“My Adherence to the Creed of Moses has not Diminished My Love for Muhammad’s Nation”: The Emergence and Demise of Iraqi-Jewish Modern Literary Culture[1]

“My Adherence to the Creed of Moses has not Diminished My Love for Muhammad’s Nation”: The Emergence and Demise of Iraqi-Jewish Modern Literary Culture[1]


By: Reuven Snir


In the sixth century A.D. when Arabic reached its full development with the appearance of literary poetry, Jewish communities flourished throughout the Arabian Peninsula. As an integral part of Arab society and culture, Jewish tribes had distinguished poets.[2] When Islam in the seventh century A.D. became the dominant faith and defining legal and social framework of the region, Jews were well acquainted with the emerging Islamic culture and deeply influenced by it. Arab Jews had an intimate knowledge of the Qur’an and its source texts and they played an active role in shaping medieval Arab-Muslim civilization. Throughout the lands conquered by the Arabs, the Jews adopted Arabic as their language; they often preferred writing Arabic rather than Hebrew, even when dealing with the most sacred matters of Judaism.From the ninth centuryJudeo-Arabic literature flourished, that is, texts in Jewish dialects of vernacular Arabic that combined Hebrew and Aramaic lexical items with Arabic and which were generally written in Hebrew script. Being thoroughly Arabized, Jews used not only Hebrew but also Arabic for liturgical purposes, such as for hymns and religious ceremonies. From the mid-tenth to the mid-thirteenth centuries, Jewish culture in al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) had the closest connections with Arab-Islamic culture through direct translation, imitation, adaptation and borrowing. There was an élite class of Jewish courtiers and officials who were as polished in the Arabic language, literature and culture as they were learned in the Hebrew and Jewish religious tradition. Jews in medieval al-Andalus became so integrated into Arab culture that some were able to achieve widespread recognition for their poetry in standard literary Arabic (fusha).

Afterwards, and until modern times, the role of Jews in canonical Arabic literature was limited, but their integration into Arab society and culture was hardly in doubt. Therefore, the fresh burst of Jewish creativity in standard literary Arabic during the twentieth century was by no means a surprise. Their culture should be viewed not only against the background of the Jewish symbiosis with medieval Arab-Muslim culture, but also in the light of modernization in the Middle East and North Africa from the second half of the nineteenth century. Modernization, and the social, political, and economic transformations associated with it, should not be referred to as a mere change, but rather as – “the transformation of society.”[3] The Jewish communities in the Arab world shared in that transformation and sometimes played a role in effecting it.[4]

In modern times, nowhere were Jews more open to wider Arab culture or more at home in standard literary Arabic than in Iraq. However, from the late 1940s, Arab-Jewish culture underwent a process of marginalization and negligence within both the Muslim-Arab and Jewish-Hebrew cultural systems, and gradually declined sharply. The Muslim-Arab and the Jewish-Zionist canonical cultural and national systems, each from their own particularist considerations, have generally rejected the legitimacy of Arab-Jewish hybridity. For example, the Isra’iliyyat, a term used by classical Muslim authors to denote material ascribed to Jews (Banu Isra’il), became during the twentieth a flash point for charges of Jewish, or Zionist, religio-cultural infiltration.[5] Yet until the twentieth century Arabness referred principally to a common shared culture and language. In the formative period of Islamic civilization Muslim scholars recognized that Jewish scripture and lore deeply penetrated their own tradition and debated the potential impact of this borrowing.[6] Modern Western intellectual discourse has selectively highlighted the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage, although for half a millennium the creative centers of Jewish life were to be found primarily under Islam, so that to speak of a Judeo-Muslim heritage is historically no less justified.[7]

This article focuses on the emergence and decline of modern Iraqi-Jewish literary culture. Among its aims is the attempt to free the study of the Iraqi Jewish cultural legacy from the shackles of both Zionist and Arab literary historiography as well as from the teleological reading of their role in Iraq in modern times.

Modernization and Secularization

For centuries the Jews of Iraq spoke Aramaic, in which language the Babylonian Talmud was largely produced. After the Arab conquest, especially under the Abbasids,[8] the local Jewish community underwent a rapid process of integration into the surrounding Arab-Muslim society, the majority of them congregating in the new metropolis of Baghdad.

With the advent of modern times, Iraqi Jews became aware of the need to familiarize themselves with European culture and scientific developments. By the early twentieth century the younger elements of the Jewish intellectual élite were mostly secular.[9] Emile Marmorstein (1901-1983), headmaster of the Shammash School for boys in Baghdad in the 1930s, observed that Baghdad between the two world wars resembled the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth-century “but for the absence of zeal, both religious and irreligious.”[10]

As Iraqi Jews embarked on the road to secularization, some tried to develop secular Hebrew literature.[11] The local secularization process was accelerated by the educational activities of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU). The founding in 1864 of the AIU School in Baghdad – where education was predominantly secular and had a Western cultural orientation – played a major role in the modernization of the local community. It was also a major long-term stimulus to the involvement of Jews in Arabic journalism. Visiting Baghdad in 1878, Grattan Geary, editor of the Times of India, wrote that the instruction in the AIU School was of the best modern kind. “Arabic is the mother tongue of the Baghdad Jews,” he wrote, and “the pupils are taught how to write and speak that language grammatically.” Many of them “spoke and read English with wonderful fluency,” and also, “speak French with singular purity of accent and expression.”[12]

The AIU education did not create secularizing tendencies ex nihilo, as Norman Stillman rightly says. The Ottoman Tanzimat reforms promulgated during the nineteenth century and the emerging new Jewish middle class linked to European economic and political interests had all fostered secularity. Stillman adds however that “in contradistinction to European Jewry, Middle Eastern Jewish secularity did not generally entail a radical break with religion.”[13] Zvi Yehuda also argues that Iraqi Jewry, in contrast to German Jewry in the early nineteenth century, “continued to preserve its social and religious frameworks even after modernization,” adding that “evolution of an independent modern educational system helped the Jewish community undergo modernization without accompanying assimilation.”[14] Nevertheless, the Iraqi-Jewish openness to the surrounding Arab culture, especially during the 1920s and 1930s, brought the intellectual secular élite into a position which was quite similar to that of the European Jewish intellectual élite. H.Z. Hirschberg’s  specious argument that education in AIU schools created among Eastern Jews a “pseudo-European superiority” producing a type of person uprooted not only from the spiritual soil of his community but also from the surrounding local environment,[15] can by no means be applied to the Ira
qi Jews, particularly not to the Baghdadis. Equally baseless, especially with regard to Iraqi Jews, the argument that “the Jews of the Orient have for the most part just begun to enjoy the ambiguous fortunes of modernization with their settlement in the twentieth-century State of Israel.”[16]

The process of modernization of Iraqi Jews was parallel, in several respects, to that of European Jews, and certainly inspired by it. Iraqi Jews functioned as correspondents and representatives for European Hebrew newspapers. Moreover, already in 1863 Barukh ben Moshe Mizrahi, owner of the first Hebrew lithographic printing press in Baghdad, published the first Hebrew periodical in Baghdad, Ha-dover (The Spokesman), which was also called Dover mesharim (Spokesman of Uprightness). It was printed in the so-called Rashi Script and lasted until 1871, though only 17 issues were published. It was similar in content to Ha-maggid, and occasionally used articles from other Hebrew periodicals.[17] In 1871 the same Barukh ben Moshe Mizrahi was appointed authorized representative of the Hebrew journal Ha-havazelet English title: Ha-Habazeleth) (1863-1864; 1870-1911), published in Jerusalem. In 1884 Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Husin (1843-1892) founded a printing house in Baghdad and Five years later submitted a request to the Ottoman authorities to publish a Jewish newspaper in Arabic and Hebrew, but his request was not approved.[18] Husin himself was a prolific writer who published some 150 essays in European Hebrew periodicals.[19] During the second half of the nineteenth century Baghdadi Jews were also active in journalism in India, where during the previous century Iraqi-Jewish merchants had begun to settle.[20] The periodicals they published in the Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic dialect were inspired by the Enlightenment, as reflected in such titles as Ha-mevaser (Herald) (1873-1878) and Maggid mesharim (Messenger of Uprightness) (1888-1901). The editor of Maggid mesharim, Shelomo Tuwayna (1855-1913),[21] translated into Judeo-Arabic the novel Ahavat tsion (The Love of Zion) (1853) by the European maskil Avraham Mapu (1808-1867).[22]

Many wealthy Iraqi Jews sent their sons to be educated in Europe, One such example was Sasun Hiskil (Sassoon Yehezkel) (1860-1932), who pursued Oriental studies at a Viennese gymnasium. In an interview with a correspondent of the Vilna Hebrew newspaper Ha-‘olam (The World), Sassoon Afandi, who represented Baghdad at the Ottoman parliament, expressed views inspired by ideas prevalent among European “enlightened” Jews. The records read:  “Mr. Sassoon wants to be assimilated, and since he does not see any positive aspect which would unite the Jews, beside religion, he would agree to be assimilated even with the Arabs.”[23] Of course, no one could possibly believe that Sassoon Afandi had actually used the words “even with the Arabs.” This significant modification suggests that the distinct Ashkenazi-Zionist attitude toward Arab Jews developed even before the establishment of the State of Israel. Otherwise, Sassoon’s words were by no means surprising, in view of what he had most likely experienced in Habsburg Vienna.[24]

Significant also were the activities of Jewish-European travelers who visited Baghdad, bringing to the Jews the conception of Enlightenment, inspiring and pushing them towards modern civilization. These travelers came from a European society where the categories of East/West and Arab/European mostly prevailed. Nevertheless, the view that European Jews who were active within Arab-Jewish communities did not follow the Kantian conception of Enlightenment but rather posited “themselves as guides and supervisors and hence did not permit the Iraqi Jews to independently manage their affairs,”[25] cannot be applied to all of them. Kant argues that “Enlightenment is mankind’s exit from its self-incurred immaturity,” and that “immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without the guidance of another.”[26]

For example, Isaac Lurion (Yitzhaq Luria), the first principal of Baghdad’s AIU School, never tried to posit himself as guide and supervisor; on the contrary, in founding the school he hoped that “in a few years Baghdad will be a miracle and glory to all the surrounding towns,” because the “generation of Enlightenment (Haskala) is a light which shall shine upon a successful generation.”[27] In 1868, the aforementioned Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Husin wrote that following the successful efforts to bring enlightenment to the Baghdadi Jews, they were now planning to “export” enlightenment to other Jewish communities such as in Persia and Kurdistan, which had not discovered “the light of Torah, wisdom and science and are still bound by the shackles of stupidity and foolishness and are still ignorant.”[28]

Likewise, the Austrian-Jewish scholar and traveler Jacob Obermeyer (1845-1935), who lived in Baghdad from 1869 to 1880,[29] did not impose himself as a supervisor, but rather during his long stay worked to convince Iraqi Jews that they were able to independently manage their own affairs no less than their European coreligionists. He published reports on the Iraqi-Jewish community in such popular Hebrew periodicals as Ha-maggid.[30] Obermeyer also tried to modernize the religious framework of the local community and to introduce moderate reforms in Jewish law. In his reformist zeal, Obermeyer even challenged the Hakham Yosef Hayim (1832-1909), who retaliated by emphatically condemning Obermeyer’s innovations. In the wake of reports Obermeyer sent to Ha-maggid attacking the stance of Hakham Yosef Hayim, the communal leaders united in excommunicating him; the herem proclamation was read aloud in every Baghdad synagogue. Although Obermeyer eventually retracted his criticism and begged for forgiveness, it is evident that he, together with other European immigrants, had already contributed to the process, which would enable Iraqi Jews to embrace the wider culture of their society; and would in fact encourage them to behave like those middle-class Jews in Europe who felt more European than Jewish.[31]

The exposure of Iraqi Jews to European culture and their move towards adopting secular values served, especially in Baghdad, to break down, the cultural barriers between the Jewish secular élite and the intellectual circles of the wider Arab society much more than in other Arab countries.[32] At first glance it seems paradoxical that exposure to European culture and the adoption of secular values would open Baghdadi Jews to Arab culture and orient them toward local society rather than toward European modernity. But Jewish intellectuals were eager to break out of the confines of their traditional religious community and viewed modernity as means of integrating into the widening secular Iraqi élite. Like their Christian and Muslim secular compatriots, they saw no contradiction between their modernizing tendency and clinging to their Arabness.

Arabization and Integration

With the creation in the wake of the First World War of the State of Iraq, many Jews were inspired by a cultural vision represented by the eloquent dictum al-dinu li-llahi wa-l-watanu li-l-jami‘ (Religion is for God, the Fatherland is for everyone).[33] The secular Iraqi-Jewish intelligentsia employed this slogan to promote their Arabizing agenda, and stressed the close symbiotic contact of Jews with the surrounding Arab-Muslim culture.[34] A major factor supporting the promotion of their vision was the Arabization of the Iraqi governmental administration, a process, which began during the last decades of the nineteenth century, and was completed after the British liberation of Iraq from Ottoman rule in 1917. The language of the administration shifted from Turkish to Arabic with a major role assigned to
English, the language of the new occupiers. Iraqi Jews rallied as a matter of course behind efforts to make Iraq a modern Arab nation-state for all its citizens – Sunni and Shi‘i Muslims, Kurds and Turcomans, Assyrian and Armenian Christians, Yazidis and Jews alike.[35] The vision of European Zionists to establish a Jewish nation-state in Palestine, as promised by the 1917 Balfour Declaration, was for most Iraqi Jews then totally alien.[36] Sir Arnold Talbot Wilson (1884-1940), the Acting Civil Commissioner in Mesopotamia, wrote at the time:

The announcement aroused no interest in Mesopotamia; nor did it leave a ripple on the surface of local political thought in Baghdad… I discussed the declaration at the time with several members of the Jewish community, with whom we were on friendly terms. They remarked that Palestine was a poor country, and Jerusalem a bad town to live in. Compared with Palestine, Mesopotamia was a Paradise. ‘This is the Garden of Eden’, said one; ‘it is from this country that Adam was driven forth–give us a good government and we will make this country flourish–for us Mesopotamia is a home, a national home to which the Jews of Bombay and Persian and Turkey will be glad to come. Here shall be liberty and with it opportunity! In Palestine there may be liberty, but there will be no opportunity.’[37]

The Jews, at least the secular intellectual élite was, were  attracted instead to a vision of Iraqi patriotism and Arab culture,[38] a vision which was rooted in the process of Jewish secularization during the nineteenth century

During the interwar period most of the Jewish population lived in Baghdad, filling most of the civil service jobs under the British administration and the early monarchy. The Civil Administrative of Mesopotamia, in its annual review for the year 1920, stated that the Jews of Baghdad were “a very important section of the community, outnumbering the Sunnis or Shias.”[39] According to the Iraqi-born scholar Elie Kedourie (1926-1992),[40] Baghdad at the time “could be said to be as much a Jewish city as an Islamic one.”[41] The Iraqi-born journalist Nissim Rejwan (Rajwan) (b. 1924)[42] argues that just as it has often been said that New York is a Jewish city, so “one can safely say the same about Baghdad during the first half of the 20th century.”[43]

The Iraqi educational system played a major role in the process of Arabization. The Jewish community supported religious schools which provided elementary studies in Arabic; AIU schools (by 1930, about 7,200 pupils were attending the ten schools in Iraq),[44] and other schools following the government syllabus, and the Shammash school, founded in 1928 to teach the British curriculum. Several secondary schools providing religious instruction were also founded in order to prevent the flow of Jews to the government schools, which offered a completely secular Arab education. For as long as the government needed them to fill government posts, Jews attended and completed secondary schools in numbers far exceeding their proportion in the population.[45] Also, ninety percent of the Iraqi candidates for the London Matriculation Examination were Jews.[46] The government schools naturally emphasized on Arabic in preparation for the administered examinations required for entrance to high schools.

As a result of their growing Iraqi patriotism and the organized governmental educational efforts to create a specifically Iraqi-Arab national community for all religious and ethnic groups,[47] Jewish schools put heavy emphasis on teaching Arabic – which, according to the writer Ishaq (Isaac) Bar-Moshe (1927-2003),[48] became a “decisive fact of life.”[49] The physician and writer Salman Darwish (1910-1982) spoke for an entire generation of young Jewish intellectuals when he wrote that Arabic language and literature “have penetrated our very bloodstream.”[50] More than once the fluent Arabic style of Jews was deemed above the average of their Muslim and Christian counterparts.[51]

The “communal dialects” (speech variations of Arabic vernacular according to religious communities[52]) did not impede cultural interaction. Muslim and Christian intellectuals taught standard literary Arabic and its literature in Jewish schools,[53] and non-Jewish students enrolled as well. Some graduates were later to hold important positions in the Iraqi government, such as Muslim Tawfiq al-Suwaydi (1892-1968), who became Prime Minister three times (1929, 1946, 1950),[54] or the Kaldanian Yusuf Rizq Allah Ghunayma (1885-1950), who became Minister of Finance several times (the first one in 1928 and the last in 1948). Both al-Suwaydi and Ghunayma were educated at an AIU School early in the twentieth century. Grateful for the education he had received, Ghunayma later wrote: “It is necessary to set the record straight and thank the principals and all the teachers [of the school] for their dedication.” He also remembered “the love my fellow students showed me.”[55]

Among the newly emerging Iraqi intelligentsia of the interwar years were young secular Jews who saw themselves as loyal Arab citizens. For most of them their Arab identity was uppermost; they were “Arab Jews” or “Arabs of the Jewish faith.” Encouraged by their Muslim compatriots it comes as no surprise to find writings by Baghdadi Jews brimming with Iraq-Arab patriotism and full of confidence towards a common political, national and cultural future.

