For us Mesopotamia is a home, a national home to which the Jews of Bombay and Persia and Turkey will be glad to come. Jewish fear of majority rule led, early on, to fateful miscalculations. After this was rejected, a group of Jewish notables petitioned for British citizenship, giving the distinct impression that they regarded themselves as separate from and superior to the emerging national community. The British, seeking to harness — and neutralise — the energies of Arab nationalism, were in no position to grant this request.
Urbane, Western-educated, often fluent in both Arabic and English, Jews staffed the civil service, ran the economy and helped lay the foundations of the modern Iraqi state. Yet they were to suffer increasingly from their association with Faisal and al-Said. The Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of , for example, concluded three years after oil was discovered in Kirkuk, allowed the British to keep control of Iraqi foreign policy, itself partly directed by British advisers who stayed on after independence, notably Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, a severe Arabist who had attracted T.
But the Zionists in Palestine claimed to speak in the name of the Jewish people, and thus in their name as well. Already resented for their enormous economic power — 2 per cent of the population, Jews handled 75 per cent of imports — they were twice guilty by association.
Nothing they said or did to oppose Zionism — even donations to Palestinian fighters — protected them from being portrayed in the Iraqi press and radio as a fifth column, especially after the death of King Faisal in The Futuwaa, a paramilitary brigade modelled on the Hitler Youth, began to threaten Jews in the streets.
Zionism in an Arab Country: Jews in Iraq in the 1940s
Jewish nerves were calmed somewhat when, in , Ghazi was killed in a car accident — possibly an assassination engineered by Nuri al-Said and the British — and replaced by his pro-British uncle, Emir Abd al-Ilah. That same year, however, Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, took refuge in Baghdad after the defeat of the Arab revolt in Palestine. The mufti launched a campaign of incitement against the Jews, and became a key adviser to the Golden Square, a group of pro-German, pan-Arab colonels led by Rashid Ali al-Gailani.
For the Golden Square, Iraq was part of a larger Arab nation, in which Jews were an irremediably foreign element. In April , the Golden Square overthrew the regent and concluded a secret treaty with the Axis that would have allowed them oil and pipeline concessions, the lease of ports, and the right to build naval and military bases.
In May the British invaded to restore the regent.
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Had they not done so, Iraqi oil might have fuelled Operation Barbarossa. To preserve the fiction that Britain had not so much occupied Iraq as restored its legitimate government, defeated but fully armed Golden Square soldiers were permitted to enter Baghdad, singly rather than in formation. It was 1 June, the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. As these soldiers crossed the Khir Bridge to the western side of Baghdad that morning, they passed small groups of Jews walking in the opposite direction after prayer services to welcome the regent.
They were furious to see the Jews in all their finery, and since it was Sunday, not the Jewish Sabbath, they assumed they had dressed up for the regent. The Jews were set upon, first with fists, then knives. The farhud continued for two days, an orgy of murder, rape and arson that left two hundred Jews and a number of Muslims dead.
No help came from the British, who remained on the right bank of the Tigris, out of respect for Iraqi sovereignty. After the farhud wealthy Jews began to leave Iraq; some, like Shamash and her family, joined relatives in India, where there were entire communities of Baghdadi Jews. Jews built new homes, schools and hospitals, showing every sign of wanting to stay. They took part in politics as never before; at Bretton Woods, Iraq was represented by Ibrahim al-Kabir, the Jewish finance minister.
Some joined the Zionist underground, but many more waved the red flag. Somekh grew up in a mixed neighbourhood of Baghdad known as the Lettuce Beds. He studied Arabic under a Shia cleric from the al-Sadr dynasty and began writing Arabic poetry in his teens; his literary mentors, to whom he pays tribute, were also Arabs. He has written a gentle book about one of the least gentle of historical relationships.
Many of the writers Somekh knew in Iraq were in the orbit of the Communist Party, which became the most powerful opposition force in the s, leading protests against the British and strikes in the oil industry, and developing an Iraqi civic identity that transcended sect.
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In , a group of Jewish Communists formed the League for Fighting Zionism, which braved threats from the Zionist underground and would later, absurdly, be accused of being a Zionist front itself by Nuri al-Said, who felt betrayed by Jewish involvement in the Communist opposition. The league published a newspaper that had a readership of six thousand, larger than the entire Zionist movement in Iraq. Jewish integration was doomed by the war in Palestine. On 15 May , three months after the Wathba, the state of Israel was proclaimed, the Arab armies invaded, and al-Said imposed martial law.
This suspicion of Jews was encouraged by a weak and reviled government for whom Arab nationalism was a crude but effective weapon, distracting attention from its colonial docility, and from its poor military performance in Palestine. The freezing of Palestinian assets by the Israeli government and the arrival in Iraq of eight thousand Palestinian refugees in the summer of did nothing to calm things. The Jewish population grew more receptive to the overtures of Mossad, which had become increasingly active in Iraq since the Golden Square took power, some agents entering the country as volunteers with the British army during the invasion.
On the whole, elimination of awkward minorities is likely to cool rather than fan the flames.
By , thousands of Jews had fled; many crossed into Iran on horseback with the help of Arab and Kurdish smugglers. Israel had conquered 20 per cent more territory than it had been allotted under the partition agreement, and it needed more Jews to settle the land, particularly along the border. And pushed they were, in a series of attacks which began with the Abu Nawas bombing in April and resumed in , as the deadline to register to leave Iraq approached.
