The Remnants of Mosul’s Jewish History

Last month, Iraqi forces in Mosul liberated from Islamic State (IS) control the site traditionally considered the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah, famously sent by God to call on the people of Nineveh—located across the Tigris from Mosul—to repent. The tomb was venerated by Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. Hannah Lynch writes:

[T]he Nabi Younis mosque, [located at the tomb], was first built as a synagogue and then was an Assyrian [Christian] church before being converted into the mosque. . . . Islamic State militants blew it up on July 24, 2014 as part of their campaign to destroy sites they deemed idolatrous. When . . . Iraqi forces took control of it, they found only ruins. . . .

Even before IS arrived, Mosul’s Jewish history was neglected. Rabbi Carlos Huerta, [a former American army chaplain who was stationed in Mosul in 2013], was able to explore the city during his time there and discovered five ancient Jewish synagogues, “all destroyed, some being used as garbage dumps.”

Sherzad Mamsani, the Jewish-affairs representative to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), confirmed that Jewish historical sites in areas under Iraqi control are in terrible condition. “I can say about 60 percent of them have been turned into garbage areas.” He is worried about the sites, pointing out that they will not have fared well under IS. “We see that IS is destroying Sunni mosques. Imagine what they will do to [Jewish] sites—certainly much worse.”

Read more at Rudaw

More about: History & Ideas, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, ISIS, Jonah, Kurds, Nineveh

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