Iraqi Jews before 1948
Adam Ovadia Mansoor writes, with regard to the position of the substantial Iraqi Jewish population before 1948:
‘ I have one minor quibble with your assessment of Iraqi Jews and the cause for their expulsion. I can only relay what my father, who was 16 at the time, told me about this recently. It is true that many Jews maintained a place of high prominence, my family had varied governmental connections extending to the Prime Minister and we lived a life of relative luxury. That didn’t mask the existence of quotas prohibitng Jews from attending medical school or other institutions of higher learning that were not of their own, as well as other restrictions placed on us. But some, like my family who owned the Shamash School, taught non-Jews alike, particularly “blanjou” (accounting), during the evening classes, in programs supported by the Ministry of Finance. But all that came to end not simply because of the Palestinian expulsion; it was illegal for [Iraqi] Jews to own land anywhere in Israel, as it was considered treasonous. Many, like my family, adhered to the law, but some, like family friends, did buy land, and the Jews were victims of collective punishment. The government had no definitive proof of ownership, so therefore everyone was guilty.
‘ My great-uncle Dr. Murad Michael, despite his connections, could not salvage our possessions, and gangs of Shiite from the slums of Baghdad roamed Jewish neighborhoods, taunting Jews by going up to their front doors and asking them when they were leaving and telling them how much they look forward to moving into their homes (this happened to my aunt as well as others my family knew). This followed various previous attacks on my two older uncles during the progroms in the early 40’s, when as you know, the Kurds were brought in to restore order.
‘ I do agree with you that there is no “eternal Arab/Muslim mind” that maintains hatred for Jews. In fact, many of our neighbors in Kushla and Kirrada (I’m guessing on the spelling, forgive me) were Sunni and close friends of my grandmother. To me, it seems as if much of the animosity was as a result of the economic disparity between the oppressed majority Shiite, and the wealthy Jewish/Sunni minority, whom the Shiites distrusted equally. This, coupled with the Israel/Palestine situation, instigated the backlash against the Jews post-1948. I could be way off base, but I just thought I’d throw my two cents in. To me the real shame is that the generation of Iraqi Jews old enough to remember what life was like pre-1948 is slowly dying out, and untrue myths about their lives are replacing the accurate history. Your work has helped me better understand my heritage and I’m grateful to you for it. Please, never let those who seek to silence you win.
Adam Ovadia Mansoor ‘