Saturday, July 8, 2006

Discussion about Iraqi Jews


The correspondence below provides information on the status of Jewish Arabs in IRAQ (from ancient times through their departure to Israel in the 1950s) and discusses the misconceptions about the subject matter. Those who participated in the discussion are members of IRAQ History Group. For better understanding of this lengthy correspondence, please begin reading from the bottom of this post and continue upwards.





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Dear Wafaa'
This is just a quick response, mainly to address your request for a source on the full original text opf the 1950 law regarding the emigration and rescinding of the citizenship of Iraqi Jews.

Two books that will most probably between them together address your query are (and I am writing this from memeory, as I have no access to these books right now, so the books' details will be incomplete and not 100% accurate):

(1)- Prof. Hanna Batatu's classic "The Old Ruling Classes and The Revolutionary Movements in Modern Iraq"; Princeton University Press, 1988 (or thereabouts)

(2)- Abbas Shiblaq's "The Lure Of Zion The Case Of The Iraqi Jews" (publsihed in the UK, in the 1980s) (In both cases, the titles as I have stated them may not be 100% accurate, but very close)

While I do not agree with everything that either of the above two books state (in fact, I and a number of other people have identified some very serious factual errors as well as errors of interpretation in both of them, and conveyed the same to the author of the first one, now deceased, who, after a long fight, conceded these in writing, promising to correct them in the next editions, graciously apologizing to me and the family, also in writing; he did make some, but not all, of the corrections that he had promised us in the Arabic edition) , they do nevertheless constitute some of the most reliable (in some instances highly valuable) sources when it comes to documentation and referencing. (The facts that these two books contain such errors is hardly surprising considering the acute slant in the backgrounds of their respective authors against the old Iraqi regime; Batatu, a Palestinian-Lebanese Christian turned communist, living in the USA, and Shiblaq, a Plestinian Leftist living in the UK; their preconceived notions and hell-bent condemnation of everything that had to do with the Royalist era in Iraq seep through their respective books from cover to cover, although sometimes more subtly than others. The late Batatu's mainstream thesis, thinly disguised, is to promote the cause of the Iraqi communist party, all the way through bemoaning its loss of opportunity to govern Iraq forever).

Another possible (albeit dubious) source, is an Israeli one (of Iraqi-Jewish origin) that I have heard of but have yet to read, is the memoirs of one of the main organisers of the Zionist terrorist/emigration operations "for" (even many Iraqi Jews would now say "against" rather) the Jews of Iraq in the 1940s and 1950s, namely Shlomo Hillel, published (originally in English, and soon after translated into Arabic) again in the 1980s. (No further details are available to me as I write, but, it can be found without too much trouble, if you are interested).

I am cc-ing a number of members on my e-mail list who may have some useful input to contribute to all this.

Selaam,

Ahmed

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Dear Wafaa'

Thank you very much and may god bless you for this enthusiasm.

This is a quick addition to your letter.

Paragraph 2 : the IRAQ Farhood event in 1941, which was fueled bythe Nazi-backed Rashid Ali Al-Ghailany( as you havewritten ). I was living in Basra when the Britishinvaded the city in April '41. Our house was near thebig Bazaar in Ashar and we saw many men coming fromthe bazaar carrying different articles. That was ourfirst experience of ' FARHOOD '. We went into thebazaar and saw people pillaging shops and big stores.We saw some British military men helping the pillagersforce opening secure locks. This ' Farhood ' again wastaking place in Baghdad when the British army enteredthe city at the end of May '41 and the escape of the government. Many people said that the incidence wasinstigated by the apparent joy that the Jews hadshown when the Beitish army approached Baghdad. Ibelieved this and believed that ' Farhood ' was against Jews as Jews until many decades later when I heard what happened in New York during power failure some years ago, and especially when I saw what happened in Baghdad on the 9th of April 2003. Interestingly, there were incidents of American military men force opening secure locks to help looters pillage secure stores. There were no JEWS! This looting, and may be the two ' Farhoods ' too, were the 'result' of lawlessness following the fall of government.

Abdulkarim

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Dear friends,

I am a new comer to this group and my attention was drawn to the issue of Jews vs. Arabs. Tamara seems to have in mind the prevailing belief that Arabs came to Iraq ONLY with Islam and the area was inhabited by other people who were not Arabs. Before we go forward in any discussion, we must I believe agree on theterminologies used so as not be to going around in circles. What do we mean by the following terms: Arabs, Jews, Semites, Israelis and Hebrews?
I would be grateful if Tamara would answer as to how she understands these terms, after which I can perhaps elaborate on the subject.

