Iraqi Jews embrace activism to tell their story

In this 70th anniversary year of the Farhud pogrom, Iraqi Jews in the USA are planning to demonstrate outside the UN headquarters in New York in order to draw attention to the unknown history of human rights abuse suffered by Jews from Arab countries, now largely resettled in Israel.

The demonstration will take place at 11 am on 21 September and will coincide with Durban lll, The UN World Conference against Racism, expected to become another thinly-disguised attempt to condemn Israel as an Apartheid regime.

The head of the AA Association, the Iraqi-Jewish community in the US – lawyer and film-maker Carole Basri (pictured) – is circulating a letter to her community asking for support. Here are some extracts:

“As Iraqi Jews living in the US, the time has come when it is imperative for us to bring to the attention of the world the factual history of the Jews from Arab countries.

“This subject has received very little attention. In fact, this history of ours is not even known to most Jews, and it is time this untold truth be told:

“The FARHUD in 1941 was an uprising against the Iraqi Jews which killed almost 200 Jews in Baghdad. This tragedy occurred at the same time as the Holocaust, and well before the state of Israel came into existence.(June 1 & 2, 2011 was the 70th anniversary of the FARHUD.)

“900,000 Jews lived in Arab countries in 1948: They were forced to leave the countries they had lived in for over two thousand years due to Human Rights violations!

“These 900,000 Jews and their descendants make up over half the Jews in Israel today.

“These three simple facts are critical to understanding the current history of the Jews in the Middle East. It becomes crystal clear that the State of Israel is not just the result of the Holocaust but also the refuge and home of the dispersed Jews from Arab countries who left their homes and country due to the extreme Human Rights violations.

“The UNTOLD important Jewish history: This must be expressed by all means possible to educate those who know little or nothing about it. It is absolutely our moral responsibility, as Iraqi Jews in the United States, to make these facts known to our fellow Americans, as well as the World Community at large.”

The executive committee of the World Organisation of Jews from Iraq (WOJI) is holding elections on 4 September. Any Jew over 18 born in Iraq or of Iraqi ancestry is eligible to vote. More details from [email protected]


  • Bataween: Very funny, "features a number of Iraqi communists" – I forgot we are talking to Americans who have a paranoid fear of communists and do not see them as human beings who, historically, were members of different forms of communist parties in different countries – Italian communism was very different to Soviet communism – but generally people were drawn to communism in the first place because communist beliefs on their own are often claimed by their adherents to be a very positive, populist ideology endorsing "people power" actions, ideas, and events, and of being categorically opposed to oppression and alienation at the hands of any elite. In practice, these high aims did not function, although one could say the same for the capitalism of America today.
    To discredit these highly intelligent human beings in the film because they were communists is laughable.
    The rest of your post is equally selective and in the same way ignores uncomfortable facts for your own agenda. There are many Arab Jews from other countries who tell the same story as those in "Forget Baghdad". And by the way, many of them, and their children, tried to hide the fact in Israel that they were Arab Jews because of racism within Israeli society, which still exists today.
    I think that if one is to approach the story of the Arab Jews, one should do it honestly, evaluating their actual lives in the Arab countries (including the testimonies of Jews who lived well amongst the Arab Palestinians until the Zionists arrived) and their different reasons for leaving, as well as their lives in Israel or elsewhere today.
    Speaking of myths, perhaps you should read Shlomo Sand's "The Invention of the Jewish People".

  • I'm afraid films like Forget Baghdad are highly misleading. This one features a number of Iraqi communists whose views are not representative of the vast majority of Jews driven out of Arab countries.

    There are plenty of facts documented on this blog which you choose to deny. It is a myth that Zionists put pressure on Jews to leave Iraq when Jews had witnessed the terrible Farhud – seven years before Israel was established – and the execution of Shafik Ades, who could not have been more of an anti-Zionist Jew, in 1948. Even those Jews who chose to stay on in Iraq were finally terrorised into leaving. Now there are seven left of a community of 150,000. They are so 'happy' as Jews in Iraq that they are terrified of revealing their identities.

    The Palestinians are an excuse.
    Your friend's Jewish mother from Egypt is right – the expulsion in 1956 affected all non-Egyptians and had everything to do with the totalitarian nature of Arab nationalism which does not tolerate pluralism and difference.

  • Additionally, Jews were not the only ones expelled from Egypt, but many nationalities! And, my friend's mother said, that the first within Egypt to have problems were the supporters of Zionist policies in Palestine, while the other Jews were left alone.
    It is perfectly clear that unless the policies of the 1940s are addressed truthfully (truth and reconciliation!) there will never be peace and neighborly interaction between Arabs and Jews. An Israeli (grandson of former Iraqis) professor who accompanied the film series was of the same opinion.
    Your attempts, based on selective historical information can only lead to more trouble between Israel and its neighbors.

  • When you say factual history, then please hold yourself to that. I suggest you watch some of the many films made about Iraqi Jews living in Israel today (and elsewhere), which will add a completely different dimension to your limited perspective. Start with FORGET BAGHDAD. I have seen many of them and then spoke to my good friend's mother who now lives in Rome – she grew up in Egypt as a Jew in a wealthy family who had lived there for generations and was forced to leave Egypt in the late 50s. She maintains that she grew up with people of all religions as equals, her friends were Muslims and Christians (as they are today), and that the real problem began when the Palestinians were expelled from their lands, their homes, their villages, and hundreds of thousands put into refugee camps. At the same time the Zionists were lobbying Arab Jews to come to Israel and there is even evidence that they exerted undue pressure on Arab Jews who had no desire to leave the lands they loved. The Iraqi Jews speak for themselves in these films and depict their lives as second class citizens within Israel, so I don't have to do it. The emerging distortion of historical events which are flooding the internet are disturbing and dangerous because they will inevitably harm Jews.


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