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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

British Troops Told to Stand Aside as Arab Nazi Sympathizers Massacre Jews in Bagdad, 1941, on Shavu`ot שבועות

In the spring of 1941, the Iraqi government led by Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, started a war against British bases in the country, which were there by treaty between the two governments. This was preceded by a several years of Nazi and pro-Nazi propaganda and agitation in Iraq, much of it conducted by Haj Amin el-Husseini [al-Husayni], the Mufti of Jerusalem, appointed by the British in 1921. Husseini left Israel for Lebanon to avoid arrest for terrorism-related activities in 1938. He was well-treated in Lebanon by the French, but later left for Iraq where he conducted pro-Nazi propaganda, in cooperation with German diplomats in Iraq, particularly Fritz Grobba.

The Iraqi government received weapons aid from the Germans and Vichy French [Khadduri, pp 194-200], but the British won the war, with the help of Transjordanian forces and Jewish forces from Israel, including David Raziel, founder of the Irgun Ts'va'i Le'umi, killed in the fighting. Then when the British marched on Baghdad, Husseini fled to Teheran and from there to the Nazi-fascist domain in Europe where he settled near Berlin, running a pro-Nazi institute for imams from the occupied countries, making pro-Nazi broadcasts to the Arab world that, among other things, called for killing Jews "Wherever you find them." He also found time to recruit Bosnian Muslims for an SS division, the Handschar.

As the British troops camped outside Baghdad, a pogrom began against Jews in the city on the Shavu`ot holiday. An estimated 600 Jews were murdered in the pogrom [according to Elie Kedourie]. Jewish homes were looted by Muslim thugs. The British troops did not intervene.
This is Majid Khadduri's very brief account of the pogrom:
. . . those extreme elements who regretted the collapse of the Rashid Ali regime gave free vent to their feelings by making the Jewish community in Baghdad the scapegoat for their failure, and pillaged shops on 2 June. The Committee of Internal Security was unfortunately unware of this secret move and made no preparations after the armistice to meet such a possible outburst. The Regent [pro-British], to stop disorder, immediately called upon Jamil al-Midfa'i. . . to form a new Government. Midfa'i appealed to the patriotism of the people, and . . . was able to appease the country and restore order. [Majid Khadduri, Independent Iraq (London: Oxford Univ. Press 1951), pp 203-204]
Khadduri mentions the attacks on the Jews only once directly and once indirectly by quoting a speech that Midfa'i made which refers to the attacks on the Jews only by implication. Neither Khadduri nor the speech by Midfa'i mention the murders of Jews. Nor does Khadduri mention the participation by police and troops in the pogrom. Khadduri held respected university positions in the United States. His omission of Jews being killed and the participation by the forces of order, shows the respect for truth of Arab historiography.

Khadduri glided over the murder of 600 Jews [another authority claims it was only 180 Jews murdered] without a mention, although one may infer from reading between the lines that some Jews were murdered. Khadduri was franker when talking about the Assyrian massacre.
He does not deal at all with the fact that the British stayed camped outside the city while the massacre was going on for two days. Khadduri also would have us believe that Midfa'i's appeal stopped the pogrom, rather than the eventual intervention by the British after several days of massacre.

Here are observations by a British political agent in Iraq, Freya Stark, about that period. First she expresses her contempt for her Jewish servants:
Lengthy argument with my four Jewish sweepers who, trampled on by all, cling to Religion which forbids them to eat animal fats. They were convinced that ghee is mutton. With difficulty I get them to accept 'Spry' out a tin instead, staking my soul that it is only coconut.
Here she gets to the days after the fall of the Rashid Ali al-Gaylani government and the pogrom against the Jews, often called the Farhud:
2 June 1941. . . we [= British in the city] kept well in the background. . . and now we have a night of snapping rifles, police posts doubled, Jews murdered (reports vary between a dozen and five hundred, and Abdullah Ezra [a Jew] says he was 'wading in blood' up Ghazi Street). The shooting is getting momentarily stronger. . . [according to "Pat"] there is looting all down Rashid Street, chiefly by army and police taking a rake-off. [Freya Stark, Dust in the Lion's Paw (New York: Harcourt Brace & World 1962), pp 114-115]
8 p.m. The riot has died down. Curfew at five and everyone showing is shot. I brought Hussain, the policeman, in to tea and he said they had been told to fire real stuff and killed sixty or seventy in the afternoon. New Street from the air looks as if strewn with confetti, the loot lying out in the street. Number of killed will never be know: a family of three came in today - had seen two dead Jews in the street and their own house gutted. Reports say the police were helping to loot yesterday. [p 115]
3 June 1941. . . Pat came back with grave accusations of police helping the looters. [p 116]
A pathetic visit from a Jew pedlar [How respectful!!] with a pack of silks to sell for other merchants; all his house and shop looted in May, so he begins the world again - the indomitable, impressive side of the Jew [p 127]
This massacre, the Farhud, took place on Shavu`ot 65 years ago, in 1941, on June 1 and 2. British troops were not permitted to intervene to stop the pogrom. We will have more to say about this event in soon upcoming posts.
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Coming: more on the Farhud, more on BBC and British collaboration in the Holocaust [including the Farhud], more on Jews in Jerusalem and Hebron in the 19th century, etc.

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