There are no cats in America. Or are there? The embarrassing question of whether there are still Jews in Kurdistan - and what to do with them - has reared its ugly head again, according to a Kurdish reporter whose name we are withholding for his own safety (With thanks: Ami).
The government of Kurdistan is being urged by hard-line officials publically to declare that there are no Jews in Iraqi Kurdistan. Yet is is common knowledge that a number of Jewish families still remain there.
A Kurdish reporter quoted a senior source as saying: " the government will not expel any remaining Jews but equally we can’t guarantee full security for them. At the same time we will not prevent the state of Israel (from acting) if they want to take them back”.
The reporter told how last year on (Israeli) Channel 10, a program showed a Kurdish family from Shtula (sic) returning to Irbil to find their relatives. The TV program upset some Kurdish officials. The reporter tried to interview the Jewish family in question. But they were not ready to comment on the program because they were afraid of being attacked by Jihadist groups in Iraq.
In addition, there have been many reports of a few Jews still living in Baghdad, Irbil and Suleymania, but the Kurdish government does not recognize any Jewish community in the region. Central government has always overriden the Kurdish regional government on Jewish issues. Some politicians think that relations between the state of Israel and the Kurdistan Regional government - there are reports of Israeli contractors working in Kurdistan - have worsened as a result.
The remaining Jews in Kurdistan do not want to abide by Muslim religious rules (religion is passed down by the father). They believe that are Jewish through the maternal line. A few Jews from Kurdistan have contacted the Jewish Agency (with a view to moving to Israel), their 'phone calls having been recorded by the Iraqi telecommunications intelligence office.
Point of No Return adds: although almost the entire Jewish community of 18,000 left for Israel in 1950 - 51, a few mixed Jewish-Muslim families stayed on. After the 1991 Gulf war some of these moved to Israel, but there have since been instances of members of these families moving back to Kurdistan.