Sati‘ al-Husri (1880-1968), Director General of Education in Iraq (1923-1927) and Arab nationalism’s first true ideologue, argued that “every person who is relegated to the Arab lands and speaks Arabic is an Arab.”[56] Al-Husri sought to assimilate the diverse elements of Iraq’s population into a homogenous whole tied by “the bonds of specific language, history, and culture to a comprehensive but still exclusive ideology of Arabism.”[57] The profound process of Arabization undergone by Iraqi Jews was also acknowledged by Arab historians, such as the Palestinian Abbas Shiblak who wrote that:

The Jewish writers and artists of Iraq were in fact part of the general cultural life of the Arab East, maintaining connections and sometimes working relationships with writers and artists in other Arab countries. It is significant that in Iraq (unlike Lebanon, Egypt, or Tunisia for instance) there were few if any Hebrew or Zionist newspapers. The works of the Iraqi-Jewish intelligentsia were Arabic in essence and expression.[58]

Presenting al-Samaw’al’s poem about the noble qualities of his Jewish tribe as the Iliad of the Arabs, the newspaper Dijla in 1921 quoted its famous opening verse (“When a man’s honor is not defiled by baseness / then every cloak he cloaks himself in is comely”[59]) as a proof of the true Arabness of the Jews of Iraq.[60] Addressing Jewish community leaders on 18 July 1921, a month before his coronation as King of Iraq, Emir Faysal (1883-1933) asked them “to be just Iraqis, because we all belong to one origin and one tree, the tree of our ancestor Shem, and all of us are related to the Semitic root, which makes no distinction between Muslim, Christian or Jew.”[61] In a poem addressing Sir Herbert Samuel (1870-1963), British High Commissioner for Palestine, the distinguished Iraqi Muslim poet Ma‘ruf al-Rusafi (1875-1945) wrote: “The two people are but close relatives; in their language is the proof.”[62] The poem was composed after al-Rusafi on 1
3 December 1920 attended a lecture in Jerusalem on medieval Andalusian Arab civilization delivered by the Jewish scholar Avraham Shalom Yehuda (1887-1951). The lecture, delivered at the invitation of Jerusalem’s mayor Raghib al-Nashashibi, was in standard literary Arabic.[63]

In the late 1930s the Jewish educator ‘Ezra Haddad (1900-1972) declared that “we were Arabs before we became Jews” (nahnu ‘Arab qabla an nakuna yahuda).[64] Ya‘qub Balbul (1920-2003)[65] wrote at the time that “a Jewish youth in the Arab countries expects nothing from Zionism other than colonialism and domination.”[66] Testifying before the League of Nations’ Mandate Commission, the High Commissioner for Iraq declared that he “had never found such tolerance of other races and religions as in Iraq.”[67] The historian Albert Hourani wrote in 1947 that “the Iraqi Jews, like the Oriental Jews, are for the most part not Zionists by conviction; some of them indeed profess to Arab nationalism and are hostile to Zionism.”[68] In his 1950 survey of Jewish Communities in the Middle East, Landshut wrote that except for a natural interest in developments in Palestine, there has never in Iraq been any feeling of solidarity with the political aspirations of Zionism.[69] The Arabness of the Iraqi Jews, at least of the young secular intellectuals among them, was hardly in doubt.

The first Jewish Iraqi author to publish a book in fusha was reportedly Salim Ishaq (1877-1949), a lawyer who served as a translator in the German embassy in Baghdad before the First World War. The title of the book, which was supposedly published in Baghdad in 1909, was said to be either al-Inqilab al-‘Uthmani [70] or al-Thawra al-‘Uthmaniyya[71] – both titles meaning “The Ottoman Revolution.” I have not located a copy in any library, but Mir Basri mentions a book published by Ishaq in 1910 entitled Hawadith al-Zaman (Time Events). Basri provides us with sufficient details about its contents to safely say he had actually read it. He tells us that it was written in Hebrew characters in the Jewish Arabic vernacular injected with fusha, and that it concentrates on the reforms of the “Young Turks,” especially their 1908 constitution.[72] Ishaq’s subject matter could hardly have been more emblematic. The “Young Turks” seemed to herald a new dawn, especially as their 1908 constitution promised full emancipation for both ethnic and religious minorities. No wonder then that the following year saw the appearance of two newspapers edited by Jews, al-Zuhur (The Flowers) and Bayn al-Nahrayn (Mesopotamia).[73]

Beginning in the 1920s Iraqi-Jewish writers and poets produced secular works that quickly entered mainstream Arabic literature. As with other Arab authors of the times, they wrote in standard literary Arabic even when it came to fictional dialogue, although there was also an undeniably strong, but probably unconscious influence from vernacular popular literature – whether Jewish or non-Jewish.[74]

Drawing on Arab literary modernism and various Western cultural trends, Jewish authors wrote a good deal of poetry, but it was primarily as short story writers that they contributed significantly to Iraqi literature.[75] Their attraction to the short story genre may well have been due, at least partly, to their desire to participate in the process of changing Iraqi society. At the turn of the century, Arabic prose writing was already becoming a powerful medium for the depiction of everyday life and ordinary people. Jewish authors were aware of the Western techniques that had found their way into experimental short story writing throughout the Arab world, especially in Egypt and Iraq.[76] Their inspiration mainly came from English and French stories available in Arabic. Jews themselves were, in fact, among the major translators of Western literature into Arabic. Prominent translators included Anwar Sha’ul as well as Yusuf Makmal (1914-1986)[77] and Na‘im Salih Tuwayq (1916-1989).[78]

One should avoid referring, however, as has Joel Beinin, to the Jews of Iraq possessing, at the time, “hybrid cosmopolitan cultural identities that simultaneously made Jews an integral part of Iraq and ultimately excluded them from it.”[79] Non-Arab secular cultural identities, whether English, French, or Hebrew, developed only after the emigration of Jews from Iraq, and as a consequence thereof. While they were still in Iraq, the Arab cultural identity of secular Jewish intellectuals faced no rivalry from other cultural identities. No outstanding Iraqi Jew, during the first half of the twentieth century, wrote belles lettres in English, French or Hebrew, and even the cultural identity of those active in the Iraqi-English press was decisively Arab.

Murad Michael (Mikha’il) (1906-1986)[80] is considered to have been the first Iraqi writer to publish a Western-style short story, “Shahid al-Watan wa-Shahidat al-Hubb” (The Homeland’s Martyr and the Love’s Female Martyr).[81] Michael was also a talented poet whose work was admired by such Iraqi poets as Jamil Sidqi al-Zahawi (1863-1936) and the aforementioned Ma‘ruf al-Rusafi.[82] His first published poem was an ode of praise and love for his beloved Iraqi nation and state.[83] Like Murad Michael, Anwar Sha’ul was active in Iraqi literary life. A writer of poetry and prose, he was edited two journals, al-Misbah (The Candelabrum) (1924-1929)[84] and al-Hasid (The Reaper) (1929-1938).[85] The former was founded by Salman Shina (1898-1978), a lawyer who later entered the Iraqi parliament.[86] As the editor of al-Misbah in its first year of publication, Sha’ul wrote under the pseudonym Ibn al-Samaw’al, an expression of his connection with the pre-Islamic poet. In February of 1969, still belonging to the minority who that Jews could be equal Iraqi citizens, he wrote a poem entitled “Religion and Patriotism” in which he said:

From Moses I borrowed my creed, but under Islam’s protection have I lived;
Its generosity is my shelter; the Qur’an’s bounty is my eternal fountain;
My adherence to Moses’ creed has not diminished my love for Muhammad’s nation;
Faithful I will remain like as-Samaw’al, be I happy in Baghdad or miserable.[87]

In the first two issues of al-Misbah Sha’ul serially published one of the very first short stories by an Iraqi Jew, “Bayna Anyab al-Bahr” (Between the Fangs of the Sea).[88] Although the author used the pseudonym of Fata Isra’il (Youth of Israel) the story did not express any Jewish nationalist tendency, as Zionism was not yet in the picture in Iraq. The second journal, al-Hasid, was one of the most influential literary periodicals in Baghdad during the 1930s. This time Sha’ul was not only an editor but also an owner of the journal. During the nine years of publishing al-Hasid, Sha’ul strove to be a faithful son of the Iraqi nation and Arab culture; the journal concentrated on social and cultural issues and attempted to modernize local journalism and literature. As a Jewish writer living in symbiotic contact with the surrounding Arab-Muslim culture, Sha’ul’s work utilized so many striking Arabic and Iraqi patriotic motifs that these sometimes obscured his own religious identity.[89] From the start of his activities in Arabic literature he showed justifiable confidence that his religion did not impede his integration into Iraqi society. This was evident, for example, in December 1929 when he read, at Baghdad’s al-Kaylani mosque, an elegy he had written for the deceased Iraqi leader ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-Sa‘dun (1879-1929).[90]

In fact, Sha’ul can perhaps be described as the first Jewish writer who tried to a
dopt an Arab version of the European Haskala.[91] Although the term remains, as Shmuel Feiner writes, ambiguous and elusive since every change in traditional religious patterns was dubbed Haskala,[92] there were many similarities between Sha’ul and the European Maskilim. Like them, Sha’ul assumed from the outset the position of a socially critical agent waging an all-out war against ignorance that, he firmly believed, would greatly benefit his community. Like his European predecessors he was vilified and often misunderstood. In his essay “al-Majnun al-Ta’ih” (The Wandering Madman),[93] he alludes to the personal price he paid and suspicions evoked by his stance, but like the European Jewish Maskilim he saw the battle as a “war of progress and light against backwardness and darkness.”[94]

Immigration and the Clash of Narratives

During the 1940s most Iraqi Jews still had little doubt that their community would endure and prosper until, as Shalum (Shalom) Darwish (1913-1997)[95] later put it, “the days of the Messiah.”[96] Yet such political developments as King Faysal’s death in 1933 and the escalation of the political conflict in Palestine soon had an insidious effect. By the mid-1930s Zionist activity was officially banned, the importation of Hebrew books and newspapers was prohibited, and the remaining Hebrew teachers who had come from Palestine were expelled. Under the pretext of preventing the dissemination of Zionist ideology, the Iraqi government forbade the teaching of both Hebrew and Jewish history. Distinctions made by early Arab nationalists between the Jewish religion and political Zionism began to blur, especially after 1936, with the infiltration of Nazi propaganda and when Iraqi support for the Palestinians coalesced with pan-Arab foreign policy. [97] Zionist activists in Arab lands directly contributed, it may be argued, to the blurring of these distinctions.

