Who threw the Baghdad bombs? For decades an accusing finger has been pointed at the Zionists in Iraq, and their leader, Mordechai Ben Porat. More evidence that the nationalist Istiqlal party was responsible has come to light in Ben Porat's recently-published autobiography, From the Land of Birth to a Homeland. Review (roughly translated from Hebrew) by Zvi Gabay:
After the throwing of a hand grenade at the Masuda Shem Tov synagogue on January 14, 1951, during the registration of the Jews of Iraq to immigrate to Israel, three people were killed, six were seriously injured and 19 were lightly injured. Since the Iraqi government was not quick to publicize its findings, a malicious rumor spread that the Zionist movement had done the utmost to expedite the departure of the Jews from Iraq.The accusation of serious misconduct in the Zionist movement harmed its members and its head, Mordechai Ben-Porat. For years he fought to clear the name of the Zionist movement and his own name, including in a libel suit in court, and hoped to expose the truth about the affair.
Mordechai Ben-Porat's autobiographical book, "From the Land of Birth to a Homeland" (published by Teper), now has new evidence about the grenade shells lobbed at the synagogue and a cafe where young Jews used to gather. The testimony is included in the book "History of the Zionist Movement in Iraq and Its Role in the Immigration of Jews in 1950-1951", published in Iraq in 2013, which includes the research of the historian Shamel Abd al-Qader.The study includes a video of the culprit and his partner saying that they threw the grenades, directed by the national poet Adnan al-Ravi, a leader of the nationalist Al-Istiqlal party, which worked to expel the Jews from Iraq.
Thus, Mordechai Ben-Porat, when he reached a ripe old age, received direct testimony from the perpetrators of the crime, who of course were not punished. Today the Jews of Iraq are happy not to live in bloodied Iraq, where they lived since they were exiled to it with the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. The highlight of Mordechai Ben-Porat's public activity is, of course, his secret mission to Baghdad and the organization of Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, together with Shlomo Hillel, in which some 110,000 Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel.The huge operation was conducted without a hitch, until the hand grenade was thrown at the synagogue, which was the last stop on the way to the airport.
The path of Mordechai Ben-Porat passes through sensitive intersections of modern Israeli history. He immigrated to Israel in 1945 and after the establishment of the State of Israel became the first officer of the IDF officers' course. During his mission in Iraq, he was arrested by the Iraqi secret police and a step away from execution. He escaped from his detention and escaped on one of the immigrant planes to Israel.In Israel he enlisted to assist in the absorption of immigrants in the tent camps and became the founding father of Or Yehuda and of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center.He was a disciple of David Ben-Gurion who appointed him, along with others, to the executors of his will. In his search for the challenges of public activity, he was elected to the Knesset and became minister in the governments of Yitzhak Shamir. He worked tirelessly to achieve national reconciliation and to establish a national unity government.
Mordechai Ben-Porat reveals new details about central personalities in Israeli politics, including Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin. Prime Minister Menachem Begin appointed him to head the ministerial committee to formulate a solution to the Arab refugee problem. The committee's recommendations are still relevant and are presented in the book.
He worked tirelessly to integrate the Sephardim in society and fought for the Jews of Arab lands and to achieve justice for them.In 1974, he initiated the establishment of the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, which organized international conferences and raised the claims of Jews from Arab lands for justice.Under his influence, Moshe Dayan, when he was foreign minister, raised the issue at the United Nations General Assembly and demanded equal treatment with the issue of Arab refugees.It's a shame that foreign ministers have not followed through.
Mordechai Ben-Porat's book tells a fascinating life story of a man of great deeds who worked secretly and openly for the state and the community.
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Tom Segev on the Baghdad bombings