A Miracle and an Outrage in Washington

ShowImage.ashxOriginally published by The Jerusalem Post

If you happen to be in Washington, DC, between now and January, you can see a piece of Jewish history that was never supposed to see the light of day. The National Archives is now exhibiting restored holy books and communal documents that belonged to the Jewish community of Iraq.

In 1940, the Iraqi Jewish community numbered 137,000 people. Jews made up more than a quarter of the population of Baghdad. A 2,500-year-old community, Iraq had for centuries been a major center of Jewish learning. The Babylonian Talmud was written there.

The yeshivot in Karbala and Baghdad were considered among the greatest in the world.

According to Dhiaa Kasim Kashi, a Shi’ite Muslim interviewed in the 2008 book Iraq’s Last Jews, by the 1930s, the Jews of Iraq had become leaders in every field. “All of Iraq’s famous musicians and composers were Jewish,” he said.

“Jews,” he continued, “were so central to commercial life in Iraq that business across the country used to shut down on Saturdays because it was the Jewish Shabbat. They were the most prominent members of every elite profession – bankers, doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, etc.”

All of this began to end with the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s. Due to rampant Islamic Jew hatred, Arab leaders were drawn to the Nazis. For their part, the Nazis were quick to capitalize on their popularity. The German ambassador to Iraq, Fritz Grobba, cultivated Nazi sympathizers in the Iraqi military and organized a pro-Nazi military coup in April 1941.

On June 1, 1941, as Jews celebrated the festival of Shavuot, the pro-Nazi government carried out a massive pogrom. Estimates place the number of Jews murdered at anywhere between 180 and 900. Nine hundred Jewish homes were destroyed. Hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses were looted and burned.

The pogrom, which came to be known as the Farhud, or “violent dispossession,” marked the beginning of the end of the Iraqi Jewish community.

Iraq was one of the five Arab states that invaded Israel on May 15, 1948.

The immediate victims of Iraq’s unyielding rejection of Jewish national liberation were the Jews of Iraq. In 1950, the exodus began. By the end of 1952, when the government shut the remaining Jews in, 124,000 Jews had fled Iraq, mainly to Israel. Forced to abandon their private and communal property, their possessions became hostage to the regime.

The few thousand Jews left in Iraq lived in utter terror. But even in their reduced state, they tried to protect the property of their phantom community.

In Baghdad, only one synagogue remained in operation. The Jews brought all the communal documents and holy books there for storage.

But as Harold Rhode, a recently retired US Defense Department cultural expert, reported in August at PJM Media, in 1985 Saddam Hussein sent his henchmen to the synagogue with several trucks. They stole the documentary history of the community in broad daylight.

Rhode explained that Saddam ordered the theft of the Jewish community’s property both to humiliate the Jews and Israel and to impress his fellow Arabs. As he put it, from a local cultural perspective, “Humiliation – i.e., shaming another’s personal reputation – is more important and more powerful than physical cruelty.

“By capturing the Jewish archives, Saddam was humiliating the Jewish people. He was showing how powerless the Jews were to stop him.”

From a pan-Arab perspective, Saddam demonstrated that he “was in the vanguard of protecting and regaining Arab honor, and was therefore more worthy of Arab/Muslim leadership than were the others.”

Rhode was deployed to Iraq shortly after the US-led overthrow of Saddam’s regime. By the time he arrived in May 2003, there were only a dozen Jews still living in Iraq.

Rhode was the first American official informed of the existence of the archive. It was stored in the cellar of the headquarters of Saddam’s mukhabarat, or secret police. When Rhode arrived at the building with a small detail of soldiers and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, the building had just been flooded by an unexploded shell that had punctured the water main.

When he realized the dimensions of the archive, now largely underwater, Rhode moved heaven and earth to save it. Due to Rhode’s action, and the support he received from Iraqi leader Ahmed Chalabi, vice president Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the archive – which included everything from school records to 500- year-old copies of the Bible – was saved on Shavuot 2003 and sent to the US.

