Iraqi ‘Jew”s tale of woe does not ring true

 An articlewhich first appeared in Ami magazine and was republished by Aish is circulating online. It tells  a story of horror,  torture and persecution of an Iraqi Jew by Saddam Hussein. However, there are reasons to doubt it is true.  See my comment below. Here is a sample (with thanks to all those who sent me this): 

Kurdish Jews in 1905


“Elisha told me that there were more Iraqi Jews left in the country
than official statistics showed, in some cases because they had thought
they were going to be able to leave and weren’t able to. Many were able
to get papers as Christians, rather than Jews, though they kept in
contact with the Jewish community. Official numbers showed only several
hundred Jews in Iraq during the late twentieth century, but Elisha
stated that he believed there were as many as 20,000 living under
assumed identities as Christians and other ethnicities.

And while for most Iraqi Jews the end of their time in the country
had come, for a small minority, like Elisha Cohen’s family, Iraq would
remain their home.


Elisha’s family was, as were many Iraqis, both rooted in the country
and cosmopolitan at the same time. Though both of his paternal
grandparents were born in Iraq, they met in Germany in the 1920s, where
many Iraqi Jews traveled to for business. His maternal grandfather, on
the other hand, was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who had entered Iraq
after the war, where he married Elisha’s maternal grandmother in

Elisha’s mother also traveled for a time to Europe, where she studied
in France to be an ophthalmologist. “My experiences have left me with
some difficulty in remembering our childhood,” Elisha writes. “I have
vivid recollections of the last time I saw my brothers and sisters,
however my memories of how we grew up together have since been

Elisha and his seven siblings grew up in a large house in Mosul, the
second largest city in Iraq. He had three older brothers, a twin
brother, then two younger sisters with a younger brother in between
them. Only the two oldest brothers attended school; the rest of the
children were taught at home, as Jews were not anymore allowed to attend
Iraqi schools.”

My  Comment:  The article gives a roughly true potted history of the Iraqi-Jewish community. However,  to claim that some 20, 000 hidden Jews lived in the Mosul area posing as Christians stretches credulity: 20, 000 would be a greater number than the entire 18, 000-strong Jewish community who lived in northern Iraq. Almost all were airlifted to Israel in 1950. If at all, one might have expected a handful of Elishas, but not 20, 000.

Secondly, for a harassed Jewish family to pose as Assyrian Christians, another persecuted Iraqi minority, would be like leaping from the frying pan into the fire. Why not just pose as Muslims?

The story of how Elisha’s parents met in Germany does not ring true. Elisha inserts a Holocaust survivor into his family for sympathy, it seems. Why does he have trouble remembering his childhood?

Even if Elisha and his family had been subject to unimaginable torture under the Ba’ath regime, no Jew would have wanted to return to Iraq once he had left. As a Jew his destination of choice would have been Israel, not Australia, a favoured destination for Assyrian Christians. And having reached freedom, why does Elisha use the name Marvin, instead of ‘coming out’ as the Jew Elisha?

The story seems to be a fantasy fabricated by an Assyrian Christian who would have liked to be a Jew. It must have acquired legs when he realised there was an audience of gullible Jews willing to believe it.

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