It is heartening to listen to voices such as that of Haidar Muften Jarallah, writing in the Arabic news medium Elaph. Jarallah gives a factual account of the prejudice and discrimination suffered by Iraqi Jews. He is to be applauded for calling on Iraq to apologise to its Jewish community. However, he exaggerates the ‘indescribable love for the land of their fathers’ felt by Israelis of Iraqi descent, who are now three generations removed from Iraq. Can they realistically serve as a bridge to normalisation ? MEMRI reports (with thanks: Lily):
“A number of researchers, sociologists, and thinkers who lived in the era of the Jewish community in Iraq agree that most of its members were talented and respectable individuals. Additionally, our fathers and forefathers had contact with them in many areas, maintained friendships with them as sons of the same homeland, and told us many stories about them, about their lives, and about their presence in a range of fields – technical, literary, financial, administrative, and medical and scientific. [They said that] it was hard to differentiate between them and the rest of the Iraqis because of their integration and their assimilation of their identity into the rest of the identities in Iraqi society.
“As I noted, starting in 1941, Iraq’s Jews experienced murder and looting of their property, after the fall of the government of Rashid Ali Al-Kilani, who resisted the English. These events cast a shadow over Iraqi society, and the fears of the Jewish community increased with the 1948 UN resolution on the partition of Palestine between the Jews and the Arabs, and the declaration of the [establishment of the] State of Israel. As a result of the pressure on them, and because of their worry that began following the events of 1941, most of Iraqi Jewry chose to emigrate, and those who remained were forced to do so later, when the masses were mobilized [against them] and the hostility and enmity against them were fanned.
“Despite the decades since their exodus, [the Iraqi Jews] still hold Iraq in their hearts, and they are considered one of the [Jewish] communities most loyal to their motherland. Furthermore, many of their offspring born in Israel or other foreign lands, and who have never seen Iraq except in the news and on television, feel an indescribable love for the land of their fathers. We see this clearly in their culture, in their way of life, and even in their celebrations, which have an Iraqi flavor, as if these people still resided in the alleyways of Baghdad.
“I call on the Iraqi government, [on the Iraqi] political, cultural, and media elite, and on all [Iraqi] civil organizations to act earnestly and with haste to change the wrongheaded stereotyped image [of Iraqi Jewry]. This discriminatory and racist image – widespread, shaped over decades, and fixed in the minds of generations of Iraqis, which reached its peak during the dark era, over three decades, of Ba’th rule in Iraq – casts the Jews as the reason for the disasters and problems afflicting Iraq, the region, and even the entire world.
“Today, Iraq must apologize to its Jewish community, restore its good name, compensate it materially and spiritually, and make its leaders into bridges for peace and normalization, so that the peoples of the region will enjoy tranquility and security.”