Iraq 19: The Associated Press now says Iraq forced out its Jews

July 29, 2003

Iraq update 19: AP decides to mention that Iraq forced out its Jews.

This is an update to the previous dispatch "Iraq 17: "99-year-old Iraqi Jew reaches Israel at last"

* Media forgets to mention the ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Jews."

[Note by Tom Gross]

The Associated Press have today updated their story "Six Elderly Iraqi Jews Arrive in Israel" to include the following line about half way through the article: "His sister was one of about 120,000 Jews to flee Iraq after creation of the state of Israel set off a campaign of state-sponsored persecution of Jews in 1949, including public hangings."

AP no longer allows its readers and subscribers (which include most media outlets in the world) to believe that there is no such thing as a Jewish refugee from an Arab country.

The change in their reporting follows criticism by myself and others of AP's previous historical omission. (Several Associated Press staff writers and editors are subscribers to this email list.)

Today's new story, in contrast to the one sent yesterday: --


Six Elderly Iraqi Jews Arrive in Israel
By Ian Deitch
The Associated Press
July 29, 2003

JERUSALEM - Ezra Levy hesitated 51 years ago to come to Israel and missed his chance. This time around, the 82-year-old Iraqi Jew seized the moment and was reunited with his sister after five decades.

Levy is one of six elderly Iraqi Jews brought to Israel in a secretive weekend airlift.

On Monday, he visited Jerusalem's Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, speaking Hebrew - a language he says he last used in 1926, when he studied the holy tongue in the first grade.

"I am a Jew," Levy said in halting Hebrew next to the ancient site, a retaining wall of the ancient Temple Mount, where the biblical Temples stood. "I feel very happy and privileged that I am at this place," he said.

The arrival of the six captured the imagination of Israelis and put a human face on the war in Iraq. In the 1991 Gulf war, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel. Israelis were instructed to carry gas mask kits throughout the recent conflict.

Israeli newspapers carried large color pictures of the six reunited with relatives after decades apart. They included a 99-year-old woman and her 70-year-old daughter. A blind 90-year old Baghdad resident was also on the flight to Israel.

A front-page picture in the Haaretz daily showed Levy, his thin cheeks adorned with gray stubble, being kissed by his sister, Dina, and sister-in law - one on each cheek - after he arrived at Israel's airport.

His sister was one of about 120,000 Jews to flee Iraq after creation of the state of Israel set off a campaign of state-sponsored persecution of Jews in 1949, including public hangings.

Levy recalled that he thought about joining his sister then but thought too long. "By the time I made the decision," he told The Associated Press. "it was too late - we were prohibited from leaving." Asked what it was like under Saddam, Levy gave a derisive snort.

Days after the Saddam regime was toppled, an Israeli emissary was on his way to Baghdad to check into the condition of the Jews there.

Jeff Kaye, who made the trip for the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental body that deals with Jewish immigration to Israel, said he found 34 Jews, most of them elderly, in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.

Only six were prepared to make the move to Israel. The others were hesitant to leave the only home they knew or wanted more time to decide. He supplied them with religious items unavailable in Iraq since the 1950s.

Besides the fact that the six were flown to Israel direct from Iraq, other details of the mission are being kept secret.

The Jewish Agency and HIAS, a U.S.-based aid group, organized the charter flight from Baghdad to Tel Aviv.

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.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.