By 8 March, when the deadline was due to expire, more than one hundred thousand Jews had registered. The next day the Iraqi Chamber of Deputies froze Jewish assets, fearing that neither the economy nor the state itself could survive the transfer of capital to a country that had expelled most of its Arab population.
Zionism in an Arab Country: Jews in Iraq in the s - Esther Meir-Glitzenstein - Google книги
If it's our country, if we were expected to risk our lives in a border war, then we expected equal treatment. We mounted the struggle so tenaciously and received so much publicity that the Israeli government tried to discredit our movement by calling us "Israel's Black Panthers. But we saw that what we were doing was no different than what blacks in the United States were fighting against-segregation, discrimination, unequal treatment. Rather than reject the label, we adopted it proudly.
I became a United States citizen and made certain to revoke my Israeli citizenship. I could never have written and published my book in Israel, not with the censorship they would impose. Even in America, I had great difficulty finding a publisher because many are subject to pressures of one kind or another from Israel and its friends.
I still was afraid that the printer would back out or that legal proceedings would be initiated to stop its publication, like the Israeli government did in an attempt to prevent former Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky from publishing his first book . Ben Gurion's Scandals had to be translated into English from two languages. I wrote in Hebrew when I was in Israel and hoped to publish the book there, and I wrote in Arabic when I was completing the book after coming to the U. But I was so worried that something would stop publication that I told the printer not to wait for the translations to be thoroughly checked and proofread.
Now I realize that the publicity of a lawsuit would just have created a controversial interest in the book. I am using bank vault storage for the valuable documents that back up what I have written. These documents, including some that I illegally copied from the archives at Yad Vashem, confirm what I saw myself, what I was told by other witnesses, and what reputable historians and others have written concerning the Zionist bombings in Iraq, Arab peace overtures that were rebuffed, and incidents of violence and death inflicted by Jews on Jews in the cause of creating Israel.
If, as I have said, my family in Iraq was not persecuted personally and I knew no deprivation as a member of the Jewish minority, what led me to the steps of the gallows as a member of the Zionist underground? To answer that question, it is necessary to establish the context of the massacre that occurred in Baghdad on June 1, , when several hundred Iraqi Jews were killed in riots involving junior officers of the Iraqi army.
I was 12 years of age and many of those killed were my friends. I was angry, and very confused. What I didn't know at the time was that the riots most likely were stirred up by the British, in collusion with a pro-British Iraqi leadership. Many Jews were appointed to key administrative posts, including that of economics minister. Britain retained final authority over domestic and external affairs.
Britain's pro-Zionist attitude in Palestine, however, triggered a growing anti-Zionist backlash in Iraq, as it did in all Arab countries. Writing at the end of , Sir Francis Humphreys, Britain's Ambassador in Baghdad, noted that, while before WW I Iraqi Jews had enjoyed a more favorable position than any other minority in the country, since then "Zionism has sown dissension between Jews and Arabs, and a bitterness has grown up between the two peoples which did not previously exist. King Faisal died in He was succeeded by his son Ghazi, who died in a motor car accident in Abd al-Ilah selected Nouri el-Said as prime minister.
El-Said supported the British and, as hatred of the British grew, he was forced from office in March by four senior army officers who advocated Iraq's independence from Britain. Calling themselves the Golden Square, the officers compelled the regent to name as prime minister Rashid Ali al-Kilani, leader of the National Brotherhood party. The time was and Britain was reeling from a strong German offensive.
Al-Kilani and the Golden Square saw this as their opportunity to rid themselves of the British once and for all. Cautiously they began to negotiate for German support, which led the pro-British regent Abd al-Ilah to dismiss al-Kilani in January By April, however, the Golden Square officers had reinstated the prime minister. This provoked the British to send a military force into Basra on April 12, Basra, Iraq's second largest city, had a Jewish population of 30, On the same day, April 12, supporters of the pro-British regent notified the Jewish leaders that the regent wanted to meet with them.
As was their custom, the leaders brought flowers for the regent. Contrary to custom, however, the cars that drove them to the meeting place dropped them off at the site where the British soldiers were concentrated.
Several Muslim notables in Basra heard of the plan and calmed things down. Later, it was learned that the regent was not in Basra at all and that the matter was a provocation by his pro-British supporters to bring about an ethnic war in order to give the British army a pretext to intervene. The British continued to land more forces in and around Basra. On May 7, , their Gurkha unit, composed of Indian soldiers from that ethnic group, occupied Basra's el-Oshar quarter, a neighborhood with a large Jewish population.
The soldiers, led by British officers, began looting. Many shops in the commercial district were plundered. Private homes were broken into. Cases of attempted rape were reported. Local residents, Jews and Muslims, responded with pistols and old rifles, but their bullets were no match for the soldiers' Tommy Guns. Afterwards, it was learned that the soldiers acted with the acquiescence, if not the blessing, of their British commanders. It should be remembered that the Indian soldiers, especially those of the Gurkha unit, were known for their discipline, and it is highly unlikely they would have acted so riotously without orders.
The British goal clearly was to create chaos and to blacken the image of the pro-nationalist regime in Baghdad, thereby giving the British forces reason to proceed to the capital and to overthrow the al-Kilani government.