On the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, June 1-2, 1941, the Muslim residents of Baghdad executed a savage anti-Semitic pogrom (known in Arabic as al-Farhoud) against their Jewish neighbors, incited by Palestinian Mufti Amin al-Husseini and Nazi propaganda broadcasts. Hundreds of Jews were murdered and mutilated and thousands were wounded. Jews were killed randomly, women and children were raped in front of their relatives, and babies crushed. Jewish property was plundered; homes, business, places of worship, communal institutions were looted, set ablaze and destroyed. The Farhoud was the beginning of the end of the Jewish population in Iraq. 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.
The Farhoud was not the only anti-Semitic pogrom against Jewish residents of Arab countries, the land their ancestors lived in for over 2,500 years. More than 800,000 Jews lived in Arab countries at the time of Israel’s founding. Virtually all of them fled or were dispossessed and forced out of their homes and businesses after Israel was founded. These Jewish refugees largely found new homes and acceptance into society in Israel and Western countries, but were forced by their Arab oppressors to give up not just their property but also a vital portion of their history, identity, and heritage.
Today, we remember the Jewish victims and refugees of the Farhoud and of similar atrocities carried out by Arab governments purging their societies of vibrant Jewish communities. We condemn the hate and anti-Semitism that inspired these actions, and mourn the associated loss of life, history, and cultural identity. We also celebrate the diversity of life in today’s Israel, whose government accepts its diverse population with open arms, and provides its citizens with legal protections and civil rights. We also note with sadness that Arab governments have kept their refugees in camps in order to use their misery as an instrument of war against Israel.