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Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Jews of Baghdad

I chanced upon a long and rambling blog post which included this apparently up-to-date information on the Jews of Baghdad:
On July 31, 2007, the snapshot included this:"In Baghdad a small number (tiny) remains. They are all elderly. The last study estimated that they numbered 19." There is an update and a chuckle via AP which reports that 9 Jews remain in Baghdad and cite the same War Hawk (Andrew White) posing as a do-gooder who back on July 19th claimed there were no Jews in Iraq. He testified "I know every single one of the Jews left." Which was a LIE and why we noted the last study showed 19 Jews remaining in Baghdad. Here's the chuckle, AP today tries to bill the War Hawk and Liar as someone "who watches over the tiny Jewish group". Well watch a little closer, War Hawk White. End of July you were testifying they were gone and now you want credit for the 8 that still remain? This is all the more important when you read White telling the AP that he gives the Jewish residents money. Uh, you really aren't supposed to brag about charity. We won't quote White -- a man of the cloth shouldn't lie so frequently in public. We will note AP cites Jewish Agency in Jerusalem's Michael Jankelowitz as stating the 8 remaining do not want to leave. This does sound reasonable because, long before the number dropped to 19, efforts were being made and the ones then choosing to stay felt Baghdad had been their whole lives. Jankelowitz also says 4 are over 80 while 4 "are of working age". The Hague's Israeli Embassy spokesperson echoes that and states they are "in weekly contact" with one of the eight remaining. AP notes: "The eight Jews, belonging to four families, are all that is left in Iraq from the world's oldest Jewish community, dating to the 6th century B.C. when the Babylonians conquered ancient Palestine and exiled its people as slaves. Over the centuries the Jews flourished, and Baghdad became a center of Jewish culture and learning."
First of all, calling Baghdad a center of Jewish culture and learning is probably an understatement. The Babylonian Talmud was written in and around Baghdad and at least one person mentioned in the Talmud is described as the "Baghdadian."

But more importantly, I thought there were a lot more than eight or even nineteen Jews in Baghdad. My recollection is that there were several hundred Jews in Baghdad at the time of the war. In fact, this article bears out my recollection and includes Congressional testimony from the man referred to above as "Warhawk White." (For the record, if you can tell a blog by the company it keeps, the blog linked above is done up in pink and includes a link to "Code Pink." Enough said):
An Anglican clergyman who watches over the tiny Jewish group says they are increasingly desperate and want to leave Iraq for the Netherlands. But Israeli, Dutch and Jewish officials dispute claims by the Rev. Andrew White that the Jews want to leave.

The recent history of Iraq's Jews began to emerge from White's appearance July 25 before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal agency, in which he stressed the growing threat to Baghdad's minorities.

"In the last three or four months things have deteriorated very considerably," he said, according to a transcript of the proceedings held in the Senate.

White said he gives the Jews enough money every month to live, which they then share with other Iraqis.
And for those who are curious, which I was, here's some recent history of the community:
By World War I, one-third of Baghdad's population was Jewish. Anti-Jewish campaigns began in earnest with Israel's creation in 1948, and Israel brought more than 100,000 Jews out by the early 1950s. Another wave of emigration came in the early 1970s, several years after the public hanging of Jews accused of spying for Israel. Thousands settled in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. In 2003, a dozen of the few remaining Jews in Baghdad moved to Israel.

There are many more Iraqis who claim Jewish roots that they want to exploit. The Jewish Agency says a few dozen Iraqis who have at least one Jewish grandparent have been granted citizenship and have come to Israel in recent years — including one who claimed last month to be a cousin of Israel's Parliament speaker, Dalia Itzik.

Jewish tradition does not consider them Jews, but Israel accords them the automatic right of citizenship under its Law of Return, a national rather than a religious law where the definition of being Jewish is much looser.

About 500 Iraqis from mixed backgrounds went to Israel after the first Gulf War in 1991 — mostly from the Kurdish area of northern Iraq — and subsequently moved to the Netherlands after failing to reconcile their Jewish history and their Muslim practices with life in the Jewish State, said Jankelowitz and the Israeli Embassy.
I wonder why there's no UN agency promoting the refugee status of the Jews who fled or were forced out of Baghdad.


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