Israelis operating in Iraq

September 30, 2002


I attach three articles one relating to today's Jewish community of Iraq, and two relating to the alleged activities of Israel in Iraq.

1. "Israelis operating in Iraq." This report, from the "Bahrain Tribune" (September 28, 2002) relies on information from "Jane's Foreign Report". It states that Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit has been ordered into Iraq to find and identify places likely to be used by Iraqi Scud missile launchers against Israeli population centers. Jane's is usually a reliable source of intelligence information, but may not be so in this case.

2. (Israel's recently launched) "Ofek 5 has mapped out Iraqi Scud zone" (Israel Radio, September 29, 2002).

3. "Iraq's Jews, once numerous, dwindle to 38 in Baghdad" (by Michael Freund, Jerusalem Post, September 29, 2002).

There are just 38 Jews left in Baghdad, and a handful in the Kurdish-controlled northern areas of Iraq. 52 of Baghdad's 53 synagogues have been closed. More than one million Muslims are allowed to live and pray freely in Israel, yet it is Israel not Iraq that is accused of "apartheid."

-- Tom Gross



Israelis operating in Iraq
The Bahrain Tribune
September 28, 2002

Israel special forces are operating inside western Iraq, pinpointing locations where Iraqi missile launchers might be positioned, the Jane's Foreign Report newsletter said in its latest issue, received yesterday.

The newsletter said the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit was ordered into Iraq to find and identify places used by, or likely to be used by, Iraqi Scud missile launchers.

Our information is that neither Israel nor the US have a clue about what, if anything, Saddam Hussein is hiding, the newsletter said. It was this ignorance that persuaded the (Israeli) prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to assign the Sayeret Matkal to a job that is sensitive and dangerous, it said.

Jane's Foreign Report said there were only certain locations from where Iraq's remaining Scud missiles could be launched at Israeli targets, given their limited range. Matkal's mission is to detect early preparations, it said.



Ofek 5 has mapped out Iraqi Scud zone
Israel Radio
September 29, 2002

Israel Radio Defense Correspondent Carmela Menashe reported this morning that defense sources say Israel's recently launched Ofek 5 spy satellite has already mapped out the area within Iraq that could be used for launching missiles against Israel.



Iraq's Jews, once numerous, dwindle to 38 in Baghdad
By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post
September 29, 2002

Only a few dozen Jews remain in Iraq, and most of them are elderly, Mordechai Ben-Porat, chairman of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

According to Ben-Porat, some 150 Iraqi Jews have managed to leave the country in the past five years, leaving just 38 Jews in Baghdad, and a handful in the Kurdish-controlled northern areas of the country.

The average age of the community is about 50 years old, with just two or three young people left, he said. The last two Jews who lived in the southern city of Basra left for Baghdad two years ago, he added.

Iraqi Jewry was once one of the largest and most prominent Jewish communities in the Middle East. But after the establishment of the State of Israel, more than 120,000 Iraqi Jews made aliya in the 1950s in a clandestine operation dubbed "Operation Ezra and Nehemiah."

Whereas Baghdad once had 53 active synagogues, only one remains open, where the Jewish community gathers every Saturday night for evening prayers and the havdala service to mark the end of Shabbat, Ben-Porat said.

He said although the late 1960s and early 1970s were not easy for the Jews of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's regime in recent years has "shown fairness toward the Jewish community." In the past decade, the Iraqi government has refurbished the tombs of Ezekiel the Prophet and Ezra the Scribe, which are also considered sacred by Muslims, he said.

"Saddam ordered that guards be placed at the holy sites, and upon his instructions, the tomb of Jonah the Prophet was also renovated in the North of the country," Ben-Porat said.

He said the Jewish community "has a lot of buildings and assets, and earns rental income from them, which it uses to assist members of the remaining community."

"In a decade from now, I don't believe there will be any Jews left in Iraq," Ben-Porat said.

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