The Baghdad bombings, 1950 -51: Whodunnit?

It is a staple of Arab propaganda that the Zionists caused the exodus of Jews from Iraq by setting off bombs in Baghdad to scare the Jews into leaving in 1950 -51.

 Iraqi Jews themselves lent credibility to the rumour. Arriving as refugees in the transit camps, they vented their disappointment and frustration by blaming Israel.

 The myth received a new lease of life when emeritus Oxford professor Avi Shlaim announced at a conference in September 2019, Jews of Iraq: Engagement with Modernities, that he had written a book ascribing guilt for the bombings to the Zionist underground.

At that same conference, David Kheder Basson, an Iraqi-born academic and writer living in Israel,  challenged Avi Shlaim. He produced evidence that showed the involvement of the nationalist Istiqal party in planning the bombings.

Basson’s graph below, called ‘Busting the Myth’, shows that 90,000 Jews had already registered to leave two weeks before the only fatal bombing, in January 1951 (second ‘explosion’ from left), had taken place. Three bombs were planted after the deadline for emigration had expired, and are therefore not relevant.

 What is more, an Iraqi historiannamed Shamel Abdul Kaderinterviewed a member of the Istiqal party who confessed that they had planned the first bombing, in April 1950, at a Casino frequented by Jewish youth. The objective was to force Jews to leave. The Jews were then hesitating to sign up for legal emigration, thinking it might be a government ruse. Indeed the Zionist leadership only began encouraging Jews to register three weeks after the  1st March law permitting legal emigration was enacted.  No one was killed in this bombing, although there were injuries.

As for the fatal Massouda Shemtob bombing in January 1951, there is little  evidence of Zionist involvement. Historian Tom Segev also blames the Istiqlal party for this bombing. Zionist agent Mordechai Ben-Porat has always denied the accusation. In the 1960s, he even sued an Israeli magazine for libel.

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