Tuesday, June 17, 2014

  • Tuesday, June 17, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
From Comment is Free in The Guardian, by Sami Ramadani, arguing that Iraqis have been very tolerant of other cultures over the centuries:

[Nobody] has yet produced historical evidence of significant communal fighting between Iraq's religions, sects, ethnicities or nationalities. Prior to the 2003 US-led occupation, the only incident was the 1941 violent looting of Jewish neighbourhoods – which is still shrouded in mystery as to who planned it. Documents relating to that criminal incident are still kept secret at the Public Records Office by orders of successive British governments. The bombing of synagogues in Baghdad in 1950-51 turned out to be the work of Zionists to frighten Iraq's Jews – one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world – into emigrating to Israel following their refusal to do so.
Ramadani makes three statements: that there was no sectarian strife in Iraq before 1941, that the 1941 Farhud cannot be blamed on Iraqis, and that the 1950-51 synagogue bombings were clearly perpetrated by Zionists.

None of those claims are accurate.

A search finds this description of the Jews of Baghdad in 1883 by a Christian missionary:
Much of our work in Baghdad is amongst the Jews. The great majority of the Baghdad Jews are sunk in ignorance and superstition. There are twenty-one synagogues in Baghdad, in all of which morning prayers are said daily at dawn. This is still sacred soil to the Jews, who have here the tombs of Ezra and Ezekiel, Joshua the High Priest, and the Sheikh Isaac. With the Jews at Baghdad life is completely absorbed in the hard struggle for existence amid surroundings of wretchedness and misery, and they dwell in the midst of a hostile population, who at any moment may indulge in violent outbursts of fanatical hatred.

The Moslems of Baghdad, if they differ at all from those of their creed elsewhere, it is only in being more ignorant and fanatical. They are mostly Sunnis; but there is also, as might be expected from the vicinity of their shrines and sacred places, a considerable population of Shiahs.
Even other 19th century observers who say that Jews were treated well note that non-Muslims were prohibited from wearing certain items of clothing, for example.

Relatively speaking, yes, Ottoman Iraq was better for Jews than many places in Europe, but don't pretend that things were wonderful.

Wikipedia goes on to tell us:
In the 1930s, the situation of the Jews in Iraq deteriorated. Previously, the growing Iraqi Arab nationalist sentiment included Iraqi Jews as fellow Arabs, but these views changed with the introduction of Nazi propaganda and the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian Mandate. Despite protestations of their loyalty to Iraq, Iraqi Jews were increasingly subject to discrimination and harsh laws. On August 27, 1934 many Jews were dismissed from public service, and quotas were set up in colleges and universities. Zionist activities were banned, as was the teaching of Jewish history and Hebrew in Jewish schools.

JTA tells us of other antisemitic actions in Iraq before the 1941 Farhud pogrom that killed nearly 200. In 1932, the government ordered Jewish schools to be open on Saturdays and closed on Fridays. A major yeshiva in Baghdad was burned down in 1937. Jewish shop windows were smashed in 1938.

Farhud mass grave
As far as the Farhud itself is concerned, even a cursory knowledge of the pogrom shows that Iraqi Muslims engaged in the anti-Jewish riots with fervor. Jews were attacked by mobs as well as the police. To sweep that under the rug as if it was done by only pro-Nazi elements, ignoring the history of antisemitism in Iraq beforehand, is dishonest to say the least.

Finally, while some scholars do believe that Zionists were behind the synagogue bombings in 1950-51 (that caused no injuries,) others disagree. An Israeli commission of inquiry in 1960 did not find evidence for Zionist involvement. Other historians note that an antisemitic Iraqi army officer who had similar explosive devices in his possession was arrested but never charged.

Comment may be free, but The Guardian has an obligation to fact-check what people write.

(h/t Ronald)


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