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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Seventy years ago: The Farhud

The BBC recalls the Farhud, the pogrom against Baghdad's Jews in 1941:

On 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom erupted in Baghdad, bringing to an end more than two millennia of peaceful existence for the city's Jewish minority. Some Jewish children witnessed the bloodshed, and retain vivid memories 70 years later.

Heskel Haddad, an 11-year-old boy was finishing a festive meal and preparing to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavuot, oblivious to the angry mob that was about to take over the city.

Thousands of armed Iraqi Muslims were on the rampage, with swords, knives and guns.

The two days of violence that followed have become known as the Farhud (Arabic for "violent dispossession"). About 800 Jews were killed, spelling the end for a Jewish community that dated from the time of Babylon.

"On the first night of Shavuot we usually go to synagogue and stay up all night studying Torah," says Haddad, now a veteran ophthalmologist in New York.

"Suddenly we heard screams, 'Allah Allah!' and shots were fired. We went out to the roof to see what's happening, we saw fires, we saw people on the roofs in the ghetto screaming, begging God to help them."

The violence continued through the night. A red hand sign, or hamsa, had been painted on Jewish homes, to mark them out. Families had to defend themselves by whatever means they could.

...In a nearby street in a mixed Jewish and Muslim quarter, Steve Acre lived with his widowed mother and eight siblings in a house owned by a Muslim.

Acre, now 79 and living in Montreal, climbed a palm tree in the courtyard when the violence began. He still remembers the cry "Cutal al yehud" which translates as "slaughter the Jews".

"Later lots of men came outside and set the house on fire. And the men were shouting like from joy, in jubilation holding up something that looked like a slab of meat in their hands.

"Then I found out, it was a woman's breast they were carrying - they cut her breast off and tortured her before they killed her, my mother's best friend, Sabicha."

The BBC still downplays the Jew-hatred that caused this event:

Until the Farhud, Baghdad had been a model of peaceful coexistence for Jews and Arabs. Jews made up about one in three of the city's population in 1941, and most saw themselves as Iraqi first and Jewish second.

So what caused this terrible turn of events?

A month earlier, a pro-Nazi lawyer Rashid Ali al-Gilani, had overthrown Iraq's royal family, and started broadcasting Nazi propaganda on the radio.

But when an attack on a British Air Force base outside Baghdad ended in humiliating failure, he was forced to flee. The Farhud took place in the power vacuum that followed.
So whenever there is a temporary power vacuum, one must expect residents who lived peacefully with Jews for generations to rise up and massacre them?

Obviously, even though Jews had integrated into Iraqi life and even though there were some Iraqi Muslims who saved Jews, there was still a strong undercurrent of Muslim anti-semitism in Iraq. While the BBC calls it a "Nazi-inspired pogrom" it was enthusiastically performed by Muslims - not Nazis - the very neighbors of the Jews who they lived in harmony with.

This indicates that Islam itself is the problem, not the Nazis or the "power vacuum" or anything else. If in the absence of a strong government the Muslims could be easily incited to slaughter their Jewish neighbors, it means that it was anything but a "model of peaceful co-existence" - and by the BBC saying that, it implies that the natural order of the world is for people to want to slaughter Jews but they suppress that desire because of external factors.

More Farhud articles and links at the Point of No Return blog.

(h/t Aparatchik)