Remembering the Baghdad Pogrom of 1941

On June 1, 1941, a bloody anti-Jewish riot—known to Iraqi Jews as the Farhud—broke out in Baghdad, leaving 179 dead in its wake. Lyn Julius describes the event’s significance:

The Farhud (meaning “violent dispossession”) marked an irrevocable break between Jews and Arabs in Iraq and paved the way for the dissolution of the 2,600-year-old Jewish community barely ten years later. Loyal and productive citizens comprising a fifth of [the population] of Baghdad, the Jews had not known anything like the Farhud in living memory. Before the victims’ blood was dry, army and police warned the Jews not to testify against the murderers and looters. Even the official report on the massacre was not published until 1958.

Despite their deep roots, the Jews understood that they, along with other minorities, would never be an integral part of an independent Iraq. Fear of a second Farhud was a major reason why 90 percent of Iraq’s Jewish community fled to Israel after 1948.

But the Farhud was not just another anti-Jewish pogrom. The Nazi supporters who planned it had a more sinister objective: the round-up, deportation, and extermination in desert camps of the Baghdadi Jews. The inspiration behind the short-lived pro-Nazi government [then in power], led by Rashid Ali al-Gaylani in May 1941, and the Farhud itself, came not from Baghdad but from . . . the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had sought refuge in Iraq in 1939 with 400 Palestinian émigrés. Together, they whipped up local anti-Jewish feeling.

Read more at Huffington Post

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Pogroms

 

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship