Iraq to Jews: Don’t Come Back!
A draft of the “Bill of Rights” in the forthcoming Constitution of Iraq, as of July 20, 2005, tells Jews who fled Iraq: you are not welcome to return. Jews from Iraq who fled before 1968 are not eligible to obtain Iraqi nationality and citizenship.
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
An earlier draft published in June 30 stated, “Any individual with another nationality (except for Israel) may obtain Iraqi nationality after a period of residency inside the borders of Iraq of not less than ten years for an Arab or twenty years for any other nationality.” The July 20 draft states that Iraqis who lost citizenship after 1968 may regain it, thus still excluding almost all Iraqi Jews, but at least not exclusively.
Before Israel become an independent state in 1948, there were 150,000 Jewish citizens in Iraq. Israelites have lived in Iraq for over 2500 years. In 586 B.C.E., Babylon conquered Judea and brought many Jews to what is now Iraq. Baghdad later became a major center of Jewish thought. During the 1930s and 1940s, Nazi ideology infected the Arab region. In 1941, led by a mufti allied with Nazi Germany, there was a pro-Nazi coup, followed by killing, raping, and looting of Jews. Iraqi Jews call this the “Farhud,” or “violent dispossession.” The British army then came in and squashed the pogrom.
After World War II, the government of Iraq enacted Nazi-like anti-Jewish laws. Most of Iraq’s Jews fled to Israel. In 1952, the Iraqi government prohibited Jews from emigrating. Additional restrictions were placed on Jews in 1963 when the Ba’ath Party came to power. After 1967, Jewish property was confiscated and Jews were executed. Most remaining Jews were allowed to emigrate from Iraq during the 1970s.
This Jew-hating ideology still reigns in Iraq. There is also a concern that if Iraqi Jews are allowed to return and become Iraqi nationals, they will seek to be compensated for their confiscated property. Also, if Iraqis abroad are able to vote in Iraqi elections, Israeli Iraqis would be voting also, and many Iraqi Arabs don’t want foreign Jews voting in their elections.
Muslims, especially Arabs, denounce Israel for not letting Arab Palestinians return to their original places. How, then, can Arabs justify not allowing Jews to return?
In his article “Iraq: What are We Fighting For?” in antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo writes, “national socialism with an Islamic veneer is the guiding principle animating the founders of the new Iraqi state.” It is not enough for Iraq to establish democracy. Iraq needs to be cured of fascism, just as the Germany and Japan were, to a large extent, after World War II. The new Iraqi government seeks acceptance by other Arab states, so of course it cannot recognize the State of Israel until all the other Arab states do. But the Constitution of Iraq should not exclude Jews who fled Iraq from seeking Iraqi nationality. In practice, very few Iraqis would want to return, anyway.
Although the new draft seems to have changed the “except for Israel” language, on July 27, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, noting that Article 1, Section 3 of the draft constitution states that, "Any individual with another nationality (except for Israel) may obtain Iraqi nationality," and Article 4 states that, "Any Iraqi may have more than one nationality as long as the nationality is not Israel."
The new Constitution of Iraq is still being worked on, with a deadline of August 15. Some seek to extend the deadline, but that would also delay the elections and perpetuate the violence. It would be best to stick with the August 15 date, and proceed with the new elections. The flaws of the constitution can be corrected, and momentum towards constitutional rule is important.
The U.S. should use its influence to maximize liberty and equal treatment in the new Constitution of Iraq. But then the constitution and the sovereignty of Iraq should be respected. The U.S. government should proclaim that it does not seek a permanent presence in Iraq. Permanent American military bases in Iraq will keep the country roiling with rebellion. To really stop the insurgency, the U.S. should declare that it will completely leave Iraq when the country has achieved a sustaining democracy capable of defending itself.
Meanwhile, Israelis can perhaps take comfort in Iraq’s exclusion of its former Jews, since that helps to blunt criticism of Israel’s exclusion of former Arab residents.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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