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memri
November 6, 2018 No.
7750

Iraqi Writer: The Discriminatory Racism Against Iraqi Jewry Must Be Changed – And Their Leaders Can Be A Bridge To Peace And Normalization

In an article titled "Iraq's Jewish Community – A Distinguished History," published August 5, 2018 on the liberal Arab website Elaph.com, Iraqi writer Haidar Muften Jarallah praised the Iraqi Jewish community and its history, and described its members as an authentic, ancient, and vital element of Iraqi society. He stated that the Jews of Iraq had been fully integrated into Iraqi society, and that many of them had been talented and respectable and had contributed greatly to society, but that the community had been forced to emigrate in the 1940s, after the 1941 Farhud pogrom against them and the events that followed. He called on the Iraqi government and the country's elite to act to change the predominant stereotype of the Jews as the source of all problems in Iraq and the entire world, and to apologize to the Iraqi Jewish community, restore its good name, compensate it materially and spiritually, and make its leaders the bridge to peace and normalization.

It should be noted that in a previous article on Elaph.com, published in March 2018, Jarallah discussed the importance of a strategic Iraq-Israel relationship.[1]


Haidar Muften Jarallah (Source: Ar-ar.facebook.com/muftenalsaadi)

The following are translated excerpts from his August 5, 2018 article:

"The discourse about the Iraqi Jewish community is deep and wide-ranging, and tells the story of Iraq's past, in all its aspects – because they [the Jews were] an authentic element deeply rooted in [Iraq's] history and as ancient as the days of the Mesopotamian kingdom. Many researchers agree that the beginning of the real [Jewish] presence in Mesopotamia dates back to 597 or 586 BCE, when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar destroyed their kingdom in Jerusalem and brought them to Babylon in the Babylonian Exile, and therefore they are thought to be among the most ancient and deeply rooted elements in Iraq. Furthermore, they are the most ancient [element] of the numerous religious groups and communities present today in this land [Iraq].

"I did not live in the era of this [Jewish] community, and I had no contact with its members, because they left the country before I was born, emigrating due to their fear of the Farhud– the [June 1941 Baghdad] looting and robbery and murder against many of them, which were similar to the attack [that resulted in] the Babylonian Exile and to the infamous Spanish Inquisition that harmed Jews and Muslims...

"A number of researchers, sociologists, and thinkers who lived in the era of the Jewish community in Iraq agree that most of its members were talented and respectable individuals. Additionally, our fathers and forefathers had contact with them in many areas, maintained friendships with them as sons of the same homeland, and told us many stories about them, about their lives, and about their presence in a range of fields – technical, literary, financial, administrative, and medical and scientific. [They said that] it was hard to differentiate between them and the rest of the Iraqis because of their integration and their assimilation of their identity into the rest of the identities in Iraqi society.  

"As I noted, starting in 1941, Iraq's Jews experienced murder and looting of their property, after the fall of the government of Rashid Ali Al-Kilani, who resisted the English. These events cast a shadow over Iraqi society, and the fears of the Jewish community increased with the 1948 UN resolution on the partition of Palestine between the Jews and the Arabs, and the declaration of the [establishment of the] State of Israel. As a result of the pressure on them, and because of their worry that began following the events of 1941, most of Iraqi Jewry chose to emigrate, and those who remained were forced to do so later, when the masses were mobilized [against them] and the hostility and enmity against them were fanned.

"Despite the decades since their exodus, [the Iraqi Jews] still hold Iraq in their hearts, and they are considered one of the [Jewish] communities most loyal to their motherland. Furthermore, many of their offspring born in Israel or other foreign lands, and who have never seen Iraq except in the news and on television, feel an indescribable love for the land of their fathers. We see this clearly in their culture, in their way of life, and even in their celebrations, which have an Iraqi flavor, as if these people still resided in the alleyways of Baghdad.

"I call on the Iraqi government, [on the Iraqi] political, cultural, and media elite, and on all [Iraqi] civil organizations to act earnestly and with haste to change the wrongheaded stereotyped image [of Iraqi Jewry]. This discriminatory and racist image – widespread, shaped over decades, and fixed in the minds of generations of Iraqis, which reached its peak during the dark era, over three decades, of Ba'th rule in Iraq –  casts the Jews as the reason for the disasters and problems afflicting Iraq, the region, and even the entire world.

"Today, Iraq must apologize to its Jewish community, restore its good name, compensate it materially and spiritually, and make its leaders into bridges for peace and normalization, so that the peoples of the region will enjoy tranquility and security."

 

[1] Elaph.com, March 22, 2018.