‘Ramat Gan committee’ challenges campaign

Posted on Point of No Return September 17, 2012 Ever since last week's official launch by Israel's Foreign ministry and the World Jewish Congress of the campaign for recognition and redress for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, it won't have escaped your notice, dear reader, that Arab and anti-Zionist writers have been falling over themselves to find reasons why the campaign is a bad idea. The latest salvo of criticism comes from the newly-formed Committee of Baghdadi Jews in Ramat Gan, of which Almog Behar, a young leftist Mizrahi poet, is a founder member. Needless to say, his pronouncements are grist to the anti-Zionist and Israel-bashing mill, and a statement on his Facebook page has already been eagerly seized upon by Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss. "The way the Israeli establishment uses our history from the 1950s is not in order to give us our rights back, but in order to get rid of the rights of the Palestinians, and avoid a peace agreement with them," Behar wrote to the Electronic Intifada." We are seeking to demand compensation for our lost property and assets from the Iraqi government -NOT from the Palestinian Authority - and we will not agree with the option that compensation for our property be offset by compensation by the lost property of others (meaning Palestinian refugees) or that said compensation be transferred to bodies that do not represent us (meaning the Israeli government)." Hang on a minute, Almog. You haven't been listening. Nowhere does Israel say that property compensation for Iraqi Jews will be offset by compensation for Palestinians. The current thinking is that both sets of refugees will be able to draw individual compensation from an international fund. This was an idea proposed by President Clinton at Camp David in 2000. No one is talking about using claims by Jews from Arab countries to negate Palestinian rights. The organisation Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC) explicitly says : " this is not a campaign against Palestinian refugees." Almog Behar's Facebook statement continues: "our property in Iraq is something between us and Iraq and not between us and the Palestinians, and remembers also that most Palestinian property from 1948 was taken by the Ashkenazim and the state and not by Jews of the Arab world." Dream on, Almog. When the US set up the Iraqi Property Claims Commission after the invasion of 2003 to pay compensation to those whose property had been seized in Iraq, the property seized from Iraqi Jews in the 1950s (when the great exodus took place) was specifically excluded. As for Palestinian property being taken by Ashkenazim, how does Behar know? Has he done a survey? His statement certainly contradicts the fact that such was the housing shortage in Israel in the 1950s that a fair number of poor Mizrahim were moved into abandoned Arab homes. Behar's Facebook statement then dredges up two old chestnuts from the 1950s: one is the belief that Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri as-Said cooked up a deal by which Ben-Gurion might have told Iraqi Prime minister Nuri as-Said that he is 'authorized to take possession of the property and assets of Iraqi Jewry if he agreed to send them to Israel'. The second is that staple of Arab propaganda accusing Israel and Mossad of the bombing of the Masouda Shem-Tov synagogue in Baghdad. " If it is determined that Ben-Gurion did, in fact, carry out negotiations over the fate of Iraqi Jewish property and assets in 1950, and directed the Mossad to bomb the community's synagogue in order to hasten our flight from Iraq," Almog Behar writes," we will file a suit in an international court demanding half of the sum total of compensation for our refugee status from the Iraqi government and half from the Israeli government." As for the first assertion, Almog has got it backwards - it was Nuri as-Said who premeditated the expulsion of Iraqi Jewry and their dispossession: Ben Gurion's foreign minister Moshe Sharrett, who had for years resisted Nuri As-Said's attempts to link the two sets of refugees, finally conceded after the Iraqi Parliament had passed a law in March 1951 freezing Jewish property, that Israel would be forced to take into account Palestinian property in a reckoning with Iraq. It is highly unlikely that Ben Gurion would have had talks with an Iraqi Prime Minister whose country had never signed the 1949 armistice agreement with Israel, and was still technically at war. As far as the notorious bombs are concerned, this old chestnut was investigated by an Israeli court, and the Mossad operative Mordechai Ben Porat acquitted of any involvement. Point of No Return has disposed of this particular myth here. The question remains: who are the members of this hitherto-unknown Ramat Gan Committee of Baghdadi Jews. Whom does it represent? The Ramat Gan Committee most probably represents no-one but a handful of naive young post-Zionists. When it comes to making controversial statements on behalf of a tiny minority of radical Israelis, Almog Behar has form. The vast majority of Iraqi Jews in Israel back the government in its initiative on refugee rights. This might as well be the Committee for the Appreciation of Zingoola (A highly-calorific desert popular among Mizrahi Jews). Read MoreSeptember 17, 2012 No Comments

Point of No Return September 17, 2012 Ever since last week’s official launch by Israel’s Foreign ministry and the World Jewish Congress of the campaign for recognition and redress for Jewish refugees from Arab countries, it won’t have escaped your notice, dear reader, that Arab and anti-Zionist writers have been falling over themselves to find […]

