When the Mob Came for the Jews of Baghdad

Yesterday marked the 80th anniversary of the farhud, the brutal Baghdad pogrom that accompanied the fall of a short-lived pro-Nazi Iraqi regime. In the weeks beforehand, Arab nationalist leaders, German agents, and the mufti of Jerusalem had inundated Iraqis with anti-Semitic propaganda. Joseph Samuels, who was ten years old and living in Baghdad at the time, recollects:

Soldiers in civilian clothes, policemen, and large crowds of Iraqi men, including Bedouin brandishing swords and daggers, joined in the pillage, helping themselves to loot as they plundered more than 1,500 Jewish homes and stores. For two days, the rioters murdered between 150 and 780 Jews—exact counts aren’t known—injured 600 to 2,000 others, and raped an indeterminable number of women. Some say 600 unidentified victims were buried in a mass grave. All through the night we heard their screams. We heard gunshots too, then sudden quiet. Unarmed and unprepared to defend themselves, Jews were vulnerable and helpless. I was shaken, desperate, and angry.

My family reinforced our front door by stacking heavy furniture against it. I carried buckets of water to the roof to boil and stay ready to toss on marauders should they attempt to break in. We stayed up through the night, barricaded in our home. My father was praying and reading the book of Psalms, but I was too preoccupied to join. Not wanting to appear weak to my older brothers, I cried myself to sleep in silence.

Later, I heard of Muslim men protecting Jewish homes by standing guard with guns and daggers. Some even sheltered Jews in their own homes and saved them. . . . They were the true heroes.

After Iraq’s failure in its May 1948 war to extinguish Israel, the new Jewish state, the Iraqi government reignited its assault on its own Jewish citizens. New waves of accusations, arrests, tortures, and hangings shook the Jewish community’s faith in the future. Fear of a second farhud took over.

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Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Anti-Semitism, Baghdad, Iraqi Jewry, World War II

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism