Monday, November 13, 2006

The 1941 Farhoud was premeditated

The Farhoud of June 1941, in which rioting mobs murdered some 180 of Iraq's Jewish citizens (as well as injuring, raping and pillaging) was premeditated, Salim Fattal's documentary film on the modern history of the Jews of Iraq, The land that devours the inhabitants thereof, clearly reveals.

In the interval between the deposing of Rashid Ali, the pro-Nazi Prime Minister who had seized power in a coup, and the arrival of the pro-British Regent in the Iraqi capital, Muslim houses in Baghdad were daubed 'Muslim', while Jewish homes were marked with the 'Hamsa' (hand). When the Chief Rabbi of Iraq went to the authorities to voice his safety concerns, he was told that the Jews should barricade themselves in their houses with enough food for three days.

Eye-witnesses described how minibuses of Jews were emptied and their passengers slaughtered. The rioting started on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot and went on for two days.

The British army, who were encamped on the outskirts of Baghdad, could have intervened to stop the death and destruction. A Jewish translator working with them was told that the British army had no 'instructions' to intervene. It was only when the rioting began to endanger the established Muslim quarters of Baghdad that the British army swiftly quelled the disturbances.

The dead were buried hurriedly in a mass grave without the usual Jewish mourning practices. The Farhoud had a traumatic effect and marked the beginning of the end of the Jewish commmunity, which traced its history back to 586 BC. Within 10 years all but 6,000 of Iraq's 150,000 Jews had fled.


chris said...

This is very interesting to read. I grew up hearing stories of the Farhoud. My grandmother and grandfather experienced it firsthand being descendants of Jews in Iraq since the days of "Babylon."

Apparently, my grandfather Abraham "Bebe" participated in the orchestration and actual smuggling of Jews out of the chaotic Iraqi city of Baghdad and into Israel.

At the time my grandfather/grandmother had 9 children. Soon thereafter, a high-ranking Iraqi military general wanted my grandfather dead. The family fled when my gradnfather was tipped off by friends in the Iraqi government.

My family fled Iraq leaving businesses, property, documents, money, jewelery and a very comfortable home. Iran was friendly towards Jews at the time (before the Iranian Revolution) and took in my family.

Eventually my family ended up in Israel where the Israeli governement, only recently established had promised my grandfather many honors and restitution for his participation in the Zionist cause.

My grandfather was given nothing and my family ended up in mass camps of homeless Jews who began pouring into the ancient land of Abraham to survive political, social and economic persecution. Especially from Russia and Germany.

My grandfather eventually began a grocery business in Israel that developed from a small stand in a market place to numerous grocer retail stores. the revenue generated thus allowed him to send the family (now 15 children) to America, the land of hope and unlimited possibility.

Unfortunately, my grandfather had lived a long and grueling life of defeat and sadness. When his youngest son Sammy Zeira perished as an Israeli soldier in the Six Day War in 1967 at age 18, his body had the final blow.

My grandfather never made it to the United States, However, my family has evolved into successful professionals, business owners, attorneys, chiropractors, doctors, and building contractors. My grandfathers initial vision has become reality.

bataween said...

Good to hear this awe-inspiring story about your grandfather, Chris. We often don't realise what enormous sacrifices the older generation made so that their children and grandchildren could have better lives.