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Iraq’s Jewish identity faces extinction

Iraq’s Jewish Identity Faces Extinction

By Lee Jay Walker
THE MODERN TOKYO TIMES

 
Ur of the Chaldees in southern Iraq: About 6,200-6,500 years ago there existed a civilization located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers near the Persian Gulf. The area was known as Mesopotamia and the city was called Ur.

In the West I have read daily accounts about the plight of the Palestinians at the hands of the state of Israel. This article is not about the rights or wrongs of the state of Israel; instead, it is about the forgotten history of the destruction of Judaism in the Middle East outside of the state of Israel.

However, instead of focusing on the entire region I will solely concentrate on the extinction of Judaism and the ending of the Jewish legacy in Iraq. Reut R. Cohen, a journalist and researcher ( www.reutrcohen.com ), states that
“The Iraqi Jewish population once numbered at 150,000 in 1947. Today there are 7 Jews living in Iraq who hide their Jewish identity and live in fear. The community has been totally ethnically cleansed and destroyed.”

This in itself is very alarming and disturbing because we are talking about a community which thrived in this part of the world well before the onset of Islam. Yet even more alarming, is how this tragic story and others are being whitewashed before they have even been told to the general public.

Yes, information about the destruction of Judaism and the Jewish legacy will be widely known in Israel and in certain American circles; but for people like me, brought up in the United Kingdom, I can not recall this brutal and tragic reality. Therefore, I am very grateful to Reut R. Cohen and other distinguished writers who are informing me about a history which is being neglected within the mass media in general.

Also, if we ignore the “ethnic cleansing” of Judaism in Iraq then we are going to enable the ongoing “ethnic cleansing” of other minorities in Iraq. For sadly, in modern day Iraq the endless persecution of Christians, Shabaks, Mandaeans, Yazidis, and other minorities, is taking place. Therefore, the destruction of Judaism is important because the ongoing destruction of other minorities is happening and Assyrian Christianity and others are facing the wrath of Islam in modern day Iraq.

Turning back to the Jews of Iraq then I will focus on the article written by Reut R. Cohen who wrote an article called “The Persecution of Jews in Iraq” which was published on her website on January 26, 2009.

In her article she states that the “Iraqi Jews take pride in their distinguished customs till today. The Iraqi Jewish community is among the oldest in the world and has an incredibly rich history of learning and scholarship. Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, was born in Ur of the Chaldees, in southern Iraq. Jews had prospered in what was then Babylonia for 1200 years prior to the Muslim conquest in 634 AD.”

Therefore, we are talking about a community with a rich and cherished history and one which runs deep within the veins of Iraq itself. For just like the Assyrians, we are talking about two ethnic groups which were part and parcel of a great civilization and both ethnic groups have a rich history but both suffered deeply after the Islamic conquests of Iraq.

Today, you only have 7 Jews left in modern day Iraq and apparently they have to hide their Jewish identity because of Islamic intolerance. Meanwhile, Assyrian Christians and other minorities are being persecuted in modern day Iraq and just like the Jewish legacy which is being dismantled brick by brick in Iraq; the Assyrians face the same fate but the world remains mainly silent.

Turning back to history once more the Islamic conquest enforced dhimmitude on all non-Muslims and Christians, Jews, and others, were forced to accept their dhimmi status or face the consequences of slavery or death. Others chose to convert to Islam in order to escape such open discrimination and during harsh times the tax levies on non-Muslims gathered in further converts to Islam because they just wanted to escape their endless misery.

Endless numbers of massacres took place over the centuries against all non-Muslims and much depended on the ruler because despite open discrimination which was based on dhimmitude, it is clear that persecution ebbed and flowed. For example, when the Turks re-conquered Iraq in 1638 it is claimed that around 10% of the Ottoman army was Jewish. However, in time the Ottoman Empire would also lead to brutal times and pogroms and systematic persecution took place against Jews, Christians, and other minorities.

