Should Jews Return to Iraq?

Last month, the current Miss Israel and her Iraqi counterpart Sarah Idan took a picture of themselves at the Miss Universe Pageant and posted it online. Idan subsequently has received numerous death threats and her immediate family has been forced to flee Iraq. Yet some Iraqi-born Jews are considering returning to their homeland, and there has been some reciprocity from the Iraqi side, as Ofer Aderet writes. (Free registration may be required.)

In December 2016, Iraq Day—a cultural exhibition organized by Iraqi students – was held at Imperial College, London. Prominent members of London’s Jewish community were surprised to receive an invitation to exhibit their books about the history of Iraq’s Jews.

“Our stall was the most popular one there and all the books were sold,” says the Londoner David Dangoor, who was born in Iraq in 1948 and left when he was ten. As he puts it, the Iraqi ambassador didn’t cringe when he saw that the books had been printed in Israel. . . Dangoor has already taken the first step to normalize his relations with Iraq [by gaining citizenship]. In London, he voted in Iraqi parliamentary elections. He says other Iraqi Jews have applied for passports too, but so far in vain.

“Many Iraqi Jews have good, warm memories of life there, which haven’t faded even after the [massive 1941 pogrom in Baghdad],” he says. “Many identify with Iraqi culture, music, and literature to this day.”

The Israeli author Eli Amir’s novel The Dove Flyer will soon be published in his native Iraq, where his books have been popular for years. His attitude is different. “I don’t think for a single moment of going back there, heaven forbid,” he says. “It’s over and done with. We have nothing to go back there for.”

Amir admits that when Iraq is mentioned in the news “it strikes a chord, but I also remember that the Jews were driven out of there as refugees with nothing. So I prefer my Jewish Israeli identity.”

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Anti-Semitism, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish World

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