During this period, the pre-Islamic Arab-Jewish poet al-Samaw’al, who had been an emblem of Muslim-Jewish-Christian cooperation,[98] was dropped from the list of heroes included in the Iraqi school curriculum. As Iraqi foreign policy publicly adopted the Arab-Palestinian cause, the definition of Arabism became increasingly narrow and eventually excluded Jews, who became targets of anti-Zionism and even anti-Semitism. The Farhud in Baghdad in June 1941, when more than one hundred and fifty Jews were killed and Jewish property was looted, led to doubts about Jewish loyalty. Torn by centrifugal and centripetal forces, these events pushed Jews into joining opposition groups, particularly the Communist Party[99] and the Zionist movement.[100]

Nothing better illustrates the tragic demise of Jewish involvement in Arabic literature than the fate of those Jews who preferred to stay in Iraq after the establishment of the state of Israel. Among them were Mir Basri (1911-2006),[101] and as previously mentioned Anwar Sha’ul, both of continued their Arabic literary activities during the 1950s and even into the 1960s, still adhering to their Arab and Iraqi patriotism.[102] In 1959 Sha’ul published an admiring poem in praise of the Iraqi Prime Minister ‘Abd al-Karim Qasim (1914-1963).[103] In April of 1969, less than two years after the Six Day war, Sha’ul and Basri participated in the Iraqi delegation to the Conference of Arab Writers held in Baghdad. Standing before the assembled conference Sha’ul recited a poem which included the following verses:

My childhood blossomed on the waters of the Tigris, and the days of my youth drank of the Euphrates,
O Homeland of Arabism, blessed be you as a shelter where generosity shines in its streets […]
I love my precious homeland, and those who ennobled me with their love […]
Our fates have been bound together in a radiant homeland, which to us is like water and air.[104]

In early January 1969, after he had met with an alleged American spy, Mir Basri was imprisoned for almost two months. As it turned out, the “spy” was Phebe Marr, a young woman who had completed a Ph.D. at Harvard, and then came to Baghdad to research a book she would later publish.[105] The imprisonment of Basri, who was at the time Chairman of the Jewish Council in Iraq together with Sha’ul Naji Khadduri (1907-2005), the son of the community president at the time, Chief Rabbi Sassoon Khadduri (1886-1971),[106] was intended to silence the Jewish community’s leaders and stifle their protests prior to the public hangings, in late January 1969, of Jews accused of spying for Israel and other countries.

Commenting on the hardships he had had to endure at the hands of his Iraqi compatriots, Basri wrote a poem titled “The Imprisonment of the Body and the Soul,” some verses of which are:

What sin have I committed in my life, for which I am so cruelly and harshly punished?
Is it my struggle and my support of Iraq, and of the Tigris and the Euphrates?[107]

When in the 1970s Sha’ul, Basri and others finally left Iraq, it was clear that the vision of the 1920s of Muslim-Christian-Jewish cultural coexistence in the Middle East had reached its end.

The encounter of the Iraqi-Jewish immigrants in Israel’s early years with a powerful Zionist Hebrew culture was for many a severe shock, emphatically indicating that their Arab vision of the 1920s was merely an illusion.[108] They were forced to pass through the Israeli-Zionist “melting pot” in order to adapt to the new society created in Israel – the Zionist dream of “Europe in the Middle East.” Upon arriving in Israel most Arab Jews still tried to adhere to their Arab cultural heritage, but they were Orientalized, marginalized and stigmatized as backward in conformity with the binary ethnic division of Ashkenazim/Mizrahim,[109] which from 1948 served to simplify the heterogeneity of the various Jewish communities immigrating into Israel. That binary division ignored, however, the fact that the Iraqi Jews’ vision of the 1920s was in essence a Western-Arab identity project with the Jews acting as agents of modernization and secularization in the Iraqi traditional society. The attitude of the Zionist movement towards the Arabic language and Arab culture, which was rooted in the cultural conceptions of its first leaders, contributed to the Orientalization and the stigmatizing process, and accelerated the process through which Iraqi Jews and others of Middle-Eastern origin – the “Mizrahim” – internalized the reigning negative attitude to Arab culture.[110]


In 1957 Sati‘ al-Husri wrote that Arab culture was not born with the emergence of Islam and that there had been Arabs before there were Muslims. When speaking however of the religious identity of these ancient Arabs, he mentioned only the Christians.[111] Because of the conflict in the Middle East, al-Husri, who in the 1920s had helped King Faysal to promote the conception that there was no distinction in Iraq between Muslims, Christians or Jews, no longer saw Jews as a potential part of the Arab nation. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the literature produced by Arab Jews since 1948 has been largely relegated to the margins of Arabic literature. The forces behind that process also explain the paucity of scholarly attention this literature has received.[112] In the 1950s and the 1960s there were still some scholars in the Arab world dealing with Jewish writing as a part of the general Arabic literary legacy, but since June 1967 it has become even more unlikely that Jewish literati born in Baghdad would be noted for their contribution to the development of Arabic literature. Thus, in a biographical dictionary of twentieth-century Iraqi personalities published in the mid-1990s,[113] all Iraqi-Jewish writers were omitted.[114] To illustrate the extent of this exclusion the case of Anwar Sha’ul is instructive: he is not mentioned in this dictionary, but three other pioneers of the Iraqi short story are
.[115] Ignoring Sha’ul and mentioning the others proves the deliberate exclusion of Iraqi-Jewish writers.

We are currently witnessing the demise of Arab-Jewish culture. A tradition that started more than fifteen hundred years ago is vanishing before our eyes – Arabic is gradually disappearing as a language mastered by Jews. The image of an hourglass pops suggests itself, the grains of sand quickly running out. The hourglass will not turn over again, at least not in the foreseeable future. In retrospect, Anwar Sha’ul’s poem recited before the Conference of Arab Writers might be considered to be the swan song of Arab-Jewish culture. The following verses from Sha’ul, who wrote in the 1920s under the pseudonym of Ibn al-Samaw’al but who is now excluded by Arab scholars from Arabness, have acquired an ironical twist:

My heart beats with love of the Arabs, my mouth proudly speaks their language,
Do not they and I share a common source? The distant past drew us together,
The day al-Samaw’al set in the book of faithfulness an emblem to the Arabs in al-Ablaq.[116]

From the Jewish Quarterly Review, Winter 2008

[1] I thank Professor Elliott Horowitz and the two anonymous readers of the article. Their suggestions have helped me shape my arguments.

[2] The personal integrity of one such poet, al-Samaw’al ibn ‘Adiya’, became proverbial and he has since been commemorated by the saying awfa min al-Samaw’al (more loyal than al-Samaw’al). The incident referred to was his refusal to yield weapons entrusted to him, even when a Bedouin chieftain laid siege to his castle and murdered his son. See Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Maydani, Majma‘ al-amthal (The Assembly of Proverbs) (ed. Na‘im Husayn Zarzur) (Beirut, 1988), II, 441-442.

[3] Calvin Goldscheider and A.S. Zuckerman, The Transformation of the Jews (Chicago & London, 1984), 4-5.

[4] See the various contributions in Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries: History and Culture in the Modern Era, ed. H.E. Goldberg (Bloomington & Indianapolis, 1996), as well as the editor’s important observations on pp. 29-30.

[5] On the Isra’iliyyat and relevant references, see Jane Dammen McAuliffe, “Assessing the Isra’iliyyat: An Exegetical Conudrum,” Story-Telling in the Framework of Non-Fictional Arabic Literature, ed. Stefan Leder (Wiesbaden, 1998), 345-369; R. Tottoli, “Origins and Use of the Term Isra’iliyyat in Muslim Literature,” Arabica 46 (1999): 193-210. On the rejection of the Isra’iliyyat in contemporary literature, see Roberto Tottoli, Biblical Prophets in the Qur’an and Muslim Literature (Richmond, 2002), 180-183.

[6] Jacob Lassner, Demonizing the Queen of Sheba: Boundaries of Gender and Culture in Postbiblical Judaism and Medieval Islam (Chicago, 1993), 121.

[7] Cf. S.D. Goitein, Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts Through the Ages (New York: Schocken Books, 1955), 130; Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton, 1984), 67-106; Idem, “The Judeo-Islamic Heritage” (Hebrew), Pe‘amim 20 (1984): 3-13.

[8] See Ute Pietruschka, “Classical Heritage and New Literary Forms: Literary Activities of Christians During the Umayyad Period,” Ideas, Images, and methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam, ed. Sebastian Günther (Leiden, 2005), 32.

[9] See. E. Marmorstein, “Hakham Sassoon in 1949,” Middle Eastern Studies 24 [July 1988]: 366.

[10] Preface in E.S. Drower, “Evergreen Elijah: Ritual Scenes from Jewish Life in the Middle East,” Approaches to Ancient Judaism, ed. J. Neusner and E.S. Frerichs (Atlanta, 1989), VI, 8-11.

[11] On the emergence of modern Hebrew literature in Babylon from 1735 to 1950, see L. Hakak, Nitsane ha-yetsira ha-‘ivrit be-Bavel (Budding of Modern Hebrew Creativity in Babylon) (Or-Yehuda, 2003).

