The Farhud - the forgotten pogrom

November 24, 2016 23:01

As per Canary in the Coalmine

Farhud refers to the pogrom or "violent dispossession" carried out against the Jewish population of Baghdad, Iraq, on June 1-2, 1941 during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot which is celebrated next week. The riots occurred in a power vacuum following the collapse of the pro-Nazi government of Rashid Ali while the city was in a state of instability. Before British and Transjordanian forces arrived, around 175 Jews had been killed and 1,000 injured. Looting of Jewish property took place and 900 Jewish homes were destroyed.[1] By 1951, 110,000 Jews - 80% of Iraqi Jewry - had emigrated from the country, most to Israel. The Farhud has been called the "forgotten pogrom of the Holocaust" and "the beginning of the end of the Jewish community of Iraq", a community that had existed for 2,600 years.
The Jews lived in the land of Babylon for more than 2,500 years following the Babylonian captivity . By 1941, the approximately 150,000 Iraqi Jews played active roles in many aspects of Iraqi life, including farming, banking, commerce and the government bureaucracy.
After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the First World War, the League of Nations granted the mandate of Iraq to Britain. After King Ghazi who inherited the throne of Faisal I, died in a 1939 car accident, Britain installed 'Abd al-Ilah as Iraq’s governing regent.
There had been at least two earlier comparable pogroms in the modern history of Iraqi Jews, in Basra in 1776 and in Baghdad in 1828. There were many instances of violence against Jews during their long history in Iraq as well as numerous enacted decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues in Iraq, and some forced conversion to Islam.

Between 1932 and 1941, the German embassy in Iraq, headed by Dr. Fritz Grobba, significantly supported antisemitic and fascist movements. Intellectuals and army officers were invited to Germany as guests of the Nazi party, and antisemitic material was published in the newspapers. The German embassy purchased the newspaper Al-alam Al-arabi ("The Arab world") which published, in addition to antisemitic propaganda, a translation of Mein Kampf in Arabic. The German embassy also supported the establishment of Al-Fatwa, a youth organization based upon the model of the Hitler Youth.

Michael Eppel, in his book "The Palestinian Conflict in Modern Iraq" blames the Farhud on the influence of German ideology on the Iraqi people, as well as extreme nationalism, both of which were heightened by the Golden Square coup:
In 1941, a group of pro-Nazi Iraqi officers, known as the "Golden Square" and led by General Rashid Ali, overthrew Regent Abdul Ilah on April 1 after staging a successful coup. Iraq's new government then was quickly involved in confrontation with the British over the terms of the military treaty forced on Iraq at independence. The treaty gave the British unlimited rights to base troops in Iraq and transit troops through Iraq. The British arranged to land large numbers of soldiers from India in Iraq to force the country to show its intentions. Iraq refused to let them land and confrontations afterward occurred both near Basra in the south and to the west of Baghdad near the British base complex and airfield. The Germans dispatched a group of 26 heavy fighters to aid in a futile air attack on the British airbase at Habbaniya which accomplished nothing.
Winston Churchill sent a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning him that if the Middle East fell to Germany, victory against the Nazis would be a "hard, long and bleak proposition" given that Hitler would have access to the oil reserves there. The telegram dealt with the larger issues of war in the middle east rather than Iraq exclusively.
On May 25, Hitler issued his Order 30, stepping up German offensive operations: "The Arab Freedom Movement in the Middle East is our natural ally against England. In this connection special importance is attached to the liberation of Iraq... I have therefore decided to move forward in the Middle East by supporting Iraq."
On May 30, the British-organized force called Kingcol led by Brigadier J.J. Kingstone reached Baghdad, causing the "Golden Square" and their supporters to escape via Iran to Germany. Kingcol included some elements of the Arab Legion led by Major John Bagot Glubb known as Glubb Pasha.
On May 31, Regent Illah prepared to fly back into Baghdad to reclaim his leadership. To avoid the reality of a British-organized countercoup, the regent entered Baghdad without a British escort.

Sami Michael, a witness to the Farhud, testified: "Antisemite propaganda was broadcast routinely by the local radio and Radio Berlin in Arabic. Various anti-Jewish slogans were written on walls on the way to school, such as "Hitler was killing the Jewish germs". Shops owned by Muslims had 'Muslim' written on them, so they would not be damaged in the case of anti-Jewish riots."
Shalom Darwish, the secretary of the Jewish community in Baghdad, testified that several days before the Farhud, the homes of Jews were marked with a red palm print ("Hamsa"), by al-Futuwa youth.
Two days before the Farhud, Younis Sabawi, a government minister that proclaimed himself the governor of Baghdad, summoned Rabbi Sasson Khduri, the community leader, and recommended to him that Jews stay in their homes for the next three days as a protective measure. An investigative committee later found that Younis had the intent of killing the Jews, although his rule of Baghdad lasted only a few hours, to be seized by a public security committee.
During the fall of the Rashid Ali government, false rumors were circulated that Jews used mirrors to signal the British airforce.

According to the Iraqi government and British sources, violence started when a delegation of Iraqi Jews, sent to meet the Regent Abdullah arrived at the palace of flowers (Qasr al Zuhur) and was attacked by the mob as they crossed Al Khurr Bridge. Violence in Al Rusafa and Abu Sifyan districts followed, and got worse the next day, when Iraqi policemen joined in on the attacks on the Jewish community. Shops belonging to Jews were burned, and a synagogue was destroyed.
However, Prof. Zvi Yehuda alleges that the event leading to the riots was anti-Jewish incitement in the Jami-Al-Gaylani mosque, and that violence was premediated. Prof Yehuda points to eyewitness testimonials and analyzes the different methods of operation to support his claim.
Only at the afternoon of June 2, two days into the riots, British forces quelled the violence by imposing a curfew and shooting violators on sight. An investigation conducted by the journalist Tony Rocca of the London Sunday Times attributes the delay to a personal decision by the British ambassador of the time (Kinahan Cornwallis), who did not execute orders received from London and refused pleas by his officers to act against the riots. Other testimonies suggest that the British delayed their entry into Baghdad for 48 hours because they wanted passions in the city to boil over and had an interest in a clash between Jews and Muslims.

As a result of Farhud, about 180 Jews were killed and about 240 were wounded, 586 Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 99 Jewish houses were destroyed. Eight assailants, including army officers and police, were condemned to death after the violence by the Iraqi government. Other accounts set the estimates higher: Nearly 200 Jews were slaughtered, more than 2000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted, as were hundreds of Jewish-owned shops. Bernard Lewis places the casualty figures higher, citing what he describes as "official" statistics of 600 Jews killed and 240 injured; according to Lewis, "Unofficial estimates were much higher."
In some accounts the Farhud marked the turning point for Iraq’s Jews who, following this event, were targeted for violence, persecution, boycotts, confiscations, and near complete expulsion in 1951.
It is estimated that in 2003, the Iraqi Jewish population numbered less than 100.
It is now estimated that the number is down 7 people

November 24, 2016 23:01

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