Note to Jon Snow: The Jews fled Iraq decades before the 2003 US invasion

The expulsion of Iraq's Jews occurred due to the rise of Arab nationalism and annihilationist antisemitism in the 40s, 50s and 60s. To suggest, as Snow did, that Jewish life in the country ended as the result of the US-led invasion is completely anti-historical.

Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow has been roundly criticized for the following tweet about former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, who died last week in an Iraqi prison.

Former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz has died in jail: Nice guy in a nasty situation – made no better by Bush/BLair’s Shock and Awe

— Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4) June 5, 2015

Aziz was sentenced to death for his role as a senior member – and the token Assyrian Christian – of a regime which murdered hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. He was a loyal defender of Saddam Hussein until he was overthrown during the Second Gulf War. Nonetheless, Snow defended his comments about Aziz, telling The Independent:

“I think he was made the fall guy by the West. It’s a long time ago. He’s been in prison for a long time. There were plenty of people who needed to go to prison in that regime. He was one of the only ones who were picked off.”

“I just described him as a nice guy. It’s an absolute tragic morass in which everybody has behaved badly. What was the idea of going in and smashing that place? It meant Christians couldn’t stay. It meant Jews couldn’t stay.

Note to Snow:  The flight of Iraq’s Jews occurred more than fifty years prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In the 1930s, Iraq’s Jewish population numbered nearly 150,000.  However, from 1949 to 1951, 120,000 of Iraq’s Jews left or were evacuated in Israeli Operations Ezra & Nechemia following the end of the British Mandate, when the 2,700-year-old community suffered horrible persecution – including Nuremberg-style legislation stripping Jews of their citizenship and their property.   

The Baath regime enacted more anti-Jewish measures and embarked on a reign of terror against the 3,000 remaining  Jews in 1968.  Following the Six Day War, antisemitic persecution was at its worst, as eleven Jews were publicly hanged after show trials, while 40 others died as the result of torture and imprisonment – all acts of ‘revenge’ for Israel’s stunning victory over the Arabs.

Most of the Jews who remained in Iraq following this period of persecution were smuggled out illegally in the 1970s.  By 2003, when the Allied invasion began, there were only 34 Jews left in Iraq.  Today, there are believed to be 5 Jews remaining.

The expulsion of Iraq’s Jews occurred due to the rise of Arab nationalism and Nazi-style antisemitism in the 40s.  To suggest, as Snow did, that Jewish life in the country ended as the result of the US-led invasion is completely ahistorical.

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