Friday, November 07, 2008

Iraqi Jews

Adam Shatz writes smart, nuanced essays, including this insightful review essay on the Iraqi Jewish community. Once a thriving, proud minority in Iraq, by the 1960s all but a tiny handful of the Jewish community had fled after the suffering the blows of Muslim vigilantes, unsolved acts of violence and the harassment of Arab nationalists, draconian exit policies that fleeced them of their wealth, and finally the deadly ravages of the first Ba'thist government. Many moved to Israel, with only 50 dinars in their pockets, where a once prosperous community was received with condescension by the Eastern European elites. Although underground Zionists groups existed in Iraq, as Shatz notes, most of the Arabized Jews of Iraq hardly aspired to aliya. Indeed, their first encounters with Israel left a bitter taste, which lingers. For Israel, the Iraqi Jews were vital to populate the lands that fell to the new state in 1948-49, as well as to substantiate the Zionist myth. Shatz provides an eloquent intro to the stories of the Iraqi Jewry. (I also recommend, as I have done previously, the fine documentary, Forget Baghdad, which features the voices of now aged Iraqi Jews living in Israel.)
LRB · Adam Shatz: Leaving Paradise

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