Should Jews Return to Iraq?

Dec. 20 2017

Last month, the current Miss Israel and her Iraqi counterpart Sarah Idan took a picture of themselves at the Miss Universe Pageant and posted it online. Idan subsequently has received numerous death threats and her immediate family has been forced to flee Iraq. Yet some Iraqi-born Jews are considering returning to their homeland, and there has been some reciprocity from the Iraqi side, as Ofer Aderet writes. (Free registration may be required.)

In December 2016, Iraq Day—a cultural exhibition organized by Iraqi students – was held at Imperial College, London. Prominent members of London’s Jewish community were surprised to receive an invitation to exhibit their books about the history of Iraq’s Jews.

“Our stall was the most popular one there and all the books were sold,” says the Londoner David Dangoor, who was born in Iraq in 1948 and left when he was ten. As he puts it, the Iraqi ambassador didn’t cringe when he saw that the books had been printed in Israel. . . Dangoor has already taken the first step to normalize his relations with Iraq [by gaining citizenship]. In London, he voted in Iraqi parliamentary elections. He says other Iraqi Jews have applied for passports too, but so far in vain.

“Many Iraqi Jews have good, warm memories of life there, which haven’t faded even after the [massive 1941 pogrom in Baghdad],” he says. “Many identify with Iraqi culture, music, and literature to this day.”

The Israeli author Eli Amir’s novel The Dove Flyer will soon be published in his native Iraq, where his books have been popular for years. His attitude is different. “I don’t think for a single moment of going back there, heaven forbid,” he says. “It’s over and done with. We have nothing to go back there for.”

Amir admits that when Iraq is mentioned in the news “it strikes a chord, but I also remember that the Jews were driven out of there as refugees with nothing. So I prefer my Jewish Israeli identity.”

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Anti-Semitism, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish World

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat