Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Jews of Iraq, the Farhud, and a Curious Omission

Struggle for Survival in Palestine/Israel
Edited by Mark LeVine and Gershon Shafir
University of California Press, 2012

The above book is a series of chapters written by various authors relative to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. After reading one of the chapters, I feel compelled to point out what I consider is a glaring omission.

Gershon Shafir is a professor at UC San Diego. My sources down there tell me he is part of a cadre of like-minded Israel-bashing professors. He reportedly appears at many anti-Israel events and reportedly is a J Street supporter. Enough said.

UC Irvine Professor Mark LeVine, of course, is no stranger to those who read this site. He is also a regular Israel-basher yet objects when you call him anti-Israel. Go figure.

The chapter in question is written by Aziza Khazzoom, a professor at Indiana University, formerly a professor at Hebrew University in Israel, UCLA, and graduate of UC Berkeley. A check of her faculty bio indicates one of her primary interests is Israel, particularly the issue of ethnic discrimination among Jews in Israel. She herself is of Iraqi-Jewish origin.

What I want to concentrate on here is her chapter entitled, "A Tale of Baghdad and Tel Aviv" (pp
256-270). It is based on her interview of a woman named Rachel, who immigrated with her family from Iraq to Israel upon the creation of the Jewish state. In the below link, you can read the chapter minus a few pages as identified.,+%2B+a+tale+of+baghdad+and+tel+aviv&source=bl&ots=3fBrQijwiz&sig=w0Z-b39lzQ43ZMMB0M34td592yw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oqiVVbXuN4b0yATek6CgBQ&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=aziza%20khazzoom%20%2C%20%2B%20a%20tale%20of%20baghdad%20and%20tel%20aviv&f=false

Khazzoom briefly describes  the Jewish community in Iraq, specifically, their education going back to the late 19th century. Rachel herself describes growing up as a Jew in Baghdad in the 1930s /40s and attending the Alliance School, one of several established in the Middle East by French Jews to connect them to French culture and prepare them for modern occupations. Her father jointly operated a business with a Muslim man, but as is described by Rachel, Jews and Muslims did not really socialize though they might do business together.

In terms of relationships between Jews and Muslims, the reader can sense that it was not exactly a situation of absolute equality. Khazzoom even refers once to the jizya tax that Jews were required to pay, and that they at times lived in segregated neighborhoods. In addition, there was a university quota of Jewish students allowed forcing many families to send their children to England or France for their higher education. Khazzoom also writes that relations between Jews and Muslims in Iraq were not so bad due to a "rarity of pogroms". She writes that Iraqi Jews were perceived to have a cultural connection to Europe,

According to what Rachel told Khazzoom, attitudes toward Jews really worsened once the aliya (immigration to Israel) became a possibility as part of the Zionist movement. Their perceived cultural connections with Europeans also worked against them in the eyes of other Iraqis because of European colonialism. When Iraqi Jews began to leave for  Israel, they were eventually forced into a position of having to leave virtually all their possessions and assets behind. Khazzoom describes how many Jews tried to find ways to get their money and possessions out of Iraq in violation of the law. In 1951, there was a mass airlift of some 130,000 Iraqi Jews to Israel. Finally, we  see a description of what life was like for Rachel and other Jews in Israel who arrived from Arab lands.

That latter part does not concern me. What concerns me is that there is something seriously missing from this chapter and Khazzoom's description of life for Iraqi Jews.

The Farhud.

That jumped out at me because I had recently posted a couple of articles based on the family history of my friend, Reut Cohen as related to Jerry Gordon of New English Review. She hails from an Iraqi Jewish family and family members were among those who emigrated from Iraq to Israel. They also experienced the Farhud, which was a pogrom committed by mobs against Jews in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities on June 1-2, 1941. Below, you can read what happened. (The Farhud was an Arabic dialect expression meaning "violent dispossession".)

So in 1941, a pogrom was carried out against the Jews of Baghdad, largely spurred on by the Berlin-based radio broadcasts of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini, who urged Muslims to rise up and drive the Jews from the Middle East, and which resulted in over 150 Jews being murdered, some by beheading, including rapes and looting.

But there is nothing about this in Professor Khazzoom's chapter of this book. (No, it is not mentioned on the few pages excluded from the preview in the above link. To this point, I have not located an online version with the complete chapter, but I invite the reader to try. I have read the entire hard copy.) I know Khazzoom  is aware of it because she made a mention of it in one of her syllabi while teaching at UCLA. And, of course, she is of Iraqi-Jewish origin.

I don't understand why there is no mention of a very significant event in the history she is reporting. Perhaps, it was edited out-I have no idea. It does seem like a glaring omission.

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