Lyn Julius
Lyn Julius

Antisemitism rears its ugly head – again

A young American has blamed his deportation from Kurdistan earlier this week on antisemitism.

Arriving at Erbil International Airport on 12 January, Levi Meir Clancy, 31, learned that he was blacklisted as a security threat by the Kurdish authorities on orders from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Clancy had broken no laws, yet he was detained overnight and his passport confiscated before he was put on a ‘plane to Doha in Qatar. He was then made to board a flight back to the US.

Clancy had made the journey from his native California with the intention of returning to the home he had lived in and owned in Erbil since 2015. Collecting his possessions is now impossible, as he has been told that he will never be allowed back in the country.

The authorities detained Clancy overnight but did not subject him to any political or security questioning. However, he was asked his religion and family background. His crime was that he was a Jew. ‘That feeling,’ he lamented,’ when the airport asks your religion when you go to passport control, then they ban you for life and your home is gone.’

Clancy arrived in Kurdistan to teach English in 2010. He ‘fell in love’ with the country and decided to buy an apartment in Erbil.

Clancy has heard of other Jewish passengers being denied entry to the Kurdistan region in recent weeks. Indeed, the accusation of being a security threat is reminiscent of the strategy employed for decades against the Jewish community of Iraq, which included Kurdistan. As a result, a community numbering 150,000 in the 1940s, stripped of its citizenship and dispossessed, has been driven out. Only three Jews remain in Baghdad.

In one of the worst episodes of persecution, 53 years ago this month, nine Jews were executed in Baghdad on trumped-up spying charges for Israel. Half a million Iraqis came to sing and dance beneath the corpses strung up in Liberation Square.

The oppression suffered by Jews in Iraq predated the creation of Israel. Already in the 1930s Nazi influence grew: Jews were sacked from their jobs and subject to quotas. Then in 1939, the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini moved to Baghdad and was the driving force behind a pro-Nazi coup and the Farhud massacre of hundreds of Jews in 1941. Thereafter he and his entourage spent the rest of the war as Hitler’s guests and set up SS divisions in the Balkans. After the war, Nazi-inspired antisemitism spread throughout the Arab world.

Yet the historical record and the experience of Mizrahi Jews are being continually denied and downplayed to preserve good interfaith relations. One of the most dramatic exoduses of the 20th century – that of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa – is blamed on the Zionists, or portrayed as an understandable backlash to Arab grievances.

Any mention of Arab or Islamist antisemitism is open to accusations of racism or ‘islamophobia’. Jews are gaslighted into believing that relations between Jews and Muslims were always peaceful and harmonious before Israel was created. In truth, until the colonial era gave them equal rights, Jews and Christians under Islam were dhimmis for 13 centuries –  a  subjugated minority at the mercy of the ruler, vulnerable to outbreaks of violence.

Nowadays, Iran carries the torch for radical Islamist antisemitism, denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel’s destruction. Its tentacles extend as far as Israel’s borders through its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas. In recent years it has increased its influence in Iraq. Levi Meir Clancy fell foul of a policy of aggressive Iranian antisemitism which was not present in the Kurdish region in 2015, when he bought his Erbil home.

The great French writer Albert Camus once said: ‘to fail to call things by their proper names is to add to the misery of the world.’

And if we can’t call antisemitism by its proper name, if we hedge and obfuscate and minimise it, what chance is there of fighting it?

About the Author
Lyn Julius is a journalist and co-founder of Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa in the UK. She is the author of 'Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish Civilisation in the Arab world vanished overnight.' (Vallentine Mitchell)
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