbed into the society, and became an integral part of the State. A further 260,000 found refuge in Europe and the Americas.”


Ian J. Bickerton, PhD, Professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of New South Wales, and Carla L. Klausner, PhD, Professor of the Modern Middle East at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, in their 2002 edition of A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, wrote:

“By 1957, over half a million Jews had left or been expelled form Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East and had settled in Israel. Within five or six years of Israel’s existence, approximately 47,000 immigrants came from Yemen, 113,000 from Iraq, 14,000 from Lebanon and Syria, and 39,000 from Iran.”


Maurice M. Roumani, PhD, Director of the Center for Sephardi Heritage at Ben-Gurion University, in his 1983 book The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, provided the following:

Country Jewish
Population 1948
Population 1976
Egypt 75,000 100
Syria 30,000 4,350
Iraq 135,000 400
Lebanon 5,000 500
Libya 38,000 20
Yemen 55,000 1,000
Aden 8,000 0
Morocco 265,000 17,000
Algeria 140,000 500
Tunisia 105,000 2,000
856,000 25,870

Samuel G. Freedman, Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, in an Oct. 11, 2003 New York Times article titled, “Are Jews Who Fled Arab Lands to Israel Refugees, Too?” wrote:

“The problem of refugees, both Jewish and Palestinian, goes back to the formation of Israel. During United Nations debates in 1947 over the partition of Palestine, Arab delegates warned that the formation of a Jewish state might lead to violent retaliation against Jews in their countries. ‘The masses in the Arab world cannot be restrained,’ an Iraqi diplomat said at the time.

The immediate outcomes ranged from anti-Jewish riots in Yemen and Syria to the revocation of citizenship for Jews in Libya to the confiscation of their property in Iraq. After the overthrow of King Farouk of Egypt in a military coup in 1952 and Israel’s invasion of Sinai in 1956, Egypt declared Jews enemies of the state.

For its part, Israel mounted operations to transport tens of thousands of Jews from Iraq and Yemen. While 856,000 Jews lived in Arab nations in 1948, only 7,800 were there in 2001, the American Sephardi Federation reports. About 600,000 went to Israel, the remainder to the United States and Western Europe.”

Oct. 11, 2003

Terence Prittie, the late British author and journalist, in a 1973 essay titled “Middle East Refugees,” published in a compilation, The Palestinians: People, History, Politics, wrote:

“They were called the Forgotten Million: the Jews of the Arab world who lived in ancient settlements from the Atlantic seaboard to the mountains of Kurdistan. Twenty-five years ago [1947] they numbered nearly one million; today [1973] there are fewer than 60,000.”