Iraqi Jews can come back, cleric says
JEWS WHO were expelled from Iraq decades ago are welcome to return, the Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has said.
Responding to one of his followers, who asked whether Jews who had been forced out of the country could now return, Mr al-Sadr said: “If their loyalty was to Iraq, they are welcome.”
He added that Jews who wished to return to their homeland could also obtain full citizenship rights, Newsweek reported.
Mr Al-Sadr is an influential Shiite cleric whose Saairun party won the most seats in the Iraqi parliament in the May 2018 elections. He is a nationalist seen as close to Iran and led a militia that opposed the US occupation of Iraq after the 2003 war. He has since entered politics.
The remarks on Iraqi Jews could demonstrate Mr al-Sadr’s increasing willingness to embrace religious diversity in a country that has been associated with a native Jewish population for much of the past 2,500 years.
The increasing successes of the Zionist movement in the 1930s caused the Iraqi Jews’ situation to deteriorate. Around 200 Jews were murdered and over a thousand injured during a pogrom known as the Farhud, or violent dispossession, in 1941.
The vast majority — 95 per cent — of the country’s 125,000 Jews left in the two decades following Israel’s independence in 1948, with the help of the underground Iraqi Zionist movement and an Israeli airlift operation.
Jewish property was seized, bank accounts were frozen and public workers dismissed following the Six Day War in 1967.
The Iraqi government bowed to international pressure in the 1970s and allowed most Jews to leave.
After the 2003 Iraq war, the Jewish Agency tracked down the remaining Iraqi Jews to offer them the opportunity to emigrate to Israel and found only 34. That figure was estimated to be just five in 2013.
Moqtada alSadr arrives for a press conference