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Jews deserve justice too

Posted on Israel Hayom September 14, 2012 By: Dror Eydar The U.N. and the U.S., with the help of the Arab League, are perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem — a perfect tool with which to bash Israel. On the opposite side, shockingly and hypocritically, no one gives a second to the 850,000 Jews who were displaced from Arab countries by means of violence, looting, threats and murder. At the beginning of the week I had the chance to take part in a rare historic event: the first official conference on the issue of Jewish refugees, held under the auspices of Israel's Foreign Ministry in cooperation with the World Jewish Congress. The international conference was titled "Justice for Jewish Refugees From Arab Countries." For the first time in decades, the call for justice for the Jewish people was once again heard in Jerusalem. Not just a call for security, or apologetic Israeli discourse in the face of Palestinian calls for so-called justice, but a clear call, by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to bring the issue of Jewish refugees back into every international arena: the ethical, legal, diplomatic and political arenas. As one of the conference participants, former Canadian Minister of Justice Professor Irwin Cotler, said: “Where there is no remembrance, there is no truth; where there is no truth, there will be no justice; where there is no justice, there will be no reconciliation; and where there is no reconciliation, there will be no peace – which we all seek.” Indeed, this is a serious issue that has been neglected and kept silent for years, in stark contrast with the Palestinian refugee issue, which has become self evident and universally recognized in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have become experts at marketing their victimhood to the world, and thus, the concept of a “just solution” became unilaterally linked to the Palestinian narrative. But just like every aspect of the Middle East story, here, too, the truth is far more complex. With the exception of a few years prior to World War I, the Arabs living in this region never accepted the Jewish presence here. They rejected the various partition plans, ranging from the Peel Commission in 1937, through the 1947 Partition Plan, to the Oslo Accords and other generous Israeli offers. They were always willing to accept land, but never to sign a final agreement that would spell the end of the conflict. *** In Nov. 1948, the U.N. appointed a task force to coordinate humanitarian aid work for Palestinian refugees. A short time later, the U.N.’s Economic Survey Mission issued its recommendation to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem by resettling them in Arab countries and integrating them in industry and agriculture there. That is how the United Nations Relief and Works Agency came about. Obviously, the plan never came to fruition, because the Arab countries refused to naturalize the Palestinian refugees. They were tasked with being the eternal victims — a means to bash Israel. The Twentieth Century saw millions upon millions of refugees, products of various wars. Population changes occurred in many places around the globe. Millions of Sikhs and Hindus, for example, were displaced from Pakistan to India in the 1950s, and millions of Muslims, meanwhile, took the opposite route. This population exchange involved a lot of violence, but ultimately, it happened. Incidentally, then-Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan visited Cairo in 1960 and voiced hope during a press conference there that the fact that his country absorbed some seven million refugees from India would serve as an example to Arab countries to absorb 750,000 Palestinian refugees. But the status of Palestinian refugees is unlike the status of any other kind of refugee. The U.N. has two agencies that deal with refugees: the UNHCR which handles all the refugees in the world, and a refugee agency just for the Palestinians: UNRWA. The U.N. also has two different definitions of refugee status: one is a general definition assigning refugee status to "people who are outside their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and who, for persecution related reasons, are unable or unwilling to return home." This definition affords refugee status for a limited number of years, and only to the displaced persons themselves, not their offspring. Under this definition, refugee status is revoked when a displaced person settles in, and integrates into another country. But not so when it comes to Palestinian refugees. A Palestinian refugee is defined as “anyone whose normal place of residence was in Mandate Palestine during the period from June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war." In short, anyone who lived here for two years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel is considered a Palestinian refugee who lived here “for thousands of years” since the biblical Jebusites ... And incidentally, only Palestinian refugee status can be passed down from generation to generation. Most of UNRWA’s budget comes from the U.S. and the EU, both of which are pushing Israel to resume negotiations with the Palestinians but are simultaneously helping to perpetuate the conflict. *** Opposite the 600,000 or 700,000 Palestinian refugees, there are more than 850,000 Jewish refugees who were forcibly expelled from Arab countries over the establishment of the State of Israel and its victory in the 1948 War of Independence. The Arab countries are ultimately responsible for creating the refugee problem, both the Palestinian refugee problem that resulted from a war waged by Arab countries against Israel, and the Jewish refugee problem, by stripping Jews of their citizenships, confiscating their property, murdering many of them and violently expelling the rest from the places they had populated for 2,500 years. All this, some 1,000 years before the rise of Islam. It is important to get familiar with the testimonies of Jewish refugees. A good starting point is a website called The Forgotten Million, operated by the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries. These Jews also lived in refugee camps for a time: the Israeli maabarot (refugee absorption camps). But, as opposed to the Palestinian refugee camps, the tents in the maabarot eventually became shacks, which then became permanent housing and ultimately cities. And so, in stark contrast with the U.N.-fueled eternal refugee-hood of the Palestinians, these Jewish refugees integrated into their old-new homeland and were no longer of any interest to anyone. The term "pogrom" was seen as referring to violence only European Jews were subjected to. Furthermore, as Cotler mentioned, in the case of Arab Jews, the violence, the loss of citizenship, the theft of property and the expulsion reflected the stated policy of the Arab League, which had suggested a similar course of action against Jewish nationals back in 1947. Now that the issue has gotten official state recognition, Israel’s representatives should raise the issue of Jewish refugees at every diplomatic event, and demand that justice be done. More than 150 resolutions having to do with Palestinian refugees have been adopted by the U.N. Not one has to do with their Jewish counterparts. It is time to change all that. By the way, U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 talks about a “just settlement of the refugee problem” — all refugees, including the Jewish ones. And one more interesting historical note: the same thing that happened to the Jews half a century ago is currently happening before our very eyes to Christians living in Arab countries. The Christians of the Middle East are being persecuted, murdered and expelled. There is only one country in the Middle East where Christians thrive: Israel. That is an important public diplomacy tool. But not only for diplomacy, it is also important for the sake of education. Every Israeli needs this. Without recognition of the Jewish “nakba” (the term Palestinians use to describe the catastrophe of their expulsion from Palestine), as some Jewish survivors describe their past, the resulting vacuum will have room only for the Palestinian version. “And you shall tell your son ...” as the Bible says. Read MoreSeptember 14, 2012 No Comments

Israel Hayom September 14, 2012 By: Dror Eydar The U.N. and the U.S., with the help of the Arab League, are perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem — a perfect tool with which to bash Israel. On the opposite side, shockingly and hypocritically, no one gives a second to the 850,000 Jews who were displaced from […]

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Iraq is hiding 365 Torah scrolls. Can they be rescued from further damage before it’s too late?