The twentieth century would turn out to be the final nail in the coffin for Jews in Iraq. Reut R. Cohen in her article adds a tragic and sad personal dimension because she states that “My paternal grandfather vividly recalled his experiences living as a Jew in Baghdad and the Farhud in 1941 which took place during the traditional Jewish harvest festival holiday of Shavuot. I learned from my grandfather (pictured on the left with me in 1987) that the Farhud literally translates to “pogrom” or “violent dispossession” in Arabic. This was a Nazi pogrom coordinated with genocidal leaders like the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini and Rashid Ali. In a two-day period Arab mobs went on a rampage in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. Nearly 150 Jews were killed and more than 2,000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted, and hundreds of Jewish-owned shops were robbed and destroyed.”

Reut R. Cohen continues by stating that older members of her family witnessed harrowing scenes. This applies to pregnant Jewish women being raped and then mutilated. While her great-grandfather had to pretend to be Muslim in order to safeguard his entire family.

She also adds that the British “did not intervene or seem to care about what was happening to the Jewish community.” This also brings back memories of how Western powers ignored the Armenian Christian and Assyrian Christian genocide in 1915 in modern day Turkey. The same period also witnessed the Greek Orthodox tragedy and Syrian Orthodox tragedy because the genocide of Christians in Turkey embroiled the entire Christian community.

In 1950 and 1951 the Iraqi parliament allowed the government of Israel and the Jewish Agency to airlift approximately 110,000 Jews during Operations Ezra and Nehemiah. 18,000 Kurdish Jews were part of these operations and a further number of Jews were smuggled out of Iraq via Iran.

For Jews left behind their dwindling numbers did not help because 11 Jews were hanged in public in 1968 and new anti-Jewish measures were taken. It was abundantly clear by now that the Jews of Iraq were nearing the end and it is now estimated that only 7 Jews remain in modern day Iraq.

However, for some Islamists this is not good enough and now Ezekiel’s tomb at Kifel is in the process or being completely Islamized under “allegations of renovation.” It would appear, however, that renovation applies to dismantling all Jewish traces and this reminds me of the destruction of all Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan.

The article by Reut R. Cohen also relates with ongoing events today. After all, the tragedy that struck the Jewish community in Iraq is now happening with increasing force against all non-Muslims. Therefore, the rich history of Assyria and Assyrian Christianity is under threat and the same applies to other minorities, notably the Shabaks, Mandaeans, and Yazidis.

LEE JAY WALKER

leejayteach@hotmail.com

http://www.leejaywalker.wordpress.com

http://islamicpersecution.wordpress.com

 http://themoderntokyotimes.wordpress.com

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Non-Arabs of the Middle East and Persecution

Non-Arabs of the Middle East and Persecution

 

By Lee Jay Walker  – THE SEOUL TIMES 
Tokyo Correspondent

 

Ancient Kurdish Festival —The Kurds are an Ethnic-Iranian ethnolinguistic group mostly inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which includes adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Some Kurds also exist in the cities of western Turkey, and can also be found in Lebanon, Armenia, Azerbaijan. They speak Kurdish, an Indo-European language of the Iranian branch. Wikipedia

When most people think about the Middle East the usual images arise, for example the religion of Islam and the role of Arabs in this vast region. However, in many societies you have a rich mosaic of differences and the so-called “Arab Street” ignores this rich diversity. Also, for many minorities who reside in mainly Arab nations in this region, their suffering and pain is being largely ignored.

Before focusing on minorities within the Arab dominated nations, it is worth remembering the nations of Iran and Turkey respectively. After all, both societies have very small Arab minorities and the overwhelming majority of people belong to different ethnic groups.

In Turkey, it is clear that the two dominant ethnic groups are the Turks and Kurds and both ethnic groups can be found in other parts of Asia. For the Kurds, they are pressed between competing nationalisms. Therefore, the 25 million plus Kurds face Arab, Turkish, and Persian nationalism in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey respectively, and they also face problems in parts of Syria.

However, while the Palestinian cause gets the majority of the global attention, the more numerous Kurds are largely neglected and the desire for a united Kurdistan remains. Therefore, the Kurdish issue impacts greatly on a vast part of the Middle East region.

If we focus on Egypt, then the indigenous Coptic Christians who number between 8 and 12 million, depending on different data; also face enormous problems in their own homeland. After all, just like the vast majority of Arab dominated nations in this region, the Arabs conquered and colonialized many parts of the Middle East.

