Iraqi Jews sightseeing in Babylon, 1950s
Another day, another article in Haaretz attacking Danny Ayalon’s campaign for the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Oudeh Barashat’s effort is hard to beat, however – for ignorance, arrogance and sheer dishonesty. My comments are in italics:
Regarding the Foreign Ministry’s initiative for international
recognition of the Jews from Arab countries as refugees, one could apply
the statement by Khalif Ali bin Abu Talib: “Words of truth whose intent
The words Pot… kettle…black… spring to mind.
This is because those who are raising the issue of Jewish refugees, a
just cause in and of itself, don’t really mean what they say. They just
want to put another obstacle in front of the negotiations with the
Palestinians. Meanwhile, take note: The Jews from Arab countries have
stopped being immigrants; now they are merely refugees. By contrast, the
Jews of European origin are the pioneers.
Nobody is saying that the Jews stopped being immigrants – simply that they were refugees before becoming immigrants, and their rights to justice for the period when they were refugees do not have a time limit. As for the Jews of European origin being the pioneers, there were plenty of refugees among them too – fleeing Russian pogroms, the rise of Nazism, communism, etc
The Arabs don’t really have to make much of an effort to refute the
Israeli claim; all they have to do is answer Israel with the same
arguments Israel uses when accused of being responsible for the
Palestinian refugee problem, starting with the claim that in 1948 there
was a war, and in war there are refugees – what can you do? They can
continue by saying that the refugees weren’t expelled but left under the
influence of Zionist propaganda (it’s hard to argue about this ). And
if property issues are raised, one can cite the law on absentee
The one argument the writer can’t use is that there was a war – Jews in Arab countries were non-combatants hundreds of miles from the battlefield. The‘Zionist propaganda’ argument has been discredited long ago. As for the law on absentee property, the Arab states have not even acknowledged Jewish property was unlawfully seized.
The issue of Jewish refugees is an open wound that everyone conspired
to cover up: the state’s leaders, who were eager to portray the refugees
as sons returning to their borders, and the Arab leaders, who diverted
the masses’ anger against the Jewish “enemy” among them. Thus, under
British auspices, some 2,500 years of flourishing Jewish history in Iraq
was uprooted, as just one example. And some around the campfire basked
in this achievement.
I wouldn’t say that the Israelis ‘covered up’ the issue of Jewish refugees – they just neglected to mention it… The rest is probably true, except the British cannot be blamed for the uprooting of the Jews.
In his book “My Dear Baghdad,” Prof. Shmuel Moreh writes that in the
good old days in Iraq, after the calls of the muezzin on Fridays, the
Jews would hurry to light Shabbat candles. And trade was suspended on
Saturdays in honor of the Jews. Indeed, Jew-hatred was a purely European
product. According to all available testimony, the incitement against
the Jews in Iraq started with the rise of Nazism in Europe, because
nationalist circles viewed the Nazis as allies in the struggle against
the British, in accordance with the deviant statement, “The enemy of my
enemy is my friend.”
The undoubted influence of Nazism does not let the Arabs off the hook. Arabs, not Germans, persecuted and murdered Jews in Arab states. And Jew-hatred in Arab countries was not simply a pragmatic expression of colonial hatred, it was ideologicaltoo.
But despite the incitement, the Iraqi people were not drawn toward
hatred, and most Jews were not happy to leave Iraq. According to
researcher Abdel Majid Hamdan, until the June 1941 pogrom against the
Jews of Baghdad known as the Farhud (the result of incitement by Nazi
sympathizers ), only a handful of people emigrated to Palestine. But
even after the pogrom, only a few hundred left the country, and even
that wave slowed considerably in 1945, when the Nazis were defeated.
Absolute nonsense. Jews were not allowed to leave Iraq in the years following the Farhud, with few exceptions, and there were few countries willing to take them in – until Israel was founded.
But the brewing conflict in Palestine exacerbated the anti-Jewish
incitement. Many Arab historians sharply criticize the criminal conduct
of the Iraqi regime, which abandoned its Jews to an untenable situation,
despite their fierce desire to remain in Iraq. Nevertheless, a complete
uprooting of Iraqi Jewish life could not have occurred without “outside
help.” And some sources claim that the draconian degrees imposed on
Iraqi Jewry during the 1950s by the regime of Nuri al-Said, a British
protege, were issued with the secret agreement of Prime Minister David
A lame effort to blame the British for what was done by the Iraqis to their Jews. In fact the British tried to act as a moderating influence on Nuri al Said and his wild schemes. As for Ben Gurion’s agreement, this is pure conspiracy theory.
Moreh’s book is laced with pain and longing but contains no expression
of hatred, only tormented love. In one of his poems, his mother says,
“By God, if you visit Iraq, my son, bless our home and our loved ones,
and forget what they did and what we did.” Yes, so that the pain of the
past does not disturb a restful future. It’s time for the leaders of
Arab countries to announce to the Jewish refugees and their descendants
that they have the right of return or the right to compensation.
Sorry, Oudeh, we’ll pass on a right of return.
Epilogue: They say the Palestinians have a just cause and a lousy
advocate. With the appointment of Danny Ayalon, there is now an advocate
for the Jewish refugees. In comparison, the Palestinian advocate is
If Oudeh Barashat is the best advocate that the Palestinians can produce, they are not doing very well.