Posted on Aish.com August 31, 2012 Ari Werth Where can you find the largest collection of Torah scrolls? At the Western Wall in Jerusalem? No. At the Center for Jewish History in New York? Not there. The answer is the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. But don’t look for the exhibit. An exclusive investigation reveals 365 scrolls are deteriorating in a secret sub-terrain location. After several years of silence, an unlikely hero is going public with his first-hand knowledge about the hidden scrolls. It may be the last chance to save them. He’s called the Vicar of Baghdad. Andrew White is an Anglican priest risking his life helping Christians in Iraq. Even more dangerous, however, is what he volunteers to do – protecting the last few Iraqi Jews. “I help Jews because the very heart of my own education, of my faith, is a love for Judaism,” says Canon White. “I don’t see how I can be a Christian without knowing my Jewish roots, and without loving them.” The secret stash has an unlikely savior: an Anglican priest, whose nickname is the Vicar of Baghdad. Canon White juggles life in two very different worlds. In his hometown of London, he’s focused on his family; in Baghdad, he’s occupied with his congregation. In the UK, he dons a bright bow tie. In Iraq, he wears a sand-colored bulletproof vest. In London, he’s followed by two sons. In Baghdad, he’s flanked by bodyguards. In both worlds, Canon White is a promoter of Judaism. After Saddam’s regime collapsed, he swung into action. “I organized the first-ever Passover Seder in Saddam’s palace,” he recalled. “We had 89 Jews from the U.S. military and embassy. Glatt kosher food was flown in from America. The only thing missing was a Jewish child to ask the Four Questions, but they all sang ‘Dayenu’ anyway.” The Secret in the Basement Another thing happened as a result of Saddam’s demise. Iraqi mobs looted his crown jewel of culture, the national museum. The majestic Iraq Museum is still on Nasir Street but it’s under new management – the elected Iraqi government. A museum director, Dr. Donny George, was appointed to restore the museum in 2005. Damaged Torah scroll in Baghdad Soon after, Canon White was invited for a private tour. Dr. George and Canon White strolled through the grand halls. Eventually the priest was led down to the basement level. Dr. George opened the heavy doors of a vault. Canon White couldn’t believe what he was looking it – rows and rows of Torah scrolls. “There are 365 of them,” declared Dr. George. Canon White’s surprise turned into horror. “The Torah scrolls were all at risk. Rats were eating some of the parchment. They were not properly preserved or displayed, just stacked up on the dirty floors,” he says. He asked Dr. George to get the scrolls off the ground to deter the rats. Whether this was done is not known. “The museum had no regard for the importance of the Torah scrolls,” he says. Canon White wanted to rescue them, but he decided to try to obtain just one. He had a destination in mind. “Can I bring a Torah to Ezekiel’s grave?” he asked the museum director. “The synagogue there needs one.” “No, we can’t let you take any because we need to translate each one,” replied Dr. George. Canon White held back from laughing at Dr. George. “He didn’t even realize that each scroll was the same!” A Priest Goes to Yeshiva Canon White is not only concerned about the physical safety of the scrolls; he is also dedicated to what’s written on them. “The thing that I really respect about how Jews live is that God is in everything. If you’re really Orthodox, God is not removed from anything. From the bathroom to the bracha [blessing] you make afterwards, you bless Him and you thank Him. Every time you say ‘Baruch ata Hashem,’ you are showing that you believe that He is the King of the Universe!” He pauses. “Do I sound frum?” Yes, he does. Canon White learned the lingo as the first non-Jewish student at the Karlin yeshiva in Jerusalem. A rabbi there permitted him to get a taste of Jewish learning. He has grown from a student of Judaism into a teacher of it. He offers a weekly course about Judaism to Christians in Baghdad. “The Iraqi Christians who come to my class are shocked,” says Canon White. “They say that nobody has ever told them about Judaism before. It’s hard for them to accept that they’ve been told lies. None of the young Iraqis have heard about the Holocaust. They don’t know how Christians have persecuted Jews.” Ignorance, as Canon White calls it, prompted him to write a book about the Jewish roots of Christianity. He shared the newly finished manuscript . It describes several fundamental concepts and practices of Torah observance. “There is nothing more inspiring than ‘Shema Yisrael,’” he writes in the upcoming book. “I say it every morning and every night. I taught my little boys to say ‘Shema’ before they go to sleep.” He’s planning on translating the book into Arabic. “The Muslims need to know that our faiths come out of Judaism and that therefore the Jews are our brothers, not our enemies. We need to learn from and love our older brother.” Tracking the Scrolls Canon White’s story about the scroll sounds credible but required investigation. A search for the former museum director, Donny George, was a dead end. “He died last year of a heart attack,” says Canon White. A second source was discovered. A former US embassy employee, who does not want to be named, recalled a conversation with Dr. George that occurred around the same time as Canon White’s museum visit. Dr. George told the embassy representative that approximately 300 scrolls were in the museum basement. The US State Department offers its own partial confirmation. “We are aware that the government of Iraq holds a number of Torah scrolls in the Iraqi National Museum,” says a spokesperson. He would not disclose how the fact came to be known. Additional support comes from the Associated Press photo archive. A photo taken on April 12, 2003 shows Iraqis examining at least two dozen Torah scrolls in the museum. The caption states that the scrolls were “stored in the vault of the National Museum in Baghdad Saturday after looters opened the museum vault.” What happened to these scrolls? When even one Torah scroll leaves Iraq it makes news but no news stories were found about a large transfer of scrolls from the museum. The photo proves a large cache of scrolls did in fact exist. It is possible that they were returned to the basement vault where they are still sitting today. The Iraq Museum did not reply to emailed questions about the existence of the scrolls. However, the Iraq Embassy in Washington acknowledged scrolls are somewhere in the Iraq Museum. “I can’t confirm the number, whether it’s large or small,” a spokesperson says. However, the museum’s website does not disclose this fact. All of the museum’s collections appear to be catalogued on its website. Not one Torah scroll is listed. Rightful Owners? At issue are thorny legal and moral questions of rightful ownership. Jewish bookos rescued as part of the Iraqi Jewish Archive Iraq’s policy is not to relinquish Jewish artifacts, according to public statements by high-ranking Iraqi officials. “Jews lived in Iraq. They are part of Iraq’s cultural heritage,” says the spokesperson for the Iraq embassy in Washington, DC. Iraq’s rationale is undermined by the absence of Jewish artifacts on display in their museums. Even the museum’s written historical narratives omit Jewish references. The Iraqi Jewish community has a legitimate case for reclamation, say some experts. The scrolls were most likely confiscated during the purge of Iraqi Jews. A possible legal problem is that the Jewish community in Iraq – the original owner – no longer exists. The Purge Canon White and his colleagues were driving down an old dusty street in Baghdad last week when he noticed something. “Look at the doors! See the old mezuzot?” Iraq was once home to the largest Jewish community in the world. One-third of the Baghdad population was Jewish. From 150,000 Jews at the peak, only a few are left today. “There was a huge Jewish community here, not so long ago. We must never forget that,” says Canon White. One person who can’t ever forget is Ruth Pearl. Her childhood was spent on those Baghdad streets. “Jews were oppressed. It was fear every day.” Unfortunately, Mrs. Pearl also knows about modern-day terror. Her son was Daniel Pearl, the journalist murdered by radical Islamist terrorists in Pakistan. He was targeted because he was Jewish, say authorities. Decades ago in Iraq, her family and community were also targeted. Her father lost an eye after being attacked on the street by an Arab. Her brothers were harassed by police. Her walk to school included the sight of lynched bodies dangling in the public square. “I had nightmares for 20 years,” says Mrs. Pearl. After three Jews were publicly hanged in 1969, the remaining Iraqi Jewish community decided it was time to emigrate. The end of Iraqi Jewish life began with a brutal pogrom in 1941, in which hundreds of Jews were killed and injured. In 1948, the creation of the State of Israel fueled even more anti-Zionist hatred. By 1951, 80% of Iraqi Jews were forced to leave the country. Ruth Pearl, then 15, and her family were among them. They were allowed to take only one piece of luggage. Jews had no choice but to leave many Torah scrolls and other Jewish treasures behind. “After Jews were forced out of Iraq, they confiscated Jewish items from synagogues, community centers, and homes,” says Mrs. Pearl. “We would not have given the scrolls to the Muslims.” She hopes the international community will pressure Iraq to return an array of Jewish artifacts, archival records, and Torah scrolls. “I’m dismayed that nothing is being done to preserve Iraqi Jewish history and culture,” says Mrs. Pearl. “It’s not just my personal fight. It should be the fight of any human rights organization. History is being destroyed.” In 1969, three Jews were lynched in a Baghdad public square. Almost all remaining Jews emigrated to safer existence in other countries. Only a handful of Jews are in Iraq today. They live in fear of violence and death. Falsified identity cards hide their religion. There is no active synagogue, no minyan, no communal life. They are invisible. Canon White helps with whatever they need, such as gaining access to the U.S. embassy for holiday prayer services. Now they are in more danger than ever before. WikiLeaks released a classified U.S. embassy memo last summer listing the names and addresses of the last nine Jews. Canon White helped two Jews flee to Israel and America. That left seven. One of the elderly Jewish women just died of natural causes, says Canon White. That leaves six. Despite the risk, they don’t want to leave. They are a childless mix of the elderly and middle-aged. It will not be long before Iraq will be free of all Jews. The Iraqi government, however, is very determined to keep its vast collection of Jewish artifacts and Torah scrolls. Search for Solutions “I don’t understand how Iraq could claim ownership,” says Ruth Pearl. “All the items were owned by the Jewish community. There was no cultural exchange.” “Since most of the Iraqi Jewish community is in Israel, Jewish texts and Torah scrolls should be transferred there,” she says. “The Jewish Babylonian Museum in Israel is an appropriate destination.” Iraqi politics make this solution impossible, experts say. The elected Iraqi leadership is not likely to send anything to Israel, a country hated by so many Iraqi citizens. Another possible solution is for Iraq to negotiate a deal with a U.S. cultural institution. The institution could then return the scrolls to Jewish cultural and religious organizations. Canon White doesn’t think that will work either. “The Iraqis at the moment are really anti-American. They see America as trying to rule Iraq, and not doing anything for their benefit.” “A public adversarial approach is not necessarily the path to success,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs for the American Jewish Committee. Rabbi Baker speaks from experience, having negotiated the release of some 300 Torah scrolls in the Lithuanian national archive. They were restored in Israel and then sent to synagogues around the world. Covert Option Other Torah scrolls in Iraq have been rescued by more direct covert efforts. –Earlier this year, a 17th-century scroll owned by the Ben Ish Chai was smuggled from Iraq with the help of U.S. soldiers. It found its new home in Israel and became the second-oldest Torah still in use. –Over 30 Torah scrolls were smuggled out during Saddam’s reign, according to a public statement by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. –In the 1950s, a scroll was smuggled out of Iraq and donated to the Jewish Babylonian Heritage Center in Israel. Iraq demanded that their “cultural heritage” be returned. Several Iraq scrolls found their way to American synagogues in the years after Saddam’s fall. That’s no longer an option. Any “liberated” Torah scrolls from Iraq are not allowed to enter America. In 2007, U.S. Customs agents were issued a written directive to prohibit the entry of unauthorized Torah scrolls, Kiddush cups, Torah pointers, and other Judaica. Read More August 31, 2012 No Comments

Aish.com August 31, 2012 Ari Werth Where can you find the largest collection of Torah scrolls? At the Western Wall in Jerusalem? No. At the Center for Jewish History in New York? Not there. The answer is the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. But don’t look for the exhibit. An exclusive investigation reveals 365 scrolls are […]

