Zubaidi: No right of Return, Compensation for Iraqi Jews
The Iraqi minister of Housing and Rebuilding, Bayan Baqir al-Zubaidi, denied Wednesday that the current Iraqi governing council had passed laws giving Iraqi Jews the right to return and to reclaim their lost property.
(Until 1948 there was a large Iraqi Jewish community, and in the twentieth century, Baghdad was a third to a half Jewish. Jews were disproportionately well off, and played a multitude of central roles, from novelist to jeweler. After the state of Israel was formed in 1948, Iraqi Jews increasingly became the target of Arab anger because of massacres of Palestinians, razing of villages, and the brutal expulsion of 750,000 or so Palestinians from Palestine by the Israelis. The Israelis have never paid any compensation to the Palestinians for the property usurped from them. It was grossly unfair that the Iraqi Jews were punished for what happened in Palestine; most of them had been uninterested in Zionism and were unconnected to those event. Many felt discriminated against once they went to Israel, which was dominated by Ashkenazim or European Jews)
Al-Zubaidi pointed out that the interim constitution only promises the right of return and of compensation for expropriated property to Iraqis who suffered persecution under the Baath government. (The Jews were chased out of the country in the early 1950s under the monarchy, which lasted until 1958. The Baath did not come to power to stay until 1968). He also suggested that if US soldiers and civilians, with all their security, were not safe in Iraq, then it would be hard for Iraqi-Israeli Jews to wander freely about the country buying up real estate (as is falsely rumored).
Actually, I think Iraqi Jews should have the right to return, and to be compensated for their losses. But I think that right should be negotiated by the UN or the Arab League and should be made dependent on the Palestinians receiving compensation for their losses, and given the same rights with regard to returning to Israel as are offered to Iraqi Jews with regard to Iraq.
Here is part of a transcript of a recent CNN report on Iraqi anti-semitism:
‘ IRAQ UPDATE AND ANTI-SEMITISIM (CNN INTERNATIONAL, 05:30 (GMT+2), MARCH 30, 2004)
REPORTER: A fire-breathing Muslim cleric leads believers in a chorus of ‘Down with Israel.’
In Iraq, hatred of Israel, Zionists and Jews has become more — not less — poisonous since the American occupation. Many Iraqis now see last year’s war as an Israeli-American plot to keep Iraq weak and divide the nation into separate Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish enclaves. Even Iraqi intellectuals believe it.
SAAD JAWAD: Whatever is happening here in Iraq is not in the interest even of the United States — this chaos and instability and security.
In fact it’s in the interest of Israel.
REPORTER: Israel’s assassination of Palestinian Sheikh Ahmad Yassin in Gaza fueled the hatred. And any tragedy like this recent car bomb is suspected of being a Jewish plot on Baghdad’s streets.
DR. OMAR AL-RAWI: They are kill the Muslims. They are destroy the Muslims’ country.
They’re — all the war that happen here in Iraq or in Palestine or anywhere, this is directed and pushed through the Jewish people.
REPORTER: Iraqi newspapers fan the anti-Semitism. One recently published these allegations —
Israel has 560 spies here, some disguised as American soldiers.
200,000 Israeli Jews buying up prime real estate to re-colonize Iraq.
Another claim — that Israel and the United States plan to expand the Jewish state into Iraq.
WOMAN (VIA TRANSLATOR): How can they come back with all the blood on their hands? We know they’re buying houses here . . .
REPORTER: The American experiment in Iraq was not supposed to work like this. A year ago the Bush administration openly envisioned a new, more liberal and tolerant Iraq.
Instead Iraqis seem more xenophobic now. And there are growing fears one possible outcome here might just as easily be an Islamic state as a democracy.
Walter Rodgers, CNN Baghdad.