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To List managers: this historical background may be of interest to
list members.
nels b

The Link interviewed Naeim Giladi, a Jew from Iraq, for three hours
on March 16, 1998, two days prior to his 69th birthday. For nearly
two other delightful hours, we were treated to a multi-course Arabic
meal prepared by his wife Rachael, who is also Iraqi. "It's our Arab
culture," he said proudly

John F. Mahoney
Executive Director
Americans for Middle East Understanding

                  THE JEWS OF IRAQ
                    Naeim Giladi

I write this article for the same reason I wrote my book: to tell the
American people, and especially American Jews, that Jews from Islamic
lands did not emigrate willingly to Israel; that, to force them to
leave, Jews killed Jews; and that, to buy time to confiscate ever
more Arab lands, Jews on numerous occasions rejected genuine peace
initiatives from their Arab neighbors. I write about what the first
prime minister of Israel called "cruel Zionism." I write about it
because I was part of it.

Of course I thought I knew it all back then. I was young, idealistic,
and more than willing to put my life at risk for my convictions. It
was 1947 and I wasn't quite 18 when the Iraqi authorities caught me
for smuggling young Iraqi Jews like myself out of Iraq, into Iran,
and then on to the Promised Land of the soon-to-be established Israel.
My preoccupation during what I refer to as my "two years in hell" was
with survival and escape. I had no interest then in the broad sweep
of Jewish history in Iraq even though my family had been part of it
right from the beginning. We were originally Haroons, a large and
important family of the "Babylonian Diaspora." My ancestors had
settled in Iraq more than 2,600 years ago-600 years before
Christianity, and 1,200 years before Islam. I am descended from Jews
who built the tomb of Yehezkel, a Jewish prophet of pre-biblical
times. My town, where I was born in 1929, is Hillah, not far from the
ancient site of Babylon.
The original Jews found Babylon, with its nourishing Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, to be truly a land of milk, honey, abundance-and
opportunity. Although Jews, like other minorities in what became
Iraq, experienced periods of oppression and discrimination depending
on the rulers of the period, their general trajectory over two and
one-half millennia was upward. Under the late Ottoman rule, for
example, Jewish social and religious institutions, schools, and
medical facilities flourished without outside interference, and Jews
were prominent in government and business.
About 125,000 Jews left Iraq for Israel in the late 1940s and into
1952, most because they had been lied to and put into a panic by what
I came to learn were Zionist bombs. But my mother and father were
among the 6,000 who did not go to Israel. Although physically I never
did return to Iraq-that bridge had been burned in any event-my heart
has made the journey there many, many times. My father had it right
Later I made my way to the new state of Israel, arriving in May,
1950. My passport had my name in Arabic and English, but the English
couldn't capture the "kh" sound, so it was rendered simply as Klaski.
At the border, the immigration people applied the English version,
which had an Eastern European, Ashkenazi ring to it. In one way,
this "mistake" was my key to discovering very soon just how the
Israeli caste system worked.
And I began to find out about the barbaric methods used to rid the
fledgling state of as many Palestinians as possible. The world
recoils today at the thought of bacteriological warfare, but Israel
was probably the first to actually use it in the Middle East. In the
1948 war, Jewish forces would empty Arab villages of their
populations, often by threats, sometimes by just gunning down a half-
dozen unarmed Arabs as examples to the rest. To make sure the Arabs
couldn't return to make a fresh life for themselves in these
villages, the Israelis put typhus and dysentery bacteria into the
water wells
This provoked the British to send a military force into Basra on
April 12, 1941. Basra, Iraq's second largest city, had a Jewish
population of 30,000. Most of these Jews made their livings from
import/export, money changing, retailing, as workers in the airports,
railways, and ports, or as senior government employees.
On the same day, April 12, supporters of the pro-British regent
notified the Jewish leaders that the regent wanted to meet with them.
As was their custom, the leaders brought flowers for the regent.
Contrary to custom, however, the cars that drove them to the meeting
place dropped them off at the site where the British soldiers were
Photographs of the Jews appeared in the following day's newspapers
with the banner "Basra Jews Receive British Troops with Flowers."
That same day, April 13, groups of angry Arab youths set about to
take revenge against the Jews. Several Muslim notables in Basra heard
of the plan and calmed things down. Later, it was learned that the
regent was not in Basra at all and that the matter was a provocation
by his pro-British supporters to bring about an ethnic war in order
to give the British army a pretext to intervene

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