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June 03, 2011

BBC Covers the Farhoud

Jews in Baghdad before persecution compelled them to leave their homes
iraqi jews.jpg

On June 1, the BBC published an article recalling, in gruesome detail, the massacre of Iraqi Jews that took place 70 years earlier to the day.

The piece is noteworthy. In 2007, CAMERA filed a formal complaint with the BBC after the broadcaster whitewashed mistreatment of the Jewish community in Iraq, describing only a rosy existence for Jews while ignoring the 1941 massacre, known as the Farhoud, and generally downplaying persecution. The BBC online news desk initially refused to amend the article, but later acknowledged that the piece should be changed. The BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, too, upheld CAMERA's complaint and agreed the story "had shortcomings on the facts."

The piece as originally published is part of an all-too-common media trend of pretending, facts be damned, that Jewish citizens of Arab countries were always treated respectfully and as equals.

Hopefully, the more recent piece represents a new willingness to look soberly at Arab persecution of the Middle Eastern Jewish communities, which eventually led to the exile of nearly a million Jewish refugees.

In the article, "Farhud memories: Baghdad's 1941 slaughter of the Jews," reporter Sarah Ehrlich notes that

Thousands of armed Iraqi Muslims were on the rampage, with swords, knives and guns.

The two days of violence that followed have become known as the Farhud (Arabic for "violent dispossession"). It spelt the end for a Jewish community that dated from the time of Babylon. There are contemporary reports of up to 180 people killed, but some sources put the number much higher. The Israeli-based Babylonian Heritage Museum says about another 600 unidentified victims were buried in a mass grave.

"On the first night of Shavuot we usually go to synagogue and stay up all night studying Torah," says Haddad, now a veteran ophthalmologist in New York.

"Suddenly we heard screams, 'Allah Allah!' and shots were fired. We went out to the roof to see what's happening, we saw fires, we saw people on the roofs in the ghetto screaming, begging God to help them."

The violence continued through the night. A red hand sign, or hamsa, had been painted on Jewish homes, to mark them out.

Posted by GI at June 3, 2011 10:39 AM

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