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This meme is on many places on X. (I found it RTed on Ben Shapiro's X timeline). Are the numbers accurate?

"stop terror now" chart

Image text:

This is ethnic cleansing

Jewish population 1948 VS. 2023

[country] [number]
EGYPT 63,550 vs 3
SYRIA 40,000 vs 0
IRAN 100,000 vs 8,500
IRAQ 150,000 vs 4
LEBANON 20,000 vs 29
MOROCCO 265,000 vs 2,100
YEMEN 55,000 vs 1
ALGERIA 140,000 vs 200
LIBYA 38,000 vs 0
TUNISIA 105,000 vs 1,000
GAZA 7,949 VS 0

This is not

Arab population 1948 VS. 2023

[country] [number]
ARABS IN ISRAEL 156,000 VS 2,100,000
ARABS IN GAZA 80,000 vs 2,000,000

Note: This question is about the numbers, not the definition of ethnic cleansing.

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  • 6
    The question "are the numbers accurate" has been answered, but given this is Skeptics we should be wary of the implication that accurate numbers validates the premise of the meme - that being that Arabs were not ethnically cleansed from the land that is now Israel. It seems to me that when fact checking a meme, the entire meme should be subject to scrutiny, not just the specific factual statements. i.e. is the argument the meme is making logically sound: that numbers alone can support the conclusion that an event is ethnic cleansing or not.
    – Wossname
    Mar 27 at 20:26
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    @Wossname: Answers should address the question, which is about numbers. We are generally lenient about answers that address the question and go on to warn about how the implications might be misleading, but we don't accept questions that ignore the facts and just tackle a political view.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 31 at 11:50
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    I have culled a lot of political posturing and answers that didn't address the question.
    – Oddthinking
    Mar 31 at 12:01
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    @oddthinking My answer did not tackle a political view, it tackled the logical problems with factual statements being used to support a dubious claim. I didn’t even say the dubious claim was false, despite that being my opinion, just that it wasn’t supported by the facts presented.
    – Wossname
    Mar 31 at 19:09
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    @Oddthinking Wossname's answer gave an interesting analysis of the numbers by comparing them to techniques used by Climate Change deniers. I don't think the removal is fair.
    – Ona
    Mar 31 at 19:42

3 Answers 3

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This question literally has its own Wikipedia page.

To sum that up:

  • Jewish exodus from Muslim countries happened in several stages
  • The exodus was not just towards Israel, but also towards the USA and Europe
  • Support for mass migration into Israel wasn't universal within Israel itself
  • There were both push and pull factors at work
  • This includes threats and direct actions, e.g. (quote) Iraq's prime minister Nuri al-Said told British diplomats that if the United Nations solution was not "satisfactory", "severe measures should [would?] be taken against all Jews in Arab countries".
  • Another example: During the 1956 Suez Crisis 1000 Jews were arrested and 500 Jewish businesses were seized by the government. [...] Jewish bank accounts were confiscated and many Jews lost their jobs. Lawyers, engineers, doctors and teachers were not allowed to work in their professions. Thousands of Jews were ordered to leave the country. They were allowed to take only one suitcase and a small sum of cash, and forced to sign declarations "donating" their property to the Egyptian government.
  • One more example: In March 1964, the Syrian government issued a decree prohibiting Jews from traveling more than three miles from the limits of their hometowns.

Additionally, a quick Google search indicates that no more than a single-digit percentage of people (2-4% of the world population) are immigrants. Most people live their entire life in the country they were born in (not counting studying a semester abroad, I mean permanent living). It is highly, highly unusual for 90%+ of only a subset of a population to become immigrants.

Including the sources given in Mark's answer, we can conclude that yes, the meme is accurate in its primary statements, even if minor details can be discussed. Specifically:

  • The numbers stated are generally accurate
  • The displacement of Jews out of the listed countries was largely involuntary. While not generally in the form of forced deportation, large numbers of Jews left due to increasing pressure and restrictions.

On the question of whether or not the exodus can be considered ethnic cleansing or a genocide, according to the official UN definition, only Article II, clause c) could apply:

Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part

and this would have to be judged differently for each country involved and even for each wave.

The meme referenced ethnic cleansing. That is not a term with an official definition, so it is difficult to answer. Given that an ethnicity has been largely removed from these countries, it does appear to be a fitting term. Again, since it has no official or legal definition, the question cannot be definitely answered.

