21 may 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obituary of Meir Basri & Khadoorie

The loss of Baghdad and your loss

By Rashid AlKhayoun

 

Some weeks ago we saw the loss  of Shaoul Sasson Khadoorie,the son of of the President of the Baghdad Jewish Community,which was followed soon after by the additional loss of the intellectual Meir Basri, the last President of that same Community. The deceased remained loyal to their memories of their sojourn on the shores of the Tigris River. That was the dream of the exiles from a land in which they lived for nearly three thousand years.

Government decrees were passed against employing Jews, and against educating their children. They were also constantly harassed into leaving their homes and their country.

The Government sided with Nazi forces against them, in particular the Istiqlal Party, which culminated in the mayhem pf the Farhood in 1941, when their homes and businesses were looted by the mob. Legislation was passed to strip them of their citizenship. Contrary to the wishes of the public, the national government had the support of the higher Moslem Clergy . The late Mohammad Al Sadr [d.1956] the Prime Minister at the time issued decrees requiring responsible parties to distinguish between Zionists and Iraqui Jews.

The Shiite leader Muhsin Al Hakeem [d.1970] and the Sunni Mufti Najm El Deen Alwaeth [d.1976] issued fatwas against giving assistance to the Iraqui Jews.

The Iraqui Communist Party stood against their harassment  and  promoting the hatred of the Jews, who had formed a committee to fight against Zionism, in 1945.

This was encouraged by the Minister of the Internal Affairs, Saad Saleh [1950]. The committee was later disbanded and its members sent to trial for ostensibly supporting the Balfour Declaration which wanted to " solve the Jewish problem by committing itself to the Zionist ideal which was to be realized at the expense of the Palestinian Arab population. It wanted more than that in its intention to invade all the Arab homeland"

[Al Safi, 'our struggle against Zionism'].

The leaders of the Iraqui Jewish Community said to the representative of the British Governor who gave them the 'good' news of the Balfour declaration [1917]. " Our country is this land. We have lived in it for thousands of years. We have benefited from it and enjoyed its resources. If you wish to help this land, and to revive its economy and to help its finances, then you should not promote the emigration of the Iraqui Jewish Community. The Sharq Al Awsat periodical of 17 elul 1999 described them as ' a strong foreign, Zionist and Iraqui force.'

After their emigration, their property was frozen, and Palestinian refugees were allowed to use the abandoned Jewish homes, which was managed by Meir Basri in order to help them. He fulfilled his duty by continuing the supply of water and electricity to these homes. Is spite of all that happened, his position remained secure.

To show again the difference of the Iraqui Jews, some of them displayed the picture of the Palestinian actor Naji aL Ali in their offices in London to emphasize that not all Jews are Zionists.

The real beneficiary of the expulsion of the Jews of Iraq was Zionism itself, which used the opportunity to destabilize the Jewish Community. When the Mufti of Jerusalem, Al Haj Amin Al Husseini [d.1975] stated that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' at the wrong occason as he got involved with Palestinian and Syrian teachers in Baghdad, and encouraging the robbing of Jews and promoted their hatred [reminders of  the 1941fiasco].

Meir Basri [95] and Shaul Khadoorie [91] tried to prevent calamities by staying in their respective positions in Baghdad, which they did  into the seventies, but calamities descended on them by the hanging of Jewish detainees in public in Baghdad, on which occasion the periodical Al Thawra published the heading 'Execution of a new batch of spies, and hanging their  bodies in Independence Square' [21  Shbat 1969] . The group included Jews, Christians and Moslems.

Two were imprisoned, Shaul Naji in the Nihaya Palace, and Meir Basri in the directorate of Public Security. The lawyer Anwar Shaul tried to get Basri freed by calling on the help of a friend, Mustapha Jawad, who did not acknowledge the friendship in such stressful times.

The secretary of the Minister of Internal Affairs at the time, sent a few lines to the Minister Saleh Mahdi Ammash [d.1985] about the friend of his brother, Anwar Shaul [d 1984] saying:

If you got a daughter-in-law from the Mussawi {Jews}

The shadow remains in the religion of Muhammad

The generosity of Islam was my refuge

The eloquence of the Kur'an was my resource

My love for the nation of Ahmad

You worship in the religion of the universe

Must continue the loyalty of the Samaw'al

I was pleased with Baghdad, or I was not pleased.

Al Samw'al [6th century AD] a Jewish poet, sacrified his son to keep his word, and he became famous for his poetry, which included the well know stanza:'If a person is not soiled by blame, then everything he wears is beautiful'.

The poem was published, on the orders  of the Minister of Internal Affairs, in the Iraqui periodical "Al Jumhuriyah" [19

Shbat 1969], and he ordered the release of Meir Basri, except that a Lebanese periodical published the story but changed "acted on my Faith" to 'Evil is my Faith'{Shaul 'the Story of my Life'].

We will never know why the Republican Authorities asked for the garments of the Hakam Sassoon Khadoorie after his death.[1971]which were delivered by his grandson, Zuhair Shaul, Contrary to tradition, in the era of the Baath Party.

The day of the funeral of the Hakham was well attended in Baghdad, which was probably done to improve the local image

in the world, after the hangings and the expulsions.

After the death of King Faisal l, the general attitude towards the Jews of Iraq deteriorated, until this attitude was reversed by Abd AlKarim Kassem who was an Iraqui  free from racial and religious hatreds, who revoked all discriminatory decrees, including the loss of citizenship imposed upon the Jews, at which Meir Basri said "the Jews can enjoy all their religious and other rights [From the shores of the Tigris to those of the Thames].

Discrimination returned after power was assumed by Abd Al Salam Aref and the Baath Party.

There were not many Fatwas against the Jews of Baghad, who lived a comfortable life in a mixed society. A neighbour did not inquire about the religious affiliation of his neighbour. The jews worked in all fields, including the army and the police, including the ministerial level.

Thanks to them Iraq benefited, when the Minister of Finance Sassoon Heskel [d.1932] insisted that Iraq retaines a position of partner in the development of its petroleum resources, and the royalties were to be paid in gold bullion,.which established a stable income to the country. Israel benefited from their immigration.

Al Masoudi remembered that the Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb relied on an ancestor of Basri and Khadouri whom he sent on a mission to the exterior of the country,and said 'he was a Jew of golden value'.

Moslem Iraquis, among them turbained gentlemen, resident in Lndon came to pay respect to Basri, and quoted Arabic sayings, a language that continued to be used by Basri,Khadoorie, Nakkash, Sumaikh, Paulus and others.

Moslems were present under appreciative looks of men and women. All these memories reminded people of the saying of Jamil Sudki Al Zahawi [d 1936]

"The Christians and the Jews lived in the area, and the Moslems, and they were all brothers."

 

 

A remark was made by a reader [durgham] that said : "This a story full of the Iraqui spirit".

 

Your Comments

 

Thu, 25 May 2006 07:07:11 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)

From: "Naim S. Mahlab" <nsm@videotron.ca> 

   

I sent this article to a friend of mine who lives in London. He informs me that he attended the funerals and was gratified to

see the large number of Iraqui Moslems who were present.

This is an indication that some of the old friendships that existed between the different religious communities in Iraq

has survived the irrational behaviour of this century.

I sincerely hope that this may augur well for the future.

Naim S. Mahlab

Montreal.