How the U.S. Government Helped Rescue Artifacts from the Iraqi Jewish Community

In May 2003, U.S. troops in Baghdad searched the headquarters of Saddam Hussein’s notorious secret police and found something quite unexpected. Joe Samuels—born in Baghdad in 1930—describes their discovery and reminisces about his own flight from Iraq:

[W]hat they discovered in the heavily damaged and flooded basement of the building were Iraqi Jewish artifacts. These included 2,700 books, some dating back to the 16th century. They found Torah scrolls, prayer books, and tens of thousands of documents. The Baath party, headed by Saddam Hussein, [had] looted and confiscated public and personal items from dozens of synagogues, schools, and community properties. After the discovery, with the approval of the then-provisional Iraqi government, these remains of the once thriving, millennia-old Jewish community in Iraq were brought to the United States. . . [T]he U.S. government has restored and preserved these artifacts. . . .

By November 1947, anti-Semitism and discrimination by [Iraqi] government officials was regularized and implemented in earnest. Then, following the United Nations vote to partition the British mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the oppression increased drastically. . . .

After graduating from al-Adadiah High School in Baghdad, I was accepted at three universities in the U.S. Because I was Jewish, I was denied an exit visa to leave Iraq. To be considered for an exit visa, I needed to deposit 3,000 dinars. Let me offer a comparison to demonstrate the enormity of the amount; at the time, an Iraqi working-class family [normally earned] four or five dinars a month. Fearing for my life after some of my friends were arrested, I was fortunate to be smuggled out in December 1949. My father, an importer of cloth, had to leave behind our family villa, his office, and a warehouse full of merchandise.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict