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      70 Years After Iraqi Kristallnacht

      Yesterday marked not only reunited Jerusalem’s 44th anniversary, but also the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the one that happened in Iraq.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 6/2/2011, 5:04 PM / Last Update: 6/2/2011, 8:29 PM

      Yesterday, June 1, marked not only reunited Jerusalem’s 44th anniversary, but also the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht – the one that happened in Iraq.  

      Historian Robert S. Wistrich has written an article remembering what he calls “the most dramatic and violent pogrom in the Arab Middle East during World War II.”  Known in Arabic as the Farhud, this devastating pogrom in Baghdad left approximately 150 Jews dead, hundreds more wounded, and nearly 600 Jewish businesses ransacked. The anti-Jewish violence was led mainly by Iraqi soldiers, as well as members of the police and young paramilitary gangs, who, Wistrich writes, were “swiftly followed by an angry Muslim population that went on the rampage in an orgy of murder and rapine.”

      Iraq’s 90,000-strong Jewish community had been the most prosperous, prominent and well-integrated Jewish presence in the Middle East, with origins going back more than 2,500 years. By the 1930’s, however, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist sentiment was growing strong, under the influence of the rise of Nazi Germany. 

      Though the British Mandate in Iraq ended in 1932, the British returned briefly during World War II - and stood by during the 1941 pogrom, doing nothing. The British “could easily have intervened,” Wistrich writes, “but [they] chose not to do so... The British behaved in a similar fashion on several occasions in Mandatory Palestine, in Libya (November 1945) and in Aden (December 1945) – standing by as Arab mobs killed defenseless Jews.”
       
      The Farhud has been ignored or downplayed in most accounts of history, Wistrich asserts, but it in fact “exposed with shocking clarity just how vulnerable the Jews in Arab lands really were and what their fate was likely to be under any decolonized Arab regime in the future… Despite the ‘Arab Spring,’ not much has changed for other minorities in the Middle East in the last 70 years. As for the Jews, from Morocco to Iraq and Iran they would be 'ethnically cleansed' after 1945 by their Muslim rulers..."

      "The reinforcement of a strong Israel was and still remains the only viable long-term answer to the repetition of such horrific atrocities in the future," Wistrich concludes.