The Execution That Signaled the End of Iraqi Jewry

On September 23, 1948, Shafiq Adas, one of Iraq’s wealthiest Jewish businessmen, was hanged for the crimes of aiding Israel and supporting the Communist party, after a hasty trial of dubious legality involving even more dubious evidence. Adi Schwartz tells Adas’s story, and examines its significance for Iraqi Jewry:

Shafiq Adas’s arrest was not a one-off incident, of the sort that might somehow be excused, but part of a widescale anti-Jewish campaign waged by the Iraqi government and public. Since the start of 1948, and even before Iraq had declared war on Israel, the Jewish community had become a target of attacks and harassment. Cries of “Death to the Jews!” blared through protests in the streets. The Iraqi secret police had started persecuting Jews, and merchants were arrested for the purpose of extortion. Undercover officers prowled through streets where Jews lived, waiting for people to snitch on them. Jewish officials, both junior and senior, were fired from government ministries. Every night, increasing numbers of Jews were arrested, and community leaders appealed to anyone they could to intercede on their behalf and save them from their impending fate.

In July 1948, Zionism was officially declared a capital offense. Legally, two witnesses were sufficient to convict a Jew of Zionism. Any two Iraqis who wanted to blackmail a Jew but failed could simply go to a police station, as they did, and accuse him of being a Zionist or a Communist, and the Jew in question would be sent to prison immediately. In the summer of 1948, hundreds of Jews were put on trial; most were fined, while others were sentenced to lengthy terms behind bars.

Adas’s hanging left a tremendous impression on the Jews of [his hometown of] Basra. . . . Muslim children taunted their Jewish peers at school and called them “Adas’s orphans.”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Iraqi Jewry, Israeli War of Independence

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy