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Commemorating the 1951 Jewish Expulsion from Iraq

Yesterday in Erbil, the Kurdistan Regional Government commemorated the expulsion of 25,000 Jewish Kurds by the Iraqi National government in April 1951.  They were among an estimated 125,000 Iraqi Jews who walked or flew on the Biblical wings of eagles in a massive airlift to Israel in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.  Their properties, assets, funds were expropriated by the Iraqi government that some estimate were worth several billion in current dollars of account.

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Sherzad Omar Mamsani, Jewish Representative at Kurdistan Regional Religious Affairs Ministry.

The largest contingent were the Baghdadi or Babylonian Jews, while Kurdish Jews were the smallest contingent of the mass expulsion after having resided more than 2,700 years in both the Assyrian and  Babylonian captivities.  The Babylonian Jews produced the great rabbinic commentaries in the Talmud and other works that are studied daily in Yeshivas in Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.

Iraqi Jewish emigrants to Israel and the West have made major contributions to the establishment and growth of the modern State of Israel.  While initially opposed to Zionism, following The Farhud, the Arab Nazi-inspired  pogrom in June 1941, and especially, after the invasion by Iraq of the embryonic State of Israel in the 1948 1949 War of Independence and issuance of expropriations and expulsion orders, Iraq’s Jews  realized that Israel was the only sanctuary and made arrangements to leave en mass.   We have written of that in our NER interviews with Dr. Harold Rhode, whom we dubbed “the savior “of the Babylonian Jewish archives.

During the preparation for our NER interview  with US Army  Brig. Gen. (ret.)  Ernie Audino published in the December 2015 NER, he recommended  reading  a remarkable memoir of one Kurdish Jewish family from Zakho in Kurdistan  near the Turkish border, My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search  for his Father’s Past  by Ariel Sabar.  Saber’s book discusses his family’s integration in Israel. Noteworthy is the chronicle of  Saber’s father  who earned  degrees at both Hebrew and Yale Universities becoming a  full professor at UCLA and world recognized expert in the lingua franca spoken by Kurdish Jews, neo-Aramaic.

While heretofore little was known about the Kurdish Jews who arrived in Israel in 1951, more became known as the descendants of this wave of enforced emigration after arriving in Israel. It is estimated that Israel has more than 200,000 citizens of Kurdish Jewish origins, with 100,000 living in greater Jerusalem, alone.

Yesterday’s commemoration in Erbil was reported by AFP/ Arutz Israel National News and the RUDAW Kurdish news agency.   The AFP/ Arutz Sheva National News  article ,”Jewish Kurds hold groundbreaking Iraq commemoration:”

In the Kurdish autonomous, region in northern Iraq, a ceremony was held on Monday to mark the deportation of Jews from Iraq seven decades ago, AFP reports.

The event also marked the beginning of Jewish representation at Kurdistan region’s Religious Affairs Ministry, which is the result of a law passed in May to promote minority rights. “The law says that if there was one person from the followers of any religion, his rights are preserved,” said Sherzad Omar Mamsani, the Jewish representative at the Kurdish Regional Ministry.

The ceremony in the regional capital Erbil was attended by Kurds of Jewish origin and officials who also visited an exhibition of old photographs and records documenting Iraqi Jewry.

According to Mamsani, the ceremony is the first of its kind and marks what is known as theFarhud, the dispossession that led to the exodus and deportation of Jews from Iraq.

Mamsani, who has Jewish origins, said he estimated that the families who self-identify as Jews in Kurdistan but are still officially registered to as Muslims numbered around 400. He added that the number of families who converted to Islam but “are Jews in origin” was in the thousands.

Zach Huff, an American researcher living in Israel and specializing in Kurdish affairs, said he hoped Monday’s ceremony was the start of a Jewish revival in the Iraqi region of Kurdistan. “There are about 200,000 Kurds living in Israel and close to 100,000 living in and around Jerusalem,” he toldAFP.

“They do actually long to connect with their roots in Kurdistan even if they’re second or third generation,” Huff said. “They see that Kurdistan is open and welcoming them with open arms.”

“I do predict that there will be a lot more business, tourism and a closer relationship in the near future between Jewish Kurds and the people of Kurdistan,” Huff said.

There is no active synagogue in the region but Mamsani has said he hoped that would change soon.

Watch this RUDAW news video of the Kurdistan commemoration, Kurdistan celebrates Kurdish Jews.

The following is an excerpt from Saber’s  My Father’s Paradise pp. 104-105 describing the family’s experience on the day of expulsion, April 16, 1951 for Iraq’s Jews:

The end arrived suddenly. A line of motor coaches rolled into town early one April [1951] morning, and word went out that the time had come. Under a sky still full of stars , Jewish families , anxious and bleary, dragged suitcases and children out front doors and into the cramped  alleys that led to the main street.  As they crossed the bridge to the bus stop, they saw that another crowd had gotten there first: Hundreds of Muslims had lined the streets to bid their neighbors farewell.  Old women raised cries of li-li-li-li-li, ululating as if a loved one had died. One beggar –beloved of the townspeople, though he was slightly mad- pounded his head had against a newly erected electric pole. “Where  are my brothers going!” he shrieked, until people crowded in to console him. “Why are they forsaking us?” Buses carried the [Zakho’s]Jews to Mosul, and trains carried them to Baghdad. At the airport, angry mobs pressed against the barricades hurling curses. “Die kilab yahud!” “Rot in Hell” “Be gone!”  It was April 16, 1951. Miryam flinched at the ugly words and pulled her children against her skirt as crowds of departing Jews pressed in from all sides. A few hours later, the Bah Saba has reached the checkpoint where guards searched bodies and luggage for contraband”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Past and Present Agreements with ‘Theocratic, Totalitarian, Genocidal’ Regimes

Hitler_36679e_1933654In the current discussion of the Iran nuclear agreement with world powers and Germany, led by the United States, certain eerily familiar patterns emerge.  There was a direct line from the appeasement by Britain and France that sacrificed Czechoslovakia to the onset of WWII and the horrors of the final solution for European Jewry that witnessed the murder of Six Million men, women and children in unspeakable ways. Hitler clearly had that in mind when during his table talk discussions with Albert Speer, his Munitions Minister, he referenced the Ottoman genocide of the 1.5 million Armenians during WWI, when he was alleged to have remarked, and “who hears any more of the Armenians”.

Further, Hitler expressed admiration for the ‘manliness” of Islamic Jihad, wistfully ruing the adoption of Christianity by the Germanic tribes.  

As we know from Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story: A Personal Account of the Armenian Genocide. President Wilson’s representative to the Sublime Porte from 1913 to 1916, the German general staff were enthusiastic boosters of sending genocidal jihad letters to Mosque leaders in the Ottoman Empire seeking the destruction of not only the Armenians, but other kaffirs, unbelievers, the Greeks in Smyrna and tolerated Jews.  Following the Farhud; the Arab Nazi pogrom in Baghdad on June 1 and 2d, 1941 , the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Hajj Amin Al Husayni, who had fomented the Arab riots of the 1920’s and 1930’s in Mandatory Palestine fled first to Mussolini’s history and hence to Berlin to be given an audience with Herr Hitler in November 1941. This was just a few months when the final solution conference was held in Wansee in the former home of a Jewish department store magnate.

Al Husayni, visited Nazi death camps with SS Commander Heinrich Himmler impressing upon the necessity of killing the Jews, to avoid their escape to the Palestine Mandate.  The echoes of these precedents are heard in the declarations and a book published by Ayatollah Khomenei, “Palestine” seeking the elimination of Israel, occupying lands once conquered by Islam, are deemed a waqf a trust by their god Allah in perpetuity. Despite the Administration promotion of the current nuclear pact with Iran, we hear declarations of “Death to Israel”, “Death to the Jews”, and “Death to America.”  These are the ravings of what former CIA-director, Ambassador R. James Woolsey has called “a theocratic, totalitarian, genocidal imperialist ” regime led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei seeking world domination.  The parallels are too eerily familiar echoed in the warnings by Israeli Prime Minister why the Iran nuclear pact provides a path to a nuclear bomb with only one purpose: to kill Jews.

islam and nazi germany bookcoverFrom Islam and Nazi Germany’s War  by David Motive, we find:

