Those Who Have Oppressed the Hebrew People Have Not Fared Well

Those Who Have Oppressed the Hebrew People Have Not Fared Well

© David Burton 2022

Hate Crimes

     Throughout the ages, history has shown that nations which have treated their Jewish populations kindly have benefitted as a result, while those that have been unkind to the Jews have suffered.

     Going far back in time, the biblical narrative tells of those nations that were hostile to, attacked, and opposed the original Israelites. Most, if not all of these opponents of the Hebrew people fared badly. Amalek was destroyed. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and the Roman empire are no longer great powers. After the destruction the Second Temple, Jews have been scattered throughout the world – the Diaspora. In some of these countries Jews were treated kindly and contributed to the prosperity and well-being of their hosts. In too many of these countries, Jews were eventually treated badly, were expelled or were murdered. Those countries that have treated their Jewish guests badly have generally not fared very well.

     In March 1492 Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issued the Edict of Expulsion, which was publicly announced on April 29. The decree allowed Jews to stay in Spain only if they converted to Christianity, basically limiting them to Catholicism, the dominant religion in Spain. If Jews chose not to convert, they had four months to leave the country or face execution by the Spanish Inquisition.[1]

     Prior to the Expulsion, there was a significant and vital Jewish community for almost nine hundred years in Spain. Under Moslem rule, the Jews enjoyed the “golden age.” There were Jewish courtiers and even prime ministers, financiers and army generals. Jews excelled in medicine, philosophy, poetry, astronomy, diplomacy, finance, and creativity.[2] Over this period of time, Spain achieved the status of a superpower. Spain remained a leading power for some time after the Expulsion, but its power and status waned over the next several years. Today, Spain is not included in the list of leading nations of the world, even as it tries to reestablish its long-gone Jewish community.

     Other countries, e.g. Portugal, treated their Jewish minorities in a similar fashion, expelling them or forcing them to convert to Christianity. And they too suffered a fate similar to that of Spain.

     With today’s often violent and virulent anti-Semitism spreading across Western Europe, there is a rising flood of Jews leaving for safer climes – Israel and the U.S. for example. These countries that are losing their Jewish minorities face an uncertain future as their “assimilated” Jewish communities are being replaced with the less skilled Islamic influx and the arrival of refugees from a number of third world countries, mainly from Africa.

     “During the twentieth century, an astounding proportion of geniuses have been Jewish, and the fate of nations from Russia westward has largely reflected how they have treated their Jews. When Jews lived in Vienna and Budapest early in the century, these cities of the Hapsburg Empire were world centers of intellectual activity and economic growth; then the Nazis came to power, the Jews fled or were killed, and growth and culture disappeared with them. When Jews came to New York and Los Angeles, those cities towered over the global economy and culture. When Jews escaped Europe for Los Alamos and, more recently, for Silicon Valley, the world’s economy and military balance shifted decisively. Thus, many nations have faced a crucial moral test: Will they admire, reward, and emulate a minority that has achieved towering accomplishments? Or will they writhe in resentment and plot its destruction?” (Ref. 3)

     In past years, the Arab nations of the world have been extremely unfriendly to Jews who had been living peacefully in these countries for more than 2,000 years. Over the centuries, these Jewish refugees from the ancient Land of Israel had contributed to their host nations. They had resided peacefully in their host countries and had not fomented trouble. But, with the return of Jews to their ancient homeland around the start of the twentieth century and the rise of Arab nationalism after World War I, Jews in Arab nations became the targets of Jew-haters and anti-Zionists. Nearly all members of a once thriving array of Jewish communities in Arab countries were eventually forced to flee their adopted homelands around the time of the establishment of the State of Israel. A Saudi Arabian journalist recently discussed the consequences of this forced exodus of Jews from Arab lands. This journalist wrote that oppression of Jews in Arab countries caused Jewish emigration - and a consequent loss to the Arab economies and to Arab society. In the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat he discussed the oppression of Jews in Arab lands that led those Jews to emigrate and reestablish their lives elsewhere.