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How I escaped from Iraq in 1949

Posted on Point of No Return August 5, 2012 In Basra, cold weather in December was unusual, but in 1949 the temperature was in the 40’s, and it was bitterly cold at 11 at night. I had put my life in the hands of two Muslim smugglers, and I wasn’t alone. There were 15 other teenagers, including my younger brother, Nory. The underground movement to help Jews escape out of Iraq had arranged for a boat to take us to Iran. We boarded, one at a time, at varying intervals, in order to avoid raising suspicion in the neighborhood. We had no luggage, money, food, or water. The boat, if it could be called that, was about 30 feet long by 10 feet wide. It had no seats, beds, toilets or motors. It moved by punting, a method of propelling the boat forward with long sticks. It was designed to carry light cargo such as manure or hay to the farmers in the delta. In their hay cargo, the two smugglers had devised a false space that measured about 10 feet by 10 feet and about 2.5 feet high. We crouched in complete darkness in this dungeon. I was appointed the person in charge for the journey. The first thing I did was make holes in the hay so that we could breathe. Our escape depended on luck, the tide, and the bribed border police. So that our crossing would coincide with the tide, at about midnight, the two smugglers pushed the boat out of the tributary river. Our beacon of hope, Iran, was downstream and across the river, two to three hours away. The sound of water splashing broke the stillness of the night and was sweet music in our ears. As we moved down the main river Shat el Arab, “the river of the Arab,” our hearts lit with hope for freedom. However, after about an hour that sweet sound of splashing water stopped. All was quiet except for the sound of the wind. I went out through the hole. The two smugglers looked worried. “We can’t move,” one of the men said, “the tide is with us, but the wind is against us.” I went back through the hole and told everyone to close their eyes and sleep a bit, while we waited for the wind to subside. We docked inside a tributary of the river. The hours passed quickly, and I began to worry. My heart was beating faster than the wind, as dawn started to break. We would not be able to move during the day, and were going to miss our rendezvous. What about food, drinks or toilets? What if some villagers were to spot us and tell the Mukhabarat, the secret police? After all, we were leaving Iraq illegally and this was a major or a capital crime. I couldn’t share my fears with the boys and girls. One boy was only thirteen. Instead, I put on a stoic face and assured them that everything was going to be alright. We had to wait until darkness to move again. Some started to cry. I felt the same way, but I held back my tears. One of the boatmen went to get some food. I warned him not to buy food in bulk, since that might create suspicion. It was toilet time, in the early morning. One by one we got out of our hole. One boy, a good friend of mine whose brother had been arrested on Zionism charges just few weeks ago, shook so much he couldn’t stand. The boatman returned after an hour with some bread, cheese and dates. Like rats, two or three of us came out of the hole, ate something and went back in, until all the pack was fed. I was in Arab garb, and wore a long white gown and a Keffiyeh on my head just like the boatmen’s. I wandered away from the boat and sat under a tree in the shade. I closed my eyes and yearned to sleep. I couldn’t. My life passed before me as if on a movie screen. I remembered the Farhood of June 2, 1941 in Baghdad, when the mobs murdered over 200 Jews and thousands of Jewish homes were looted. I was 11, I survived. At 14 two Muslims boys ran after me with a knife, I overran them, I survived. In May of 1948, after Iraq and four Arab countries failed war against Israel, many Jewish youths were arrested, tortured, or simply disappeared. Once more, I survived. Just few days ago, the secret police stopped me at the train station when I had arrived from Baghdad. I was with my brother and two other boys traveling to Basra. One of the policemen asked me my purpose in coming to Basra. I told him that I was visiting my cousin. When I mentioned his name, Agababa, the policeman’s eyes lit up and his tone of voice changed. He became sweet and gentle, and said he knew my cousin well. He got his Arrow shirts from him. I knew what he meant. Like what all the secret police did. I survived again. The other two boys were returned to Baghdad. We never heard from them, or saw them again. Back on the boat, the hours passed slowly. This was the longest day of my life. A river patrol passed by unaware of the human cargo hidden in the stack of hay. I was frightened and frustrated. I began to pray, “God, please let it be night so that we can make our final escape.” I went back into the hole. I assured everyone that by the next morning we would be in Iran and that in a few days we would be in Israel. Finally, night came. My angels worked overtime. We had the tide and a favorable wind. At the precise time we moved, and before dawn we crossed the river. Three worried men were going crazy looking for us on the other side. They had been there from the night before. “We are safe, we are in Iran,” I shouted happily. One by one, my fellow rats came out of the hole, drained and haggard; some with tears, others with a smile as wide as the river we had just crossed. But for me, the needs of so many other people outweighed the needs of family and others who were already free, young as they may have been. Instead of accompanying my brother to Israel, I remained in Iran for two grueling months to assist others escaping Iraq. Unfortunately, not all succeeded as readily as we had in our escape. After that difficult boat trip, each one of us, sixteen children really, went our separate ways—driven by history and its forces. But in the midst of the sadness and loss of leaving home and family grew the seeds of our future and of the Jewish people. Afterword: After a public viewing of the movie, The Last Jews of Baghdad, while discussing my escape, a member of our synagogue whom I had known for many years came forward and said, “I was with you on that boat, when we got stuck.” His name is Haskel Abrahami. He had been the thirteen-year-old boy on that day long ago. Read MoreAugust 5, 2012 No Comments

Point of No Return August 5, 2012 In Basra, cold weather in December was unusual, but in 1949 the temperature was in the 40’s, and it was bitterly cold at 11 at night. I had put my life in the hands of two Muslim smugglers, and I wasn’t alone. There were 15 other teenagers, including […]

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The Farhud – the Jewish Nakba

Posted on The Jerusalem Post June 16, 2012 By Zvi Gabay On June 17, 2012, Iraqi Jews will commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Farhud – the riots that took place on Shavuot in 1941. In the riots, reminiscent of Kristallnacht in Germany, 137 Jews (180 or more according to some sources), men, women and children, were murdered, hundreds more wounded and much Jewish property looted. The memory of the riots remains fresh in the minds of Iraqi Jews. This year’s ceremony will be held in the Babylonian Jewry Center in Or Yehuda and will be attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. The attacks occurred without provocation. The Jews, who had lived in Arab lands for thousands of years, did not declare war on their hosts. They never fought against them, as the Arabs in mandatory Palestine fought against the Jewish settlements and afterwards against the nascent Jewish State of Israel. The world has heard a great deal about the injustice visited upon the Palestinians, under the code name Nakba, or “catastrophe,” but knows almost nothing about the crimes committed against Jews in Arab lands. What happened in these countries was in effect ethnic cleansing. While the Nakba is marked every year with demonstrations and wide media coverage, the “Jewish Nakba” does not merit any public or media notice. This despite the fact that the human and physical dimensions of the disaster that befell them were larger: the number of Jewish refugees forced out of their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs was about 856,000, while the Arabs who left Mandatory Palestine numbered about 650,000 according to UNRWA statistics. The attacks against the Jews of Arab lands occurred before the establishment of the State of Israel. In Iraq they began with discrimination, in the economy, in education and public life. Afterwards, Arab nationalism ignited rioting against the Jews, which came to a peak in the Farhud of 1941. Similar tragedies befell the Jews of Libya, Aden and other Arab countries. The combination of xenophobic Sunni nationalism and anti-Semitism produced a powerful hatred of the Jews. This hatred was abetted by Nazis such as the German envoy to Baghdad, Dr. Fritz Grobba, and pseudo- religious leaders such as Haj Amin al-Husseini (who fled from Mandatory Palestine and found in Iraq a convenient venue for his anti-Jewish activities). The Jews were left with no choice but to flee from the countries they had helped to found and bring into the modern era with their contributions to government, the economy, medicine, education, literature, poetry and music. The threatening anti-Jewish climate that prevailed in every Arab country was accompanied by inflamed anti-Jewish declarations, even from the podium of the United Nations. Government harassment and popular attacks drove the Jews of the Arab world to migrate en masse to Israel. In Egypt, a mass expulsion took place in the dead of night; the Jews were forced to leave behind their personal and communal property – including schools, ancient synagogues and cemeteries, prophets’ graves and hospitals. The Arab authorities confiscated the property. There were certainly Muslims in the Arab countries who did not support the attacks on the Jews, but their voices were not heard. The Jews were the scapegoats in internecine power struggles between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites, just as today Israel is at the center of the struggle between the Shi’ite Iran and the Sunni states, with Turkey at the forefront. In recent years, a process of awakening can be discerned in the Arab world, especially among intellectuals, who recognize that it was not only the Palestinian Arabs who suffered a “nakba,” but that the Jews of the Arab world had their own catastrophe. Arab leaders – Palestinians and others – would do well to stop parroting the slogan “the right of return” and deluding their people, because there is no turning back the wheel of history. Only a dialogue with Israel for coexistence will bring a genuine basis of justice and truth. The writer is a former ambassador and deputy general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Read More...June 16, 2012 No Comments