[12] Grattan Geary, Through Asiatic Turkey. Narrative of a Journey from Bombay to the Bosphorous (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1878), I, 132-133.

[13] N.A. Stillman, “Middle Eastern and North African Jewries Confront Modernity: Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation,” in: Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries, 65.

[14] Z. Yehuda, “Iraqi Jewry and Cultural Change in the Educational Activity of the Alliance Israélite Universelle,” in: Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries, 143. The arguments of Stillman and Yehuda largely follow the conception presented in S.N. Eisenstadt, “Modernization without Assimilation – Notes on the Social Structure of the Jews of Iraq” (Hebrew), Pe‘amim 36 (1988), 3-6. Eisenstadt’s article referred to “the unique character of the process of modernization among the Jews of Iraq, which was not accompanied by assimilation or a weakening of communal solidarity and family structure, as was modernization in many Jewish communities in Europe” (English abstract of the article on p. 167) By contrast, the present study argues that the process of modernization and secularization in Iraq did not differ in essence from that of the European Jews, except for   the short duration of the process and its outcomes due to the escalation of the Middle Eastern conflict.

[15] H.Z. Hirschberg, “The Oriental Jewish Communities,” Religion in the Middle East: Three Religions in Concord and Conflict, ed. A.J. Arberry (Cambridge, 1969), I, 220.

[16] P.R. Mendes-Flohr and J. Reinharz (eds.), The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History (New York, 1980), 4-5.

[17] On Ha-dover, see Hakak, Nitsane ha-yetsira ha-‘ivrit be-Bavel, 271-276.

[18] Ha-tsfira, vol. 16, no. 109 (29 May 1889): 445-446.

[19] On Husin’s journalistic activities, see Lev Hakak, Igrot ha-rav Shelomo Bekhor Husin (The Collected Essays of Rabbi Shelomo Bekhor Husin) (Tel Aviv, 2005).

[20] See W. J. Fischel, “The Immigration of Arabian Jews to India in the Eighteenth Century,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 33 (1963):1-20; T. A. Timberg, “Baghdadi Jews in Indian Port Cities,” Jews in India, ed. Thomas A. Timberg (New York, 1986), 273-281; Thabit A.J. Abdullah, Merchants, Mamluks, and Murder: The Political Economy of Trade in Eighteenth-Century Basra (Albany, 2001), 93-95, 108-109.

[21] On Tuwayna, see Abraham Ben-Yaacob, Hagirat yehude Bavel le-Hodu ve-hishtak‘utam bah ba-aspaklarya shel ha-‘itonot ha-mekomit be-‘aravit-yehudit ve-mekorot akherim (The Immigration of Babylonian Jews to India and their Settlement there in the Mirror of the Local Press in Judeo-Arabic and Other Sources), Ph.D. thesis, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1986, 94-103; Yitzhak Avishur, Ha-hakham ha-bavli me-Calcutta – Hakham Shelomo Tuwayna vi-ytsirato ha-sifrutit be-‘ivrit u-be-‘aravit-yehudit (English title: The Hacham from Baghdad in Calcutta – Hacham Shelomo Twena and his Works in Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic) (Tel-Aviv, 2002).

[22] Avishur, Ha-hakham ha-bavli me-Calcutta, 83. On the Judeo-Arabic periodicals in India, see D. S. Sassoon, A History of the Jews in Baghdad (Letchworth, 1949), 214; Yitzhak Avishur, “Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic Books and Journals in India” (Hebrew),  Pe‘amim 52 (1992), 101-115.

[23] Ha-‘olam, 10 March 1909: 11-12 (my emphasis – R.S.). Later, Hiskil would occupy the post of finance minister in several Iraqi cabinets of the 1920s; on Hiskil, see Mir Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith (Eminent Jewish Personalities of Modern Iraq) (Jerusalem, 1983), I, 28-37; Mir Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith (Eminent Jewish Personalities of Modern Iraq) (Jerusalem, 1993), II, 29-43.

[24] M.L. Rozenblit, “Jewish Assimilation in Habsburg Vienna,” Assimilation and Community: The Jews in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. J. Frankel and S.J. Zipperstein (Cambridge, 1992), 234.

[25] Orit Bashkin, “Why Did Baghdadi Jews Stop Writing to their Brethren in Mainz? – Some Comments about the Reading Practices of Iraqi Jews in the Nineteenth Century,” History of Printing and Publishing in the Languages and Countries of the Middle East, ed. Philip Sadgrove (Oxford, 2004), 100-101.

[26] Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (trans. James Schmidt), What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions, ed. James Schmidt (Berkeley, 1996), 58-64. The quotation is from p. 58. For the original text, see Was ist Aufklärung? Beiträge aus der Berlinischen Monatsschrift, ed. Norbert Hinske (Darmstadt, 1973), 452-465.

[27] Ha-maggid IX, no. 14 (5 April 1865): 108.

[28] Ha-maggid XII, no. 14 (16 December 1868): 387.

[29] On Obermeyer, see Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971), XII (1971), 1309-1310.

[30] See, for example, Ha-maggid 20 (1876), no. 6: 48.

[31] See J. Obermeyer, Modernes Judentum im Morgen-und Abendland (Vienna & Leipzig, 1907), 43-46; Sassoon, A History of the Jews in Baghdad, 153-156; Abraham Ben-Yaacob, Yehude Bavel ba-tkufot ha-ahronot (The Jews of Iraq in Modern Times) (Jerusalem, 1979), 196-202. On other European immigrants in Baghdad in the nineteenth century, see the historical novel by Barbara Taufar, Der Uhrmacher (Munich, 2001). For a more detailed presentation of my arguments concerning the process of exposing Iraqi Jews to the wider European Enlightenment, see R. Snir, ‘Arviyut, yahadut, tsiyonut: Ma’avak zehuyot ba-yetsira shel yehude ‘Iraq (Arabness, Jewishness, Zionism: A Struggle of Identities in the Literature of Iraqi Jews) (Jerusalem, 2005), 468-474.

[32] The case of North African Jews is different, mainly because of their close relationship with French culture; see M. Abitbol, “The Encounter Between French Jewry and the Jews of North Africa: Analysis of a Discourse (1830-1914),” The Jews in Modern France, ed. F. Malino and B. Wasserstein (Hanover & London, 1985), 31-53. A special case of a North African intellectual, inspired by East European Haskala, was Mordechai Ha-Cohen (1856-1919) of Tripoli. See his Higgid mordechai (ed. H. Goldberg) (Jerusalem, 1978), 7.

[33] Anwar Sha’ul, Qissat hayati fi wadi al-rafidayn, 119, 223; Salman Darwish, Kull shay’ hadi’ fi al-‘iyada (All is Quiet in the Surgery) (Jerusalem, 1981), 202.

[34] This slogan was probably coined by the Copt intellectual Tawfiq Dus in 1911; see B.L. Carter, The Copts in the Egyptian Politics (London, 1986), 290, 304, n. 2. The first part of the slogan appeared (also as al-dinu li-l-dayyani) in poetry such as in an elegy by Ahmad Shawqi (1868-1932) for the Coptic Prime Minister Butrus Ghali assassinated in 1910 (Ahmad Shawqi, al-Shawqiyyat [Cairo, 1964], III, 144-145), and in elegy for Sa‘d Zaghlul (1859-1927) written in 1927 by Nasr Luza al-Asyuti (Muhammad Sayyid Kaylani, al-Adab al-qubti qadiman wa-hadithan [The Coptic Literature – Past and Present] [Cairo, 1962], 167). It appeared also in a manifesto of Arab nationalists disseminated from Cairo at the beginning of the First World War (Ahmad ‘Izzat al-A‘zami, al-Qadiyya al-‘arabiyya [The Arab Issue] [Baghdad, 1932], IV, 113-114. Cf. Sylvia G. Haim, Arab Nationalism – An Anthology [Berkeley, 1962], 86). See also Tariq al-Bishri, al-Muslimun wa-l-aqbat fi itar al-jama‘a al-wataniyya (The Muslims and Cops in the Framework of National Unity) (Cairo & Beirut, 1988), 62; Wilyam Sulayman Qilada, al-Masihiyya wa-l-islam fi Misr wa-dirasat ukhra (Christianity and Islam in Egypt and Other Studies) (Cairo, 1993), 239; Bulus Basili, al-Aqbat wataniyya wa-ta’rikh (The Copts Nationalism and History) (Cairo, 1999), 165, 277, 281, 282, 283, 284. In April 2004, President Mubarak himself used this slogan in a celebration on the occasion of the birth of the Prophet (al-Ahram, 21 April 2005, 1). See also the slogan al-wataniyya dinuna wa-l-istiqlal hayatuna (Patriotism is our faith and independence is our life) found in Coptic writings (Samira Bahr, al-Aqbat fi al-hayat al-siyasiyya al-misriyya [The Copts in the Egyptian Political Life] [Cairo, 1979], 94-95, 100).

[35] Retrospectively and after the establishment of the State of Israel, it would become more convenient for Iraqi-Jewish immigrants, to justify their involvement in Iraqi government before 1948 by citing the Talmudic principle dina de-malkhuta dina (The law of the land is the law) (Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 28a). Cf. Nissim Kazzaz, Ha-yehudim be-‘Iraq ba-me’a ha-‘esrim (The Jews in Iraq in the Twentieth Century) (Jerusalem, 1991), 70-71.

