‘An Israeli stamp on a cereal packet could get you jailed’

Jews who stayed behind in Iraq after the mass exodus of the 1950s include David Dangoor and David Khalastchi. Dangoor is one of eight Jews who recount their experience of oppression and exile from Iraq in the new film Remember Baghdad. Report by Joe Shute in the Daily Telegraph.

still being a child, Dangoor recalls several moments from his youth
where he noticed enmity building towards the Jews. On one occasion he
sent off for an offer of a stamp starter collection he had seen on the
back of a cereal packet. When the packet arrived it contained a stamp
for Israel his father quickly took it off him and destroyed it. “An
Israeli stamp could get you in prison,” he says.

On another occasion he remembers being asked he if was a Zionist by
school friends despite not even knowing what the word meant. One
16-year-old Jewish pupil at a different school was even sent to prison
after being tricked into drawing the Star of David on a blackboard.

120,000 Iraqi Jews abandoned their homes to fly to Israel

120,000 Iraqi Jews abandoned their homes to fly to Israel

Dangoor Family archive)

In 1958
the British installed monarchy was overthrown and the life of the ruling
classes upended forever. David Dangoor’s family left the following
year, spending a year in Lebanon before settling in Britain.

In order
to leave all Jewish families were forced to sign a document saying that
if they did not return in three months all their assets were surrendered
to the Iraqi state. Dangoor remembers his father saying his freedom was
worth more than anything he left behind.

David Khalastchi carried on in Iraq despite worsening persecution
against the Jewish community making it almost impossible to live in the
country.  Eventually in 1967 after having his passport confiscated for
three years he managed to secure one through an intelligence contact and
flee over the border with his wife and daughter.

Of the many tragedies he was forced to witness in exile, one occasion
from 1969 stands out for David Khalastchi when the young Ba’athist
Saddam Hussein hanged 13 people, nine of them Jewish, as supposed
traitors to the regime in front of a jubilant crowd.

“They were people who had nothing to do with anything,” he says with sorrow.

Khalastchi and Dangoor are proud of their adopted homeland and have
raised families here. The latter was a pupil at (now closed) Carmel
College, once known as the Jewish Eton, and helped his father establish a
multi-million pound property business in London.

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Remember Baghdad will be screened on 3 December at the Phoenix cinema, East Finchley in London at 5.15 pm. For details see www.rememberbaghdad.com

Reviews of Remember Baghdadhere 

BBC Radio fails to mention Iraq’s Farhud

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