Arbil, Iraq – Kurdish Mag Sparks Wrath by Urging Jews to Return

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    Dawood Baghestani, Iraqi Kurdish editor-in-chief of Israel-Kurd holds a copy of the magazineArbil, Iraq – A new magazine in Iraq’s Kurdistan region has caused furore among conservative Muslims with a rousing call for Jews to leave Israel — and come back to Iraq.

    The magazine, “Israel-Kurd”, is the brainchild of Dawood Baghestani, the 62-year-old former chief of the autonomous northern region’s human rights commission.

    The glossy, full-colour monthly in Kurdish and English has a lofty mission: to help solve the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict by convincing more than 150,000 Kurdish Jews living in Israel to return to Iraqi Kurdistan, Baghestani told AFP.

    “The biggest reason behind the complexity of the Palestinian problem is the unjust practices of Arab regimes against the Jews — there are more than 1.5 million Jews originally from Arab countries in Israel,” Baghestani said.

    “If the Jews had not been subject to an exodus, the Palestinians wouldn’t have been either,” he said, referring to the flight of 700,000 Palestinians from the newly created Jewish state in 1948 during the first Arab-Israeli war.

    “If the situation in our new federal and democratic Iraq, and particularly in Kurdistan, becomes stable, then many Jews would want to return and reduce the number of Jewish settlements in Palestine.”

    The latest edition of the 52-page magazine, which has a circulation of around 1,500 copies, features a woman draped in an Israeli flag on the cover.

    Inside are stories about Kurdish Jewish traditions and photographs from the first half of the twentieth century, as well as arguments on how a return of Jews would help to build a wealthy and strong Kurdistan.

    But many people in Iraq are not buying the argument.

    “I’m suspicious. I don’t see the point of this kind of publication,” said Zana Rustayi, a representative of the Islamist Jamaa Islamiya party in the regional assembly.

    “The Kurds are part of the Muslim nation, and Kurdistan is part of Iraq.”

    Iraq has no relations with Israel, and the country was an implacable foe of the Jewish state under the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown by the US-led invasion in 2003.

    A Sunni member of parliament in Baghdad, Mithal Alusi, was suspended from parliament and threatened with charges last year after visiting Israel for a conference. The decision was later overturned by the constitutional court.

    Kurdistan does have a warmer history with the Jewish state, however. Many of the current crop of Kurdish leaders have visited Israel in past decades.

    Jews lived in Kurdistan for centuries, working as traders, farmers and artisans.

    But the creation of Israel and the rise of Arab nationalism in the mid-twentieth century dramatically altered the situation, spurring most of Kurdistan’s Jews to leave.

    Baghestani — who has been to Israel four times, including on a clandestine trip in 1967 — denies that he works for the Israelis.

    “What I am asking for is enshrined in the constitution: every Iraqi has the right to return to one’s homeland. Jews who were Iraqi citizens were subject to injustice,” he said.

    “If every Arab country allowed the Jews to return, ensured their safety and gave them back their land, Palestinian refugees would be able to return to their territory because Israel would not need so much land.”

    Mahmud Othman, a Kurdish Coalition MP in Baghdad, disputes this. He says that while relations with Israel may be a nice idea, such a move would not be pragmatic for a region ringed by other Muslim states.

    “Kurdistan needs the Arabs. We are living in an Arab country and we are federal region within Iraq. We don’t need a relationship with (Israel), we need a relationship with Arabs, we need a relationship with Iran, we need to be close to Turkey,” Othman said.

    “I haven’t heard of any Jews in Israel trying to return to Kurdistan. I think they’re better off there.”

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    16 COMMENTS

    1. I always wonder why the Jews don’t make it more of an issue against the Arabs – who constantly fighting for the rights of the Palestine’s, what’s about the Jews who you kicked out from almost all the Arab countries and you took away all their assets?!

    2. Kurdistan has been good to Jews. A moderate muslim country. Kurds are not arabs, and Saddam Hussein hated them as much as Jews. Kurds are the largest ethnic minority, and have no country.

      Though this article he publishes is unrealistic… its reception tells alot about his neighbors!

    3. Lol “If the Jews had not been subject to an exodus, the Palestinians wouldn’t have been either” Apparently he’s forgetting who exiled whom in the Arab/Muslim Lands. The Jews were kicked out of Iraq (and other such countries) after the creation of Israel, not before.

      If he cares so much about the Palis, Iraq/Kurdistan can have them, they certainly don’t want us.

      • This is what I always say about the so-called “Right of Return.” Before Israel has to take back any Palestinians, the Arab countries should be required to let all Jews who were kicked out of their houses and homelands return, if they wish to do so. Why should we make all the concessions and not them?

        • It is hardly a concession for the Arab countries to agree to allow Jews to return when they know that the total number of Jews who would take up that offer would fit in a taxi cab.

          • You’re correct in terms of those who would actually move back home. However, if they had to return all of the assets that were stolen from the Jews (as poster #4 wrote), they would think twice before demanding Israel accept the Palestinians.

        • The Muslim world constitutes all countries which have Islam as their official religion. Many such countries would identify themselves as Muslim, i.e. Indonesia, Iran, Morocco.

          “The Arabs left Israel also after the creation of Israel, not before.” Arabs who left after were not kicked out, but refused citizenship under the Israeli state and moved to other places freely, as opposed to Jews who were either oppressed in many muslim countries as a result of a creation of the state until they left in droves, or kicked out entirely and all their property confiscated.

          • Muslim world yes, but NOT a Muslim nation. Such a nation doesn’t exist.

            The Arabs weren’t “kicked out”; they left voluntarily with the hope of coming back to a defeated Israel.

    4. Tell that to the left-wing organizations, like Neturei Karta and Meretz, who talk incessantly about Yidden returning to their “homes” in galus.

      Or as they say at the left-wing pro-Obama peace rallies: Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas.

    5. You can read up online about this guy. To be fair, his motives seem to be genuine and it is a least nice to see someone in Iraq speaking with a level head (even if it is a completely impractical idea). However, what yid in his right mind would leave E”Y to go live in Iraq? His efforts are for nothing. It would be nice if he spent this time and money convincing Palestinians of the great life they could have in a moderate Muslim territory.

    6. Once I had a chance to speak with Iraqi kurds. They have completely different views on Israel and Jews. No hate and a lot of respect. They could not express their views in the past since they could be severely punished being under the regime of government that hates us. Also it unrealistic that Jews would want to return there. One positive aspect of it that at least someone dares to speak favorably about us in Iraq. It is not a small matter in this country

    7. My huband is from a Kurdish family and he spoke about how the Kurds were very friendly to the Jews in Kurdistan. At this point we would love to visit Kurdistan and see where his family came from (Saqquez) . However at this time making Aliyah to Israel makes morre sense than returning to OLD KURDISTAN. Nothing stays the same, from past to the present.

    8. This man has a ton of guts and he better hope that some terrorists don’t do away with him. I can’t believe that he actually put an Israeli flag on the front cover of an Iraqi magazine! Talk about chutzpah!

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