"A State of seven hundred, eight hundred thousand Jews cannot be the climax of a vigil kept unbroken through generations and down the patient centuries... No! So empty a State would be little justified, for it would not change the destiny of Jewry, or fulfill our historic covenant. The duty of the State is to end Galut [exile of the Jews] at last. Perhaps our generation will not live to see a homecoming from the New World, or from Russia in the Old World, but, when the war is over and the State made strong, what let or hindrance will deny us early sight of the ending of the Diaspora in Moslem lands of North Africa and the Middle East, and in Western Europe no less!"
David Ben Gurion, 13/8/48 (Cited in his book, Rebirth & Destiny of Israel, 1954, pp 276-277)
Could Nassir Sharhoom be onto something here?: "A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country's security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them. The flight - involving thousands of residents from Baghdad and Mosul, in particular - followed an October 31 siege at a church in Baghdad that killed 51 worshippers and two priests and a subsequent series of bombings and assassinations singling out Christians... Those who fled the latest violence - many in a panicked rush, with only the possessions they could pack in cars - warned the new violence presages the demise of the faith in Iraq. Several evoked the mass departure of Iraq's Jews after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. 'It's exactly what happened to the Jews', said Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, with his family from Dora, a once-mixed neighbourhood in Baghdad. 'They want us all to go'." (Iraqi Christians flee violence, New York Times/ Sydney Morning Herald, 18/12/10)
If Nassir's correct, and what is happening to Iraqi Christians is exactly what happened to Iraqi Jews after 1948, then it's Zionist operatives who are behind this current exodus.
So what exactly happened to Iraqi Jews in the years immediately following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948? The incredible story of the dark force responsible for ending, to use Ben-Gurion's euphemism for 'uprooting', Iraqi Jewry is told by British historian David Hirst in his first-rate history of the Palestine problem, The Gun & the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East (1977). I present it here in abridged form:
"It was the last day of Passover, April 1950. In Baghdad, the Jews had spent it strolling along the banks of the Tigris in celebration of the Sea Song. This was an old custom of the oldest Jewish community in the world; the 130,000 Jews of Iraq attributed their origins to Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile. A good 50,000 of them thronged the esplanade. By nine o'clock in the evening the crowds were thinning out. But on Abu Nawwas street young Jewish intellectuals were still gathered in the Dar al-Beida coffee-shop.
"Suddenly, the convivial atmosphere was shattered by an explosion. A small bomb, hurled from a passing car, had gone off on the pavement just outside. By chance no one was hurt. But the incident shook the Jewish community. They were convinced that Iraqi extremists wanted to kill them. The fainter-hearted began to murmur 'it is better to go to Israel'. The next day there was a rush to the offices where Jews wishing to renounce their Iraqi citizenship had to present themselves for registration. Their right to emigrate had been officially acknowledged by the government on the feast of Purim a month before. Its object was to prevent emigration by illegal means... In all, about 10,000 Jews signed up to leave after the bomb; the big Ezra Daud synagogue had to be set aside as a registration office... The panic did not last very long, however, and registration tapered off...
"Then there was another explosion. This time it was at the US Information Centre, where many young Jews used to come and read. Again the theory was that an extremist Iraqi organization had planted the bomb, which only by chance failed to hurt anyone. Once again, therefore, there was a rush on the Ezra Daud synagogue; only this time the panic - and the number of would-be emigrants - was less than before. The year ended, and March 1951, the time-limit set for the renunciation of citizenship, was approaching.
"The third time there were victims. It happened outside the Mas'uda Shemtov synagogue... That day in January the synagogue was full of Kurdish Jews from the northern city of Suleimaniyyah. Outside a Jewish boy was distributing sweetmeats to curious onlookers. When the bomb went off he was killed instantly and a man standing behind him was badly wounded in the eyes.
"And this time there was no longer any doubt in Jews' minds: an anti-Jewish organization was plotting against them. Better to leave Iraq while there was still time. The queues lengthened outside the Ezra Daud synagogue... A few days later the Iraqi parliament passed a law confiscating the property of all Jews who renounced their citizenship... The planes started arriving at a rate of 3 or 4 a day. At first the emigrants were flown to Nicosia accompanied by an Iraqi police officer. But after a while even that make-believe was dropped and they went directly to Israel's Lydda airport - the police officer returning alone in the empty plane. Before long all that was left of the 130,000, abandoning home, property and an ancient heritage, was a mere 5,000 souls.
"It was not long before a bombshell of a different kind hit the pathetic remnants of Iraqi Jewry. They learned that the 3 explosions were the work not of Arab extremists, but of the very people who sought to rescue them; of a clandestine organization called 'The Movement', whose leader, 'commander of the Jewish ghettoes [!] in Iraq', had received this letter from Yigal Allon, chief of the Palmach commandos, and subsequently Foreign Minister of Israel: 'Ramadan my brother... I was very satisfied in learning that you have succeeded in starting a group and that we were able to transfer at least some of the weapons intended for you. It is depressing to think that Jews may once again be slaughtered, our girls raped, that our nation's honour may again be smirched... should disturbances break out, you will be able to enlarge the choice of defenders and co-opt Jews who have as yet not been organized as members of the Underground. But be warned lest you do this prematurely, thereby endangering the security of your units which are, in fact, the only defence against a terrible pogrom'.
"The astonishing truth - that the bombs which terrorized the Jewish community had been Zionist bombs - was revealed when, in the summer of 1950, an elegantly dressed man entered Uruzdi Beg, the largest general store in Baghdad. One of the salesmen, a Palestinian refugee, turned white when he saw him. He left the counter and ran out into the street, where he told two policemen: 'I recognize the face of an Israeli'. He had been a coffee-boy in Acre, and he knew Yehudah Tajjar from there. Arrested, Tajjar confessed that he was indeed an Israeli, but explained that he had come to Baghdad to marry an Iraqi Jewish girl. His revelations led to more arrests, some 15 in all. Shalom Salih, a youngster in charge of Haganah arms caches, broke down during interrogation and took the police from synagogue to synagogue, showing them where the weapons, smuggled in since World War II, were hidden. During the trial, the prosecution charged that the accused were members of the Zionist underground. Their primary aim - to which the throwing of the three bombs had so devastatingly contributed - was to frighten the Jews into emigrating as soon as possible. Two were sentenced to death, the rest to long prison terms.
"It was Tajjar himself who first broke Jewish silence about this affair. Sentenced by the Baghdad court to life imprisonment, he was released after ten years and found his way to Israel. On 29 May 1966 the campaigning weekly magazine Ha'olam Hazeh published an account of the emigration of Iraqi Jews based on Tajjar's testimony. Then on 9 November 1972, the Black Panther, militant voice of Israel's Oriental Jews, published the full story...
"When Ben-Gurion made his impassioned pleas for immigrants to people of the new-born state of Israel, he was addressing European Jews (from both the New and the Old Worlds) in particular. Not only had European jury founded Zionism, it was the main source of that high- quality manpower, armed with the technical skills, the social and cultural attitudes which Israel needed. But with the Holocaust over, the source was tending to dry up. So the Zionists decided that 'Oriental' Jewry must be 'ingathered' as well. It is often forgotten that the safeguard clause of the Balfour Declaration - 'it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the exisiting non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in other countries - was designed to cover Diaspora Jews as well as native Arabs. But the uprooting of a million 'Oriental' Jews showed that, for the Zionists, it was a clause to be ignored in both its parts. Everywhere they applied the same essential techniques, but nowhere perhaps, with such thoroughness as they did in Iraq. 'Cruel Zionism', someone called it." (pp 155-160)