Josef Olmert

Iraq then and now-history of massacres in the cradle of civilization

We are all shattered by the pictures from Iraq. A genocide is unfolding, and , as usual, a belated world reaction, though in this case, better
late than never. Many of us like to criticize President Obama, and he deserves a lot of criticism when it comes to the unacceptable attempt to
portray a moral equivalency between Israel and Hamas, to mention just the latest example of irritating stuff from the WH. But in the case of the recent
events in Iraq, we need to salute him. Yes, we know why he does it, there is a CIA mission in the region, and there is no desire to see another Benghazi and
US is heavily invested in Iraq, but he does , and he needs to be commended for that.

As for us, Jews and supporters of Israel, well, what do we really know about the history of massacres in Iraq?, hopefully we know all that needs to be known, but not really, and we need to know more.
Not in order to say, ” well, these are Arabs, Muslims”, what can we expect from them?, most of them are NOT like this, but too many are, and it is unfortunate.Hamas are like that, they are murderous, and they share the same ideology as ISIS do, but even that is not why I write the following.
I do it because I wish that when we make our fateful decisions about our future,we know the environment we are part of, and knowing the environment
does NOT necessarily lead to just one conclusion, particularly that we should NEVER badge on anything. In fact, it cannot lead to the opposite decision, that if faced with such forces of darkness we should buy their good will by making all the concessions that they . It is simply intended to put things in context, to enable us to form a learnt decision, whichever it is.

Iraq is an important country, the cradle of civilization as they pride themselves there, the capital of the great Abassid Dynasty for 500 years[750-1258 A.D],
a pivotal country in the Arab state system, the ONLY Arab country which sent forces to fight Israel in 1948 which never signed even a cease fire agreement with Israel, another fact which many Iraqis are proud of.
Iraq is the home of many minorities, in fact as always been the home of many ethnic/religious/linguistics minorities.
How did the independent Iraqi state deal with its minorities? some facts and with them, food for thought.

Iraq got its independence from Great Britain in 1932, and was admitted to the League Of Nations .
A year later they started massacring their minorities. The first were the Assyrians, an old Christian church, an ethnic community of Aramaic speakers
who claim to be the earliest Christians in the Middle East.
It started on 7 August 1933, lasted for 4 days and left 3000 casualties. The Iraqi army invaded Simele in Northern Iraq , exactly where it happens today with the Yazidis.
This act of ”bravery” on the part of the ”heroes ”of the Iraqi army brought about an exodus of Christians to neighboring Syria and from there to all over the world. Today there are big communities of Iraqi Christians in Chicago, Detroit and Modesto, far away from the homeland, with an old language
which is disappearing and with memories for old days which will not come again. In 1988, the community in Detroit hosted me , and their chairman was
one called Sam Arafat, no, no relation to the OTHER guy, in fact, Sam apologized for the name…
Today there are still 500,000 Assyrians and Chaldeans in Iraq. There will be many less in 3-5 years time!

Islamic Fundamentalists say that after Saturday comes Sunday[a great and recommended movie with this name by Pierre Rehov], but in the case
of Iraq, Saturday came after Sunday, the turn of the Jews that is…
It was on 1-2 June 1941, Shavuoth of that year, just as the British who were still present in independent Iraq suppressed the pro-Nzi rebellion
of a group of pro-Nazi Iraqi officers, led by Rashid Ali. These officers were the adherents of the Grand Mufti of JerusaLem who left Palestine in 1937 and settled in Iraq, where he became the leader of the pro-Nazi elements.
175 Jews , according to a ”low” estimate, 780 according to an ”high” estimate were massacred in what became known as the Farhud[the Pogrom].
1000 Jews were injured, a lot of Jewish property was looted. The Mufti later, on 28 November 1941 met Adolph Hitler and suggested the
poisoning of the Jews in ”Palestine”, were the Nazi armies were to defeat the British in Egypt. Who knows how many of our brothers
and sisters were murdered in Europe exactly on 1-2 June 1941, but the Farhud was no different than the Holocaust. Jews are Jews everywhere.
Fortunately, the Jews of Iraq were deported in 1949-50, mostly ending up in their homeland Israel.The ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Jews was almost
complete by then.

Then came the turn of the Kurds. From 1920, when the British established Iraq, surely after independence in 1932 the Kurds were a thorn on the side
of the Iraqi Arab state, and they were in a constant state of rebellion, trying to get independence.
Saddam Hussein wanted none of that, so in 16 March 1988, his planes attacked the Kurdish village of Halabja, using chemical weapons , killing 5000
and injuring 10,000 innocent kurds. The attack was defined by UN as an act of genocide against the Kurds.The largest ever chemical attack against civilians in history.
Saddam went on against the Shi’ites in South Iraq after his removal from Kuwait in 1991, and the full extent of his atrocities has become known after 2003.

Now it is the turn of the Yazidis, Kurdish speaking, non Muslim old religious community. This is ISIS with the support of Sunni
tribesmen in Iraq which write another dark chapter in the history of Iraq.
By way of conclusion, so many of us, but not ALL of us know all that. Our political conclusions and opinions remain divergent, but when
we hear today about the ” IDF and terrible” ”genocide” in Gaza, we should remind ourselves and all that want to the truth what REALLY
happens in the Middle East, and we Jews will continue still to both pursue peace and fight our enemies, the enemies of peace, while
doing the UTMOST to be different from them.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina