Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Deckchairs on the Titanic and fleeing Iraqi Jews

Much of Rayyan Al-Shawaf's review, in the current issue of Democratiya, of Abbas Shiblak's book Iraqi Jews: A history of mass exodus (re-issued in 2005) is spent picking holes in Shiblak's book.

Shiblak believes that Zionist agents set off bombs to 'cause' or speed up the Jewish exodus during 1950 -51 but does not produce the hard evidence for this. Al-Shawaf relies on Moshe Gat's book, The Jewish exodus from Iraq, 1948 - 1951, to point out various discrepancies. He reproaches Shiblak for failing to correct errors in the first edition published 19 years ago.

Nevertheless al-Shawaf picks holes in Gat's book too, speculating that the 'Zionists' might still have set off the final bomb in 1951 to 'put pressure on Israel' to hasten the evacuation of the Iraqi Jewish refugees to Israel. Al-Shawaf concludes that the bombs were the 'decisive' factor behind the Jewish exodus.

As flagged on Point of no return the Zionist agent Yehuda Tajjar has laid to rest any suspicion that the Zionists perpetrated the Masouda Shemtob synagogue bombing on 17 January 1951, which killed four people. By this time, two-thirds of all Jews wishing to leave had signed up. Controversy still surrounds three other bombings: the final one or two may have been the work of Zionist agent Yousef Khabazza* so as to 'prove the innocence' of activists already arrested. But the incidents either did not cause casualties, or did not go off. In any case they occurred after the deadline for registering for emigration had passed on 9 March 1951.

It is a pity that 'scholars' seem to expend an inordinate amount of time, energy - and (judging by the kilobytes devoted to this subject in Democratiya) cyberspace - discussing the futile 'bombs' issue whenever the exodus of the Iraqi Jews is debated. It is a bit like rearranging (or more like deconstructing) the deckchairs, when the Titanic of the Iraqi Jewish community had been on a fatal collision course with the iceberg of state repression and antisemitism almost as soon as Iraq became independent.

Regrettably, an obsessive focus on 'the bombs' almost always seems to reflect the author's mission to deflect the blame for the Iraqi Jewish exodus on to 'the Zionists' instead of placing it squarely where it belongs: on the Iraqi state.

It was the Iraqi state which passed a law making Zionism illegal, crowning a series of proto-Nazi laws against the Jews in the 1930s. It was the Iraqi state which was guilty of the pro-Nazi pogrom which killed 180 Jews in 1941. It was the Iraqi state which hanged the wealthy businessman Shafik Ades on trumped-up charges in 1948, making every Jew, no matter what his feelings about Zionism, feel insecure. It was the Iraqi state which threatened Jews and extorted money from them to pay for its failed assault on Israel in 1948. It was the Iraqi state that first stripped the departing Jews of their citizenship, then stripped them of their property.

The exodus was only possible with the collusion of the Iraqi government, whose Prime Minister Tawfiq Suweidi was a director of Iraq Tours. Suweidi was succeeded by Nuri Said, whose son Sabah worked for Iraqi Airways and stood to gain a great deal from the lucrative contract airlifting Iraqi Jewish refugees. According to the Israeli film-maker Salim Fattal, Israel paid 10 dinars per head to let the Jews go. The airlift was coordinated with the Iraqi government but the flights were supposedly bound for Cyprus. It generated its own momentum as more and more Jews decided to leave.

Why did most of the Iraqi Jews leave in 1950 - 51? They left because they could.

*According to Shlomo Hillel in his book Operation Babylon Khabazza had already left for Israel at the time

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.digitaljournalonline.com/news/123/ARTICLE/1208/2006-10-13.html

Anonymous said...

First half of link:

http://www.digitaljournalonline.com/news/123/

Anonymous said...

Second half of link:

ARTICLE/1208/2006-10-13.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.geocities.com/raminbox/Jews-of-Iran.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.geocities.com/raminbox/Jews-of-Iran.html

Anonymous said...

http://raminbox.blogspot.com/2006/09/jews-of-iran-documentary.html

Anonymous said...

https://www.gozaar.org/template1_en.php?id=335