A U.S. diplomatic cable that has been leaked by WikiLeaks sheds light on the fate of Iraq’s Jews, AFP reported Friday.
According to the cable, Baghdad’s Jewish community numbered just eight people in late 2009, having fallen from 20 in 2003.
The cable cites a woman who spoke with a U.S. embassy staff member in October 2009 and who said, “There are now eight remaining members of the Iraqi Jewish community in Baghdad.”
“She stated that the community had numbered 20 persons in 2003, but that the number has declined as a result of old age, emigration, and sectarian violence,” says the cable, adding that the woman, a dentist, was “one of the last remaining Jews in Iraq.”
The dentist said her mother had died in the previous year, while her husband was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in 2005 and was most likely murdered.
She reportedly expressed interest in emigrating to the Netherlands, where two of her brothers lived.
She added that a synagogue and Jewish cemetery in Baghdad have been shut since 2004, and another synagogue in the southern port city of Basra had been turned into a warehouse.
The women was also reportedly asked about Iraqi Jews living abroad returning to visit or re-establishing connections in the country, and “was pessimistic, saying that latent anti-Semitism within Iraqi society would prevent this from happening anytime soon,” according to the cable.
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 1930s, however, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist sentiment was growing strong, under the influence of the rise of Nazi Germany.
On June 1, 1941, a 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.
During the reign of Saddam Hussein’s anti-Semitic Ba’ath party, the once thriving Jewish community in Iraq experienced a further decline.
The Ba'ath party, which took power after a coup in 1968, confiscated Jewish property and imprisoned and attacked Jews. A 1969 public hanging of 14 Iraqis, nine of them Jews, who were falsely accused of spying for Israel, led to the departure of most of the remaining Jews. Most of them were gone by 1970, mostly to Israel and the United States.
Last year it was reported that a collection of rare Jewish books was found by U.S. troops in the basement of an abandoned Iraqi intelligence building.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)