Sunday, October 09, 2011

Wikileaks endangers remaining Iraqi Jews

From McClatchy:

BAGHDAD — An Anglican priest here says he's working with the U.S. Embassy to persuade the handful of Jews who still live in Baghdad to leave because their names have appeared in cables published last month by WikiLeaks.

The Rev. Canon Andrew White said he first approached members of the Jewish community about what he felt was the danger they faced after a news story was published last month that made reference to the cables.

"The U.S. Embassy is desperately trying to get them out," White said. So far, however, only one, a regular confidante of the U.S. Embassy, according to the cables, had expressed interest in emigrating to the United States.

"Most want to stay," White said. "The older ones are refusing to leave. They say: 'We're Iraqis. Why should we go? If they kill us, we will die here.'"

The U.S. Embassy said it would take steps to protect the individuals whose names appear in the cables and suggested in a statement that should any wish to leave, the U.S. would help relocate them.

"Protecting individuals whose safety is at risk because of the release of the purported cables remains a priority. We are working actively to ensure that they remain safe," the embassy said.

It slammed WikiLeaks for releasing the cables. "Releasing the names of individuals cited in conversations that took place in confidence potentially puts their lives or careers at risk," the statement said.

A furious White also hit the website for publishing the cables. "How could they do something as stupid as that?" he said. "Do they not realize this is a life and death issue?"

WikiLeaks did not respond to a request for comment. Previously, WikiLeaks has said that it had no choice but to make its copies of the cables public after the publication in a book of a password that opened an encrypted version of the cables already available on the Internet.

"We had to warn them of the danger and tell them that we want them all to leave," White said. "I never wanted the Jews to leave Iraq. They belong here."

If White persuades Baghdad's remaining Jews to leave it will mark the end of a 2,700-year presence that dates to the Assyrian conquest of the Judean Kingdom.
It is very easy to find the relevant Wikileaks cables. Here's part of one from 2007 that describes the Rev. White and one of the fearful Jews of Baghdad:

XXXXXXX married YYYYYYYYY in October, 2005 in a synagogue in Amman, Jordan. After returning to Baghdad, XXXXXXXXX received a phone call on December 19, 2005 from someone claiming to be from Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), who said that his group had kidnapped her husband and would not release him unless the Government of Jordan freed an AQI captive (reportedly named Sajidah), and Coalition Forces left Iraq. XXXXXXX said that the captor yelled anti-Semitic slurs at her, roughly translated as "Down with the Jews." XXXXXXXX offered to pay ransom, which the group refused, and then they threatened to cut her husband's head off and mail it to her. She has not heard again from the captors or her husband.

XXXXXXX described an intense fear of publicity. She blames a non-governmental organization, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), for publishing her name in Arabic on the internet, as well as her mother's name and other identifying information. This information may have exposed her and her husband to danger, she said. She was extremely nervous to meet an American diplomat, and strongly requested that her identity be protected. (NOTE: Time magazine reported July 31 that Reverend Canon Andrew White, an Anglican Chaplain in Iraq, is in contact with eight Jews remaining in Baghdad, and that he has provided the group food and money. White told Time that the Baghdad Jews have not been able to agree to apply to go to Israel together, and one woman regularly goes to a Baghdad synagogue. END NOTE.)

XXXXXXX reported that Baghdad has one remaining synagogue, on Betawin Street. She said that the synagogue is old but has no outer markings to indicate that it is a house of worship, let alone a Jewish synagogue. Inside, XXXXXXXX said, it is very beautiful. She prays there alone, she explained, because the other Jews are too scared to join her. She said that praying in the synagogue helped her to cope with the grief of losing her husband.

From 2008, referring to the same woman:
At religious services and on other occasions, XXXXXXX met repeatedly with a number of Embassy political, economic, and military officers, earning their trust over time. She reported reliably about local developments in Baghdad, sharing stories of violence and reconstruction in her neighborhood in the Rusafa district. She relayed details about the Jewish community that matched those reported to post from other sources, including Christians in Baghdad and the expatriate Iraqi Jewish community in the U.S., Britain, and Israel. She proved to be a reliable source of information and a generous conduit of support for her community in Baghdad.

She, in turn, appeared to relish the opportunity to pray with others, as she said that none of the other Iraqi Jews will risk visiting Baghdad's only remaining synagogue. After one of her first Shabbat services, she told Embassy officers, "This is the first time I haven't prayed alone in three years." During Passover in April 2008, she delivered matzah to four others. One of them reportedly told her, "This is the first time I've truly celebrated Eid (Passover) in more than 20 years." She said that she has shared with other members of her community numerous other donations sent to them from the U.S., including religious implements and commercial products difficult to find in Baghdad markets.
The latter cable lists every member of the community and personal details about them.

(h/t CHA)