When someone hears of Jewish refugees, most assume it is a reference to fleeing National Socialists during the 1930s and 1940s. Others may think of times predating the rise of Germany’s Third Reich. Most do not think about those refugees who came after the Nazis were defeated.
In 1945, there were approximately 1,000,000 Jews living under Islamic governments. They had been living on these lands for thousands of years with little conflict between themselves and the Muslims. Some may look at the number and claim it to be nothing more than a fictitious account of Zionists for the purpose of propaganda.
The head of the Egyptian Delegation to the United Nations in 1947 was Monem Mustafa. The Jewish Virtual Library quoted him as saying, “The lives of one million Jews in Muslim countries will be jeopardized by partition.” Monem Mustafa was a Muslim and the 1,000,000 Jews living in Muslim countries were his own words.
“Of the 820,000 Jewish refugees between 1948 and 1972, more than 200,000 found refuge in Europe and North America while 586,000 were resettled in Israel – at great expense to the Israeli government, and without any compensation from the Arab governments who had confiscated their possessions. The majority of the Jewish refugees left their homes penniless and destitute and with nothing more than the shirts on their backs. These Jews, however, had no desire to be repatriated in the Arab World and little is heard about them because they did not remain refugees for long.”
There are a great deal of articles pointing to the 750,000 Muslims who left what would become Israel, but very little on the 1,000,000 Jews who were living under Islamic governments. Approximately 180,000 Jews never made it to safety and were murdered at the behest of Islamic governments.
Iraq is one such country that forced the Jews out at the cost of many lives and tremendous wealth. There had been a Jewish presence in Baghdad since the northern tribes were defeated by the Assyrians over 2700 years ago. They had lived mostly in peace throughout much of that time and became a thriving society with ancient roots planted in Iraq.
In 1932, Iraq became an independent nation and set up a democratic monarchy similar to what the British had, and still have to this day. The authorities relied on well-educated Jews to help develop their judicial and postal system. Yehezkel Sasson became the first minister of finance.
1941 became a turning point for Iraq, which was well before the UN voted to declare Israel a Jewish nation. That was when Rashid Ali al-Gaylani led a pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad, which led to the Baghdad Farhud, which means pogrom or violent disposition.
In June of 2011, the BBC interviewed Heskel Haddad, who was an 11-year-old boy in Baghdad when the Fahud took place. Haddad was quoted as saying, “Suddenly we heard screams, ‘Allah Allah!’ and shots were fired. We went out to the roof to see what’s happening, we saw fires, we saw people on the roofs in the ghetto screaming, begging God to help them.”
Rashid Ali al-Gaylani destroyed over 2700 years of peaceful coexistence through the use of Nazi inspired programs on the radio. It only took a month of broadcasting vile hatred and lies to turn neighbor against neighbor. Red hands were painted on the houses of Jews by their neighbors to mark them out to those rampaging for Jewish blood.
The result of the Farhud was at least 180 dead and 1000 wounded. A mass grave was discovered with 600 bodies. Houses were looted and burned to the ground. Again, this took place in 1941 and there was no state of Israel at the time.
The British Army and some Iraqis loyal to the king helped to restore peace. Peaceful coexistence resumed as Jews helped to build hospitals and schools. Baghdad’s Symphony Orchestra was made up mostly of Jewish musicians.
Anti-Jewish rioting reminiscent of the Farhud started again in 1947 and continued through to 1949. The anti-Jewish actions of Iraqis started for only one reason, which was the vote to create a Jewish state. Violence started before Jews started to arrive from Europe and at a time when the Arabs believed there would be a quick victory over the newly created state of Israel.
In 1948, before Israel’s War of Independence was won, it became a capital offense to be a Zionist. Iraqi Jews were not allowed to leave the country until 1950 and had to give up Iraqi citizenship. Jews had to liquidate all of their holdings and turn them over to the authorities, which included jewelry. They were only allowed to keep $140 and 88 pounds of luggage.
Operation Ezra & Nehemia took place between 1951 – 1952. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “Despite these restrictions, some 50,000 Jews signed up in one month, and two months later there were 90,000 on the list. This mass movement stunned the Iraqi government, which had not expected the number of immigrants to exceed 8,000, and feared that administrative institutions run by Jews might collapse.”
It is interesting to note the last part. The Iraqi government had prosecuted hundreds of Jews for wanting to leave, and many were executed. It is their government who put harsh restrictions on Jews that caused 130,000 Iraqi Jews to flee Iraq, which had been one of the older continuous Jewish communities in the world. Despite the increasing threat to their lives that continued to be based on lies started by the Nazis, they still expected most of the Jews to remain in Iraq.
Not all fled Iraq, since 6000 chose to remain in hopes of a return to what had been the norm for thousands of years. In 1963, with the rise of the Ba’athist, which were Nazi inspired political parties, the remaining Jews were forbidden from selling any property. Jews were forced to carry yellow identity cards. What few remaining rights they had in Iraq were taken by the government.
Between 1968 – 1969, persecution went from bad to worst as the Iraqi government claimed they had discovered a Jewish spy ring. The trials were little more than show and 11 Jewish men were sentenced to death. At the encouragement of Radio Baghdad, 500,000 people showed up, male and female, young and old, to dance past the bodies of the hanged Jews.
The 1970s brought tremendous pressure on Iraq to let the last of the Jews leave. By 2004, there were 35 Jews who remained in Baghdad. 4 years later, it fell to less than 10. As of 2018, the number remains less than 10.
What started in 1941 cost the lives of thousands of Jews and the loss of hundreds of millions. Over 2700 years of history has been destroyed in Iraq on the continued basis of Nazi propaganda, which did not end with Germany’s surrender. It continued to live on in groups like the Ba’athists.
The death of the Jews has been an ongoing call dating back thousands of years. Nations and empires that have promised their destruction have become little more than footnotes in history, but the Jews live on. There may not be many Jews left in Iraq, but there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqi-Jews living in Israel.