The Jerusalem Post June 16, 2012 By Zvi Gabay On June 17, 2012, Iraqi Jews will commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Farhud – the riots that took place on Shavuot in 1941. In the riots, reminiscent of Kristallnacht in Germany, 137 Jews (180 or more according to some sources), men, women and children, were […]

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Ballads of Baghdad to be played at the Barbican

Posted on Point of No Return June 1, 2012 A film-maker, an actor and a musician are working together to honour the Jewish contribution to Iraqi music in a forthcoming documentary film, On the banks of the Tigris*, produced by Marsha Emerman, writes Andrew Harris in the Australian Jewish News. The last scene will be a concert hosted by London's Barbican on 27 September 2012 and starring the Israeli-Iraqi musician Yair Dalal. Here is an excerpt from Harris's AJN article (3 October 2008): IN the mid-1970s, Saddam Hussein set out to purge the Iraqi musical canon of undesirable contributions. He was faced with a quandary – the work of legendary Jewish brothers Saleh and Daud Al-Kuwaiti was so ingrained in Iraqi cultural identity it couldn’t be removed. Instead, he officially labelled them “folk songs”, and that’s how two generations of Iraqi listeners came to know them. Iraqi-Shi’ite actor Majid Shokor,now 39, escaped Iraq via Lebanon for Australia, after refusing a position at the Iraqi National Theatre. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and children. While living in Beirut, he read an article about a weekly meeting of Iraqi-Jewish musicians in a Ramat Gan community hall, soon after which he discovered many of his favourite songs were the work of Jews. “This music was and is still part of our lives,” he says. “Everyone knows these beautiful songs. They express Iraqi life: Iraqi celebrations, Iraqi sadness, Iraqi love.”Shokor met Melbourne film-maker Marsha Emerman three years ago,and they set to work on a documentary, On the Banks of the Tigris, that would recognise the Jewish contribution to Iraqi music. There were also plans for a live concert with Iraqi musicians of all denominations. In December 2006, the two found themselves in Ramat Gan, in the thick of Tel Aviv’s Little Baghdad. Shokor was greeted with open arms.“It was an amazing journey for me,” he says, “and a beautiful sight really”. Twenty years before Saddam’s cultural purge, the Al-Kuwaiti brothers were superstars. They had composed for the legendary Egyptian singerUmmKoulthoum, performed at King Faisal’s coronation ceremony and were his favoured entertainers, never once hiding their Jewishness. When they left it all behind to migrate to Israel in the1950s, they were sprayed with DDT and shunted into tents like all the new arrivals. But despite their isolation from the Arab world, they continued to perform regularly on The Voice of Israel radio, to a huge number of listeners,the majority well beyond Israeli borders. And these days, you’re as likely to hear their songs sung in Ramat Gan’s Little Baghdad, as in a taxi in the Arabian Gulf. Yair Dalal, the most prominent proponent of Iraqi-Jewish music today, took Shokor and Emerman to the weekly Ramat Gan gathering Shokor had read about in Beirut. They met and interviewed the surviving handful of Iraqi-Jewish musicians who had played in the mostly Jewish Iraq Radio Orchestra of the 1940s: blind qanoun (Iraqi zither) player Abraham Salman, nay (bamboo flute) player Alber Elias, oud player Elias Shasha and singer Jacoub El Allailly, all of whom are in their 80s. “Now they are very old. This is the last moment,” says Dalal, adding that all the musicians’ children have not followed in their footsteps.“This is the tragedy,” he says. “They thought that music is not a respectable enough profession.” He thinks that apart from the hard work involved in pursuing a musical career, the assimilationist attitudes thrust upon new Iraqi immigrants to Israel has filtered down to a generational split in cultural identity. One of the Radio Iraq Orchestra musicians’ contemporaries, the late Filfel Gourgy, was particularly remarkable. Growing up in Iraq, Gourgy learned Iraqi maqam (the regional musical register) from Muslim singers, and left for Israel in his 20s. Then, on Tel Aviv’s Arabic radio station, he would recite koranic verses at the beginning and end of daily 12-hour broadcasts, which were transmitted through the Arab world. Outside of Israel, no-one knew he was Jewish. “Most people in Arab countries, didn’t think that a Jewish person could read Arabic and the Koran,”Shokor says. “And he had such a beautiful voice.” While filming in Israel for On the Banks of the Tigris, Shokor came to understand the ongoing issues of Israelis identifying with Arab cultures in Arab countries. “The culture, the music, the accent, everything was another class, not an Israeli class. That’s why they didn’t really have enough opportunity to express their culture, their music, their ideas.” And yet, with his faith placed firmly in one man, he’s optimistic about a shift in sociocultural opinion. “It’s time to build a new generation of music,” Shokor says. “Yair is working very hard.” IF Gourgy represented the sort of cultural bridge-building once possible, modern-day oud virtuoso, peace-maker and Iraqi-Jewish cultural ambassador Dalal is an example of what could be possible in the future. Born in Israel in 1955 to Iraqi emigre parents, Dalal says he felt pressure to lose his Iraqi identity. Still, his parents spoke Arabic with him at home. And although he initially learned western classical violin, there was no escaping his heritage and identity. “I have Arab culture in me,” he says. Over the years, Dalal’s affinity with Middle Eastern and Arabic music has led him to many fruitful cross-cultural collaborations. He has performed and recorded with the Arava’s Azazme Bedouin, whose music he discovered while working as a desert guide: “It’s very simple,” he says, “and very beautiful”. He also fondly remembers playing with the great Nubian musician and ethnomusicologist Hamza El Din, who died in mid-2006. “We played a few concerts together,” Dalal says. “He was very, very unique.” Over the years, Dalal became a star of the international world music scene, while enduring an uphill battle to gain popularity at home – though, he says, times are changing. Across Israel, in his studio Almaya, at Tzfat’s Rimon school, and elsewhere, Dalal students are picking up where the old guard is leaving off. “It’s happening already,” he says of the re-engagement with the Iraqi-Jewish musical tradition. A number of students are pure Ashkenazi – today’s multicultural Israel appreciates good music.“Not my generation, the next generation, they are more open-minded,” Dalal says. “They have been all over the world, so they are into it.”The influences of Arabic music and Indian music are filtering through Israeli society and have in turn brought attention to the Iraqi- Jewish music tradition, says Dalal. Still, popular acceptance is a long way off. “People don’t appreciate it, the establishment doesn’t appreciate it. It’s Arabic music, not Israeli music.” When I ask Dalal where he would play his dream concert, his answer comes as no surprise: “In Baghdad.” He says he’d like to play with Iraqi musicians, of all religious denominations. “Some of them I am in touch with,” he says. Iraq is, after all, only a phonecall away from Israel. Read More...June 1, 2012 No Comments

