Antisemitism in the Muslim world is rampant

Crowds gathered in Baghdad’s main square to celebrate the hangings of nine Jews on 27 January 1969

Since nine Jews were hanged in Baghdad 43 years ago – Michelle Huberman reflects in this column for Jewish News – Jew-hatred in the Arab and Muslim world has not lessened. Indeed, the genocide of the Jews is now official government policy in Iran.

One of my earliest awakenings to anti-semitism in the Arab world was in January 1969. I remember the picture of nine Jews swinging from the gallows in Baghdad on the front page of a newspaper. It was so disturbing.

I was only a child. I thought those images of dead Jews had passed with the Holocaust and couldn’t believe they were still happening. The 43rd anniversary of this terrible occasion was commemorated on 27th January.

Nobody I know remembers those events, but recently I have met people who lived in Baghdad during that period who have told me first-hand of their experiences. There were only 3,000 Jews left in Bagdad after the migration of the 137,000-strong community in the 1950s. The Arab armies suffered a humiliating defeat after the Six Day War in 1967 and the Iraqi rulers took revenge on the last Jews in this small community.

In the film The Forgotten Refugees, which I show to organisations around London, there is live footage of Iraqis en route to the square singing and dancing to watch the spectacle of the executions. Quite unbelievable, but true.

As well as the executions, scores more Jews were arrested and imprisoned. The remainder were placed under virtual house arrest. There was no escape. All passports were confiscated. Jewish businesses were closed, bank accounts frozen, phones cut. The Jews were made to carry special ID cards. When the community escaped in the early 1970s, they did so in secret, in disguise and at great personal risk through remote mountain tracks.

And this story is not exclusive to Iraq. Terrible atrocities happened across the whole Muslim world throughout the last century. It is a myth that Jewish communities lived in harmony with their neighbours: 95% of the old people I’ve encountered have told me stories of fleeing in the night with a single suitcase. An Egyptian Jewish friend said to me recently when he saw the Copts being massacred in Cairo, “that’s what they did to the us when we lived there, I remember exactly the same”.

A Libyan friend who watched the Arab uprisings, and was not in the least bit surprised by the recent chants of “No Jews in Libya” that greeted David Gerbi, a Libyan Jew who returned to restore an old synagogue in Tripoli. Gerbi had to be hurriedly whisked out the country for his own safety.

Nor were my Tunisian friends from Marseille surprised to see their old countrymen chanting “Death to the Jews!”, when Tunisians greeted the Hamas head, Ismail Haniyeh, last month at Tunis airport.

The hatred we are seeing across the Arab world towards Jews is nothing new. It happened in the 20’s and 30’s before the State of Israel was even born. It happened before Israel recaptured Judea and Samaria in 1967. If people think Israel handing back the disputed territories will bring peace, they are sadly mistaken.

The seeds of contemporary Jew-hatred were planted immediately after the 1st World War by Haj Amin Al Husseini, the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem (a relative and mentor to Yasser Arafat). He later worked in collaboration with Hitler in Berlin during WWII. He was spreading the Fuhrer’s doctrines across the Arab world and intended murdering all the Middle East’s Jews. Fortunately he never achieved those goals, but his propaganda, a toxic blend of Nazi and Islamic bigotry, still remains, and has been carried through the successive generations. Sadly the Moslem countries have never been through a de-Nazification programme, so the Mufti’s teachings still remain at the root of the conflict with Israel, and colour Arab hostility to Jews.

The anti-Jewish ideology of the Islamist parties, who have swept to power as a result of the Arab Spring, is also heavily influenced by Nazism. It begins with the indoctrination of the illiterate masses in the mosque and though poisonous propaganda beamed into Arab homes by satellite. In Iran, an Islamic theocracy, the genocide of the Jews is official government policy.

Instead of addressing the root causes of anti-Jewish hatred, the West deludes itself that housebuilding in Jerusalem is the main problem.

There is nothing moderate, tolerant or democratic about Islamic fundamentalism. If it wants to achieve peace in the Middle East the West needs to take an active part in encouraging liberal and tolerant forces – not just in the Arab world but in our back garden.

Jewish News article on page 11


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