Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah ~ Censorship And The Jews Of Baghdad: Reading Between The Lines In The Case Of E. Levy

This study examines how members of the Jewish community of Baghdad used foreign newspapers and journals to bring to light and gain international sympathy for issues concerning the community and its relationship with the Iraqi regime during the early years of the Iraqi state (roughly 1930–1950). As an
example of this phenomenon, the article examines a 1934 case in which authorities arrested E. Levy, author of a letter to the Manchester Guardian telling of the confiscation of foreign Jewish newspapers sent to Iraq and the opening of letters addressed to Jews by postal officials. Subsequent to his arrest, the community was not discouraged from writing in the foreign press. On the contrary, members of the Jewish community, both anonymously and by name, wrote in Jewish and non-Jewish foreign presses imploring the world to intercede on Levy’s behalf and to bring to light the situation afflicting the Jews of Baghdad. This article argues that foreign media was a successful tool for the Jewish community of Baghdad as an unofficial channel of negotiation for both communal and individual rights.

In Iraq, the British Mandate lasted from 1920 until 1932. In the long history of the region, this short period of the Mandate is often considered “the Best of Times” for the majority of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minority groups.1 For the Jewish community of Iraq, this period is often considered the apex of social and cultural integration into general Iraqi society. The community was bolstered by Jewish socio-economic mobility due to an extensive (Jewish) community-sponsored education system and an increase in white-collar employment opportunities in both the civil service and with foreign firms. It was also a time of relative intellectual freedom with little government censorship and increased access to foreign print media.

However, the end of the Mandate in 1932 and the death of King Faisal in 1933 were met with concern in regard to the future of the relatively pluralist society which had developed and, as some would argue, foretold the beginning of the end for over two thousand years of Jewish life in Iraq. The 1930s represented a time of unease as the new state experienced political instability and unrest. Although not to be compared with the political turmoil and violence of the 1940s, for the Jewish community of Baghdad there was a perceivable difference in state policy in regard to the Jewish community after the Mandate ended. These changes included greater legislation in regard to education, unofficial quotas on the amount of Jews employed in the civil service, the official banning of Zionism (in 1935) as an ideology, greater antiJewish sentiment in the local press, and the censuring of both Jewish periodicals and post from abroad destined for Jews residing in Iraq. Although much attention has been given to the history of the Jewish community of Iraq in academic circles during the past decade, little work has specifically focused on how the Jewish community (both on a communal and on an individual level) perceived and reacted to these changes in the Iraqi state during this liminal period from the end of the Mandate of the 1920s to the chaos of the 1940s, and particularly on the question of competing loyalties between the Iraqi state and Jewish nationalism as embodied in the Zionist political movement.

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Joe Shamash, Iraqi Jewish Cultural Extinction And Identity.

Joe Shamash was born in Baghdad,Iraq in 1948. He lived there with his parents, five brothers, and two sisters until they fled in 1957. Joe, who is still a citizen of Iraq, shares reflections on his identity and his current relationship to Iraq.

Joe Shamash. Iraqi Jewish Cultural Extinction and Identity.
JIMENA Oral History and Digital Experience Project, 2012
(C)Copyright, JIMENA INC
Produced by Sarah R. Levin
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Point Of No Return: Jewish Refugees From Arab And Muslim Countries

In just 50 years, almost a million Jews, whose communities stretch back up to 3,000 years, have been ‘ethnically cleansed’ from 10 Arab countries. These refugees outnumber the Palestinian refugees two to one, but their narrative has all but been ignored. Unlike Palestinian refugees, they fled not war, but systematic persecution. Seen in this light, Israel, where some 50 percent of the Jewish population descend from these refugees and are now full citizens, is the legitimate expression of the self-determination of an oppressed indigenous, Middle Eastern people.

This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, which can never return to what and where they once were – even if they wanted to. It will attempt to pass on the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution. Awareness of the injustice done to these Jews can only advance the cause of peace and reconciliation.
(Iran: once an ally of Israel, the Islamic Republic of Iran is now an implacable enemy and numbers of Iranian Jews have fallen drastically from 80,000 to 20,000 since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Their plight – and that of all other communities threatened by Islamism – does therefore fall within the scope of this blog.)

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Emily Benichou Gottreich ~ Historicizing the Concept of Arab Jews in the Maghrib

Jewish Quarterly Review – Volume 98, Number 4, Fall 2008 – University of Pennsylvania Press

To begin, a few quick observations about the concept of the “Arab Jew” that prompt the current intervention: (1), it is largely an identity of exile; (2), it implies a particular politics of knowledge vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and larger Zionist narrative(s); (3), it was originally theorized from within the frameworks of, and remains especially prominent in, specific academic fields, namely, literary and cultural studies.1While clearly recognizing the significance of the concept of Arab Jews to post-Zionist discourse, not to mention the groundbreaking contributions of those who have revitalized the term in recent years, this essay will nonetheless argue that these three factors have, to varying degrees, converged to keep the discourse about Arab Jews limited to the semantic-epistemological level, resulting in a flattened identity that is both historically and geographically ambiguous. Developed in conversation with and presented here alongside the related essay by Lital Levy, this essay questions the presumed cultural (i.e., historical) unity inherent in contemporary articulations of the Arab Jew from a Magrhibi perspective. That is, I will try to imagine how Arabness and Jewishness may have intersected in the Maghrib—and particularly in Morocco—at pivotal junctures in the past. Such efforts at historicization, it is hoped, will allow for much-needed nuance and specificity to accrue to this important identity-category, lending the concept of “Arab Jews” meaning beyond merely the ethical or political.

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The Jewish Miss Iraq

In 1947, the first-ever Miss Iraq was chosen – a Jewish beauty queen. But there was little time to celebrate. The State of Israel was created soon after, and life changed for the worse for the Iraqi Jewish community. Here’s their story.

November 30th commemorates the Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. A day to acknowledge the collective trauma the communities faced. Their plight will not be forgotten.

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The Jewish Community In Baghdad In The Eighteenth Century, Zvi Yehuda, Nehardea, Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, 2003


For the last few years, interest in the history of the Jewish Community that dwelt in Iraq has increased, especially the community who lived in Baghdad and which was the most significant and numerous of all other Iraqi Jewish communities, just prior to the mass Aliya which spelled the end of the ancient Babylonian Diaspora. Considerable interest has been shown not only by members of the community and their offspring, who are scattered all over the world and who want to know something of their origins, but also by researchers seeking common roots of various populations, in order to investigate various medical manifestations. However, what little research has been conducted regarding the history of Iraqi Jews in the latter generations, especially from the 14th Century to the present day, never touched upon this subject.

Investigations of the chronicles of the Jewish community in Baghdad during the second Millennium have always drawn a blank, when they encountered some break in the lineage of Baghdadi Jewish families in the 20th Century, from their historical origins as the offspring of the Babylonian Diaspora, the Geonim and the Exilarchs. This manifestation became increasingly significant later due to the liquidation of the Iraqi community ≠ the Exodus of Iraqi Jews from the land of their exile in the second half of the 20th Century and their settlement in Israel, Western Europe, the United States, Australia and the Far East.

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