Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 2, 2005

Jews and the Iraqi elections

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:03 am

This isn’t a big enough story to affect the election results, but I found it fascinating. For 2,500 years (since the Babylonian exile began), there was a substantial Jewish community in what is now Iraq, a community that pre-dates the founding of Islam by more than 1,000 years. At least two of the books of the Jewish Bible (Esther and Daniel) describe events that take place mainly in what’s now Iraq.

By World War I, Jews made up one-third of Baghdad’s population. By the mid-1940s, there were 130,000 Jews living in Iraq. But between 1947 and 1951, all but about 7,000 of them fled or were expelled (depending on your point of view), usually leaving with no more than the clothes on their backs and a special passport known as laissez-passez, which specified that they were renouncing their citizenship and exiting the country without the right ever to return. In 1952, Jews who remained were forbidden to leave the country, and Nazi-like restrictions were imposed on their economic activities. By 1968, when then-future-President Saddam Hussein formed a secret police, there were 3,500 Jews left, and Saddam assigned someone to follow each of them. By 2003, it was estimated that only 100 Jews remained in Iraq, the rest having died, escaped, or been killed.

You have probably heard about all the overseas voting centers — five of them in the U.S. — set up to allow Iraqis living in foreign countries to vote in this pas Sunday’s election. This is the result of the decision by the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq to allow every Iraqi-born adult, or child of an Iraqi-born parent over age 18 to vote, regardless of sex, religion or nationality — and perhaps by accident, perhaps not, this includes Jews who were born in Iraq prior to the 1951 expulsion, and their children.

Here is the story of one Iraqi-born Jew who voted in the U.S.

And here is the — to me, far more fascinating — story of an Israeli who voted at a voting center in Jordan, using his Israeli passport as ID. He reports that he was received quite warmly by the staff at the voting center. Perhaps this is a good sign for the future of the Middle East?

(Hat tip: Arthur Chrenkoff.)

One Response to “Jews and the Iraqi elections”

  1. mrsfish Says:

    Interesting on many levels. Thank you.

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