The treatment of Jews is a stain on Iraqi history

Professor Shmuel Moreh’s memoirs, serialised on the online site Elaph, have been published as a book

Sixty-nine years since the outbreak of the Farhud anti-Jewish pogrom on Shavuoth, 1941, we reproduce this remarkable piece by Iraqi journalist Khedher Taher, a moving apology for the treatment of Iraqi Jews. If more people thought like Taher, we might have reconciliation and peace between Jews and Arabs (with thanks: Sami and Emile Cohen for his translation).

How long will Professor Shmuel Moreh continue to remind us of our shameful brutal barbarism against the Jews, the citizens of our country, Iraq? How long will he flagellate our consciences severely and scream “why my fellow countryman did you expel me and kill me while I am a more ancient inhabitant than you, the Arab, in Iraq?” Since when is geography the privilege of certain religion or a particular nation? Isn’t the sky created by God the same for all human beings, so why should not the land also be the property of man whatever one’s religion or race; man has the right to choose to reside and live with his fellow men!

I admit that the articles of Professor Shmuel give me feelings of melancholy and shame; shame that I belong to the society which deals brutally and barbarically with its people to the extent that it renounces their nationality and abuses and plunders their assets with a tranquil conscience and with a beastly sense of victory. What kind of hideous moral, nationalist and religious crime has been practised against our own Iraqi Jews?

As God is my witness, I do not humour anyone, but I express my true feelings towards the Iraqi Jews, for what had occurred to them was a hideous crime from every viewpoint and a shameful black stain on the history of the Iraqi people. I cannot imagine how people dare to insult, beat up and plunder the assets of fellow Iraqi patriots who existed 2500 years ago, and the Jews had longer standing history living in Iraq than the Muslim Arabs.

What happened to the Jews in Iraq was repeated in all the Arab countries with varying degrees of persecution, of exposure to attacks and raising questions about their patriotism. This is now repeated with Christians and others, for after the civil wars and massacres that occurred in Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine and Iraq, no longer is racism described as being against different faiths, such as that directed against the Jews and now the Christians. These communities started killing each other, fighting peoples of same nation and religion. The massacres occurred even between fellows of the same community. The Arab and Eastern societies exceeded the meaning of racism and degenerated to one even more hideous.

My fellow countryman Prof. Shmuel Moreh, enjoy living happily in your country, Israel, which granted you dignity, value and life and to which you have the feeling of belonging and loyalty. The country in which we were born has been imposed upon us just as a family is imposed without our choice. Our destiny is an accident that has thrown us into countries that we did not choose and it is illogical to let this be a reason for torturing ourselves forever. A country of birth may be a symbol of memories and a cause for nostalgia … but when the country abandons us and lets us down and withdraws its protection from us… it becomes a mere past which we had gone through and a miserable black destiny we are well rid of.

Khedher Taher is an Iraqi writer who lives in Detroit, Michigan. This piece was published on April 24, 2010 on the Saudi-financed electronic Elaph site in response to memoirs by Prof. Shmuel Moreh, of the Hebrew University and Israel Prize Laureate in Oriental Studies (1999). Moreh published an article on Elaph to mark 60 years since the mass expulsion of the Jews of Iraq and 69 years since the Farhud pogrom in 1941 in which 137 Jews were massacred and 2500 were wounded.

One Comment

  • This is an extraordinary and beautiful piece of writing. Thank you so much!


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