[36] Elie Kedourie later recalled that even during the 1940s “the Zionist cause did not seem to me as a matter of any political wisdom. The expectancies which Zionism was creating were too high and unrealistic” (Davar ha-shavu‘, 7 April 1988, 9). On Kedourie see below n. 49.

[37] A T. Wilson, Loyalties Mesopotamia: 1914-1917; A Personal and Historical Record (London, 1936), I, 305-306.

[38] Therefore, studies of the pre-1948 relationships between Arabs and Jews (for example, Aziza Khazzoom, “The Great Chain of Orientalism: Jewish Identity, Stigma Management, and Ethnic Exclusion in Israel,” American Sociological Review 68 [2003]: 498) often use an anachronistic dichotomy; David Semah notes that: “The Jews of Iraq never referred to non-Jewish Iraqis as ‘Arabs,’ but used the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘Christian.’” When they spoke about “Arabs” (al-‘Arab) they had in mind only Bedouins (“Between Jews and Muslims,” Neharde‘a 12 [1993]: 5).

[39] Nissim Rejwan, The Jews of Iraq, 3000 Years of History and Culture (London, 1985), 210.

[40] On Kedourie, see Elie Kedourie CBE, FBA 1926-1992: History, Philosophy, Politics, ed. Sylvia Kedourie (London & Portland, 1998); Nissim Rejwan, The Last Jews in Baghdad: Remembering a Lost Homeland (Austin, 2004), 122-123, 150-168.

[41] E. Kedourie, “The Break Between Muslims and Jews in Iraq,” Jews Among Arabs: Contacts and Boundaries, ed. M. R. Cohen and A. L. Udovitch (Princeton, 1989), 21.

[42] On Rejwan, see Abraham Ben-Yaacob, Yehude Bavel be-Erets Yisra’el me-ha-‘aliyot ha-rishonot ‘ad ha-yom (The Jews of Iraq in the Land of Israel from the First Emigrations to the Present Day) (Jerusalem, 1980), 404; S. Somekh, “Baghdad Jewish Journalists, 1946-1948” (Hebrew) Kesher 17 (May 1995): 108-113; Keys to the Garden: New Israeli Writing, ed. A. Alcalay (San Francisco, 1996), 46-60. See also the aforementioned first volume of his autobiography The Last Jews in Baghdad and the other two volumes: Outsider in the Promised Land: An Iraqi Jew in Israel (Austin, 2006), and Israel’s Years of Bogus Grandeur:From the Six-Day War to the First Intifada (Austin, [forthcoming]).

[43] N. Rejwan, “Childhood Memories: Baghdad as a Jewish City,” Midstream, February-March 2001, 14.

[44] On the role the AIU played in the field of Jewish education in the Middle East, see H.J. Cohen, The Jews of the Middle East 1860-1972 (New York & Toronto & Jerusalem, 1973), 105-156. On the AIU educational system in Iraq, see Yehuda, “Iraqi Jewry and Cultural Change,” 134-143.

[45] On the educational institutions of the Jews in Iraq, see Fadil al-Barak, al-Madaris al-yahudiyya wa-l-iraniyya fi al-‘Iraq (Jewish and Iranian Schools in Iraq) (Baghdad, 1985); M.H. Mudhi, The Origin and Development of the Iraqi-Jewish Short Story from 1922-1972, Ph.D Thesis (University of Exeter, 1988), 35-44; Yosef Meir, Hitpathut hebratit-tarbutit shel yehude ‘Iraq me-az 1830 ve-‘ad yamenu (Socio-Cultural Development of Iraqi Jews since 1830 until our Days) (Tel Aviv, 1989), 21-271.

[46] Siegfried Landshut, Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East (London, 1950), 44.

[47] On the Iraqi patriotic process, see R.S. Simon, “The Imposition of Nationalism on a Non-Nation State: The Case of Iraq during the Interwar Period, 1921-1941,” in J. Jankowski and I. Gershoni (eds.), Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East (New York, 1997), 87-104.

[48] On Bar-Moshe, see S. Moreh, al-Qissa al-qasira ‘inda yahud al-‘Iraq (Short Stories by Jewish Writers from Iraq) (Jerusalem, 1981), 233-236; Mudhi, The Origin and Development, 365-403; R. Snir, “Arabic Literature by Iraqi-Jews in the Twentieth Century: The Case of Ishaq Bar-Moshe (1927-2003),” Middle Eastern Studies 41.1 (January 2005): 7-29; R. Snir, “‘When the Time Stopped’: Ishaq Bar-Moshe as Arab-Jewish Writer in Israel,” Jewish Social Studies 11.2 (2005): 102-135. See also Muhammad Jala’ Idris, Mu’aththirat ‘arabiyya wa-islamiyya fi al-adab al-isra’ili al-mu‘asir (Arab and Muslim Influences on Contemporary Israeli Literature) (Cairo, 2003);

[49] Ishaq Bar-Moshe, Bayt fi Baghdad (A House in Baghdad) (Jerusalem, 1983), 231.

[50] Darwish, Kull Shay’, 200.

[51] See al-Sharq al-awsat (London), 24 May 1984, 10. Cf. a case in Syria in which a Muslim journalist was stunned that Jewish students excelled in Arabic exams: “What a humiliation it must be for these Arab students. What a source of heartache it must be for you, dear readers” (N.A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times [Philadelphia & New York, 1991], 280).

[52] See H. Blanc, Communal Dialects in Baghdad (Cambridge, MA, 1963).

[53] David Semah, “Mir Basri and the Resurgence of Modern Iraqi Literature” (Arabic), al-Karmil – Studies in Arabic Language and Literature 10 (1989): 86. Among the teachers in the Shammas School in Baghdad in the late 1940s were the Lebanese writers Muhammad Sharara (1906-1979) and Husayn Muruwwa (1908-1987); see Sasson Somekh’s memoirs in al-Jadid, November-December 1985, 5-10.

[54] Cf. the interview with Mir Basri in al-Mu’tamar, no. 328 (29 November-5 December 2002): 6.

[55] Yusuf Rizq Allah Ghunayma, Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ta’rikh yahud al-‘Iraq (The Trip of the Man Filled with Longing into the History of the Jews of Iraq) (Baghdad, 1924), 178; Yusuf Rizk-Allah Ghanimah, A Nostalgic Trip into the History of the Jews of Iraq (trans. A. Dallal) (Lanham & New York & Oxford, 1998), 140.

[56] Abu Khaldun Sati‘ al-Husri, al-‘Uruba awwalan! (Arabism First) (Beirut, 1965 [1955]), 12. Cf. William L. Cleveland, The Making of an Arab Nationalist: Ottomanism and Arabism in the Life and Thought of Sati‘ al-Husri (Princeton, 1971), 127; Chejne, The Arabic Language, 19-22; The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito (New York, 1995), I, 113-116. On the role of al-Husri in using Iraqi schools to inculcate nationalism, see R.S. Simon, Iraq Between the Two World Wars: The Creation and Implementation of a Nationalist Ideology (New York, 1986), 75-114.

[57] Cleveland, The Making of an Arab Nationalist, 63.

[58] Abbas Shiblak, The Lure of Zion – The Case of the Iraqi Jews (London, 1986), 28 (=Abbas Shiblak, Iraqi Jews – A History of Mass Exodus [London, 2005], 46; it is a new edition of the original book with minor changes; new preface by Peter Sluglett, 13-26).

[59] For the poem, see Abu Tammam n.d., I, 36.

[60] Dijla, 3 July 1921; cited from Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith, II, 9.

[61] The speech was first published in al-‘Iraq, 19 July 1921. For the text see Faysal ibn al-Husayn fi khutabihi wa-aqwalihi (Faysal ibn al-Husayn in his Speeches and Sayings) (Baghdad, 1945), 246-249. Cf. Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith, II, 9. For a slightly different version, see Philip Willard Ireland, Iraq: A Study in Political Development (New York, 1970 [1937]), 466. See also D.B.E. Bell, The Letters of Gertrude Bell (London, 1930), 494-495; Mudhi, The Origin and Development, 21; Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times, 55-56, 260. For a vivid contemporary description of the ceremony, see Ghunayma, Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Ta’rikh Yahud al-‘Iraq, 187; Ghanimah, A Nostalgic Trip into the History of the Jews of Iraq, 148.

[62] Ma‘ruf al-Rusafi, Diwan (Beirut, 1986), II, 327-331.

[63] On the poem, which later evoked strong protests from Arab nationalists, and the circumstances in which it was written, see Yehoshua Ben Hanania (=Yaacob Yehoshua), “The First Cultural Attaché in Arab Countries before the Establishment of Israel” (Hebrew), Minha le-Abraham – sefer yovel li-khbod Abraham Elmaleh (French title: Hommage A Abraham: Recueil littéraire en l-honneur de Abraham Elmaleh) (Jerusalem, 1959), 186-191; Yaacob Yehoshua, “A Very Remote Draft” (Arabic), al-Sharq, July-September 1979: 67-77; Kamil al-Sawafiri, al-Shi‘r al-‘arabi al-hadith fi ma’sat Filastin min sanat 1917 ila sanat 1955 (Modern Arabic Poetry on the Tragedy of Palestine from 1917 to 1955) (Cairo, 1963), 277-279; ‘Abd al-Rahman Yaghi, Hayat al-adab al-filastini al-hadith: Min awwal al-nahda hatta awwal al-nakba (Life of Modern Palestinian Literature from the Beginning of the Renaissance Until the Nakba) (Beirut, 1981), 181-185; The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, VI (1991), 615 (by S. Moreh). For one of the poems written in response to al-Rusafi’s poem, see “In Response to al-Rusafi” by Wadi‘ al-Bustani (1888-1954); see Wadi‘ al-Bustani, Diwan al-filastiniyyat (The Collection of Poems on Palestinian Issues) (Beirut, 1946), 104-110. Cf. Sulayman Jubran, “Wadi‘ al-Bustani: A Palestinian Poet from Lebanon” (Arabic), al-Karmil – Studies in Arabic Language and Literature 23-24 (2002-2003): 59-61; Sulayman Jubran, Nazra jadida ‘ala al-shi‘r al-filastini fi ‘ahd al-intidab (A New Glance on Palestinian Poetry during the Period of the [British] Mandate) (Haifa, 2006), 41-43 [the author erroneously asserts that the name Yehuda referred to in al-Rusafi’s original poem alludes to Judah Magnes (1877-1948); first President of the Hebrew University.

