An Uneasy Truce and the Suez War, 1949-1956


Operation Magic Carpet

Operation Magic Carpet

World War II re-drew the map of world Jewry. Seventy-two percent of European Jewry perished during of the Holocaust, the systematic, state-sponsored persecution and attempted annihilation of Jews (and some other “undesirable” groups) by the Nazi regime and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945–during which six million Jews (and millions of others) were murdered. The world’s largest pre-war Jewish communities, Poland and the U.S.S.R, were decimated; those Eastern European Jews who survived the war faced anti-semitism in the postwar period. 

Stalin, who controlled not only the U.S.S.R, but also the communist satellite states of Eastern Europe, closed Jewish cultural institutions and imprisoned hundreds of Jews.

Stalin’s death in 1953 brought some relief to Eastern European Jews, but Middle Eastern politics presented a new stumbling block to Jewish life. The Soviet government, fearing the groundswell of Jewish self-identification occasioned by the establishment of the state of Israel, branded Zionism illegal and closed all secular Jewish institutions. In 1971, the Soviets began to permit Jewish emigration but maintained tight reigns over who was allowed to leave. Those Jews who were refused emigration permits (“refuseniks”) were deemed untrustworthy and often lost their jobs. In total, over 250,000 Soviet Jews emigrated during the 1970s. A majority of Soviet émigrés settled in Israel; others moved to the United States, Canada and Australia.

A new regional pattern emerged for the Jews of western Europe after World War II. Whereas German Jewry had been the Jewish cultural touchstone of pre-war Europe, the postwar period saw the Jewish communities of Britain and France become the largest and most important in the region. While British Jewry ultimately declined in numbers as a result of assimilation and intermarriage (issues faced by all western Jewish communities in the postwar period), the Jewish community in France grew as a result of emigration of Jews from Northern Africa.

Immediately after the war, approximately 250,000 Jewish displaced persons left Europe for the United States or Israel. These two nations became the main stages for postwar Jewish life.

After decades of struggle under British Mandate, the fate of Palestine was placed in the hands of the United Nations. The United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two sovereign states, Arab and Jewish. The Arabs rejected this proposal and pledged to prevent its implementation by whatever means necessary. The Jews accepted the plan and founded the Jewish state, Israel, in May 1948. The day after Israel became a state, a War of Independence with her neighbors (Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq) began. The war ended in 1949, but the existential and physical questions about borders and populations that existed then continued.

The demands of serving as a haven for Jews occupied Israel’s internal resources during her early years. Refugees flooded into the country- first displaced persons from Europe, followed by Jews from Arab lands, then Jews from Ethiopia, and the Soviet Union. Israel’s Law Of Return, which grants citizenship to any Jew, resulted in growing pains for the new state. Israel supported a population wherein a majority of the citizens were Jews– who looked different from one another, spoke different languages, had varied histories, practiced different customs, and held a variety of opinions about religion and its role in their lives. The challenge was to make these people into one nation.

Excerpted from The Story, 1948-1980,

Primary Sources

  1. Egyptian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement, February 24, 1949.
  2. Lebanese-Israeli General Armistice Agreement, March 23, 1949.
  3. U.S Congressional Joint Resolution, March 24, 1949.
  4. Jordanian-Israeli General Armistice Agreement, April 3, 1949.
  5. Israeli-Syrian General Armistice Agreement, July 20, 1949.
  6. Report on Status of the Armistice Negotiations and Truce in Palestine (Excerpts), July 21, 1949.
  7. The Israeli Government Debates Its Immigration Policy, HaBoker, Central Zionist Archives, Oct. 24, 1949.
  8. Assistance to Palestine Refugees – Resolution of the General Assembly, December 8, 1949.
  9. International Regime for the Jerusalem Area and Protection of the Holy Places – Resolution of the General Assembly, December 9, 1949.
  10. The Decree of the Unification of the “West Bank” into Jordan, April 24 1950.
  11. Department of State Airgram from Dean Acheson (Anti-Americanism in the Arab World), May 1, 1950.
  12. Tripartite Declaration Regarding the Armistice Borders- Statement by the Governments of the United States, The United Kingdom, and France, May 25, 1950.
  13. United Nations Palestine Refugee Aid Act of 1950- Title III of Public Law 535 (81st Congress, 2d Session), June 5, 1950.
  14. Treaty of Joint Defense and Economic Cooperation Between the States of the Arab League, June 17, 1950.
  15. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 393 (V), December 2, 1950.
  16. A Summary of the Iraqi Parliamentary Debate, 1950, Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
  17. The Iraqi Law Permitting Jews to Emigrate with the Forfeiture of Nationality, 1950, Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
  18. The Zionist Underground in Iraq Appeals to the Jews to Register for Emigration, Apr. 8, 1950, Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
  19. The Progress of Jewish Emigration from Iraq Two Months before the Expiration of the Law Permitting It, Jan. 18, 1951, Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
  20. The Iraqi Government Urges that Jewish Emigration be Speeded Up, 1951, Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, Jewish Publication Society, 2003.
  21. Revue de Liban (a French language weekly published in Lebanon), May 12, 1951.
  22. Authority of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and of the Syrian-Israeli Mixed Armistice Commission- United Nations Security Council Resolution, May 18, 1951.
  23. Habib Issa, ‘Al Huda’ (a Lebanese newspaper published in the USA, June 6, 1951.
  24. Egyptian Restrictions on Israeli Shipping in the Suez Canal- United Nations Security Council Resolution, September 1, 1951.
  25. Jerusalem Ahead- Rules of the Game, Keren Hayesod, 1951.
  26. Memorandum for the President, Urgent Request from Ibn Saud to Dwight D. Eisenhower, Aug. 9, 1951.
  27. Bernard Baruch’s letter to Rabbi Friedman, Dec. 31, 1953.
  28. Letter from Ben-Gurion to Chaim Halperin, Mar. 29, 1955.
  29. Israel’s Goal- Peace, Golda Meir, Dec. 5, 1956.

Newspaper Articles

Secondary Sources



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