Guardian frames expulsion of Iraqi Jews in 40s and 50s as “easygoing, pluralistic prosperity”.

Once again, the Guardian has erased a chapter within the well-documented ethnic cleansing of over 800,000 Jews from Arab countries in the mid 20th century.  The latest example involves the history of Jews in Iraq, in the context of a short review by their film critic Peter Bradshaw of Fiona Murphy’s documentary ‘Remembering Baghdad’.

Here’s the entire Guardian review:

There is a potency and pungency to this brief, absorbing documentary about a part of Middle East history that is often passed over: the Jews of Iraq. It is a story that film-maker Fiona Murphy approaches by talking to those of the expatriate Iraqi Jewish community in London who yearn for their homeland.

After the first world war, British control of Iraq afforded its Jews relative protection. In the 30s and 40s, despite attempts by Hitler’s Nazis to gain a foothold in the country, Iraqi Jews were spared the horrors of the Holocaust, and postwar Iraq prided itself on an easygoing pluralist prosperity. But after the monarchy was brutally deposed, and the country joined the six-day war against Israel, antisemitism became part of Iraq’s righteous new nationalism – although Saddam cynically preserved Baghdad’s synagogue building in the 80s out of deference to his US allies. It is an intricate, gripping family history.

The suggestion that, until the Six Day War, Jews were spared antisemitic persecution in Iraq is simply a lie.

Lyn Julius, co-founder of Harif, an association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa in the UK, responded on Facebook to the Guardian review:

You would have thought it a fantastic achievement that the documentary film ‘Remember Baghdad’ received a review by Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian after it played to a packed house at JW3 yesterday. But I’m wondering if the film Bradshaw reviewed is the same one as I saw – or maybe he just fell asleep halfway through. ‘Iraqi Jews were spared the horrors of the Holocaust’, he writes. I would have thought the Nazi-inspired Farhud in 1941 was a pretty horrific Holocaust-related event myself, with its death toll of hundreds. Bradshaw skips over the hardships of the late 1940s, with open persecution of the Jews leading to the mass emigration of 90 percent of the community. He claims that antisemitism in Iraq had only become a problem after the Six Day War ‘although Saddam cynically preserved Baghdad’s synagogue building in the 80s out of deference to his US allies’. Huh? That is hardly the most salient feature of Saddam’s policy, which included arrest, torture and execution of Jews, who once had over 50 synagogues in Baghdad alone. Altogether, a shoddy and ignorant job unworthy of the film, and probably rushed out in 15 mins before the Guardian went to press.

Our CAMERA colleague Gilead Ini fired off several tweets to the Guardian journalist:

Ini, in a post last week responding to a NY Times article with a similarly misleading claim about Iraq’s Jews, explained:

While it is true that the small fraction of Iraqi Jewry remaining in Iraq in the late 1960s endured a severe round of anti-Jewish activity, it is a brazen revision of history to claim this was the turning point at which the country “became inhospitable.” (A note about language: While we follow the newspaper’s lead in referring to “hospitality,” in this context the word itself can be misleading. Jews were not guests in Iraq. Their neighbors and government were not hosts. Babylonian Jews were part of the fabric of the land for thousands of years, long preceding the Muslim and Arab conquest of the region.)

Conditions for Jews in modern Iraq took a turn for the worse in the 1930s when, influenced by the Nazis, the country enacted restrictive laws, barred Jewish students from schools, and dismissed Jews from certain jobs. In 1941, a brutal anti-Jewish massacre in Baghdad known as the farhud claimed about 200 lives and shattered the community’s sense of security. And in the early 1950s, nearly all of the country’s Jews escaped the intolerable conditions there.

In 1949, 130,000 Jews lived in Iraq in 1949. Three years later, after 95 percent of the community fled what they clearly considered an inhospitable country, perhaps 10,000 remained. (For a more detailed account of the persecution of Iraqi Jews, see here.)

CAMERA has contacted the Guardian’s readers’ editor to seek a correction to this egregious historical inaccuracy.

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14 replies »

  1. My father was one of the pilots who flew the ‘Baghdad airlift” flying over a hundred thousand Jews from Iraq to Israel in the early 50’s. To the question of persecution, Iraq would not permit evacuees to fly to Israel (the El Al planes were painted and the flight destination was listed as Cyprus, a sleight of hand). The Jews were treated brutally. The only humanitarian aspect of the entire event was they were allowed to leave.

    • Thank you for speaking out. The ethnic cleansing of almost a million Jews from the Arab lands has all but been erased from every single historical narrative. It takes people like you (and your brave father) to remind the Israel-bashers of the truth.

      • The Independent (it’s idiotic to use an affectionate nickname for this vile entity) is worse than the Guardian.

        • I agree with both comments – the BBC, Independent and Guardian are absolutely disgraceful in their blatant bias and peddling of bad news about anyone or anything they disagree with that day (and given that their views, like so many left wing organisations and individuals, is likely to change regularly it can be darned hard to keep up to date with what you’re allowed to think or say from one (Stalinist) moment to the next.) What is intriguing is that in a world beside itself with breast beating over fake news and Putin-bots having an immediate and direct effect on western democracies (if the views or vote go against your world view of course, otherwise democracy and ‘progressive society’ are working just fine) is to look at other websites/publications on the same story. It’s like night and day, black and white A vs B! Facts and objectivity eh – if you can use the same fundamental information to make diametrically opposed arguments who can blame the poor, ignorant (and therefore probably reactionary) ‘person on the street’ for not having a clue but still having an opinion?

  2. Interesting article. The Jews of Baghdad had roots in Iraq that predated Muslim roots in Iraq and certainly predated the roots of many Arabs in Palestine.

    It should be noted that while there were many Jews in Iraq who fled when Israel was created this figure includes Kurdish Jews.

    While Kurdish Jews technically was part of the Iraqi Jewish exodus their culture was very different from the Jews from Baghdad.

  3. Another ‘Guardian Would Have you Believe’ article.

    I just can’t wait for the Guardian to close. A faint shadow of what used to be called ‘journalism’.

  4. Rohingya Mulslms (and ALL Muslims living in the west) = victims of and martyrs to Islamophobia; ethnically cleansed Jews and Christians across the globe = invisible but probably deserved it anyway so who cares?

    Fake news and disgraceful bias anyone? Oh, Putin’s to blame!