[64] Rejwan, The Jews of Iraq, 219; Rejwan, The Last Jews in Baghdad, 107. On Haddad, see N. Shohet, The Story of an Exile – A Short History of the Jews of Iraq (trans. and ed. A. Zilkha) (Tel Aviv, 1982), 123; Mir Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith, I, 78-79; Shmuel Moreh and Mahmud ‘Abbasi, Tarajim wa-athar fi al-adab al-‘arabi fi Isra’il 1948-1986 (Biographies and Bibliographies of Arabic Literature in Israel 1948-1986) (Shfaram, 1987), 54-55. Haddad was the first to translate the Ruba‘iyyat of the Persian poet ‘Umar (‘Omar) al-Khayyam (1017-1123) into Hebrew (Ahmad Hamid Sarraf, ‘Umar al-Khayyam [Baghdad: Matba‘at al-Ma‘arif, 1960], 320).

[65] On Balbul, see Mudhi, The Origin and Development, 145-153. Balbul, with his short story titled “Sura Tibqa al-Asl” (True Copy) (Ya‘qub Balbul, al-Jamra al-ula [Baghdad, 1938], 97-103), was the first Iraqi-Jewish author to use the colloquial language of the Muslim local community.

[66] Al-Akhbar, 21 July 1938; cited in Khaldun Naji Ma‘ruf, al-Aqalliyya al-yahudiyya fi al-‘Iraq bayna sanat 1921 wa-1952 (The Jewish Minority Between 1921 and 1952) (Baghdad, 1976?), II, 70.

[67] Harold P. Luks, “Iraqi Jews during World War II,” The Wiener Library Bulletin, XXX, New Series 43/44 (1977): 32.

[68] A.H. Hourani, Minorities in the Arab World (London, 1947), 104.

[69] Landshut, Jewish Communities, 45.

[70] Shmuel Moreh, Hibure yehudim ba-lashon ha-‘aravit 1863-1973 (Arabic Works by Jewish Writers 1863-1973) (Jerusalem, 1973), 46. Moreh relies here on Kurkis ‘Awwad, Mu‘jam al-mu’llifin al-‘iraqiyyin [Dictionary of Iraqi Authors] (Baghdad, 1969), III, 600.

[71] Moreh, al-Qissa al-qasira ‘inda yahud al-‘Iraq, 24. No source is mentioned.

[72] Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith, II, 72-75. It seems likely that this was the book Moreh was referring to. On Salim Ishaq, see also Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith, I, 59-60. Ishaq, who also translated the Ruba‘iyyat of the Persian poet ‘Umar (‘Omar) al-Khayyam into Hebrew, was praised by Ahmad Hamid Sarraf as follows: “I don’t know anyone in Iraq more knowledgeable than he is in European and Oriental languages, philosophy, history, law and Sufism” (Sarraf 1960, 320).

[73] On the participation of Jews in Arabic press and journalism in Iraq, see R. Snir, “Arabic in the Service of Regeneration of Jews: The Participation of Jews in Arabic Press and Journalism in the 19th and 20th Centuries,” Acta Orientalia (Budapest) 59 (2006), 285-297.

[74] Iraqi Jews had their own vernacular which they used at home and in daily contacts with each other, while also managing to speak with their Muslim neighbors in the latter’s own colloquial Arabic (see Blanc, Communal Dialects). On Iraqi-Jewish vernacular literature, see Yitzhak Avishur, “Mutations in the Literary Creation and Linguistic Changes among Iraqi Jews in the Modern Era (1750-1950)” (Hebrew), Miqqedem umiyyam 6 (1995), 242.

[75] On the development of the art of the short story among Iraqi Jews, see R. Snir, “Cultural Changes as Reflected in Literature – The Beginning of the Arabic Short Story by Jewish Authors in Iraq” (Hebrew), Pe‘amim 36 (1988): 108-129; Idem, “‘My Heart Beats with Love of the Arabs’: Iraqi Jews Writing in Arabic in the Twentieth Century,” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies I.2 (2002): 182-203.

[76] On the influence of Egyptian literature on the Iraqi-Jewish short story, see ‘Abd al-Ilah Ahmad, Nash’at al-qissa wa-tatawwuruha fi al-‘Iraq 1908-1939 (The Rise of the Short Story and its Development in Iraq 1908-1939) (Baghdad, 1969), 87-88. On the general Egyptian cultural influence on Iraq in the early twentieth century, see ‘Abd al-Qadir Hasan Amin, al-Qasas fi al-adab al-‘Iraqi al-hadith (The Fiction in Modern Iraqi Literature) (Baghdad, 1956), 10-11; Ishaq Bar-Moshe, Ayyam al-‘Iraq (Iraq’s Days) (Shfaram, 1988), 107-108.

[77] See Mudhi, The Origin and Development, 173. On translated Western literature in Iraq in general, see Ibid., 99-103.

[78] On Tuwayq, see ‘Izzat Sasun Mu‘allim, Ba‘id… wa… qarib: Dhikrayat wa-hikayat min al-Furat al-Awsat 1911-1983 (Remote… and… Close: Memories and Stories from the Middle Euphrates 1911-1983) (Shfaram, 1983), 154-158.

[79] Beinin in his foreword to Rejwan, The Last Jews in Baghdad, xxi.

[80] On Murad Mikha’il, see Moreh, al-Qissa al-qasira ‘inda yahud al-‘Iraq, 73-75; Mudhi, The Origin and Development, 105-111.

[81] Published in al-Mufid, I, nos. 15, 16 and 22 (March-April 1922).

[82] Murad Mikha’il, al-A‘mal al-shi‘riyya al-kamila (The Complete Poetic Works) (Tel Aviv, 1988), 15-17; S. Moreh (ed.), Mukhtarat min ash‘ar yahud al-‘Iraq al-hadith (Selections from the Poetry of the Jews in Modern Iraq) (Jerusalem, 1982), 37-38.

[83] Dijla, 11 April 1922. For the text of the poem, see also Mikha’il, al-A‘mal al-shi‘riyya al-kamila, 181-182.

[84] On al-Misbah, see Orit Bashkin, Al-Misbah (1924-1929) – ‘Iton yehudi ‘iraqi (al-Misbah [1924-1929] – A Jewish Iraqi Newspaper), MA Thesis (Tel Aviv University, 1998).

[85] On al-Hasid, see Sha’ul, Qissat hayati fi wadi al-rafidayn, 148-173. On Jewish press in Iraq, see ‘Isam Jum‘a Ahmad al-Ma‘adidi, al-Sihafa al-yahudiyya fi al-‘Iraq (The Jewish Journalism in Iraq) (Cairo, 2001).

[86] On Shina, see Basri, A‘lam al-yahud fi al-‘Iraq al-hadith, I, 76; The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, IX (1997), 442-443 (by S. Moreh).

[87] Anwar Sha’ul, Wa-bazagha fajr jadid (And a New Dawn Broke) (Jerusalem, 1983), 69. According to Sha’ul those verses contributed to the release of Mir Basri after he had been detained on the charge of espionage (Sha’ul, Qissat hayati fi wadi al-rafidayn, 329-333; see also the details below concerning that case).

[88] See al-Misbah I.1 (10 April 1924): 6; I.2 (17 April 1924): 7.

[89] On the tendency among Iraqi-Jewish authors to obscure their religious identity through the use of Islamic motifs see R. Snir, “‘Under the Patronage of Muhammad’: Islamic Motifs in the Poetry of Jewish Writers from Iraq” (Hebrew), Yetsira ve-toladot be-kehilot Yisra’el bi-Sfarad ve-ha-mizrah (History and Creativity in the Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Communities), ed. T. Alexander et al. (Jerusalem, 1994), 161-193.

[90] Sha’ul, Qissat hayati fi wadi al-rafidayn, 119-124.

[91] Mention should be made of the Egyptian-Jewish physician, writer and journalist Shimon Moyal (Shim‘un Muyal) (1866-1915) and his Jewish Lebanese-born wife Esther Lazari-Moyal (Istir Azhari-Muyal) (1873-1948) However, Shimon Moyal never wrote belles lettres; his main contribution was in the field of journalism. As for Esther Lazari-Moyal, although she published belles lettres as well as translations of literary works, such activities were marginal to her main occupation as journalist. Moreover, whereas the Moyals were lone wolves, Sha’ul created a movement with many followers who were eager to implement his vision. Unlike the Moyals, he also lived in sharp conflict with his community (see below). Nevertheless, less important than the question of who was first is that both the Moyals in Lebanon and Egypt and Sha’ul in Iraq were part of an emerging tendency among Arab Jews.