My regards
Hassan

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Dear Tamara,

According to the Old Testament, Jews are the grandsonsof Abraham. Abraham lived in Ur ( in present Iraq )before emigrating to Canaanite territories. Was he a "Tribe '' ALONE? And was he of different race otherthan the people around in Ur and elsewhere inMesopotamia? History tells us that many '' WAVES "emigrated successively from the arab peninsula. Wherethose ' Tibal Waves'? so we can say that this wave wasArabic and the other was Chaldean for example? How canyou say affirmatively that Jews of Iraq existed inMesopotamia prior to the move of Arabs from theJazeera to Mesopotamia. Scholars of the Babylonianlanguage find astonishing similarities between thatlanguage and Arabic. This should be sufficient proofthat those people were the same people whom you thinkhad come to ' Mesopotamia ' after the Jews.

Abdul Karim Hani

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Dear Huda and Naser:

It is wonderful to hear from you both and receive your info. and commentary.

I will number my thoughts below, so that I won't forget any point:

1. Wikipedia is an excellent on-line encyclopedia, but it has some miscoceptions and errors when it comes to matters related to the Arab and Islamic worlds.

2. This brings me to the top statement in the link about how Jews were facing discrimination, harassments and persecution in the Arab world, offering an outrageous generalization and exaggeration! The Jews in nearly all over the Arab world were not treated with discrimination in any field and I challenge anyone who undermines this reality. They were neither persecuted in the Arab world just because they were Jews, with the exception of the IRAQ Farhood event in 1941, which was fueled by the Nazi-backed Rashid Ali Al-Ghailany. So this statement provides a malicious accusation about Arabs in light of and in comparison with how the Christians of industrial west treated Jews: from discrimination to expulsion and persecution (since 1500s) including the 20th-century European holocaust.

3. No one who is well knowledgeable of history facts will accept the term 'anti-Semitism' when it comes to Arabs' misconducts. The term 'anti-Semitism' is native to and invented by Christian Europe to describe their own misconduct toward Jews, not to describe that of Moslems/Christians of the Middle East ESPECIALLY ARABS because the latter are Semites. How can they be anti-Semites when they are Semites. This is from a perspective of terminology usage. Additionally, Arabs treated and considered the Jews, who lived in the Middle East and North Africa, as Arabs, not to mention that Jews, in these regions, considered themselves, interacted with others and behaved as Arabs. Therefore, the term 'anti-semitic' is not accepted in this Arab scenario, it describes a western phenomenon.

4. There are additional information regarding the bombing of synagogues by Israelis, which is not mentioned in the link below. It will be mentioned in the documentary film "The Other Arabs", which is scheduled for release in November.

5. FINALLY, I am looking for the exact words of the original 1950 law, hopefully the document itself that was passed by the Iraqi government with hopes that the Israelis since 2003 did not confiscate and burn such a document as it has been their conduct since the fall of Baghdad to the occupation in april 2003. This law has never been quoted 'as is' by Iraqi Jews, other Iraqis and Israelis alike at least in recent writing and documentation.

PLEASE help us locate this law.

I will be posting our recent discussion about Iraqi Jews on our HistoryofIraq blog and email you the link hoping to hear from others regarding this subject.

I also hope that the matter of Iraqi Jews will bring us to discuss and clarify other misconceptions and errors about other minorities within in IRAQ, i.e. the Sabieans.


Regards,
Wafaa' Al-Natheema

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Dear all:

Thanks to Huda Al-Safwani for the link she provided with regard the Iraqi Jews, for your convenient I posted it bellow (emphasize and color were added). It is so easy from the information in the link to understand that the Iraqi governments didn't expel the Iraqi Jews but most of them left the country under the pressure of the Zionist organizations which were trying to bring as much population as it can to Palestine even by bombing their places in Iraq. Nevertheless, most of the Iraq Jews left Iraq after a formal registration according to the law of 1950 which allowing Jews to emigrate on condition of relinquishing their Iraqi citizenship. In this case the Iraqi governments have the legal power and rights to frozen and later confiscate all foreigners properties especially if we know that according to Iraqi law (at least in that time) foreigners has no legal rights to have property in Iraq. Thus, there is no any legal ground to compensate any (Iraqi) Jews, on the contrary, according to the United Nations resolutions Israel should pay compensation to Iraq for its aggression on the Iraq (Tammuz) reactor on 1981.

With best wishes
Naser Mahmoud

Iraq
Main article: History of the Jews in Iraq
In 1948, there were approximately 150,000 Jews in Iraq. In 2003, there were 100 left, though there are reports that small numbers of Jews are returning in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In 1941, following Rashid Ali's pro-Axis coup, riots known as the Farhud broke out in Baghdad in which approximately 200 Jews were murdered (some sources put the number higher), and up to 2,000 injured.
Like most Arab League states, Iraq forbade the emigration of its Jews for a few years after the 1948 war on the grounds that allowing them to go to Israel would strengthen that state. However, intense diplomatic pressure brought about a change of mind. At the same time, increasing government oppression of the Jews fueled by anti-Israeli sentiment, together with public expressions of anti-semitism, created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.
In March 1950, Iraq passed a law of 1 year duration allowing Jews to emigrate on condition of relinquishing their Iraqi citizenship. Iraq apparently believed it would rid itself of those Jews it regarded as the most troublesome, especially the Zionists, but retain the wealthy minority who played an important part in the Iraqi economy. Israel mounted an operation called "Ezra and Nehemiah" to bring as many of the Iraqi Jews as possible to Israel, and sent agents to Iraq to urge the Jews to register for immigration as soon as possible.

The initial rate of registration accelerated after a bomb injured three Jews at a café. Two months before the expiry of the law, by which time about 85,000 Jews had registered, a bomb at the Masuda Shemtov Synagogue killed 3 or 5 Jews and injured many. The law expired in March 1951 but was later extended after the Iraqi government froze the assets of departing Jews (including those already left). During the next few months, all but a few thousand of the remaining Jews registered for emigration, spurred on by a sequence of bombings that caused few casualties but had great psychological impact. In total about 120,000 Jews left Iraq.
In May and June of 1951, the arms caches of the Zionist underground in Iraq, which had been supplied from Palestine/Israel since the Farhud of 1942, were discovered. Many Jews were arrested and two Zionist activists, Joseph Basri and Abraham Salih, were tried and hanged for three of the bombings. A secret Israeli inquiry in 1960 reported that most of the witnesses believed that Jews had been responsible for the bombings, but found no evidence that they were ordered by Israel. The issue remains unresolved: Iraqi activists in Israel still regularly charge that Israel used violence to engineer the exodus, while Israeli officials of the time vehemently deny it. According to historian Moshe Gatt, few historians believe that Israel was actually behind the bombing campaign -- based on factors such as records indicating that Israel did not want such a rapid registration rate and that bomb throwing at Jewish targets was common before 1950, making the Istiqlal Party a more likely culprit than the Zionist underground. In any case, the remainder of Iraq's Jews left over the next few decades, and had mostly gone by 1970.

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Dear Wafaa,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_exodus_from_Arab_lands#Iraq
I hope this link maybe of use in this argument.

Kind regards
Huda Al-Safwani

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Thank you, Wafaa'
I have been searching for this important and have-been-distorted law for months, but unable to locate it. I hope someone will email it to the group.

Earlier I made a mistake. I wrote, "Or all of these people are less important than their majesty the Iraqi Jews who chose to leave more than sixty years ago and now they regret it and won't to get some quick cash from IRAQ!"

I meant to write, "they regret it and WANT to get some quick cash...."

Walaa' Ali

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Thank you, Tamara and Walaa', for the commentary.

It is extremely important to understand that with very few exceptions (Kurds and Turkmans), Iraqi Jews are near entirely Arabs. So to state that the Jews lived in Mesopotamia for thousands of years prior to Arabs is highly problematic. They were Arabs by tribe affiliation, language, ethnicity and customs, but they followed Judaism. Arabs did not just exist in Arabia (what is today Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Yemen). Tens of Arab tribes lived in what is today Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Egypt from biblical times. The Qahtanis, Kanaanis, Adnanis and many other Arab tribes were living all over the Middle East long before Islam. Why don't you read about the ancient Arab history during queen Balqees (in Yemen) and queen Zenobia (in Laventine: Syria-Jordan)? You will then realize that Arabs did not only exist in Arabia and their history did not begin with Islam.

Here is where the Zionist Jews are highly contradicting themselves. On one hand they believe and document in their religious and history books that Abraham's wife, Hajer, and her-Abraham's son, Ismael, are Arabs. Yet they give no credit to Arab's existance before Islam!!