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    Going by that Wikipedia page, the low numbers seem close, but also completely made up. Wpedea lists Lebanon as 100 in 2012, while the meme says 29 in 2023. Likewise Wpedia has 100 for Egypt in 2019 while the meme says 3 (also in 2023). Mar 27 at 20:20
  • Regarding the Iraqi PM's quote I asked a follow up question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/56830/…
    – Ona
    Mar 28 at 5:18
  • Ethnic cleansing is relatively well-defined, see the UN Genocide Prevention's page. Mar 29 at 2:29
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    The statement “yes, the meme is accurate in its primary statements” is problematic, because it covers not just the factual claims made, but also the text of the meme - its primary statement. This answer also only addresses the first part of the claim. The statement “this is not [ethnic cleansing]” is not mentioned, despite arguably being the primary message of the meme.
    – Wossname
    Mar 31 at 19:46
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    This answer contains some highly idiosyncratic interpretations of international law, in disagreement with most court judgements in such [group] deportation matters being genocide. skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5045/… Apr 1 at 11:46
47

Wikipedia's article on Jewish exodus from the Muslim world, sourced mostly to the 2000 Encyclopedia of World History for 1948, and to the Jewish Virtual Library for "now", gives very similar numbers for the Jewish population (except for Gaza, which isn't mentioned).

(However, the numbers aren't a simple case of ethnic cleansing: Israel, particularly immediately after the 1948 war, strongly encouraged Jewish immigration, sometimes assisting the immigration of entire national communities. The only country to explicitly expel Jews was Egypt; conversely, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq banned emigration at various times.)

The "Jews in Gaza" numbers are a different situation. The absence of Jews in Gaza is due to Israel's 2005 unilateral removal of settlements in the Gaza Strip. If you choose to call that "ethnic cleansing", it's ethnic cleansing of Jews by Israel.

The "Arab Population" numbers are a case of cherry-picking the data. At the start of 1948, the Arab population in what is now Israel was about a million; the 156,000 number is the low estimate for the number left after the Palestinian expulsion (late 1948). Conversely, the 80,000 Arabs in Gaza Strip is from early 1948, before several hundred thousand refugees fled there.

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    The number of Jews aren't a simple case of ethnic cleansing, but very close. For example for Iraq or Syria As for the last part, most of the refugees that fled to Gaza are part of the million that lived in Israel.
    – Rsf
    Mar 27 at 12:04
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    Another thing that needs to be mentioned and that you are also missing in your answer is that the original post doesn't include the number of Arabs in the west bank, while your number of approximately 1 million Arabs does include them. So that using your number the total number of Arabs in Israel, Gaza, Judea and Samaria today is more than 7 million, if we take PA numbers of their population.
    – SIMEL
    Mar 27 at 12:21
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    I have a far more serious objection to the premise of this meme, you touched it at one point: "in what is now Israel" ... Israel did not exist before 14 May 1948, it was Mandated Palestine before that, and only got UN recognition the following year. Ditto Gaza. The numbers are literally comparing now with the first year of the country existing, of course there's going to be large changes.
    – Kaithar
    Mar 27 at 12:25
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    @TheAsh No. This Answer reads like a proper skeptical analysis of the meme, pointing out the underlying premises, giving the actual facts about those premises, and then leaving it to the reader to decide the subjective aspects. It makes perfect sense to describe the actual facts, and then leave to the reader to decide if the term "ethnic cleansing" actually fits.
    – trlkly
    Mar 28 at 2:43
2

The meme falsely labels 2020 numbers as being from 2023

The "2023" numbers, present at the Jewish Virtual Library (Tunisia's figures as an example here), are originally from "The American Jewish Year Book, 2020," specifically "World Jewish Population, 2020" by Sergio DellaPergola, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The following numbers are provided by The 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom by the U.S department of state:

Jewish population (2022 U.S department of state report)

[country] [number (source as stated by the U.S report)] meme
EGYPT 6 - 10 (local Jewish NGO) 6
SYRIA Before the civil war, there were small Jewish populations in Aleppo and Damascus, but in 2020, the Jewish Chronicle reported that there were no known Jews still living in the country. 0
IRAN 9,000 (Tehran Jewish Committee) 20,000 (community member) 8,500
IRAQ 100 - 250 (KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs) 4 (media organizations, 2021) 4
LEBANON 70 - 100 (Jewish Community Council) 29
MOROCCO 3500 (Jewish community leaders) 2,100
YEMEN 7 (UN report) 1
ALGERIA 200 Jews (Religious leaders) 200
LIBYA 0 permanent residents (World Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem) 0
TUNISIA 1,500 (members of the Jewish community) 1,000

Numbers in the meme are (under)-estimates

Numbers are not the result of an exhaustive official census but are estimates from various sources with no uniform methodology. It is difficult to get accurate numbers. This is a flaw of both the U.S report and the Sergio DellaPergola report.

For example, the official website of the Tehran Jewish Committee currently states that there are an estimated 15,000 Jewish people in Iran and 8,000 in Tehran alone. So the U.S report contradicts the very source it cites.

