Terrorism and migration: on the mass emigration of Iraqi Jews, 1950–1951

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Abstract

During 1950-1951 approximately 125,000 Jews immigrated to Israel from Iraq, where they had constituted 95% of the Jewish community. The vast number of migrants surprised the governments of Iraq, Israel, and Britain and the Iraqi Jews themselves because this had been an ancient, established, wealthy community, well integrated socially, economically, and culturally into Iraq, its perceived homeland. Moreover, the migrants’ destination, the impoverished young State of Israel, lacked appeal. One explanation for this phenomenon links it with a series of terrorist acts that occurred in Baghdad during 1951-1950, portraying them as an Israeli provocation that sparked panic and mass emigration. Although historical studies based on archival documents from the time refute this claim, it still has supporters among Arab countries, Jews of Iraqi background in Israel and elsewhere, and academics. This article juxtaposes the terrorism narrative with the findings of historical scholarship on the mass migration of Iraqi Jews, in an effort to explain the endurance and lasting influence of this narrative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-152
Number of pages17
JournalMiddle Eastern Studies
Volume58
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022

Keywords

  • Israel and Iraqi Jews
  • Israeli immigration policy
  • Jews of Iraq
  • mass emigration
  • population exchange

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