If anyone on this list has the 1949/50 law that was passed by Nouri As-Saeed regarding the Jewish Exodus, it would be greatly appreciated to email to us. If you have any link providing this law in Arabic and in English, will be ideal. If in Arabic only, I will translate it. I don't remember if this law was discussed in Samir's "Forget Baghdad" documentary.

Thanks for this stimulating discussion, which I hope it will bring us closer to the truth and have others on this list comment on this matter.

Regards,
Wafaa' Al-Natheema


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Tamara,

While we are aware of the Jewish presence in Mesopatamia for thousands of years, I found your commentary about the fact that they were there before the Arabs typical and due to lack of knowledge and misinformation. They are Arabs, Tamara. They are Jewish Arabs who lived in IRAQ for thousands of years, of whom some converted to Christianity and others to Islam later.

This is a Zionist propaganda about Jews not being Arabs and that they were living in Mesopotamia thousands of years before Arabs, and is very damaging and highly distorting IRAQ's history.

Nobody forced them to leave. The law was clear, if they left IRAQ to Israel, they'd lose their property. But no one forced them, they chose to leave IRAQ for their Zionist dreams. Thousands of Jews stayed in IRAQ with their normal daily lives, education, property and work intact all through the early 1970s. The Zionists used even bombs at their own Synagogues in IRAQ and Egypt (the Lavon Affair) to force the needed Jewish Arabs to flee to Israel so that they would be used as laborers, work in odd jobs and get discriminated against upon their arrival in Israel. They were even sprayed with DDT upon their arrival in Tel Aviv's airport. Why don't they ask the horrible and Zionist government of theirs for reparation not only for the properties that they lost, but for the psycological damage and first-class discrimination that they've encountered?

The fact that they are asking for their used-to-be property in Iraq back NOW forcefully and requesting 10 billions of dollars of reparations is beyond pathetic and unfair. It is in fact a crime. Then what about the Iraqis who lost their homes because of the USA-UK-Israel Occupation? Israelis are now nesting in the North of IRAQ thanks to the Kurds and have assassinated hundreds of Iraqi scientists already. They have been even buying properties (in IRAQ) at no cost or utterly cheap from those who are fleeing their towns or the entire country due to the war. Actually, the Iraqis who should ask for reparations. The lives of scientists are invaluable, Tamara. What about the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have been with no homes since the nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 with the creation of Israel? Or all of these people are less important than their majesty the Iraqi Jews who chose to leave more than sixty years ago and now they regret it and won't to get some quick cash from IRAQ!

Why don't you do your homework better before you send such unnecessary comments?

Walaa' Ali

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While I am not Jewish, I do respect the history of Iraq and Mesapotamia. The Jews in Iraq have been there since the Babylonian captivity, and they have been part of the mosaic that is Iraq for centuries. In fact, the Jews of Iraq existed in Mesapotamia prior to the move of Arabs from the Jazeera to Mesapotamia. Therefore, I find it disengneous, that some are disturbed by Jewish Iraqis claiming their properties in Iraq like any other of the expats that flooded back to Iraq after 2003 to claim theirs.

Thank you
Tamara Q.

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I see both your, Walaa' and Richard, points and agree with them.

It is near impossible to find any link related to Jewish Arabs that educates about their heritage and history before the creation of or separately from Zionist Israel.

David Shasha, a USA-born Sephardic Jew and a subscriber of this group list produces very interesting newsletters (electronically and on hard copy) on the history and culture of Eastern Jews (particularly Arabs). His grandmother and grandfather were from Syria and IRAQ. To learn more about the heritage society he founded, the biweekly newsletters he produces or to be on his email list, write to him at david.shasha.shu@gmail.com  I hope he follows up to provide more information about his project (The Sephardic Heritage Society and the newsletter). Unfortunately he does not have the information, articles and newsletters posted on an Internet link. It will be great to receive some objective websites regarding Sephardic or Arab Jews if he knows of any.

Best Regards,
Wafaa' Al-Natheema

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I understand your frustration, Walaa'.

While it is indeed upsetting knwoing that such a group exists and conducting
awful actions, simultaneously however it is important to read about them and
be alerted and knowledgeable about their activities. This will enable you, as
Iraqi, to protect yourself and know how to deal with the situation. Luckily,
they've stopped being secretive and published their activities on the Internet.
This is perhaps what will make their politically wrong activities not last long.