     The journalist “wrote that Jews living in ‘the Mashreq,’ the eastern part of the Arab world, were forced to leave for other countries after facing systematic oppression and confiscation of their property, despite being ‘pillars of the economy and of culture and art’ in their respective countries. Citing examples of Jewish families that went on to be financially successful elsewhere, {he} asserted that Jewish emigration from Arab countries constituted a loss to ‘the Arab economy and to Arab society, which failed to be tolerant and became an emblem of exclusion.’ [Emphasis mine]
      - - -
     " ‘The Jews I am talking about were part of homogenous Arab communities. They were [ordinary] citizens, until their oppression began, manifested in doubting their loyalty, accusing them of treason and pressuring them to leave. When the pressure did not produce results, their property was simply seized. [All] this was done to others as well, but the Jews were a regular target for accusations of treason and suspicions of disloyalty, even though they were pillars of the economy and of culture and art in the countries where they lived.
     " ‘I remember an incident that happened to me... My daughter was about to have a delicate operation in the U.S. to remove a malignant tumor. I was attending Friday prayers in Jeddah when [the preacher] started... cursing the Jews and the Christians. I objected to this, saying: 'Am I supposed to curse the Jew who is about to operate on my daughter? (The surgeon happened to be Jewish). Why should I curse someone who has never done me any harm? On the contrary, I wish him every success.' I started recalling encounters I had had with Jews in the Arab world, from all walks of life. For example, I remembered Serge Berdugo, who served as culture minister in Morocco in 1993-1996, and who told me: 'We Moroccan [Jews] have full civil rights.' [I also recalled] my meeting in Bahrain with Rouben, the owner of the famous electronics shop near Bab Al-Bahrain [in the center of Manama], who told me that Bahrain respects the rights of the Jews who live there.
     " ‘[But], in contrast to these examples, there are also tragic stories about the denial of rights, about racist and degrading treatment and about the forceful seizing of property from innocent Jews. Such examples are known from countries like Iraq, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. The Kadoorie family, [for instance], left Iraq for Hong Kong, where it founded [Hong Kong's] oldest hotel, the Peninsula... Another [Jewish] family that left Iraq was the Saatchi family, which settled in Britain and founded the Saatchi advertising agency. The Safra family left Syria for Brazil, where it founded a financial empire, and the Cicurel family, which owns huge department stores, came from Egypt. All the families presented [here] as examples were lost to the Arab economy and to the Arab society, which failed to be tolerant and became an emblem of exclusion.’ “ (Ref. 4)

     A million Jews lived in Arab countries in the early 20th century. Today, just a few thousand are left, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia.
     The purging of the Jews caused a crisis in almost every Arab country from which they came. Despite their relatively limited numbers, the Jews’ impact on society, culture, economy, and trade was crucial to the development of those countries, and their loss was felt. After the Jews were evicted from Iraq and Egypt, for example, those countries experienced crisis after crisis.
     There is now a palpable longing in most Arab states for the Jews to return. Many believe that only with a Jewish presence will their countries blossom and develop as they did in the past. In some of these countries, there has been a recent change of direction and relations with Jews and the Jewish State has shown some warming.
     The Jewish contribution to Arab states in the past was significant. In Egypt, the gold market flourished with a Jewish presence and continues to do so to this day, even though the Jews were thrown out and their stores ransacked. Jewish symbols like the Magen David remain engraved on Egyptian shops, in markets, and on buildings.
     The older generation in these countries still remembers the prosperity of the time when Jews were in possession of their stores.
     It is no coincidence that Cairo decided to invest tens of millions of dollars in the restoration of synagogues throughout Egypt. The most recent is the renovation of the once magnificent Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) Synagogue, in which $6 million is being invested.
     It is not only the Egyptians who want to coax back the prosperity that accompanied the Jewish presence. A while back, the new Sudanese Minister of Religion, Nasser Aladin, called on Sudanese Jews whose families were forced to emigrate in the wake of the establishment of the State of Israel to return.
     In Lebanon, over a million dollars has been invested in the restoration of the Magen Avraham synagogue in the Wadi Abu Jamil neighborhood in West Beirut, near the Lebanese parliament.
     Perhaps more than any others, it is the Iraqis who long for the return of their Jewish brethren, and Iraqi Jews who long for their former homeland. In recent years, a number of Facebook accounts have opened in Israel to renew the connection between Iraqi Jews and the Arabs beside whom their ancestors lived in harmony for over a thousand years prior to the advent of Islam.
     The Iraqi Jews were wrenched from their former home, but their contribution to the country is felt to this day. Like Jewish minorities in other countries, the Jews of Iraq concentrated on trade, crafts, light industry, governmental and municipal services, and banking. The impact of Jews on commerce and banking was especially significant.
     The eight banks operating in Baghdad in the 1940s were all founded by Jewish families, and most of the clerks of Jewish and foreign banks were Jews. The first Iraqi Minister of the Treasury, Yehezkel Sasson, was Jewish. He laid the foundations for Iraqi taxation, economics, and the state budget. In one of the protests against corruption in Iraq a few years ago, Sasson’s name was held up on signs declaring he was not corrupt like the current politicians.
     Today, there is only one Jewish minister to be found in the entire Arab world. Roni Trabbolsi serves as Tunisian Minister of Tourism, the third Jewish minister to serve since Tunisia’s founding.
     Arab countries of old flourished in large part because of the contribution of their Jews. But then, in some countries, there was an exchange of populations: the Jews were forced out and Palestinian Arab refugees arrived in their place. The wealthy and educated Jewish population was replaced by a weak and poor population, a cultural shock that particularly affected Syria, Iraq, and Libya.
     With the rise of xenophobic Arab/Muslim rejection of the State of Israel, the Arab states that could not beat Israel on the battlefield punished their Jews instead. Now, years later, there is a growing realization of the counter-productivity of that injustice, and many are calling for the Jews to return.
     Some Muslims are even calling for a tax levied on non-Muslims in Arab countries to be returned to the Jews.
     Unfortunately, despite this growing sentiment, there are those Arab leaders who continue to choose for the most part to look the other way, not only refusing to protect the Jews but actively contributing to their persecution, e.g., Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Syria.
     Perhaps not coincidentally, the Arab states suffer serial economic failures and never-ending wars and disputes. Some Muslims believe this is a punishment by Allah for their failure to protect the Jews, as they were instructed to do.[5]

