chapter  2
17 Pages

The Reversal in Zionist Policy vis-à-vis the Jews of Islamic Countries

It was during World War II that the Zionist movement in Palestine first developed a significant commitment to the Jews in Islamic countries, although the existence of these Jews was not foreign to the Yishuv leadership. The socialist Zionists had been in contact with Mizrahi Jews since the Second Aliyah. The labour movement leaders were aware of Mizrahi communities in the old neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other cities, but most of these Mizrahim were generally not perceived as a part of Yishuv society. As Eliyahu Dobkin, head of the Jewish Agency Immigration Department, explained in 1943:

Despite the fact that they are so close to us geographically they are foreign and distant, and the foreignness is mutual. In the past twenty years, these Jews have been cut off from us much more than any other Jewish collective.1