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The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







Shlomo Hillel in London

Last May, former Knesset speaker Shlomo Hillel paid a ten day private visit to London with his wife Temima and their daughter Hagan who was researching old documents at the Public Records Office at Kew.

Baghdad-born Mr Hillel emigrated with his family to Palestine in 1934 at the age of eleven. He returned to Baghdad on an Iraqi passport in 1946, staying there for one year. He was again in Baghdad in 1950 to negotiate the mass immigration of the Jews of Iraq in the historic Operation of Ezra & Nehemia.

During his stay, a reception was held in his honour at the Mayfair headquarters of the Exilarch’s Foundation when he was welcomed by leading members of the Iraqi Jewish community.

The above picture shows left to right:
Renée Dangoor - David standing (reading his father, Naim Dangoor’s welcoming
Speech, who is sitting next); Shlomo Hillel, Abdullah Dangoor; Doreen Dangoor;
Maurice Khalastchi; Menahem Barukh; Eliahou Abraham; David Khalastchy; Abraham Fattal
[Photograph by Eileen Khalastchy]

Following is Naim Dangoor’s welcoming speech:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome to our midst Babylonian Jewry’s favourite son, the honourable Shlomo Hillel, Cabinet Minister, Speaker of the Knesset, Chairman of Keren Hayasod, who was the prime mover of the historic operation Ezra and Nehemia in 1950-51 by which most of the Jews of Iraq made the Aliyah to Israel for which we were waiting for generations and centuries.

Shlomo was recently awarded the Freedom of Jerusalem and I take this opportunity to extend to you our heartiest congratulations for this well merited honour.

I would like to take this auspicious opportunity to express, if I may, my thoughts on the endemic Middle-East problems.

Israel is accused of occupying Arab land, and of persecuting and oppressing Palestinian Arabs. What are the facts?

Since 1948, a hundred new nations came into being and are now living in peace and security, while the Jewish state remains a festering sore. Where did we go wrong?

Forget about the Balfour Declaration which became a dead letter soon after it received the smudged signature of its author. Forget about political Zionism which managed to uproot the Jews of Europe and of Arab countries but failed to completely repossess our ancient homeland.

To understand and evaluate the Arab-Jewish problem of the last eighty years, we must realise that it is not simply a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as, unfortunately it has been narrowed down to become. In fact, it is a wider, regional problem. But Israel has managed to drive herself into a corner, allowing the Arabs to proclaim, "what is ours is ours, and what is yours is also ours".

With the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, the Arabs were given all the benefits in the region.

In particular, Iraq was not entirely Arab, but was given over to Arab rule to the exclusion of the other nationalities, especially the Jews and the Kurds.

Turkey ruled the Middle-East for 401 years under a successful millet system of autonomous communities which was changed over arbitrarily to a number of nation states to suit the ambitions of the imperialists’ conquerors.

Alarmed by the news that Iraq was going to be given to Arab rule, the Jews of Iraq petitioned to become British subjects. But the petition was turned down.

Among the petitioners are the following:

President of the Jewish Lay Committee - Shaul Hakham Heskel
Acting Chief Rabbi and President of Religious Council - Hakham Moshi Shamash
Yehuda Zelouf
Menahem Daniel
Sasson Khezzam
Murad Djouri
Yehouda Y Noonoo
Sion E Dangoor
A H Elkebir
Abraham Hayim (Shabander)
Abraham Haim (Aqerib)

For 2,500 years the Jews had a prominent position in Iraq, a thousand years before the Arab invasion, a position which was maintained throughout the Persian, the Abbasid, the Mongol and the Ottoman Empires. For all that period of twenty five centuries the head of the Jewish community in Iraq was the Exchequer of the Empire ... a position which continued to the early years of modern Iraq in that the Minister of Finance and pillar of the government was Sir Sasson Heskel.

When Miss Bell once asked the Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Rahman al-Naqib a certain question about Iraq, he replied, I don’t deal in politics; please ask Sasson Effendi" (who was present).

The last Ottoman report on the Vilayet of Baghdad gave the number of Jews as 80,000 out of a total population of 202,000, which included Moslems, Christians and Kurds.

Under the self-determination principle, Ottoman Jews in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, should have been allocated at least 20,000 square miles, which is greater than the total area of Israel and the so-called occupied territories.

Trans-Jordan was part of the Palestine Mandate and its separation in 1921 should have been regarded as the national home of the Palestinian Arabs, who with Zionist money went over and bought lands cheap there and prospered.

In the early twenties, Jews and Arabs were considered natural allies. Thus when King Feisal made an official visit to the Jewish Community in Baghdad in 1924 he asked my grandfather, Chief Rabbi Hakham Ezra Dangoor, if the Jews of Iraq were Zionists. To the satisfaction of Feisal, my grandfather replied... "We are all Zionists since we pray three times a day for the return to Zion".

Where do we go from here?

Israel frittered away all the gains of the Six Day War. That was the time to finalise the Palestinian problem.

It seems to me that there can no longer be a negotiated settlement with Arafat that the Jews could afford to make and the Arabs would accept in the long run.

There can only be an imposed settlement on the basis that Israel would cover the whole of Palestine West of the River Jordan, and the Arabs including Israeli Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians in Israel, should be given autonomy of people, but not of land based on the Ottoman millet system, which in fact is what the Albanians are now demanding in Yugoslavia. Arafat, is of the Hussaini family, which is of Albanian origin, a nephew of Amin Husseini, the notorious Mufti of Jerusalem who met Hitler in November 1941, when he assured him of Arab support for Germany in return for not letting Jews get out of Europe which also suited British policy with regard to Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Palestinians often ask why should they suffer for what Hitler did to the Jews. The answer is that they played an important part in the Holocaust. The Arabs, who were on the side of Hitler, received all the benefits of World War II while the Jews, who were on the side of the Allies, are still struggling for a coastal strip of rocky territory.

The principle of land for peace must apply to Syria. She must give away the whole Golan for the sake of peace with Israel.

There is no room for a separate Palestinian state.

Israel should apply the Biblical Jubilee fifty year system all over the country to ensure that the land of Israel will remain forever in the hands of the Jewish people.

Arabs have proved themselves unable and unwilling to live at peace with Israel.

Ashkenazim should not be afraid to put forward the right of Jews from Arab countries, to support Jewish claims in the region, especially in the important matter of the exchange of refugees.

The problem of the Middle-East is regional. We only ignore that to our peril.

The exile to Babylonia was to demonstrate that the Middle-East is one region. There can be no peace in Israel unless Iraq is pacified. Like a good teacher, history will keep repeating itself until the lesson is learned. Saddam has rebuilt Babylon and is training an army to liberate Palestine. Why are we waiting?

Dear Shlomo, in conclusion, I believe that you can still play a big part in shaping the future policy of Israel.

From Mr Lucien Gubbay - former President of the Sephardi Elders

Joyce and I much enjoyed our afternoon with you and your family at the reception and lunch for Mr Shlomo Hillel former speaker of the Knesset, and were impressed by your succinct analysis of the situation in the Middle East today. We hope you will make it available in written form for wider circulation. What about the Sephardi Bulletin?

Your Guest of Honour also spoke well, He was moderate, intelligent and eminently realistic. I know that you may not agree with all the details of what he said but it was refreshing nevertheless to hear an Israeli politician speaking so.

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