     America has been one of the most welcoming nations to the Jews of the Diaspora. At the same time, over the last century, America has achieved and retained its status as the most powerful and successful nation in the world. American Jews were and continue to be significant contributors to this success story.

     Throughout recorded history, countries that were on friendly terms with the Israelite Nation and nations that accepted the Jews of the diaspora and treated them well all benefited. Especially during the 2,000-year diaspora and the subsequent seven decades, those countries that were accepting and tolerant of Jews have benefitted from their presence. In those cases, Jews have turned out to be much akin to the goose that laid golden eggs. Jews and their hosts have generally prospered.

     In 2022, the story in America, as in many other parts of the world is changing. Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head here and elsewhere. Jew haters are rising up and attempting to kill the goose that has been laying the golden eggs. If people of good will allow the haters of the world win, history tells us that outcome for all, not just the Jews, will be bad.

     Let us all hope and pray this uptick in Jew-hatred and violence will quickly dissipate and that the Jewish goose will continue to lay its golden eggs to benefit all people of good will. Let us also hope and pray that the beneficiaries of these gifts continue to welcome, accept and be hospitable to adherents of Judaism.

     Americans and other people around the globe should remember what has befallen those nations that have oppressed the Jewish people throughout recorded history while peoples and nations that have welcomed Jews have benefited from the presence of these wandering Hebrews.

     Can anyone name one country on the face of this earth where Jews have attempted to take over control of that country? With the exception of Hebrews conquering the biblical land of Canaan, can anyone accuse the Jews of attacking a sovereign nation in order to acquire more land or resources. Israel’s wars have all been entirely defensive and nearly all the land captured in those recent wars has been returned to their original possessors, the minor exceptions being territories justifiably retained for self-defense, e.g., the Golan Heights. What exactly do Jew-haters have to fear from Jews? History has shown that Jews don’t attack arbitrarily non-Jews. Jews don’t attack peaceful nations. The only reason to hate and attack Jews is because Jews are successful and benefit all those who are their friends. The only reason to hate and attack Jews is jealousy and envy! May those who today continue to hate and attack Jews suffer the same fate as all the previous antisemitic oppressors. May the anti-Semites of the modern world be as successful as Haman, Pharoah, Amalek, Antiochus Epiphanes and Hitler.

  1. In 1492, Spain Forced Jews to Flee the Country or Convert to Christianity, Kate Kershner,, 5 June 2017.
  2. The Spanish Expulsion, Rabbi Berel Wein, Medieval Jewish History, Sephardic Jewish History, 7 July 2010.
  3. How market capitalism saved the Jewish state, George Gilder,, Summer 2009.
  4. 'We oppressed Jews - and lost their contribution', Tal Polon,, 2 April 2018.
  5. Analysis: Why Arab countries are saying ‘we miss the Jews’, Dr. Edy Cohen, World Israel News,
    6 February 2020.

  2 June 2022 {ARTICLE 530; ISRAEL_67}    
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