Conducting reunions in Baghdad is not awful, but the awful thing is that it has
taken place during a time when Baghdad has fallen to the occupiers and
is bleeding. They have stained their mission and so it will be harshly
resisted in Iraq and condemned outside of Iraq, don't worry.

Regards,
Richard


In a message dated 6/28/2006 1:25:58 AM Eastern Standard Time, WMS_Al writes:

Dear Wafaa':

I just visited this website for the Iraqi Jews.

It seems that it is maintained by Zionist Iraqi Jews who all they care about is celebrating reunions in Baghdad, voting in corrupt elections and working to confiscate their Iraqi properties back (most probably by force) from the time when they left IRAQ in the 1950s.

Don't you think we, Iraqis, have more than enough problems and enemies that a group like the Zionist Iraqis are the last we need to read and get upset about? Aren't the USA citizens, British, Ashkenazi Zionists, the CPA (Dutch, Polish, S. Koreans and many others), the militias and mercenaries, the Kurdish Peshmergeh, the Kuwaitis and the Iranians more than enough?

Walaa' Ali



Wafaa' Al-Natheema wrote:

The following link maybe of interest to some of you:

http://www.samba.co.il/iraqijews

Regards,
Wafaa'

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Wafaa' Al-Natheema wrote:

Thank you so much, Abdul Kareem, for your response and for providing the information about Iraqi Jews in the army.

Especially precious is the fact that you provided such information from the harsh environment of Iraq where there is crime, robbery and lack or absence of electricity thanks to the occupation!!

I hope David Shasha (subscriber on this list) will forward your answer to Nissim Rejwan and we receive his commentary on the subject matter. What happened to Iraqi Jews or how they lived their lives in IRAQ are among the many subjects being distorted in IRAQ's history!

Regards,
Wafaa' Al-Natheema



Abdulkarim Hani wrote:

Dear Richard.

I have been discussing the question of Iraqi Jews withWafaa' when I came across your inquiry about the Jewsbeing not allowed to own/carry arms in IRAQ. I am oldenough ( born in 1930 ) to remember conditions in mycountry when Jews lived among us. They comprised about1/4 of our class at the medical school, they served inthe army and some of them were officers. Mr. Rajaa' H. HUSNI mentions in his book ( History of the IraqiArmy ' in arabic') that there were 6 Jewish officersin the Iraqi army.

Mr. Chayem Cohen in his book(History of the Zionist Movement in Iraq 'in Hebrew' ,which was translated to Arabic by the Institute ofPalestinian Studies ) the names of Jewish officers inthe Iraqi army, with their ranks. The last time Jewish students were admitted to theIraqi Military college was in 1945.As for carrying/owning arms- Iraqis in general, andthere were no laws discriminating against Jews orothers, were not allowed to carry arms. There werelicences issued by the police department in specialcases permitting certain people to own arms. Carryingarms was strictly limited and needed another permit –one for owning an arm and another for carrying it.Jews and others were treated on equal grounds in thatrespect. Of course all this had been changed afterMay 1948.

Regards,
Abdulkarim Hani.---



Wafaa' Al-Natheema wrote:

You are welcome, Richard.

There are two individuals on this group list who can elaborate on your inquery about Iraqi Jews owning arms. I hope they comment and/or provide> sources on the subject matter. However, my knowledge was that Iraqi Jews were admitted to the Iraqi army until 1947. In this year, when troubles began to be more noticed in Palestine and an indication for the establishment of a Zionist Jewish home was becoming very strong, Iraqi Jews were banned from joining the Iraqi army. If the paragraph in Nissim Rejwan's book was meant to rule out even the fact that Jews were being trained to bare arms, then that is not true! But if it was meant for civilians not to purchase guns for their own personal use, this maybe true, but I am not hundred percent sure of the laws at that time pertaining the matter of owning/purchasing arms!! I hope others will provide more information/sources about the subject matter.

Regards,
Wafaa' Al-Natheema

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Thank you, Wafaa', for keeping us updated. I agree with Walaa' that you are doing a wonderful job. I am getting the impression that some individuals on this list are not reading the emails coming through this list. PLEASE do not be discouraged. We need you to continue learning about IRAQ's history, which has been sadly distorted. This brings me to the following matter: I have read recently a paragraph in a book by Nissim Rejwan, an Iraqi Jew, indicating that Jews were not allowed to own/carry arms in IRAQ. Can you or anyone on this list elaborate and provide sources on the subject matter? I will greatly appreciate it.

Regards,
Richard Sullivan