HonestReporting.com | August 1, 2003
While the Palestinian and Israel Prime Ministers visit Washington to pursue high-level diplomatic discussions, a simple yet extraordinary humanitarian event occurred in the Mideast on Friday. Six elderly Iraqi Jews — remainders of what was once a vibrant and ancient community — were flown to safety in Israel, reuniting with long-lost family.
The touching event was broadly covered by Western media, but when addressing the historical background of this story, the news outlets were remarkably vague:
— Associated Press: “Iraq once had a community of 130,000 Jews, but about 120,000 made their way to Israel between 1949 and 1952, with smaller numbers of Jews leaving the country in subsequent years.”
— Reuters: “More than 129,000 Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel after its establishment in 1948.”
— New York Times: “Friday’s charter was believed to have been the first direct flight between the countries since an airlift in 1950- 51 that brought thousands of Iraqi Jews to Israel.”
Absent from these reports is the reason why 99% of the Iraqi Jewish community departed following Israel’s independence — they (like Jews in Syria, Libya, Egypt and other Arab nations) were systematically expelled by the Iraqi government. Iraqi legislation in 1948-51 first outlawed Zionist “behavior,” then deprived Jews of their Iraqi nationality, access to education, and finally, of all their property. President Truman helped organize a massive airlift in 1951 to bring the desperate Iraqi Jewish community to Israel.
It is a glaring case of selective omission that these articles profile the remnants of the Iraqi Jewish community — yet fail to mention these key historic facts. The same media outlets that typically describe Palestinian refugees as having been “driven out” or “evicted” in 1948 are curiously silent when describing the genuine persecutory context of Jewish refugees.