“In order to win Muslims over, German authorities made extensive attempts to employ Islam. Religious policies and propaganda were used to enhance social and political control in the occupied territories and war zones, to recruit Muslims into the Wehrmacht and the SS, and to rally the faithful in enemy territories and armies. Germany’s policies involved Islamic institutions and religious authorities. Its propaganda drew on politicized religious imperatives and rhetoric, sacred texts and Islamic iconography to give the involvement of Muslims in the war religious legitimacy. Although these policies, as with so many other German policies during the war, were characterized by improvisation and ad hoc measures, they were overall remarkably coherent.”

Elsewhere the author continues:

“It shows that German army officials granted Muslim recruits a wide range of religious concessions, taking into account the religious calendar and religious laws such as ritual slaughter. Both the Wehrmacht and the SS also launched special ideological education programs for Muslim soldiers. Military propaganda was spread in the form of pamphlets, booklets, and, most importantly, journals. A prominent role in the units was played by military imams, who were responsible not only for spiritual care but also for political indoctrination.”

Similar, even identical, programs are in place today; only the names the national armies have changed.

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French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Tehran, July 29, 2015. Source: Reuters

In December of 1942, the Islamic Central Institute was inaugurated in the heart of Berlin. Haj Amin al-Husayni gave the inaugural speech and stated the following:

“Among the most bitter enemies of the Muslims, who from ancient times have shown them enmity and met them everywhere constantly with perfidy and cunning, are the Jews and their accomplices…The holy Qur’an and the life history of the Prophet are full of evidence of Jewish lack of character and their malicious, mendacious and treacherous behavior, which completely suffices to warn Muslims of their ever-constant, severe threat and enmity until the end of all days. And as the Jews were in the lifetime of the great Prophet, so they have remained throughout all ages; conniving and full of hatred toward the Muslim, wherever an opportunity offered itself to them.”

Seven decades have passed since the pre-World War Two appeasement by the Britain and France at Munich in September 1938, Hitlerian Nazi Germany’s espousal of Muslim Jihad and destruction of European Jewry. Many of the nations currently party to the Iran nuclear pact are the same as those that signed infamous diplomatic agreements at Munich. The names of some of the nations involved have changed as have the names of the purveyors of eliminations anti-Semitism. What has not changed is the never ending negotiation and indoctrination executed in parallel with terror, incitement and the call for “death for the Jews”. The errors and disasters of the past are either minimized or totally forgotten. New negotiations and never ending signed agreements are forged with only the names of some of the signatories changing…the war against the Jews continues.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Was the Jewish Pogrom in Baghdad on June 1, 1941 a Holocaust Event?

In our June 2014 New English Review interview with Dr. Harold Rhode, we discussed the Farhud, the Nazi influenced pogrom that occurred on the Jewish festival of Shavuot, June 1, 1941, The Future of the Babylonian Jewish Archives.  Note this exchange:

Gordon: During World War II, the Jewish community in what we call Iraq really had a series of horrible experiences.  What was the experience during World War II and who were the persons who were involved?

Rhode:  The British had ruled Iraq and in the mid 1930’s, Iraq was given its independence. It had a king but there was a coup led by a man by the name of Rashid Ali who was working with the Nazis, in cahoots with the Mufti of Jerusalem who was living in Baghdad at the time. The Mufti was also working with Hitler. When Rashid Ali’s forces took over in 1941, there was a pogrom (farhood in Arabic) against the Jews. The Jews up until then never really worried. Yes they had been second class citizens because in the Muslim world, neither Jews nor Christians nor any non-Muslims were allowed to rule over Muslims.

In reality, however, the Jews actually ran much of the Iraqi economy at that time, and were involved in many other activities which helped Iraq run relatively smoothly. … After about six days in 1941 when approximately 180 people were killed, a lot of property was destroyed and many Jews were injured – all of a sudden Jews said: “wait a minute, something is wrong here. Maybe we don’t have a future here.” Iraqi Jews weren’t ardent Zionists at the time. But the farhood really shook them to their very foundations. The State of Israel was declared in 1948, i.e., it was the rebirth of the Jewish state which had existed 2000 years ago.

After Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Arabs – including Iraq – did their utmost to destroy it. Life became almost unbearable for the Jews of Iraq. Especially in Baghdad but in other places in Iraq as well. Kurdistan, however, was a different story. Life was much better for the Jews in Kurdistan which was Northern Iraq.

On the occasion of the 73rd commemoration of the Farhud Ha’aretz published an article raising the question of whether it should be considered a Holocaust event, “Lawyers make case for giving Iraqi Jews Holocaust benefits”.    There is ample evidence of Nazi involvement in the coup by Iraqi strongman Ali Rashid al-Gaylani, the Nazi Foreign ministry, and the German Ambassador to Iraq.  Then there was the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini who was living in Baghdad after he was forced by British Palestinian Mandatory authorities to leave given his role in the Arab riots from 1936 to 1939. prior to the occurrence of the Farhud, for sanctuary in Berlin as Hitler’s house guest during WWII.  Edwin Black chronicled the 1941 Baghdad pogrom and both Nazi and Hussein’s involvement in his 2010 book, The Farhud: Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/rknnKYP5Iqg[/youtube]

See our January 2011 Iconoclast post on Eric Stakelbeck’s interview with author.

The Ha’aretz article presented evidence by experts representing the Farhud victims and surviving families, contested by Israel’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority at the Finance Ministry.  Ha’aretz cites Dr. Yaakov Toby of the University of Haifa, an expert retained by the Authority, saying:

 “Berlin’s affairs were directed toward the European continent, not elsewhere.” He added, “There was no expectation, and certainly no order, from the German government to the Iraqi government to carry out any government activity inside Iraq, and certainly not one of violent incidents or killing of Jews.”

The rebuttal to the Authority’s expert Dr. Toby is based on the investigative research of Professor Yitzchak Kerem, an expert on Spanish and Oriental Jewry.   Ha’aretz notes:

In his professional opinion, he wrote, “The deciding factor in the outbreak of the Farhud was Nazi incitement against Iraq’s Jews, which was carried out by the Nazi regime through the representatives and agents it appointed.”

He draws a firm conclusion. “The Farhud must be seen as an integral part of the Holocaust that the Nazi regime brought on our people.” He calls the Farhud “the Kristallnacht of Iraqi Jewry.”

Here is some of the evidence cited by Ha’aretz of Nazi involvement in the Baghdad pogrom supporting Professor Kerem.

On the devastation wrought by the Farhud, the Ha’aretz article noted:

According to statistics at Yad Vashem, 179 Jews were killed, more than 2,000 wounded, and 50,000 were victims of theft during the Farhud (an ancient word meaning imposing brutal terror on the subjects of a regime). “Terrible acts of cruelty were carried out during the pogrom. Babies, elderly people and women were murdered and their limbs hacked to pieces. Women were raped. Synagogues were damaged and Torah scrolls desecrated,” according to a brief paper in Hebrew about the Farhud at Yad Vashem’s website.

The extent of Nazi involvement in the Farhud revealed:

The historical material includes minutes of a German military discussion, the Nazi foreign ministry’s correspondence, British army intelligence reports and the report of the investigative committee established in Iraq after the pogrom. The Iraqi prime minister, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani; the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini; Adolf Hitler and his book Mein Kampf; the Nazi radio station that broadcast from Berlin and had reception in Iraq; and the fascist youth movement that mirrored Germany’s Hitler Youth all play major roles in the material.

Professor Kerem collected testimonies proving that al-Gaylani’s government had been funded by the Nazis. In a telegram sent on May 21, 1941 from Baghdad, Dr. Grobba, Germany’s ambassador in Iraq, writes that he transferred tens of thousands of gold ingots to al-Gaylani. Alongside that, he gives an update about al-Gaylani’s request for 80,000 more gold ingots and mentions the agreement that was about to be signed between Germany and Iraq, as part of which the Nazis would grant a loan of one million gold ingots to their allies in Baghdad.

