Sarah Ehrlich ~ Farhud Memories: Baghdad’s 1941 Slaughter Of The Jews

BBC News. June 2011. 
On 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom erupted in Baghdad, bringing to an end more than two millennia of peaceful existence for the city’s Jewish minority. Some Jewish children witnessed the bloodshed, and retain vivid memories 70 years later.
Heskel Haddad, an 11-year-old boy was finishing a festive meal and preparing to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavuot, oblivious to the angry mob that was about to take over the city.
Thousands of armed Iraqi Muslims were on the rampage, with swords, knives and guns.

The two days of violence that followed have become known as the Farhud (Arabic for “violent dispossession”). It spelt the end for a Jewish community that dated from the time of Babylon. There are contemporary reports of up to 180 people killed, but some sources put the number much higher. The Israeli-based Babylonian Heritage Museum says about another 600 unidentified victims were buried in a mass grave.

“On the first night of Shavuot we usually go to synagogue and stay up all night studying Torah,” says Haddad, now a veteran ophthalmologist in New York.
“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.”
The violence continued through the night. A red hand sign, or hamsa, had been painted on Jewish homes, to mark them out. Families had to defend themselves by whatever means they could.

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The Disappeared Children Of Israel


ROSH HAAYIN, Israel — Ofra Mazor, 62, had been looking for her sister, Varda, for 30 years when she submitted her DNA samples to the Israeli genealogy company MyHeritage in 2017. Her mother, Yochevet, who is now deceased, said that she got to breast-feed her sister only once after giving birth to her in an Israeli hospital in 1950. She was told by the nurses that her newborn daughter had died. Ms. Mazor’s mother didn’t believe the nurses and had her husband demand their child back. He was never given the child.

A few months after submitting her DNA, Ms. Mazor received the call she’d been waiting for: A match had been found. Last January, the sisters were reunited. Varda Fuchs had been adopted by a German-Jewish couple in Israel. She was told at a young age that she was adopted. The sisters are part of a community of Israelis of Yemenite descent who for decades have been seeking answers about their lost kin.

Known as the “Yemenite Children Affair,” there are over 1,000 official reported cases of missing babies and toddlers, but some estimates from advocates are as high as 4,500. Their families believe the babies were abducted by the Israeli authorities in the 1950s, and were illegally put up for adoption to childless Ashkenazi families, Jews of European descent. The children who disappeared were mostly from the Yemenite and other “Mizrahi” communities, an umbrella term for Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. While the Israeli government is trying to be more transparent about the disappearances, to this day, it denies that there were systematic abductions.

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Clare Louise Ducker ~ Jews, Arabs And Arab Jews: The Politics Of Identity And Reproduction In Israel

1.1 Introduction
While the bulk of anti-Zionist literature has tended to focus on the disastrous effects of the creation of the state of Israel upon the indigenous Palestinian population and its consequences, including the present day endemic discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel (Lustick 1980), there is relatively little recognition of the tragedies that befell Jews from Arab countries (and also from Turkey, Iran, India & Ethiopia) during and after the creation of Israel in 1948. It is rarely acknowledged that Jews from the Arab world have been politically, economically and socially marginalized by the ruling Ashkenazi1 elite and have suffered discrimination based on their appearance and cultural affinity – a phenomenon that is an inseparable part of the Zionist discrimination against Palestinians and Arabs as a whole (Giladi 1990:208). Professor Yehouda Shenhav (1996) has remarked that the new historians – those Israeli historians who have exposed the Zionist myths surrounding the creation of the state of Israel as ‘a land without people, for a people without land’ and revealed the massacres, expulsions and ill-treatment of Palestinians that occurred during the creation of Israel – have excluded from their revision of Israeli history the many injustices inflicted on Jews who came from the Arab world. The lack of recognition of the plight (and even existence) of Arab Jews is reflected in descriptions of the conflict in the Middle East as ‘a conflict between Jews and Arabs’ despite the fact that about fifty percent of Israel’s Jewish population are also Arab (Kanaaneh 2002:43).

Israel, defined as the “Jewish State” but whose founding members were all European asserted from the outset the European character the Jewish state would take: Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, wrote that the Jewish state would serve as “the portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation as opposed to oriental barbarism”. Conceptions of East versus West, of the modern and civilized world against the backward and barbaric “other” are a recurrent theme in Zionist literature and which are directly associated with the colonial Europe Zionism emerged from. During the first Zionist Congress, European Zionists consistently addressed themselves only to Ashkenazi Jews, rejecting the non-Ashkenazim and opposing the “tainting” of the settlements in Palestine with an admission of  “Levantine Jews” (Shohat 1999:9). Zionism’s answer to the “Jewish question” was therefore an analysis of the “European Jewish question” deliberately not concerning itself with the Jews from the Middle East, Asia and Africa (Massad 1996:54). It can thus be seen that Zionism is actually an Ashkenazi nationalist movement, a movement established by and for Jews of European origin (Giladi 1990:67).

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Institute of Social Studies. The Hague. Working Paper Series No. 421, 2006.

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Fiona Murphy ~ Remember Baghdad. Arabic Version. With Introduction From Edwin Shuker

Five families from the Jewish community look back on a scarcely imaginable time in Baghdad – Iraq was booming, it was pleasure-seeking, and there was inter-communal trust. Iraq was once one of the most diverse places on earth, more tolerant of its minorities than any European nation.

Today, after decades of war and instability, Iraq is a very different place. In spite of the danger, North Londoner Edwin Shuker decides to return to the country he loved. We follow him back to Baghdad. He wants to buy a house in Iraq so that he can say “the Jews have not all gone”. He wants to plant a seed of hope for the future.


From the Director’s Statement:

‘The lives of my parents’ families closed down as the British Empire shattered: my father’s community was thrown out of Ireland and my mother’s fled Jamaica. I grew up in London, conscious that people suffer for the crimes of generations long gone.

So when I was between films and was offered a job cataloguing an extraordinary archive of early home movies belonging to an Iraqi-Jewish family, I responded vividly to the news that the Jews of Iraq did well under the British, and paid for it. They had committed no crimes, and unlike mine, nor had their community.

The end of the British Empire was not the only strand that bound their stories together with mine. My mother’s family was ethnically Jewish. And while that was where the historical similarities ended, the smiling faces in the archive and the stark fact that only five Jews remain in Iraq today, awakened my own sense of loss.

At first I just wanted to convey the pain of losing your home. It seemed important, now, right now, to push back at the narrowness of our news, dominated by discussion of economic migrants, desperate refugees and the difficulties of integrating immigrants. The older stories were laments about the pain of exile: “It’s a Long Long Way to Tipperary”, and “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept”. I wanted to show that that migrants travel with heavy hearts, give them a voice, and bring back the world that was lost. I knew this must be my next film.’


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Edwin Shuker ~ “We Dreamt Of Being Expelled.” Being Jewish In Iraq

Growing up Jewish in Baghdad Edwin Shuker remembers one thing very clearly: the desire to run away and lead a normal life with his family. The road to London was far from easy…

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World Jewish Congress – “We disappeared.” The story Of Jewish Refugees From The Middle East And North Africa

The stories of the people who witnessed the end of Jewish life in their countries of origin, from Iraq to Libya, and were forced to start from scratch: the Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. Jewish presence in Arab countries long predates Islam and the Arab conquest of the Middle East and goes back to Biblical times. According to official statistics, over 850,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes in Arab countries between 1948 and the early 1970s. Today, there are fewer than 7,000 Jews left.

Watch the testimonies here:

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