Commemorating the Farhud at Shavuot

 Here are more articles that have appeared in the news media to mark the 75th anniversary of the Farhud pogrom in Baghdad.

The Israel Project’s video on the Farhud.

Ben Cohen writes in JNS:

Every Iraqi Jew has a tale to tell about the Farhud, the two-day
pogrom that befell the Jews of Baghdad 75 years ago in June 1941. In the
case of my own family, it was a matter of heeding the advice of a
Muslim business colleague of my grandfather, who told him that dark days
were looming for the Jews, and that he would be wise to get his family
out of the country as quickly as possible—which my grandfather did.

Ben Cohen

my grandfather was part of a fortunate minority. When the Farhud—which
means, in Arabic, “violent dispossession”—erupted, there were around
90,000 Jews still living in the Iraqi capital, the main component of a
vibrant community descended from the sages who, 27 centuries earlier,
had made the land once known as Babylon the intellectual and spiritual
center of Judaism.

By the time the violent mob stood down, at the
end of the festival of Shavuot, nearly 200 Jews lay dead, with hundreds
more wounded, raped, and beaten. Hundreds of homes and businesses were
burned to the ground. As the smoke cleared over a scene more familiar in
countries like Russia, Poland, and Germany, the Jewish community came
to the realization that it had no future in Iraq. Within a decade,
almost the entire community had been chased out, joining a total of
850,000 Jews from elsewhere in the Arab world summarily dispossessed
from their homes and livelihoods.

That the Farhud is even
remembered today is in large part down to a handful of scholars and
activists who have committed themselves to publicizing this terrible
episode. During the week of the Farhud’s 75th anniversary, some of
them—like the American writer Edwin Black and Lyn Julius, the British
historian of Middle Eastern Jewry—have been organizing memorial
ceremonies in the U.S., the U.K., and especially Israel, which absorbed
the great majority of Iraqi-Jewish refugees. I myself was honored to
address the memorial ceremony at New York City’s Safra Synagogue, where
27 candles—one for each century of the Jewish presence in Iraq—were lit
and then promptly snuffed out, to symbolize the sudden extinction of
Iraqi Jewry.

Commemorating the Farhud, and establishing its
rightful place as an example of the persecution of the Jews during the
Nazi era, has been a difficult task. For several decades after the
Second World War, the importance of the Farhud was subsumed by the
widely held notion that the Holocaust was something that consumed only
European Jews. The truth was that the Nazis had both a direct presence
and significant influence across the Arab world. So when, in 1941, the
British had suffered a series of blows in southern Europe and North
Africa, the time was right for a coup against the pro-British government
in Baghdad. The strategic goal of the Nazis was to seize Iraq’s oil
fields, thereby providing them with the fuel needed for the invasion of
the Soviet Union.

Read article in full

Lyn Julius writes in Jewish News:


In the lead-up to Shavuot, we have been
commemorating a little-known event which occurred 75 years ago. The
Nazi-inspired pogrom, the Farhud, sounded the death knell for Iraq’s
ancient Jewish community. It heralded the ethnic cleansing of 99 % of
Jews from Arab countries.

a moving ceremony last Thursday attended by 300 people and the Israeli
ambassador Mark Regev, eight children lit candles for each of the
defunct Jewish communities in Arab countries. Twenty-seven notes were
blown on a plaintive shofar to represent the 27 centuries that Jews had
lived continuously in Iraq since the Babylonian exile. 

My mother still remembers those fateful two
days in June 1941 when her aunt’s terrified Jewish cook pounded the door
pleading to be let in: “I was on a bus, and the Muslims were pulling
the Jewish passengers out and killing them. I said I was a Christian.”

Read article in full 

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen blogs: (With thanks Michael and Su):

 Rabbi Jeremy Rosen

This week we recall the tragedy of al-Farhud. The pogrom against the
Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1 and 2, 1941. The riots
followed the collapse of the pro-Nazi government of Rashid Ali. Over 180
Jews were killed and 1,000 raped and injured. Nine hundred Jewish homes
were destroyed.

Al-Farhud was just one more example of the way Jews suffered under their
hosts. In the Arab Buraq Uprising of 1929 and in the Arab riots from
1936 to 1939, defenseless women, children, and rabbinical students were
massacred. Long before a Jewish state. And the anti-Semitic murder,
rape, and looting that followed across the Arab world in 1948 only
underlined the degree of popular hatred. Were all Arabs and Muslims
Jew-haters? Of course not, then or now. But the virus was there and
remains, poisoning cultures and religions and reiterating the need for
Jewish self-determination. The “Jewish Question” attracts irrationally
disproportionate attention and odium today, as much as it did a hundred
years ago. But facts, history, can be forgotten, distorted, and twisted.
Can we do anything about it?

In Israel’s struggle for independence there were indeed “Jewish
terrorists”. Except that they were roundly condemned by all the main
Jewish authorities and representatives, not idolized or rewarded.
Terrorism rarely succeeds by itself. That was not what drove the British
out of Israel. Rather, as with India, Cyprus, and Kenya after the
Second World War, Britain lost the means and the morale to maintain its
political control militarily. Israel was not an imperialist invasion,
but a Jewish liberation movement.

The ongoing conflict is being perpetuated by a refusal to accept reality
or to engage in civilized debate. It is not just in the Middle East. It
is everywhere. Our world is the world of form, not content. Calm,
rational argument and discussion is disregarded in favor of ideological
posturing, slogans, and abuse. No longer are universities, or even most
of the media, places where one finds unbiased analysis or calm debate.
Wherever you turn opposing sides are at each other’s throats.

Democracy, it seems, is only acceptable when you agree with the results.
So no debate is possible, because whenever one hears a point of view
one does not like, it is dismissed, shouted down, or childish terms of
abuse are used to disparage one’s opponent. What hope then is there for
civilized debate? Intellectually, we now live in the world of George
Orwell’s 1984 doublespeak. Politicians, activists spout nonsensical,
contradictory ideas and use the bully pulpit to try to impose
politically correct (and incorrect) views on others. Or win elections in
America by insulting opponents. We are not dealing with logic.

At the London commemoration on 2 June 2016,  Malcolm Miller sounds the shofar to recall 27 centuries of Jewish life in Babylon (Photo: Bea Lewcowicz)

Read blog in full

How the expulsion of the Jews backfire on Iraq (Edwin Black)

Dr Cohen: Israel is denying Farhud’s Nazi roots (Edy Cohen)

Why do people ignore or deny the Farhud? (R. Andrea Zanardo)

The world knows nothing of the ethnic cleansing of Jews (Zvi Gabay)

Speak up about the crimes of Nazi-supporting regimes (Hen Mazzig)


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