Permanent Residents not citizens

  • Permanent residents not citizens are counted. Dual-nationals living in other countries, are not included. Many Tunisian-Israeli and Tunisian-French residents live in their higher income countries and only return for vacations. (Monthly Minimum wage in Tunisia is $220, in France $1,906). Getting the French citizenship was easier for Jewish people during colonial rule. Getting the Israeli citizenship is also easy if you have jewish grandparents (and allows you VISA free access to europe).

  • Palestinian refugees and internally displaced people, in contrast, are not allowed to return (despite UN resolution 194 calling for their right to do so). Present absentees, which do live inside Israel proper, are also not allowed to return to their homes there (a fact not visible in total-resident numbers)

  • Citizenship issue is also important in Algeria's case where All Jewish residents were given the French citizenship automatically by the Crémieux Decree of 1870. Many French citizens, regardless of religion, returned to live in France after the end of the French colonial rule in 1962.

Academic consensus about forced expulsions (Egypt and Israel)

As @Mark correctly states Egypt and Israel are the only countries to explicitly expel Jews rsp. Arabs.

Note, while politicians still deny it, there is a widespread academic consensus today that Zionist paramilitary and later Israel's army expelled Arabs. There is still debate though on the proportion of those who fled against those who were expelled.

For example, Benny Morris is a Pro-Zionist historian (who recently represented the Israeli side in the Lex Fridman debate). Here are:

the Decisive causes of abandonment of Palestinian villages and towns according to Benny Morris

[Decisive causes of abandonment] [Occurrences]
military assault on settlement 215
influence of nearby town's fall 59
expulsion by Jewish forces 53
fear (of being caught up in fighting) 48
whispering campaigns 15
abandonment on Arab orders 6
unknown 44

(table copied from Causes of the 1948 Palestinian expulsion and flight)

No consensus on wether emigration of Jews was largely involuntary

There are indeed both strong pull factors (The Zionist One Million Plan of 1944) and push factors. Some push factors are related to Judaism (Discrimination and antisemitism) / Israel-Palestine (anti-zionist revolts, ..) but some are general non-ethnic push factors (economic and political stability, decolonization,..)

@Tom's conclusion that that the displacement of Jews out of the listed countries was largely involuntary is not supported by the only Wikipedia article he cites. It's a hotly debated topic with dissent also coming from inside Israel (Jewish exodus from the Muslim world#Israeli criticism of the Jewish Nakba narrative).

Also, Iraqi PM Nuri al-Said was firmly against anti-Jewish measures. He was misquoted by Benny Morris and later by @Tom (as shown in @DavePhd's answer to What is the correct version of Iraq's prime minister Nuri al-Said's quote? ). The actual telegram can be found here.

An example of involuntary ethnicity-related emigration would be the Lybian case:

On 17 June 1967, Lillo Arbib, leader of the Jewish community in Libya, sent a formal request to Libyan prime minister Hussein Maziq requesting that the government "allow Jews so desiring to leave the country for a time, until tempers cool and the Libyan population understands the position of Libyan Jews, who have always been and will continue to be loyal to the State, in full harmony and peaceful coexistence with the Arab citizens at all times." According to David Harris, the executive director of the Jewish advocacy organization AJC, the Libyan government "faced with a complete breakdown of law and order ... urged the Jews to leave the country temporarily", permitting them each to take one suitcase and the equivalent of $50. Through an airlift and the aid of several ships, over 4000 Libyan Jews were evacuated to Italy by the Italian Navy, where they were assisted by the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Cherry Picking dates and propaganda techniques

@Wossname's answer (and the last part of @Mark's answer as a tl;dr), provide an excellent analysis of the issue.

Conclusion

The meme is largely inaccurate (and intentionally misleading)

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  • to give a concrete example, Pierre Lellouche was born in Tunis. His family moved to Paris in 1956 (when Tunisia became independent) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Lellouche
    – Ona
    Mar 31 at 3:38
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    Excellent research. The conclusion "largely inaccurate " seems a stretch. Being off by 3 years or lowballing a population from 6 people to 3 don't make much of a difference to the memes point. Largely accurate but misleading seems better.
    – TheAsh
    Mar 31 at 15:42
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    @TheAsh The number of jews in Casablanca alone is 2,500 according to the U.S report higher than the meme for Morocco. But it's more fundamental than that, the data itself is inherently not accurate as clearly seen in Iran (9000, 15000, 20,000)
    – Ona
    Mar 31 at 18:14
  • Had the meme used words like "estimates" or ranges. Then it would be accurate reporting at least. But they didn't, in addition to data mislabelling
    – Ona
    Mar 31 at 18:16

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