Point of No Return June 1, 2012 A film-maker, an actor and a musician are working together to honour the Jewish contribution to Iraqi music in a forthcoming documentary film, On the banks of the Tigris*, produced by Marsha Emerman, writes Andrew Harris in the Australian Jewish News. The last scene will be a concert […]

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At Shavuot, we remember the Farhud

Posted on Point of No Return May 27, 2012 By Shmuel Moreh This Shavuot marks 71 years since the outbreak of the pro-Nazi pogrom in Iraq known as the Farhud. Professor Shmuel Moreh will not allow the event to be forgotten: Jihad is considered no less important than the five pillars of Islam (أركان الإسلام) but this aspect of militant Islam had been neglected during the first decades of the 20th century: The testimony to the unity of Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage were the essence of Islam. The cause of such neglect was not only European military and industrial power, but also the fact that Arab Hashemite Hejaz family led by Sharif Hussein Ben Ali and his sons Princes Faisal and Abd - Allah cooperated with the British and French Powers, against the Caliph, the religious head of the Ottoman Empire, the protector of Islam. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt preached to restore the Jihad, "the forgotten pillar" of Islam. Muslims found many similarities between Nazi doctrine and Islamic military power: the rise of Islam as a doctrine which united all the Arab tribe, by a charismatic leader, which must be spread by the sword, protects its followers against hellfire. The British, who saw the rich oil wells of Iraq as a strategic area of utmost importance, always strove to maintain friendly relations with the Hashemite family. Therefore, they crowned Prince Faisal king of Iraq. Britain's agreements with the new state fanned the hatred of nationalists in the secular Iraqi army. With the founding of Iraq in 1921, most army officers studied in the German military and education system in Ottoman Turkey. The Nazi doctrine advocated force, racism and superiority of the Aryan race and favored Germany and hatred of Jews. King Ghazi, who hated the British because they betrayed his grandfather's Sharif Hussein Ben Ali dream to establish a new Arab empire, was disappointed with British support of the Jewish national home in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, the young King worked to cement a friendship with Hitler and founded the Fituwwa, an Iraqi youth paramilitary organization in the fashion of Hitler Youth scouts. The organization was taken over by exiled Palestinians in Iraq. It spread hatred of Jews and harassed them in the streets. Sunni Palestinians took over the school system and replaced Iraqi Shi'ites. The predominance of Jews in commerce and in the new state as directors of financial departments of all Iraqi ministries, bookkeepers and financial policy makers' advisers to the British in the running of Iraq's economy, aroused the envy and hatred of the people. The incitement was fuelled by the Palestinian students at the School of the Templars, who were hostile to the British for the Balfour Declaration. In the midst of the Second World War the Germans sought to control the Iraqi oil wells. They promised air support and political patronage to the Iraqi nationalist officers. The Palestinians, headed by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al - Husseini, were given a free hand. Palestinians and Syrians exiles incited the masses against the Jews in the press, in radio broadcasts and educational institutions. On the advice of Haj Amin al - Husseini, they surrounded the British Army Air Force base at Habbaniya in western Iraq. Major Glubb Pasha (G. John Bagot) engineered a British counterattack. Defeating the Iraqi forces at Khaan Nuqta, fifteen miles from Baghdad, the British forces were in control of the Iraqi telephone switchboard. They planned to spread false information that "a powerful tank attack was on its way" to Baghdad. The fact that the British defeated the Iraqi army and the false information that heavy tank columns were advancing on Baghdad caused panic among the Iraqi pro- Nazi government and they fled to Persia and Turkey. Rashid Ali al - Gailani and Haj Amin al - Husseini and their entourage fled to Berlin and joined forces with the Nazis in Eastern Europe, especially Muslims in Bosnia. The defeat of the Iraqi army by Glubb Pasha, commander of the British Legion in Jordan, and the flight of the leaders of the revolt to Iran, Turkey and Germany, with the British Army at the gates of Baghdad, left a political vacuum. Defeated and humiliated soldiers and the mob vented their anger against the Jews. They murdered 138 Jews, injured hundreds, and raped girls and women, and robbed and burned their property over the two days of Shavuot in 1-2 June 1941. A returning monarchist government headed by Regent Abd al - Ilah and the pro- British Jamil al-Madfa'i were put in place. Iraqi soldiers opened live fire on the looters when they began to rob the stores of Muslim merchants. Dozens of looters were killed by troops loyal to the royal family Today some amateur leftists and Arab nationalists argue brazenly to flatter that about 200 Muslims were murdered to protect the Jews. Two scholars from Iraq are fighting unfounded allegations: journalist, broadcaster and writer Salim Fattal - whose uncle was murdered in the first hours of the Farhud wrote a book, An idol in the Temple of the Israeli Academy, in 2010: and Dr. Nissim Kazzaz wrote a book too. His father died and so did Salim Fattal's uncle when trying to rescue his racehorse-breeder partner at the Shiite neighborhood of Bab El – Sheikh in Baghdad. After the Farhud the Iraqi government established a committee to investigate the events of the 1-2 June 1941 and submitted its report on July 8, 1941. A list of victims recorded by Dr. Zvi Yehuda came to 146. Some community sources put the number of victims at 179. We still do not have a final tally because from time to time families of relatives that are not included in the list come forward. From a Lecture given at the Zalman Shazar Center in Jerusalem on 24/5/3012. Read More...May 27, 2012 No Comments

Point of No Return May 27, 2012 By Shmuel Moreh This Shavuot marks 71 years since the outbreak of the pro-Nazi pogrom in Iraq known as the Farhud. Professor Shmuel Moreh will not allow the event to be forgotten: Jihad is considered no less important than the five pillars of Islam (أركان الإسلام) but this […]

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Mahmoud Abbas writes entire article full of lies about Iraqi Jews