[92] Shmuel Feiner, “Towards a Historical Definition of the Haskala,” New Perspectives on the Haskala, ed. S. Feiner and D. Sorkin (London-Portland, Oregon, 2001), 184-219;  idem, The Jewish Enlightenment (trans. Chaya Naor) (Philadelphia 2004).

[93] Al-Misbah, 1 October 1925, 3-4.

[94] Feiner, “Towards a Historical Definition of the Haskala,” 191.

[95] On Darwish, see E. Marmorstein, “‘An Iraqi Jewish Writer in the Holy Land,” The Jewish Journal of Sociology VI.1 (July 1964): 91-102; S. Ballas, “The Realistic Orientation in Shalom Darwish’s Stories” (Arabic), al-Karmil – Studies in Arabic Language and Literature 10 (1989): 27-60; R. Snir, “Zionism as Reflected in the Arabic and Hebrew Belles Lettres of Iraqi Jewry” (Hebrew), Pe‘amim –73 (Autumn 1997): 128-146; S. Ballas, Ruwwad wa-mubdi‘un: Dirasat fi al-adab al-‘arabi al-mu‘asir (Explorers and Creators: Studies in Contemporary Arabic Literature) (Cologne, 2003), 169-192; For a list of Darwish’s short stories published in newspapers and magazines, see Mudhi, The Origin and Development, 502-506.

[96] S. Darwish, “The Relations Between Communal Institutions and the He-Haluts Underground Movement in Baghdad” (Hebrew), Mi-Bavel li-yrushalayim (From Babylon to Jerusalem), ed. Z. Yehuda (Tel Aviv, 1980), 83. Cf. also the poem “Fi Dhimmat al-Ta’rikh” (For the Benefit of History) written in 1951 in Teheran by the Iraqi-Jewish poet Ibrahim Obadya (1924-2007), in: Sayha min ‘Iraq al-‘ahd al-ba’id (A Cry from Iraq of the Bygone Period) (Jerusalem, 1990), 61-68.

[97] They claimed that Zionism was a liberation movement for all Jews; therefore both “Jewish” and “Zionist” were taken to be synonymous terms. For example, as early as its 21 February 1924 issue, a writer in the scientific and literary weekly al-‘Alam al-Isra’ili (The Jewish World; French title: L’Univers Isrélite), published in Beirut, stated that “every Jew wherever he lives is a Zionist.”
[98] In the mid-1930s, the Iraqi Ministry of Education went so far as to found an elementary school for Jewish children which was called al-Samaw’al School; the headmaster of the school was a Muslim while most of the teachers were Jews. It was closed down in the late 1930s (Meir, Hitpathut hebratit-tarbutit shel yehude ‘Iraq, 123).

[99] According to Iraqi criminal files, about 245 Jews joined the Communist party during the 1940s. Most were from Baghdad and the great majority joined the party in 1946. see Fadil al-Barak, al-Madaris al-yahudiyya, 245-252.  On Jewish Communist activity in Iraq, see also  H. Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements in Iraq (Princeton, 1978), 650-651, 699-701, 1190-1192; Shiblak, The Lure of Zion, 59 (=Shiblak, Iraqi Jews, 80).

[100] On Zionist activity in Iraq, see H.J. Cohen, Ha-pe‘ilut ha-tsionit be-‘Iraq (Zionist Activity in Iraq) (Jerusalem, 1969); Yosef Meir (Yehoshafat), Me-‘ever la-midbar, ha-mahteret ha-halutsit be-‘Iraq (Beyond the Desert: Underground Activities In Iraq 1941-1951) (Tel Aviv, 1973); S. Masliyah, “Zionism in Iraq,” Middle Eastern Studies 25 (1989), 216-237; Usuki Akira, “Zionizm, Communism and Emigration of the Iraqi Jews: A Brief Survey of an Ancient Community in Crises, 1941-1951,” Annals of Japan Association for Middle East Studies 9 (1994): 1-35; Esther Meir, Ha-tnu‘a ha-tsionit ve-yehude ‘Iraq, 1941-1950 (Zionism and the Jews of Iraq, 1941-1950) (Tel Aviv, 1993); Moshe Gat, The Jewish Exodus from Iraq 1948-1951 (London, 1997); Sa‘d Salman ‘Abd Allah al-Mashhadani, al-Nashat al-di‘a’i li-l-yahud fi al-‘Iraq 1921-1952 (The [Zionist] Propaganda of the Jews in Iraq 1921-1952) (Cairo, 1999).

[101] On Basri, see Moreh, al-qissa al-qasira ‘inda yahud al-‘Iraq, 155-159; Mudhi, The Origin and Development, 157-172; Semah, “Mir Basri,”: 83-122; Julie Scott Meisami and Paul Starkey (eds.), Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature (London & New York, 1998), I, 141.

[102] See Anwar Sha’ul, Fi ziham al-madina (Baghdad, 1955); Mir Basri, Rijal wa-zilal: Qisas wa-suwar qalamiyya (Men and Shadows: Stories and Written Pictures) (Baghdad, 1955); Mir Basri, Nufus zami’a (Thirsty Souls) (Baghdad, 1966).

[103] Al-Zaman, 1 June 1959.

[104] Sha’ul, Qissat hayati fi wadi al-rafidayn, 335-336.

[105] Phebe A. Marr, Yasin al-Hashimi: The Rise and Fall of a Nationalist, Ph.D Thesis (Harvard University, 1966); idem, The Modern History of Iraq (Boulder & London, 1985).

[106] On Chief Rabbi Khadduri, see Sha’ul Khadduri, Ra‘in wa-ra‘iyya: Sirat hayat al-khakham Sasun Khadduri (A Leader and his Community: A Biography of the Hakham Sassoon Khadduri) (Jerusalem, 1999).

[107] For the entire poem, which was written on 20 April 1969, see Mir Basri, Aghani al-hubb wa-l-khulud (Songs of Love and Eternity) (Jerusalem, 1991), 149-152. On the events that prompted the writing of these verses, see Sha’ul, Qissat hayati fi wadi al-rafidayn, 329-333; Mir Basri, Rihlat al-‘umr min difaf Dijla ila wadi al-Tims (Life’s Journey from the Banks of the Tigris to the Valley of the Thames) (Jerusalem, 1991), 139-144; M.S. Basri, “A Young American Lady and I,” The Scribe 62 (September 1994): 16.

[108] On the emergence of this culture, see for example Itamar I. Even-Zohar, “The Emergence of a Native Hebrew Culture in Palestine, 1882-1948,” Poetics Today 11.1 (Spring 1990): 175-191.

[109]. For a brief history of Oriental-Ashkenazi relations in Israel, see Sammy Smooha, Israel: Pluralism and Conflict (Berkeley, 1978), 48-61.


[110] On “Mizrahim” as an Israeli ethnic invented category, filled with negative cultural connotations, and as a symbolic vehicle by which cultural differences capable of masking socioeconomic inequality are explained, see Arnold Lewis, “Phantom Ethnicity: ‘Oriental Jews’ in Israeli Society,” Studies in Israeli Ethnicity after the Ingathering, ed. Alex Weingrod (New York, 1985), 149-151; E. Shohat, “The Invention of the Mizrahim,” Journal of Palestine Studies XXIX.1 (Autumn 1999): 5-20; Yehouda Shenhav, The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity (Stanford, 2006). For an attempt to pinpoint the roots of the Westernizing of the emerging Israeli society in the earlier history of the Jewish encounter with Orientalism and Western colonialism, see Khazzoom, “The Great Chain of Orientalism”: 481-510.

[111] Abu Khaldun Sati‘ al-Husri, Fi al-lugha wa-l-adab wa-‘alaqatihima bi-l-qawmiyya (On Language and Literature and their Relationship with Nationalism) (Beirut, 1966), 241-250.

[112] In his A History of the Jews in Baghdad (Letchworth, 1949), David Solomon Sassoon (1880-1942) did not mention at all the literary activities of the Iraqi Jews in Arabic.

[113] Hamid al-Matba‘i, Mawsu‘at a‘lam al-‘Iraq fi al-qarn al-‘ishrin (The Encyclopedia of the Eminent Personalities of Iraq in the Twentieth Century) (Baghdad, 1995-6).

[114] The author mentioned only few Jews: Ahmad Nissim Susa (Al-Matba‘i, I, 12-13), probably because he converted to Islam; Dawud Samra (1878-1960, one of the greatest Iraqi leglists during the first half of the twentieth century, without mentioning that he was a Jew (Ibid., II, 77); and in the entry on the Muslim singer Nazim al-Ghazali (1912-1963), he mentions his wife, the singer Salima Murad, but without alluding to her being originally Jewish and converting to Islam (Ibid., II, 228-229).

[115] Dhu al-Nun Ayyub (1908-1988) (Ibid., I, 72), ‘Abd al-Haqq Fadil (1915-1992) (Ibid., I, 122), and Mahmud Ahmad al-Sayyid (1903-1937) (Ibid., I, 197-198).
[116] Sha’ul, Qissat hayati fi wadi al-rafidayn, 335-336. Al-Ablaq was al-Samaw’al’s fortress in Tayma’, north of al-Madina.



About Mati Shemoelof

משורר, עורך וסופר. A Writer
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