An Iraqi Jew tells his story of Zionist activities 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.
Article by 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.
I was an Iraqi Jew in the Zionist underground. My Iraqi jailers did everything they could to extract the names of my co-conspirators. Fifty years later, pain still throbs in my right toe-a reminder of the day my captors used pliers to remove my toenails. On another occasion, they hauled me to the flat roof of the prison, stripped me bare on a frigid January day, then threw a bucket of cold water over me. I was left there, chained to the railing, for hours. But I never once considered giving them the information they wanted. I was a true believer.
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.