Iraqi Jewry

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


The Jews of Iraq

The Jewish community in Iraq has lived in that country for 2,700 years, longer than the Arabs and much longer than any Moslem, since Islam was not founded until 630.

The first Jews to come to ancient Mesopotamia (Greek = between the rivers) were brought there by Assyria after some of the northern tribes of Israel were defeated by that powerful empire in 722 before the Common Era. Then, in 586 BCE the Babylonians, living in the area now called Iraq, conquered the southern part of Israel and enslaved the Jews. Those Jews who then lived in the Babylonian Exile produced the Babylonian Talmud between 500 and 700 C.E. (Common Era).

Baghdad and the whole of the Mesopotamian area became part of the Byzantine Empire after the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium, a small town located in present day Turkey. He called the new capital Constantinople or The City of Constantine (Greek). Greek was spoken in the Byzantine Empire and Latin in the Western part of the Empire. That led to the dissolution of the Roman Empire, with the result that in 1453 Constantinople was overrun by the Turks who ruled there until the British defeated the Turks during the First World War. That made the British the overlords of the erstwhile Turkish Empire.

The British therefore ruled Iraq from 1918 until 1932, when Iraq was given its independence. The new king was appointed by the British but did not last long. He was deposed by a military “coup” which finally seized all power under Saddam Hussein.

During the second World War, the British returned to Iraq. Then, during 1941, some Iraqi officers sided with the Nazi Germans and forced the British to temporarily withdraw. At once anti-Jewish riots led to the murder of 180 Jews. The British returned shortly and stayed until the end of World War II.

Thereafter the Jewish community continued in Iraq until 1948, when almost all Jews were dispossessed and forced to flee their most ancient home because the Arabs, defeated in their effort to destroy Israel, vented their disappointment on their local Jewish neighbors. Terrible persecutions of the Iraqi Jews ensued after May 1948 when Israel became an independent country. 113 thousand Jews fled Iraq that year. Thereafter Iraq would no longer allow Jews to emigrate, although many Jews escaped from there just the same.  

Constant surveillance was then used to “keep the Jews from leaving.” However in 1950 the policy was changed and Jews were permitted to leave. These Jews then migrated to Israel, the United States and Australia. Between 1949 and 1951, 104,000 Jews emigrated from Baghdad as Zionism i.e. Judaism became a capital crime. The property of these refugee Jews was stolen by the Iraqi population just as it was stolen from all the Jews forced to leave other Arab countries.

A few Jews remained in Iraq even after 1951. These Jews were forced to carry yellow identity cards (as in Nazi Germany). Jews were placed under house arrest, their telephones were disconnected, and eleven Jews were hanged in public to the enjoyment of screaming crowds of barbarians who shouted “death to the Jews.”

This lead to the smuggling of more Jews out of Iraq into Israel, so that today only 38 Jews are left in Baghdad.

In 1981 Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, which would have been used in the production of atomic bombs by that Nazi country. The whole world condemned Israel, of course. The so-called U.N. condemned Israel and the anti-Jewish hate mongers in our State Department wanted to use this bombardment to deprive Israel of American support. President Reagan vetoed both of these efforts and stood by Israel.

Consider what would have been our situation if the Iraqis had the nuclear bomb in 1991 and now. We were the beneficiaries of the bombing of the Osirak reactor and did not have to face an atomic power in Iraq then or now. All those who screamed their head off because Israel destroyed that reactor ought to apologize to Israel for their stupidity at that time. They should also let Jonathan Pollard out of prison because it was Pollard who alerted Israel to that danger and it was Pollard who has saved many American lives by giving Israel that information.

Today, we have a President who understands the danger that Iraq and Syria and Iran pose for this country and anyone else who values freedom and democracy. The anti-Jewish hate mongers who demonstrate in the streets for Hussein and his bloody dictatorship are the only crowd still in love with that Nazi. These demonstrators were born too late. Had they been born seventy years ago they could have demonstrated for Hitler, as did so many of their grandfathers.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Grandparents:  A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002), & Man's Ascent to Reason (2003).

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