However, despite enormous persecution in the past, and continuing problems in modern day Egypt, the Coptic Christians are a further reminder of the rich mosaic of the entire region. Also, the legacy of Coptic Christianity applies to monasticism and the “Christian heart” is still “beating” despite Islamic dhimmitude and inequality.

Christianity is also vibrant in Lebanon, and in Sudan the Christian faith helped different ethnic groups, for example the Dinka and Nuer, to fight-back against Arabization and Islamization. So once more, the dominant thinking of the Middle East is complex because in Lebanon and Sudan you have many non-Arab ethnic groups.

In modern day Lebanon the Christian population is approximately 39% and the Christian Maronites can trace their lineage back to ancient Phoenicia. Also, when a DNA survey was done several years ago it was noticeable that many Maronite Christians carried the male chromosome called the WES1. This chromosome is usually only found amongst West Europeans, at the same time, most Muslims in the test in Lebanon carried the J1 chromosome which is related to Arab expansionism from the 7th and 8th centuries.

So clearly, the “Arabness” of Lebanon is clearly “vague” and you also have a vibrant Armenian Christian community in this nation. While in the religious field it is clear that the Druze community is very different from both Sunni and Shia Islam and this all adds to the rich mosaic of Lebanon.

In modern day Iraq around 23% of the population is non-Arab and this applies to the Assyrians, Kurds, Turkomans, and others. For the Assyrian Christians, Arabization and Islamization is still a great threat and hundreds of thousands have fled since America invaded Iraq. However, the Kurds have a major stronghold in northern Iraq because of military and ethnic factors.

Yet people often refer to Iraq being an Arab nation, however, the Assyrians are the indigenous people and the rich civilization of this nation belongs to the ancient Assyrian Empire. Meanwhile, today, it is clear that Arabization and Islamization is a serious threat to the Christian minority in Iraq.

However, for the Kurds, it is clear that a “real Kurdistan” remains in the offing in the future because the 25 million plus Kurds of the Middle East desire an independent homeland. Therefore, Iraq appears to be the most likely start of this new nation.

Yet for other minorities in Iraq, notably the Assyrian Christians, the Mandaeans, the Shabaks, the Yazidis, and Turkomans; they face a very fragile future and many may not survive the current crisis in modern day Iraq. After all, you have competing nationalistic forces in parts of Iraq which threatens all the minorities. Added to this, you have radical Sunni Islam which is bent on crushing the minorities within Iraq, therefore, Christians, Shabaks, and Yazidis, are under siege.

The current crisis in Iraq, just like in Sudan, does tell us about past history. After all, the African Dinka and Nuer, and other African tribes in Sudan, had to use military force in order to prevent Arabization and Islamization. Therefore, just like in modern day Iraq, where Assyrian Christians, Shabaks, Mandaeans, and Yazidis, face daily persecution, it is clear that past conquests pushed out the indigenous population.

Berbers also face Arabization policies in Algeria and just like the Kurds who are mainly Muslim, it is clear that Islam is secondary because Arab nationalism in more potent. The same of course applies to African Muslims in Sudan. Given this, Arab nationalism is still a major threat to many ethnic minorities and the Berbers in Algeria and African Muslims in Darfur are witnesses to the mass negatives of Arab nationalism.

Overall, it is clear that the Middle East is very diverse and many minorities exist within this vast region. Meanwhile in nations like Iran and Turkey, it is clear that they are mainly non-Arab nation states. Despite this, we often hear about the “Arab street” or the “Arab Middle East.”

However, new forces are shaping the Middle East and many ethnic minorities have moved to different Gulf States in order to find work. So while some ethnic groups face Arabization policies, persecution, or assimilation; other new ethnic groups in places like Dubai are changing the ethnic map. Therefore, the next time someone talks about the Arab Middle East, just remember the “real Middle East” which is a patchwork of many different cultures and identities.

Also, I have only “scratched on the surface” because you have many other ethnic and religious groups in this vast region. At the same time, you have great richness within the Syriac world and others. If we lose sight of the past and how minorities are struggling today, then we are also losing out on a rich history which gives beauty to this world.

LEE JAY WALKER

leejayteach@hotmaill.com

https://leejaywalker.wordpress.com

 

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