At UN, Jewish organizations mark seminal Iraqi pogrom

Organizers, representing a range of Jewish groups, named June 1 as International Farhud Day.

June 2, 2015 04:31
2 minute read.
Ramat Gan

This Monument, ‘Prayer,’ in Ramat Gan, is in memory of the Jews who were killed in Iraq during the Farhud pogrom (1941) and in the 1960s. . (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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Seventy-four years to the day after 180 Jews were killed in a Baghdad pogrom known as the Farhud, representatives of the State of Israel and Diaspora Jewish organizations gathered at the UN in New York to demand recognition of the sufferings of Jews from Arab lands.

Organizers, representing a range of Jewish groups, named June 1 as International Farhud Day.

Both Jews and gentiles lack awareness of the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Jews forced out of their countries in the mid-20th century and of those in Iraq who were massacred for the “crime” of being Jewish, said Ambassador David Roet, deputy permanent representative of the Israel Mission to the UN.

Their story, “too long neglected and ignored,” is one that “many would wish remain forgotten,” he added.

The Jewish community of Iraq, dating back to pre-Arab Babylonian times, found that “anti-Semitism was not confined to their European brothers and sisters” when the violence broke out on the Shavuot holiday in 1941, shortly after British forces defeated a pro-Nazi coup in the country’s capital.

Intense anti-Semitic and pro-German propaganda and the belief that the Jewish community was in league with the British spurred local Arabs to launch the pogrom, wounding some 2,000 people and destroying 1,500 stores and homes.

It was, Roet said, a “prelude of things to come,” with the Jews of Iraq fleeing for Israel only a few short years later.

Addressing representatives of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and other organizations, the diplomat railed at the Arab world for not taking responsibility for its expelled Jews and called upon the UN to take responsibility for perpetuating their stories.

Israel has stepped up its efforts to gain recognition for its citizens of Middle Eastern descent who had to flee their homes as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the Knesset passing a bill two years ago declaring February 17 a national day of commemoration for Jewish refugees of Arab countries.

“The world has yet to confront the expulsion and pauperization of these Middle Eastern Jewish refugees,” said Rabbi Elie Abadi, the co-president of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. “The Farhud was that first step in the nightmare process that resulted in the forced expulsion of 850,000- 900,000 Jews from Arab lands.”

Ashley Perry, who served as an adviser to former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman and who has been active on this issue, praised the UN gathering, telling The Jerusalem Post that “this issue is gaining national and international prominence and is on the international agenda. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it is clear that the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries can no longer be ignored.”

Edwin Shuker, an Iraqi Jew and a vice president of the European Jewish Congress, agreed, stating that he is “delighted that this issue is receiving the attention it warrants.

“The Farhud is very much part of the narrative of the Holocaust and needs to be recognized as such. The Farhud was a game changer in the history of the Jewish community faced with unimaginable brutality for no other reason but their religion. [It] was a wakeup call that loudly announced the beginning of the end of a 2,500-year Diaspora and sowed the seeds for their willingness to leave en masse a decade later.”

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