Once the archive was safely in the US, the State Department spent $3 million restoring the 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents. In the meantime, back in Iraq, there are still hundreds of Torah scrolls languishing in a government cellar, inaccessible to the public, and in a horrible state of disrepair.

The fact that the archive was rescued from Saddam’s vault and is now being shown to the public is a miracle.

But if nothing changes, on Shavuot 2014, the miracle will come to a tragic and scandalous end. In an act of cultural aggression, the US government has promised to return the Jewish communal archive – stolen from the Iraqi Jewish community by the Iraqi government – to the Iraqi government by June 2014.

The State Department insists that the archive is Iraqi government property, since it was found in an Iraqi government building. But if that is true, then all the Jewish property stored in the Gestapo’s dungeons should have remained German government property after World War II. And even the comparison to the Nazis is too facile.

Jews could safely enter Germany, and even live there after the Nazis were defeated. Jews cannot safely enter, let alone live in, Iraq.

The difference between Jewish property stolen by the Nazis and Jewish property stolen by Arab regimes is political. It is politically acceptable to acknowledge that the Nazis were criminals. But the Arabs have never had to pay a price for their persecution and eventual destruction of their Jewish communities. No one wishes to recognize the fact that it is anti-Semitism that drives the Islamic quest to destroy the Jewish state.

The only lawful owners of the Iraqi Jewish archive that is being shown in Washington are the Iraqi Jews and their descendants, who are now overwhelmingly Israelis. The only place the archive should be sent is the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda, the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the 2,500-year-old Jewish community of Iraq.

Yet for the American foreign policy establishment, besotted by a quasi-religious belief that the establishment of a Jew-free Palestinian state on Israeli land will cure everything from Islamic jihad to the common cold, recognizing this simple truth is a bridge too far. Restoring the Iraqi Jewish archive to its Israeli owners would be tantamount to recognizing that the cause of the Arab world’s conflict with Israel is Arab anti-Semitism.

A petition is now circulating demanding that the US government return the archive to its rightful owners in Israel.

At this point, it would be a great miracle if they would just agree to keep it safe in Washington until an American government comes along that decides to base its Middle East policies on the truth.

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  • tickletik

    If the United States gives that archive to the Iraqi government (I do not use the word “return” because it never belonged to them), then the United States will fall.

    I mean it, for “reals”. Thats the final outrage. You can kiss the country goodbye at that point, because Heaven will not forgive you. Any Jew living in the US who lets this one go can expect the exact same treatment that we got from the Arabs in the 50’s, not only will the Americans turn on you like the Iraqis turned on us, but you will be running out in your underwear, assuming you can even get out.

    And the reason you will be punished for Obama’s theft, is because many of you voted for that man, so you bear a lot of responsibility for his actions.

    And for those non Jews that think that might not be such a bad thing, you just consider what became of Iraq after it was made Judenrein.

    • TheOrdinaryMan

      Yes, this is the litmus test for whether any particular American Jew cares about Judaism and Israel. If they want it given to Iraq, then they’re not Jewish. And you’re right, if the U.S. gives this archive to Iraq, then the U.S. WILL fall. (Btw, outstanding article)

    • roastytoasty

      Genesis 16:12 Describes the Sons of Ishmael, descended from Ishmael, son of Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid Hagar; illegitimate son of Abraham: “And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”


      It’s King Solomon and the baby all over again.

      Threaten to kill the baby and see which woman wants the baby to live.

  • herb benty

    Obama and his gang are truly sickening. He makes Nixon and his “German Mafia” look like the Founders.

  • shaylynnvacca321

    My Uncle Jacob got a year 2013 Audi TT RS Coupe by working part time
    online. imp source J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Corax

    I’m not Jewish, but I agree 100% with what the author says. All those documents should be in the Israeli museum, or an equivalent place in Israel. They are part of history, they belong under your protection – and the ones still in Iraq must be rescued as well. I will sign the petition if I can find it! There is far too much wrong happening in our gov’t these days.

