Scholar Avi Shlaim says he has ‘proof of Zionist involvement’ in 1950s attack on Iraqi Jews

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 17, 2023

British-Israeli historian claims in new memoir that Mossad carried out bombings to drive Jews out of Iraq and hasten their transfer to Israel.

British-Israeli historian Avi Shlaim has claimed in his new book to have uncovered “undeniable proof” of Israeli involvement in attacks on Jewish communities in Iraq in the early 1950s.

Shlaim’s autobiography, Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew, which details his childhood as an Iraqi Jew and subsequent exile to Israel, was published last week.

According to a review of the memoir printed on Saturday in the Spectator magazine, Shlaim unveils in his book “undeniable proof of Zionist involvement in the terrorist attacks” which prompted a mass exodus of Jews from Iraq between 1950 and 1951.

The historian concluded, after extensive personal research, that while a grenade assault on the Masuda Shemtov synagogue in Baghdad – which killed four Jews in January 1951 – was carried out by an Arab, other bombings were allegedly the work of Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. 

These were carried out to quicken the transfer of 110,000 Jews in Iraq to the then-newly created state of Israel, he said. 

Middle East Eye has reached out to Shlaim for comment. 

Over 800,000 Jews either left or were expelled from countries in the Middle East and North Africa between 1948 and the early 1980s. The majority of them settled in Israel. 

As of 2005, 61 percent of Israeli Jews were of full or partial Mizrahi ancestry – the sociological term coined to refer to Jews from the region following the creation of Israel. 

Family fled Iraq

In his book, Shlaim describes how he was one of those who fled violence in the region. 

Born in 1945 in Baghdad, his parents were well-connected and well-to-do members of Iraq’s millennia-old Jewish minority. 

But at the age of five, Shlaim was forced to flee with his family following the bombings targeting Jews in the Iraqi capital. 

The attacks came less than two years after the ethnic cleansing that took place in what Palestinians call the Nakba (catastrophe), which led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. 

Zionist forces killed 13,000 Palestinians, destroyed and depopulated around 530 villages and towns, committed at least 30 massacres, and expelled 750,000 people during the Nakba. 

More than 6,000 Israeli Jews, including 4,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilians, were killed, as well as around 2,000 troops from Arab countries. 

Shlaim states in the book that Iraqi Jews did not face antisemitism until the 1940s, when they were suspected of being complicit in the British invasion of Iraq in 1941 and in the Nakba.

He adds that the Zionist project led to Jews from all across Arab countries going from respected fellow citizens to akin to a fifth column allied with the new Jewish state. 

Shlaim discusses how Jews, like himself, who originated from the region faced discrimination from Ashkenazi Jews, who came from Europe. 

Mizrahi Israelis remain among some of the poorest communities in Israel, living in developing towns and underprivileged neighbourhoods.

Shlaim, who is emeritus professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, later migrated to the United Kingdom as a teenager, returning to Israel temporarily to complete military service.


‘Undeniable proof’ uncovered that Zionist agents targeted Jews in Iraq

Middle East Monitor  /  June 19, 2023

A distinguished Israeli-British historian and Emeritus Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford has uncovered “undeniable proof” that Zionist agents were responsible for targeting the Jewish community in Iraq, pushing them to flee and settle in Israel. Professor[emeritus] Avi Shlaim has made the claim in his autobiography, which details his childhood as an Iraqi Jew and subsequent exile in Israel. Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew was published last week. A review of the memoir appeared on Saturday in the Spectator magazine, detailing Shlaim’s shocking claim.

Why Arab Jews left Iraq and other countries in the Middle East to move to Israel after more than 2,000 years of living in relative peace and harmony with their Arab Muslim neighbours has been a controversial issue for decades. Events surrounding the creation of the Zionist state of Israel sparked an influx of Jews to historic Palestine. A combination of pull factors such as the belief in the notion of the “ingathering of the exiles” and “making aliyah” accounted for the migration of many Arab Jews.

Israel and supporters of the apartheid state, however, insist that it was the persecution of Arab Jews that pushed them out of their countries of birth. It is a claim that has long been contested. Israel carried out several false flag operations in the Middle East to “persuade” Jews to move to the new state. The most infamous of these was the “Lavon Affair”, during which Egyptian Jews were recruited by Israeli military intelligence to plant bombs inside British and American civilian targets, including churches and libraries.

From 1950 through to 1951 Israeli spy agency Mossad is also said to have orchestrated five bomb attacks on Jewish targets in an operation known as Ali Baba, to drum up fear amongst and hostility towards Iraqi Jews. As the mood darkened, more than 120,000 Jews — 95 per cent of the Jewish population in Iraq — left for Israel via an airlift known as Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.

While the role of Mossad is underplayed by Israel, Shlaim’s account disputes this view. The Oxford professor was born in Baghdad in 1945 and belonged to a prosperous and distinguished Jewish family that enjoyed a comfortable life in the city. According to his memoir, their lives took a drastic turn for the worse when a series of bombings rocked the Iraqi Jewish community in 1950. Faced with increasing danger, Shlaim’s family made the difficult decision to flee to Israel, leaving behind their luxurious lifestyle and struggling to adapt to a new and diminished existence.

Shlaim contends that the Zionist project dealt a severe blow to the position of Jews in Arab lands. In the memoir he argues that the Eurocentric Zionist movement and the state of Israel intensified divisions between Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, Hebrew and Arabic, and Judaism and Islam.

Furthermore, divisive pro-Israel forces worked actively to erase what Shlaim describes as an ancient heritage of “pluralism, religious tolerance, cosmopolitanism and coexistence. Above all, Zionism has discouraged us from seeing each other as fellow human beings.”

Shlaim discusses how Mizrahi Jews, like himself, who originated in the Middle East, faced discrimination from Ashkenazi Jews, who came from Europe. Mizrahi Israelis remain among some of the poorest communities in Israel, living in developing towns and underprivileged neighbourhoods.