Hillel in London
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.
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 &
his stay, a reception was held in his honour at the Mayfair
headquarters of the Exilarchs Foundation when he was
welcomed by leading members of the Iraqi Jewish community.
above picture shows left to right:
Renée Dangoor - David standing (reading his father,
Naim Dangoors welcoming
Speech, who is sitting next); Shlomo Hillel, Abdullah Dangoor;
Maurice Khalastchi; Menahem Barukh; Eliahou Abraham; David
Khalastchy; Abraham Fattal
[Photograph by Eileen Khalastchy]
is Naim Dangoors welcoming speech:
gives me great pleasure to welcome to our midst Babylonian
Jewrys 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.
was recently awarded the Freedom of Jerusalem and I take
this opportunity to extend to you our heartiest congratulations
for this well merited honour.
would like to take this auspicious opportunity to express,
if I may, my thoughts on the endemic Middle-East problems.
is accused of occupying Arab land, and of persecuting and
oppressing Palestinian Arabs. What are the facts?
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?
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.
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".
the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in the First World
War, the Arabs were given all the benefits in the region.
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.
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.
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.
the petitioners are the following:
of the Jewish Lay Committee - Shaul Hakham Heskel
Acting Chief Rabbi and President of Religious Council -
Hakham Moshi Shamash
Yehouda Y Noonoo
Sion E Dangoor
A H Elkebir
Abraham Hayim (Shabander)
Abraham Haim (Aqerib)
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.
Miss Bell once asked the Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Rahman
al-Naqib a certain question about Iraq, he replied, I dont
deal in politics; please ask Sasson Effendi" (who was
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.
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.
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.
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".
do we go from here?
frittered away all the gains of the Six Day War. That was
the time to finalise the Palestinian problem.
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.
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.
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.
principle of land for peace must apply to Syria. She must
give away the whole Golan for the sake of peace with Israel.
is no room for a separate Palestinian state.
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.
have proved themselves unable and unwilling to live at peace
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.
problem of the Middle-East is regional. We only ignore that
to our peril.
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
Shlomo, in conclusion, I believe that you can still play
a big part in shaping the future policy of Israel.
Mr Lucien Gubbay - former President of the Sephardi Elders
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?
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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