Money and propaganda were not the only things the Nazis provided to Baghdad. They also sent weapons to Iraq in an attempt to help the Iraqis fight against a common enemy — the British. Professor Kerem found evidence of that in the archives of Germany’s Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry. He says that in the minutes of a meeting of the supreme German command from May 7, 1941, it is written that “Hitler decided to assist Iraq in every possible way, including sending arms, ammunition, money and military aid.”

While the German effort failed, before the British returned to install a new government, the Farhud occurred:

Indeed, the German attempt to help the Iraqis fight the British failed On May 29, 1941, after the British reached the gates of Baghdad, al-Gaylani fled from Iraq. The Jews thought that the danger had passed, and on the morning of the Shavuot festival, June 1, 1941, they emerged wearing their holiday clothing to welcome the pro-British ruler, who had returned to Iraq. But Iraqi troops set upon them, and within hours Jews were being attacked all over the city and in other places as well.

“Farhud, ya ummat Muhammad!” (Farhud, O nation of Mohammed!) was the cry of the mob when the signal was given to murder and rob the Jews,” Hela Kargola later said. “Thousands, regardless of gender, age or status, took part in the celebration of slaughter and theft.”

Carol Basri President of the Corporate Lawyering Group, LLC, published a monograph in the Fordham Journal of International Law  in 2002 entitled,   “The Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries: An Examination of Legal Rights: A Case Study of the Human Rights Violations of Iraqi Jews”. In a section concerning the Farhud in Baghdad, she cited six causes of the rampage drawn from the Official Iraqi Government Report prepared by the British. They appear to support the arguments of Professor Kerem:

First, was the German Legation spreading sustained anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda under the direction of Dr. Fritz Grobba?

Second was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, and his entourage, which accompanied him to Iraq in 1940.

Third, the Report blamed Palestinian and Syrian schoolteachers, installed in every school, which had “poisoned the pupil’s [sic] minds and turned them into instruments of their propaganda. Whenever they perceived that the government was taking any steps against Nazism, they went into action, arousing the students who would then go out in demonstrations and issue harmful manifestos.”

Fourth, the Report blamed the German Arabic-language radio station, which also spread Nazi propaganda (and had an increased effect after Rashid Ali made it legal to listen to the station).

 Fifth, was the Iraqi Broadcasting Station, which over the two months Rashid Ali was in control,” broadcast false reports about misdeeds in Palestine. The broadcasts contained patently inflammatory agitation against Jews and powerful appeals to Nazism.”

Sixth, the Report blamed the Futuwwa and Youth Phalanxes, both pro-Nazi paramilitary groups, which have participated heavily in the Farhud. The Report also laid blame on the hierarchy of the Baghdad Police for its inaction and ordered it brought before a military tribunal.

As Basri noted the British Ambassador could have ordered British forces encamped near Baghdad to quell the two day rampage, but didn’t. Moreover after the Farhud was over, Nazi sentiments were still rampant. She cites Freya Stark who was at the British Embassy, who observed in 1942, Iraq was a “country seething with disguised Nazis and swastikas appearing everywhere (even on the back of my car).” Then Basri cites a British Intelligence report in the same year saying:”whatever the outcome of the war.., the Iraqis will punish the Jews eventually.”  The report noted “fear inspired by Moslem threats” and the fear of Hitler’s upcoming Spring Offensive in the Middle East.

After the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 the Iraqi government moved to deprive Jews of citizenship and passed  national legislation expropriating property including personal possessions. The estimates cited by Basri of property stolen by the Iraqi government ranged from $150 to $200 million and with economic indexing may be in well excess of a billion.  For the Israeli Finance Ministry’s Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority to suggest that the Farhud wasn’t a Holocaust event would appear too questionable in view of the evidence. The irony is that while Iraq’s Jews were not Zionists at the time of the Farhud, following their repatriation to Israel in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah  in 1950 to 1951, they became highly productive and committed citizens of the Jewish nation.  The repatriation, resettlement and absorption of Iraq’s Jews was paid for by the State of Israel with contributions from world Jewry. No UN or American government funding was involved.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is of  a mass grave of victims of the Farhud, 1941. It is a scan of a page from the book ‘Iraq’, edited by Haim Saadoun, published by the Ministry of Education and the Ben – Zvi, Jerusalem, (5762, 2002) page 17.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.