Posted on The Elder of Ziyon April 23, 2012 By Elliott Abrams Last week I noted a new book in Arabic that claimed that Jews were forced out of Iraq by Iraqis who were colluding with Zionists. Because of this collusion, the Iraqis took away the rights of Jews and eventually forced them out, As nutty as that was, Mahmoud Abbas' idea of history is even more filled with lies. He wrote an article in Ma'an two weeks ago, translated now by MEMRI, where he claims there was a Zionist-British-Iraqi conspiracy to expel the Jews. He further claims that Iraqi Jews had no desire to leave the country but a Zionist terror spree in Iraq convinced them to go. We've seen these bizarre conspiracy theories before, and they have been debunked thoroughly. Here is another opportunity to show that Mahmoud Abbas is a liar. Here is how the American Jewish Yearbook contemporaneously described life for Jews in Iraq before Israel was declared a state: Iraq's position at the crossroads of Russian and Western influences made her the target for conflicting propaganda from Russian sources on the one hand, and American and British on the other. Whenever these cross-currents resulted in student demonstrations, strikes or even the fall of a government, as in January, 1948, the Jews were the first to be endangered by the restless elements. As a result of the growing economic discrimination against Jews, a number of them emigrated from Iraq, and many went to Palestine, usually illegally. The Arab League boycott of "Zionist goods," in which Iraq had already distinguished itself in 1946, furnished a ready pretext for commercial discrimination. The boycott was against all goods coming from and via Palestine. Typical of the stupidly blind fanaticism was a case reported in October, 1947, when Swiss goods arriving in Baghdad by an airplane which had landed at a Palestinian airport were confiscated and burned at once. When the UN partition decision was announced, a storm broke out in Iraq as in all other Arab states. Nevertheless, the Iraqi government did not allow any serious bloodshed or pillage to develop. It contented itself with nonviolent economic pressure. To protect Iraqi Jews, Chief Rabbi Sassoon Kedmi of Baghdad was compelled to declare to the Iraqi press the "complete solidarity of Iraqi Jews with other Iraqis in the denunciation of Zionism and in their determination to continue living in brotherly Iraq, as they have lived for hundreds of years." However, the fury had been let loose. After December 1, 1947, no Jews were permitted to leave Iraq, and those who had not yet left could not now escape. At first the Iraqi assault on local Jewry was financial, Jews being forced to contribute large sums to the fighting fund for the Palestinian Arabs. From January to May, 1948, life in Iraq was extremely unpleasant. Anti-Jewish feeling ran high, especially as Iraqi troops were defeated and the Arab refugees began arriving from Palestine. However, there was an outward calm. There were no pogroms in Iraq then, at least none that received any publicity abroad. The storm really broke on May 15. Then, Jews were treated in Iraq as enemies within the gate, spies, agents provocateurs. Iraqi Jewry's only hope for the future lay in emigration. When Iraq joined the other Arab nations in the war against Israel in May, 1948, the antagonism and bitterness, which had been stored up against the Jews of Iraq during the six months that followed the United Nations decision to partition Palestine, found an outlet. There were demonstrations by angered mobs and riots in some of the smaller towns in Iraq which resulted in some loss of life and damage to property. But for the most part Iraqi Jewry suffered from forms of official persecution, such as travel restrictions, dismissal of Jewish government officials, excessive taxation, and "voluntary contributions" to "general welfare" causes. All Jews were classed as enemy aliens, and all Zionist activities were characterized as treason. Imposing martial law, the government embarked on a program of searching Jewish homes "for illegal weapons," since, under martial law, arrests or searches could be made on the sole basis of suspicion. Many Iraqis found this a convenient way of settling long-standing personal feuds with their Jewish neighbors. All in all, 310 Jews were arrested in Bagdad alone during the initial period of the war; about half of these were released after questioning, and the rest were held for trial. Similar acts occurred in other towns and villages. The anti-Jewish repressions also served as a lucrative source of income for the government, which imposed heavy fines upon arrested Jews, thus replenishing its treasury and helping to finance the cost of the war. In addition, the government requisitioned buildings owned by the Jewish community, as well as some Jewish-owned private buildings, to house Arab refugees from Palestine. The sequestration of Jewish property and business, and blackmail, official and unofficial, proved profitable undertakings. The Jews found themselves forced to become the heaviest contributors to government campaigns for funds to continue the war and to provide for the Arab refugees, as the alternative to being branded enemies, Zionists, Communists, or spies. Thus, the wave of arrests of wealthy Jews was especially productive financially. The dismissal of almost all Jewish officials from government jobs, to "insure the better guarding of state secrets," proved of benefit to the large number of Iraqi Moslems who replaced them. Jews were also prohibited from enrolling in government schools of higher education. The anti-Jewish persecutions reached their height with the arrest and execution of Shafiq Ades, an Iraqi Jew, on the charge of dealing with the enemy by selling arms to Israel. Surplus material which Ades had purchased two years previously from the British army was found in Palestine during the fighting. Ades claimed that he had sold the equipment to Italy. Because Ades threatened to expose several Moslem high government officials as having been involved in the deal, his trial was held behind closed doors. He was convicted in September, 1948, and his hanging in the public square in Basra was followed by the confiscation of his property, officially valued at $20,000,000. The execution of Ades was a shock to most Iraqis, Jews and non-Jews alike, because he had never associated himself with the Jewish community or contributed to its institutions. No Jew was spared in the outburst of Iraqi antagonism, not even Chief Rabbi Sassoon Kadourie, who was arrested in October, 1948, allegedly for having, in the course of his Yom Kippur sermon in the synagogue, exhorted the Jews to "acts contrary to the safety of the state." Contrary to Abbas' claims, there was persecution against Iraqi Jews before Israel; Iraqi Jews risked their lives to make aliyah before Israel was declared; the Iraqi government was the only party behind the decision to expel their Jews and grab their property; the Jews who said that they were anti-Zionist were often forced to say that in order to keep their jobs or money (and even then it did not help them.) Read More...April 23, 2012 No Comments

The Elder of Ziyon April 23, 2012 By Elliott Abrams Last week I noted a new book in Arabic that claimed that Jews were forced out of Iraq by Iraqis who were colluding with Zionists. Because of this collusion, the Iraqis took away the rights of Jews and eventually forced them out, As nutty as […]

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Iraq cuts U.S. archaeology cooperation over archives

Posted on Al Arabiya News June 25, 2012 Iraq has cut cooperation with the United States on archaeological exploration because Washington has not returned Iraq’s Jewish archives, Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim told AFP. The fate of the archives, which were removed from Iraq following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, is a long-running point of contention between Washington and Baghdad, which has for years sought their return. Smaisim, a member of powerful anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement, said in an interview with AFP that Iraq will use “all the means” to pursue the return of the archives. “One of the means of pressure that I used against the American side is I stopped dealing with the American (archaeological) exploration missions because of the case of the Jewish archives and the antiquities that are in the United States,” said Smaisim. “The American side made many moves and pressure (for Iraq) to resume work with them but this is a final decision,” he added. The ministry of culture says that millions of documents including the Jewish archives were transferred to the United States. Seventy percent of the Jewish archives are Hebrew-language documents, with another 25 percent in Arabic and five percent in other languages, according to the ministry. The archives, which were found in the flooded basement of the intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, include Torah scrolls, Jewish law and children’s books, Arabic-language documents produced for Iraqi Jews and government reports about the Jewish community. Iraq was home to a large Jewish community in ancient times but its members left en masse after the creation of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. “We talked with the American side about the Jewish archives. There are no clear and transparent answers,” said Smaisim. “They moved the archives in 2003; the agreement that was signed at that time between Iraq and the American side was to bring them back in 2005 after restoring them, but we are now in 2012,” Smaisim said. Smaisim, who was a dentist before becoming a minister in 2006, said the issue of the Jewish archives was “part of a bigger problem” with the United States, putting the number of Iraqi artifacts held there at 72,000. “We asked the American side to inventory these artifacts and the Jewish archives ... and to send them to the Iraqi side ... but they did not respond,” he said. “All this led to stopping dealing with them since the beginning of the year,” he said, adding that Iraq will “take all steps to get these antiquities and the Jewish archives back.” When asked for comment, U.S. embassy spokesman Michael McClellen said the archives were in “the temporary custody of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for conservation, preservation, and digitization.” “The U.S. Department of State is funding the final phase of the project which includes a bilingual (English and Arabic) educational exhibit of the material in the U.S. and in Iraq,” he said, adding that “all the material will return to Iraq at the conclusion of the project.” On other Iraqi artifacts, McClellen said that American universities and archaeologists had “engaged in a number of excavations across Iraq that were organized and conducted with the cooperation and support of Iraqi governments,” and that the U.S. works to return any illegally obtained Iraqi antiquities. Read More...June 25, 2012 No Comments

Al Arabiya News June 25, 2012 Iraq has cut cooperation with the United States on archaeological exploration because Washington has not returned Iraq’s Jewish archives, Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim told AFP. The fate of the archives, which were removed from Iraq following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, is a long-running point of contention between […]

