A distinguished Israeli-British historian and Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford has uncovered “undeniable proof” that Zionist agents were responsible for targeting the Jewish community in Iraq, pushing them to flee and settle in Israel. Prof. Avi Shlaim has made the claim in his autobiography, which details his childhood as an Iraqi Jew and subsequent exile in Israel. Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew was published last week. A review of the memoir appeared on Saturday in the Spectator magazine, detailing Shlaim’s shocking claim.
Why Arab Jews left Iraq and other countries in the Middle East to move to Israel after more than 2,000 years of living in relative peace and harmony with their Arab Muslim neighbours has been a controversial issue for decades. Events surrounding the creation of the Zionist state of Israel sparked an influx of Jews to historic Palestine. A combination of pull factors such as the belief in the notion of the “ingathering of the exiles” and “making aliyah” accounted for the migration of many Arab Jews.
Israel and supporters of the apartheid state, however, insist that it was the persecution of Arab Jews that pushed them out of their countries of birth. It is a claim that has long been contested. Israel carried out several false flag operations in the Middle East to “persuade” Jews to move to the new state. The most infamous of these was the “Lavon Affair”, during which Egyptian Jews were recruited by Israeli military intelligence to plant bombs inside British and American civilian targets, including churches and libraries.
From 1950 through to 1951 Israeli spy agency Mossad is also said to have orchestrated five bomb attacks on Jewish targets in an operation known as Ali Baba, to drum up fear amongst and hostility towards Iraqi Jews. As the mood darkened, more than 120,000 Jews — 95 per cent of the Jewish population in Iraq — left for Israel via an airlift known as Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.
While the role of Mossad is underplayed by Israel, Shlaim’s account disputes this view. The Oxford professor was born in Baghdad in 1945 and belonged to a prosperous and distinguished Jewish family that enjoyed a comfortable life in the city. According to his memoir, their lives took a drastic turn for the worse when a series of bombings rocked the Iraqi Jewish community in 1950. Faced with increasing danger, Shlaim’s family made the difficult decision to flee to Israel, leaving behind their luxurious lifestyle and struggling to adapt to a new and diminished existence.
Shlaim contends that the Zionist project dealt a severe blow to the position of Jews in Arab lands. In the memoir he argues that the Eurocentric Zionist movement and the state of Israel intensified divisions between Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, Hebrew and Arabic, and Judaism and Islam. Furthermore, divisive pro-Israel forces worked actively to erase what Shlaim describes as an ancient heritage of “pluralism, religious tolerance, cosmopolitanism and coexistence. Above all, Zionism has discouraged us from seeing each other as fellow human beings.”
Shlaim discusses how Mizrahi Jews, like himself, who originated in the Middle East, faced discrimination from Ashkenazi Jews, who came from Europe. Mizrahi Israelis remain among some of the poorest communities in Israel, living in developing towns and underprivileged neighbourhoods.