Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jewish Nakba: the massacred Jews of Aden

The excellent Daphne Anson has done some original research for Nakba Day, and has turned up the harrowing details of a terrible pogrom agains the Jews of Aden in 1947 . Aden was, of course, the British-ruled port city at the tip of Yemen. Like with other pogroms, the British stood by and cynically let the massacre go on for some time before it was quelled. The subsequent exodus of the entire Adeni community was a component part of the much-neglected Jewish Nakba:

The Jewish Nakba - the Nakba you're unlikely to read about in the leftwing media, and predictably unacknowledged by the Arab foes of Israel - entailed the flight and dispossession of some 800,000 Jews from vengeful Arab countries in the wake of the establishment of the State of Israel. The Palestinian Arabs who left Israel have of course been used as pawns by rejectionist Arab nations, deliberately leaving them in refugee camps as a major propaganda weapon against the Jewish State that they've failed to vanquish by force of arms despite repeated attempts. By contrast, despite huge financial burdens facing the infant nation, Jewish refugees from Arab countries were absorbed into Israeli society.

One of the communities included in the Jewish Nakba was that of Aden, a seaport in southern Yemen. Aden was at that time a British Crown Colony. Its Jewish community of about 8,500 persons was an ancient one, tracing its history back well over 1000 years. Its fate was sealed in early December 1947, when a three-day strike took place in protest at the UN's 30 November Partition Plan for Palestine (see map below). The strike soon degenerated into a pogrom.

This prolonged outbreak of disorder and violence left 74 Jews dead (76 and even 78 according to some reports) with - a subsequent Colonial Office inquiry headed by Sir Harry Trusted, formerly Chief Justice of Palestine found - a similar number seriously injured. Many Jewish homes were burned down, and of 170 Jewish shops, 106 were looted of their entire contents.

Much of the violence against the Jews was perpetrated by the Arab militia sent to keep order - the Aden Protectorate Levies. Sir Harry's inquiry determined conservatively that "Some were sympathetic to looters and fire-raisers and did little to discourage them." It described many as "trigger-happy" and implicated in the deaths of many of the 31 Jews who were shot either in their homes or through the window shutters, as well as on rooftops and in the street. (Source: Jewish Chronicle, 24 September 1948.)

Below, italicised, is a first-hand account of the events, in a letter to the Jewish Chronicle (published in the issue of 2 January 1948) by a Jew signing himself "An Adenite":

The first day of the three-day Arab strike against partition, on December 2, passed off quietly, despite a demonstration outside the Jewish quarter [in Crater]. On the evening of that day, a meeting was addressed by Arab leaders, and at 6 p.m. the crowd, followed by thousands of Arabs, attacked the Jewish quarter. Those of us who were in the streets had to take shelter in the nearest house. This lasted up to about 10.30 p.m., when some British sailors surrounded the Jewish quarter and dispersed the mob.

Next morning, since Aden Protectorate Levies (Moslem Troops) were stationed in the Jewish quarter, many [Jews]came out on the streets, trusting that peace and order would be maintained. Suddenly, news reached us that Jewish shops situated in the leading bazaars were being looted.

Eyewitnesses saw Arabs fire buildings under the eyes of the Levies. They also saw Indian merchants openly abstracting bales of textiles from godowns [warehouses] in the Jewish quarter.

Following that, many houses were burned, as well as a synagogue. The reason that very few lives were lost in them was due solely to the fact that the inhabitants had fled. At least one-third of the Jewish quarter was destroyed, looted, or devastated.

In many of the houses, mobs broke in, looting and beating the inhabitants, and in some cases threatened them with death if they did not "accept the Mohammedan religion." Some were kidnapped by Arabs, and five are still missing.

Jewish deaths total 74, including men, women, and children. Many others were wounded. The only ones killed by the Arabs were one man slaughtered by rioters, and probably a few more by looters, in their homes. The Levies were reponsible for nearly all the deaths because of their constant shooting at our homes....

An amazing allegation is contained in a cable dispatched by the Governor himself [Sir Reginald Stuart Champion] to the Secretary of State [for the Colonies, Arthur Creech Jones], on December 5. It reads: "Curfew retained in Crater and situation there generally quieter, but alleged hostile activity of Jews created new dangerous tension, especially after killing of a Levy and an Indian Moslem Government doctor almost certainly by Jewish snipers ...."

I can hasten to assure His Excellency and the Governor that this allegation is completely untrue. The doctor in question is well known to the Jews as a kindly man and as a particular friend of a Jew called Mori Dawood. The real facts are that one of the sons, named Yehia, was shot on Wednesday, in his own home by the Levies. His family risked their lives under fire to reach a Jewish house where a telephne was available for the purpose of arranging for an ambulance to take Yehia to hospital and also telephoned the Audit Officer in whose office one of the sons is a clerk. All the replies were "Busy" and "Wait."

It was only the next morning that the doctor came and removed Yehia to the ambulance while he was speaking to his brother Hayeem near the house, the Levies shot them both. The doctor died instantly and Hayeem is still under treatment for wounds. Yehia died later in hospital.

What is needed is an impartial inquiry. I declare bluntly that the attack upon us was organised beforehand. How else can one account for an all-round attack, not only in the Crater, but also in Tawahi, Shaikh Othman, and Maalla? It was in the Crater that the events already described took place. But in Tawahi, a port six miles from the Crater, the total number of Jewish steps is five.

In Shaikh Othman [just off this map, to the north], about eleven miles from the Crater, 14 Jews were killed, and about 900 have been evacuated by the Government to the Yemenite migration camp at Hashed [i.e. Hashid]. In Maalla, a port, there are no Jewish residents, but premises stored with Jewish goods were looted.

It would be useful to know where the millions of lakhs of loot are at present, or whether the Government is taking drastic action to find the looters. But we hear that Arabs are selling their loot at a fifth to a tenth of its value, and that much of it has already removed from the Colony to the interior, despite the police "barriers".

Aden's stricken Jewry expects more than a mere condolence from world Jewry. They require funds to reconstruct their livelihood, and legal aid for a full inquiry and defence of their rights under International Law. They also require the particular attention of the Jewish Agency for migration certificates to Palestine for the whole community as soon as possible ....

In the immediate aftermath of the pogrom in Aden, Elie Eliachar, president of the 160,000-strong Sephardi Community of Palestine, who was visiting London, reported that the number of Jewish fatalities might in actuality have been as high as 145. He noted that Yemeni refugees in the Shaikh (or Sheikh) Othman camp, awaiting removal to Eretz Yisrael, had also suffered greatly from Arab attacks, and many feared that the the British government would repatriate them to Yemen.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a horror story! it has made me so sad. I had no idea the Jews of Aden had suffered so much!
it only makes me more of an israel lover. Why don't we all go and live there?

Sultana Latifa a former Jewish refugee who knows what it is to fear for ones life in an Arab country!