In July 1950, Avi Shlaim, only five, and his family were forced into exile, fleeing from their beloved Iraq into the new state of Israel.
Now the rump of a once flourishing community of over 150,000, dating back 2,600 years, has dwindled to single figures. For many, this tells the story of the timeless clash of the Arab and Jewish civilizations, the heroic mission of Zionism to rescue Eastern Jews from their backwards nations, and unceasing persecution as the fate and history of Jewish people.
Avi Shlaim tears up this script. His mother had many Muslim friends in Baghdad, but no Zionist ones. The Iraqi Jewish community, once celebrated for its ancient heritage and rich culture, was sprayed with DDT upon arrival in Israel. As anti-Semitism gathered pace in Iraq, the Zionist underground may have inflamed it – deliberately.
This memoir celebrates the disappearing heritage of Arab-Jews – caught in the crossfire of secular ideologies.