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February 14, 2003 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-14

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themselves as "Babylonian Jews," emphasizing
their historical connection to the "Fertile
Crescent," a land dominated at different times by
peoples including the Persians, Greeks, Arabs,
Mongols and Turks. •
As Dabby puts it, "We consider ourselves bibli-
cal Jews. We go back to the slaves that were
brought by Nebuchadnezzer from the destruction
of the First Temple."
From the seventh century to the 11th century,
the region was the center of World Jewry and is
credited with some of the greatest advances in
Jewish history, like the creation of the Babylonian
Talmud, completed between 500 and 700 C.E. It
was home to major Jewish institutions and pre-
eminent scholars. Even in modern times, several
recent chief rabbis of Israel have come from Iraq.
At their modern-day height — the 1940s — the
Iraqi Jewish community numbered 130,000, flour-
ishing in government, commerce, medicine and
the arts. Most of them lived in Baghdad, with the
second-largest population in the port city of Basra.
In the years before World War II, more than half
of Iraq's importers and exporters were Jewish, accord-
ing to Itamar Levin, the author of "Locked Doors:
The Seizure of Jewish Property in Arab Countries."
Through their contacts in trade, some commu
nities of Iraqi Jews settled in countries such as
India, Singapore and Indonesia.
Iraq, which became a nation-state in 1932, also
boasted four major Jewish schools in Baghdad,
which groomed students in English, Arabic,
French and Hebrew.

g Times

With the birth of Israel in 1948 came increased
anti-Semitism and Israel's own Zionist promo-
tional campaign.
State-sponsored persecution forced all but
7,000 of them to flee. Most went to Israel, and
Iraq froze the assets of anyone who went there.
Iraq allowed the Jews to leave due to interna-
tional pressure, the desire to take over Jewish
assets and the sense that the pressure of immigra-
tion on the young Jewish state might force it to
collapse,. according to Levin.
Recently, Israel and the American Sephardi
Federation began collecting claims of assets looted
by Arab states. The goal: to counter Palestinian
claims for lost property during Israel's 1948 War
of Independence.
The claims of Jews for their looted properties
are expected to be used in any future political
negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians.
Now, about 250,000 Jews of Iraqi descent are
spread throughout the world, the bulk of them
living in Israel, according to Nassim.
What's left of the Jewish community in Iraq
prays at a synagogue with no rabbi and celebrates
Jewish holidays discreetly to avoid attention.
"They are often attacked by the media, by
politicians, and are prevented from earning their
livelihoods," according to an internal JDC docu-
ment. "Jews cannot turn to the state for protec-
tion and cannot contact foreign Jewish communi-
ties for assistance."

Preventive Action

Israeli help in planning Iraq war may keep it out of actual fighting.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Persian Gulf War, when Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles
at Israel, Israel and the United States used Patriot
missiles in an attempt to bring the Scuds down.
However, Patriots are designed to protect airbases
either the United States nor Israel wants
and specific landmarks, not full cities, and proved
the Jewish state involved in an anticipated largely ineffective.
war against Iraq. To minimize the chances
The Arrow was crafted with a much broader foot-
of that happening, however, Israel has
print, and is viewed as the only missile that can shoot
become very involved in planning an attack.
down another missile at high altitudes and speeds.
U.S.-Israel coordination becomes ever more cru-
"It's as reliable as anything in the position it's in,
cial after U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's brief- which is not used yet in wartime," said Marvin
ing to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5. The
Feuer, director of defense and strategic issues at the
briefing is seen as the major U.S. effort to convince
American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "The
the international community that Iraqi President
Arrow does what we had hoped the Patriot would
Saddam Hussein is flouting
do in the first war."
weapons inspections and must
Both Israel and the United
be disarmed by force.
States have been impressed with
Powell used audio tapes and
the Arrow's success in test fir-
satellite images to prove that
ings, Feuer said.
Iraq has been hiding weapons
An improved version of the
materials from U.N. inspectors
Patriot missile was tested last
and continues to produce dan-
week in Israel. Israeli and
gerous weapons. He also
American officials say the tests
claimed members of the Al-
were routine, but analysts say
Qaida terrorist network are
the Patriot will be an important
hiding in Iraq.
backup if the Arrow does not
The presentation touched
perform as well as anticipated.
only briefly on Saddam's sup-
Still, analysts say the surest
port for Palestinian terrorists
way to keep Israel safe is to take
and the threat Iraq poses to
out missile bases in Iraq's west-
Israel. "Baghdad trains
ern desert from which Iraq
Palestine Liberation Front
could attack Israel. Iraq is
members in small arms and
believed to have far fewer
explosives," Powell said.
weapons than it did in 1991,
"Saddam uses the Arab
but Pentagon officials say Iraqi
Liberation Front to funnel
missile bases will be targeted in
money to the families of
Israeli soldiers watch the launch of a
the early stages of a war to min-
Palestinian suicide bombers in Patriot missile during joint U.S.-Israeli
imize the possibility that Israel
order to prolong the intifada
maneuvers in the Negev desert Feb. 4.
will be attacked and will feel
(uprising). And it's no secret
Israeli and American forces fired a salvo obligated to respond.
that Saddam's own intelligence of Patriot missiles as part of a joint
"America has made a commit-
service was involved in dozens
exercise, codenamed 'juniper Cobra,"
ment to take out Scud launch-
of attacks or attempted assassi- to test air defenses.
ers in the west within 72 hours"
nations in the 1990s."
of the beginning of a war, said
Both Israel and the United
Tom Neumann, executive direc-
States are trying to minimize reports of their coor-
tor of the Jewish Institute for National Security
dination ahead of any U.S.-led attack on Iraq. But
if the United States does go to war with Iraq,
Still, similar promises in 1991 didn't stop the Iraqi
Israel's fingerprints will be on the battle plans.
Scuds. "We did a very poor job of stopping Scuds, and
The two counties have been spending years coordi-
we learned from it," said Gen. David Grange, who
nating information, developing technology for battle
during the 1991 war worked in Army Special Forces to
in the Middle East and trying to protect Israel from
eliminate Iraq's Scud capabilities. "I believe that intelli-
weapons of mass destruction.
gence and information will be shared in more robust
ways than in 1991."
Neumann said some American military officials
resented the effort to protect Israel during the
The most visible sign of such cooperation is the
Gulf War, viewing it as a diversion from the main
Arrow Missile Program, a joint U.S.-Israeli develop-
battle. Protecting Israel is less of an issue this time
ment to protect Israel from missiles. In the 1991



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