Today's un-recommendation: Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour. The story of a young Palestinian Christian boy expelled from his home by the Zionists, and how he brought himself to love Jews anyway. A sad story? Yes. A bad book? Also yes.
Is it the fact that well-meaning Christians are constantly recommending this book to people who just "want to know more" about the Israel-Palestinian conflict? Is it the fact that you will learn almost nothing about the history and contours of that conflict by reading it? Is it the fawning foreword by James Baker, an architect of the U.S.' 24-year-long war on Iraq, which has to date claimed roughly twelve times as many lives as the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
It is all of those things. But most of all, it is this passage, from pp. 132-133, in which he calls the destruction of Iraq's ancient Jewish community a Zionist plot.
In the years following the declaration of the State of Israel, its government needed desperately to flood the new land with settlers. ...Something had to be done. ...the Jewish community in Iraq, for instance, became the victim of 'anti-Semitic' violence of suspicious origin. On the last evening of Passover in April 1950, some 50,000 Jewish people, celebrating an ancient tradition, were enjoying a stroll along the Tigris River in Baghdad. ...Out of the darkness a car sped along the river esplanade and a small bomb was hurled, exploding on the pavement.
Though no one was hurt, shock-waves of fear rocked the Jewish community. Rumors of uncertain origin spread: A new, fanatic Arab group was planning a Jewish pogrom. It seemed unreasonable to many, since Jews had lived undisturbed in Iraq for a long time. But leaflets appeared mysteriously the very next day urging Jews to flee to Israel - and ten thousand signed up for emigration immediately. Where had the leaflets come from? How had they appeared so instantly?
The mystery was forgotten when a second bomb exploded - then a third, killing several people outside a synagogue. The rumors flew. By early 1951, Jews fled Iraq in panic, abandoning homes, property and an ancient heritage until only five thousand remained in the country.
Some fifteen people were arrested in connection with the bombing - and the remnant of the Jewish community was outraged. The Haganah [Jewish military], it was discovered, had smuggled arms caches into Iraq and it was they who had thrown the bombs at their own Jewish people.
I don't care how many times Chacour says that he's "forgiven" the Jews. THAT, my friends, is anti-Semitic hate speech. It is also 100% false. It barely deserves refutation. But here we go anyway.
From the BBC (hardly a pro-Israel source):
On 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom erupted in Baghdad, bringing to an end more than two millennia of peaceful existence for the city's Jewish minority. ...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. ...A red hand sign, or hamsa, had been painted on Jewish homes, to mark them out. Families had to defend themselves by whatever means they could.
...Steven Acre, now 79 and living in Montreal, climbed a palm tree in the courtyard when the violence began. He still remembers the cry "Cutal al yehud" which translates as "slaughter the Jews". The men...crossed the street and screams began to emanate from the house of his mother's best friend.
"Later lots of men came outside and set the house on fire. And the men were shouting like from joy, in jubilation holding up something that looked like a slab of meat in their hands.
"Then I found out, it was a woman's breast they were carrying - they cut her breast off and tortured her before they killed her, my mother's best friend, Sabicha."
Yeah. Not so mysterious.
This happened in 1941 - seven years before the State of Israel was established. You can just imagine how fun it got for the Jews after that.
So why did the Jews only leave in 1950? Because it was only in 1950 that they were allowed to.
In 1950, Jews were finally allowed to leave, on condition they give up all their property and assets, including their bank accounts. By 1952, only 2,000 of 150,000 were left.Today there are seven.
The same thing happened in virtually every other Arab country at this time, except Syria, which didn't formally allow its Jews to leave until the 90s. The vast majority of them found a way to escape anyway.
Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour - don't read it!