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An Arab Legacy of Hate

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Cleveland Jewish News – October 8th, 2010

As Israelis and Palestinians struggle with a 21st-century peace process, the world must face the forgotten history that was so pivotal in determining the present crisis. In many ways, a turning point was the day Arabs massacred Jews because they dared to sit at the Wailing Wall while praying. This simple act of prayer was so unacceptable to Arabs that it helped launch a worldwide crisis of hate that provoked a global Islamic jihad, forged an Arab-Nazi alliance during the Holocaust, and still echoes today. The year was 1929. Jewish Palestine was being settled by torrents of Eastern European refugees. The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine (1923) included the provision for a Jewish Homeland. The Balfour Declaration (1917), widely endorsed by many nations, was a matter of international law. But the Arabs in Palestine refused to co-exist with Jews in any way except as second-class dhimmis (free non-Muslims living under their law). Islam had been at war with the Jewish people since its defining inception in 627 C.E., when Mohammad exterminated the Jews of Mecca and launched the Islamic Conquest that swept north and subsumed Syria-Palestina. For centuries, Jews and Christians in Arab lands were allowed to exist as dhimmis, citizens with limited religious rights. These restrictions were enforced by the Turks who, until World War I, ruled the geographically undetermined region known as Palestine, which included Jerusalem. When the Ottoman Empire fell, after World War I ended in 1918, the British were obligated by the Mandate to maintain the Turkish status quo at the Wailing Wall. That status quo, according to numerous decrees under Sharia (Islamic law), maintained that Jews could pray at the Wailing Wall – the last remnant of the Temple – quietly and never sitting, even in the heat. And Jews were not allowed to separate men from women during prayer. The Jews revered the Wailing Wall as their holiest accessible place and a direct connection to God. But under Turkish and Arab tradition, the Wailing Wall was not the Jews’ holy site. Rather, it was revered by Muslims as al-Buraq, the place where Mohammad tethered his winged steed during his miraculous ascent to heaven. During that miraculous journey, according to Islamic tradition, Mohammad flew through the air on his magnificent horse to the furthest mosque. The furthest mosque was in Jerusalem, hence the al-Aksa, meaning “the furthest.” Therefore, the Wailing Wall became pre-eminently a Muslim holy place, only available for Jewish visitation with permission and under strict guidelines that would not connote independent worship or ownership of the Wall. On Yom Kippur, 1928, Jews decided to bring benches and chairs to sit while they prayed, and they also brought a mechitza, a flimsy, portable partition to separate men from women. This provoked outrage among Arabs, and the British even tried to pull chairs out from under people to force them to stand. The offense catapulted al-Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, to sudden international Islamic importance as Muslims everywhere – from India to London – objected to Jews sitting. Husseini even convened an emergency international conference of Muslims in Jerusalem to stop Jews from sitting at the Wall to pray. The Mufti and his machinery began a nonstop protest movement against the perceived Jewish encroachment on the Wall. As the chief religious authority, it was Husseini who directed that the muezzin, the man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret, position himself within earshot of the Wailing Wall pavement and then dial the volume up to rile Jews during prayer and prove Islamic dominance. At the same time, it was Husseini who directed the revival of the cacophonous dhikr ceremony, complete with repetitive shouts of Allahu Akbar, as well as loud gongs and cymbals, once again, disrupting Jewish prayers with strategic noise. The Mufti also permitted mules to be herded through the Jewish prayer area, dropping dung and creating the feel and smell of what one Jerusalem newspaper termed “a latrine.” On Aug. 15, 1929, when Jews again marked the holiday by sitting and chanted “the Wall is ours,” the Arabs began yet another in a series of bloody massacres. The massacres in several cities culminated in unspeakable atrocities at Hebron. It began in Jerusalem. “Itbach Al Yahood! Itbach Al Yahood!” Slaughter the Jews. Slaughter the Jews. With knives and clubs, the mob attacked every Jew in sight, burned Torah scrolls, and yanked supplication notes to God from the cracks in the Wall and set them aflame. Attacks spread throughout the land over the following days. Jews were stabbed, shot, beaten down with rocks, maimed, and killed in various Jewish towns and suburbs. The chaos continued for days. With thousands of dagger- and club-wielding Arabs swarming throughout the city hunting Jews, wire services transmitted headlines such as “Thousands of Peasants Invaded Jerusalem and Raided all Parts of the City.” Martial law was declared. Armored cars were brought in from Baghdad. British airplanes swept in to machine-gun Arab marauders.Violence continued to spread throughout Palestine. Jews fought back and retaliated with bricks and bars and whatever they could find. Then, on Aug. 23 and 24, Hebron became a bloody nightmare. House to house, Arab mobs went, bursting into every room looking for hiding Jews. Religious books and scrolls were burned or torn to shreds. The defenseless Jews were variously beheaded, castrated, their breasts and fingers sliced off, and in some cases their eyes plucked from their sockets. Infant or adult, man or woman – it mattered not. The carnage went on for hours, with the Arab policemen standing down – or joining in. One young boy, Yosef Lazarovski, later wrote of the horror: “I remember a brown-skinned Arab with a large mustache breaking through the door. He had a large knife and an axe that he swung through the doorjambs until he broke through. (He was) full of fury, screaming, ‘Allah Akbar!’ and ‘Itbach al Yahood!’ … My grandfather tried to hold my hand, then (he tried) to push me aside (and hide me), screaming, Shema Yisrael … and then I remember another Arab … with an axe that he brought down on my grandfather’s neck.” Not a single victim was simply killed. Each was mutilated and tortured in accordance with their identities, the specific information provided by local Arabs. The Jewish man who lent money to Arabs was sliced open and the IOUs burned in his body. The Jewish baker’s head was tied to the stove and then baked. London dispatched special investigative commissions that determined that under the Sharia status quo, Jews were not permitted to sit. Jews were even blamed for provoking the massacres by deliberately sitting. The Mufti of Jerusalem used the Wall controversy to continue his campaign against the British and the Jews. As part of that war, the Mufti led a broadly accepted, international and popularly accepted Arab and Islamic alliance with Nazi Germany. Eventually, when the British tried to arrest him, he fled to Iraq. There, the Mufti and Nazi agents helped inspire the 1941 Farhud, a two-day spree of killing, looting and raping the Jews of Baghdad. Once the British finally helped restore order, the Mufti fled again, this time to Germany, where he was taken under the personal auspices of Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. The Mufti formed an 8,000-man plus Muslim Waffen-SS division, which partnered with the bloodthirsty Ustasha in Croatia to commit the most heinous crimes in the Holocaust. The Ustasha wore Jewish eyeballs on necklaces. The alliance with the Nazis spanned every aspect of the war, from intelligence offices in Paris, to parachute units, to artillery battalions, to a plan to exterminate all Jews in Palestine. This alliance was more than one man, the Mufti of Jerusalem – it was a movement of popular international Islamic fervor that stretched across the Middle East and Europe. After the fall of Hitler, the legacy of hate continued in the post-War expulsions of a million Jews from Arab lands. Periodically, the fervor that ignited the massacres of 1929 surfaces today. Intifadas arise, riots erupt, and the Arab rallying call, spoken and collectively remembered, continues in Jerusalem. Edwin Black is the bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust. This article is drawn from his soon-to-be released book The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust, excerpted with the author’s permission. See www.edwinblack.com.November 11, 2010
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Cleveland Jewish News – October 8th, 2010 As Israelis and Palestinians struggle with a 21st-century peace process, the world must face the forgotten history that was so pivotal in determining the present crisis. In many ways, a turning point was the day Arabs massacred Jews because they dared to sit at the Wailing Wall while […]

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