  • RandyCA

    So, how can we sign the petition?

  • Redwine123

    Petition link, please.

    • defcon 4

      If the petition’s ultimate recipients are the zero administration, you might as well throw that petition in the garbage right now, after all it was the zero who tried to strong-arm Israel into returning to the indefensible pre-1967 borders (which I’m assuming would be the insane gerrymandered borders of ’48’).

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    This archive belongs to the former Iraqi Jews now living in Israel. It should go to them, and to no one else. They will treat the documents in the archive with the respect and care that is required for their survival.

    I repeat what others have said. Please provide the petition link …

  • American Patriot

    Am excellent article with sound analysis. I am not anti-Obama but what he’s doing here, in terms of giving stolen artifacts back to the thief who stole them, flies in the face of common sense and decency.

  • Gee

    Return our property to us. Stop acting like the Vatican with their millions of Jewish artifacts that were stolen from us.

    • defcon 4

      What “millions of Jewish artifacts” would those be? Do you have any proof of this?

      • Gee

        Yes – they have been stealing Jewish articles for nearly 2,000 years now and refuse to return any of them

        • defcon 4

          I never knew they had stolen Jewish religious works. The articles don’t suggest “millions” have been stolen though, but any is too much.

        • defcon 4

          I wonder if the CC might not be amenable to returning these artifacts? After all, they aren’t islam0fascists. A petition might even work w/them.

  • Mickey Oberman

    Obama is acting true to his convictions and beliefs as a Muslim.

  • roastytoasty

    The United States government is in the hands of Left-loving God-hating Marxist Progressives. The 100 year march of Marxism in America now bears its most bitter fruit. Bureaucrats: city county state federal–have become the foremost enemies of Liberty. Bureaucrats are led by Lawyers.

  • markinalpine

    There is an American author who I think is Jewish who uses, maybe coined the term “Self-Loathing Jew.” I cal them “Stupid Jews.” The one who voted for 0bama.

  • Jeanne

    FTA: “The State Department insists that the archive is Iraqi government property, since it was found in an Iraqi government building.”

    This is a disingenuous response. The current Administration is infested with Islamic sympathizers who consistently side with Israel’s (and therefore, America’s) worst enemies.

    “I will bless those who bless you,and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3

  • muchiboy

    This is not as simple and black and white as you make out.I am sympathetic to the significance and loss to the Jewish nation,(like it or not,Israel),of this magnificent and historically invaluable collection.While the collection is essentially,in every meaning of the term,Jewish,it is also no less Iraqi,historically.
    This example of ethnic cleansing of Jews from Iraq is tragic,and partially explained,more or less, by the occupation of Palestine by Zionists and the threat of Zionism to the peoples and region.From the article,though FPM has a very biased view and agenda in these matters,there is much blame on the Iraqis’ themselves.
    One possible solution would be to share these historically important documents between the two interested parties/countries,or even exchanges or loans from Iraq to Israel.Such cooperation would be a beginning.Period.While it should be unnecessary to remind this community and the world that the mostly European Diaspora then and the Diaspora and Israel now is responsible and accountable for the occupation and de facto ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Arab,both Christian and Muslim,I will remind you anyway,given the Denial here and there that is as unconscionable and wicked as Holocaust Denial by some Islamists’ and Skinheads.

  • rebaaron

    Obama and his minions will send it all to Iraq to be destroyed.

  • defcon 4

    I’m sure the islam0nazis who run Iraq will treat the Jewish artifacts w/the utmost respect…NOT.

  • Aterg

    It belongs to the Jews who had to leave Iraq, and those that are brave to stay in their ancient home will fully agree. If it goes back to Iraq it will be destroyed, just like the ancient Budhas a world heritage by the Afgans Talibans. Culture, history means nothing there unless it glorifies Islam and barbarism.