Devotees of Point of No Return will have learned two months ago that the seven (actually six) remaining Jews of Iraq are in danger, after their names and addresses were leaked in a Wikileaks cable. But the news is only just becoming mainstream, as this piece in the Daily Mail (and a piece in yesterday’s Times) shows. The reason Iraqi Jews have suddenly become news is a BBC radio programme (tonight, 8pm, Radio 4)made by its creative director of Iraqi-Jewish descent, Alan Yentob. While it is wonderful that the British masses may at last learn that Jews lived in Arab countries, it is a shame that the programme is treated as Alan Yentob’s personal story, shorn of its wider political implications for the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The seven remaining Jews in Baghdad have been named by WikiLeaks, leaving them in danger of persecution, according to the city’s Anglican vicar.Their lives are now in immediate danger, according to Canon Andrew White, and they’ve been advised to hide their religion.
Canon White said Baghdad’s Anglican Church is trying to protect them, as they fear extremists might try to kill them if they’re identified.WikiLeaks published diplomatic cables from Baghdad which named the individuals of the small Jewish community.
And now the American Embassy is trying to locate any Jewish diplomats who could help the exposed individuals take part in religious ceremonies safely, to make up the number they’re required to take part in under Jewish Law. A documentary on the dangers they face and the exodus of Jews from Iraq is to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 tomorrow.
The programme, by the BBC’s creative director Alan Yentob, said that for 2,600 years, a thriving Jewish community lived in Mesopotamia. A third of Baghdad’s population was Jewish by the end of the First World War but they were forced to flee during the Second World War, which saw 180 killed in one day.
Jews living in Iraq were then branded Zionists and traitors after the creation of Israel in 1948 and when Iraq sent an army to fight in Palestine, Yentob says in the programme.
Only 6,000 Jews were living in Iraq by the 1960s and today only seven remain in the capital.The Anglican church in Baghdad is also trying to keep safe abandoned Jewish shrines in Iraq.
The Last Jews of Iraq will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on Tuesday (29th November).