POLICY BACK Q ROUND
1. Facts Relating to the Baghdad Executions.
2. Statement by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol on the
THE EMBASSY OF ISRAEL
3anuary 27, 1969
P 0 LI C
8 A K GR 0 N
FACTS RELATING TO THE BAGHDAD EXECUTIONS
1) On January 27, 1969, Radio Baghdad and international news agencies re-
ported the public execution of 15 persons on charges of spying for "Zionism,
imperialism, and Israel." Nine of the executed were Jews. They wer- hung
in the main squares of Baghdad and Basra in the presence of thousands of
cheering onlookers. It is knoun that scores of others, including Jews, are
either now on trial or awaiting trial on similar charges.
2) The trial of those already executed began on January 4, 1969, and was
given wide coverage by the Iraqi official media. The prosecutor demanded
the death penalty in the case of four of seven Jews charged. It was an-
nounced shortly afterwards, however, that the continuation of the trial
would be in camera and no further reports on its progress were available.
3) Israel made urgent appeals to the U.N. Secretary General and to numerous
Governments to try and avert the death sentences and executions. Similar
appeals were addressed to Governments by Jewish and non-Jewish organizations,
individuals and humanitarian agencies throughout the world. No replies of
substance were received from the Iraqi authorities.
4) It is clear beyond doubt that the present spate of trials are motivated
by internal pressures and that their aim is to detract public opinion from
urgent domestic conflicts.
5) The Jews executed were innocent ofiall the charges levelled against them.
Ever since the hostilities of June 1967, Iraq's 2,500 Jews (120,000 lived in
Iraq in 1948) have been living under conditions of virtual house arrest.
All their telephones have been confiscated. Their every movement is cir-
cumscribed and watched by the Itaqi police authorities, and they are com-
pelled to carry special identity cards. Hundreds of males, among them the
Chief Rabbi of Baghdad, Rabbi Sasoon Kadoori, (his son is among the executed)
have long been herded into a quarter from which they cannot depart. Twenty-
six Jews arrested in June 1967 have never been heard of since,
5) Iraqi. Jews have been deprived of all their civil liberties. They are
not allowed to emigrate. Official incitement on radio, television, and in
the press is unrelenting. The populace has been incited to boycott Jewish
citizens. Most Jews have been deprived of their jobs and sources of income.
Their businesses have been sequestered and their right to attend universi-
ties has been denied.
The Government Gazette No. 1562 (March 1968) published Law No. 10 "for
the supervision and management of the properties of denaturalized Jews."
It supplements a similar law (No. 64, July 1967) and lays down among its
provisions that "authorities shall abstain from carrying out any trans-
action or sale of immovable properties belonging to a Jew." By these laws,
it is impossible for a Jew in Iraq today to sell or otherwise dispose of
any immovable property without the permission of the Minister of the Inter-
ior. They prevent Government offices and private businesses from paying out
sums due to Jews, with the exception of small salary allowances.
FACTS RELATING TO THE BAGHDAD EXECUTIONS
7) The fate of the truncated Jewish communities in other Arab countries of
the Middle East is much the same. In 1948, 350,000 3eus had been residing,
most of them for centuries, in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen
and Aden. By May 1967, their number had dwindled to 18,000. The majority
fled to Israel. By 1960, more than half a million Jews from Arab League
States had arrived in Israel (natural increase has brought their figure to
close to 1,000,000).
In Egypt, hundreds of 3eus have been held in jail without trial since
June 1967. No Jeus are allowed to leave the country. There are about 1,000
left, stripped of their civil liberties. In Syria, the 4,000 3ews there
have been herded into ghettoes and are subject to a 10 pm. curfew. They
are compelled to carry special identity cards and are not allowed to emigrate,
8) The Arab Governments oppose any United Nations investigation of the
oppression of 3ews in their lands because of the extent of that oppression.
They have banned U.N. representatives from looking into the problem, claim-
ing that their treatment of Jews is an internal matter. They have also re-
fused to allow delegates of the International Red Cross and other humanitar-
ian organizations visit the prisons and concentration camps in which the
Jeus have been detained.
"IF THERE IS A CONSCIENCE IN THE WORLD
LET ITS VOICE BE HEARD NOW"
Statement by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in the Knesset (Parliament)
January-27, 1969, on the Baqhdad Executions
What we have feared has come true. At dawn, the Iraqi authorities have
hanged nine Jews. Let us pay homage to the memory of:
Ezra Naji Zilkha, Fuad Gabbai, Yaacov Gurji Namurdi, Daoud Yehezkeel
Baruch Dalai, Daoud Ghali, Yehezkeel Salah Yehezkeel, Sabah Hayim,
Naim Kadoori Halai, Charles Raphael Horesh.
The blood of the Innocent martyrs of Babylon cries out to us and to the
world from Iraqi soil. "0 daughter of Babylon, that art to be destroyed,
happy shall be he, that repayeth thee as thou hast served us." (Psalms
137:8) The Lord shall avenge their blood.
The first spontaneous reaction in the heart of every one of us to the
murder trial of nine aews in Iraq is profound mourning and the redoubled
determination to fulfill in Jewish History that thoroughgoing charge of
Israel's redemption and the ingathering of the exiles, to which our
lives are consecrated.
Jews Made Scapeqoats Beyond any doubt, there is more here than the
merely humane aspect to this murder. Here is further evidence, i1 such
evidence was needed, of the essence of the regimes in Arab countries,
and of the fate they have ordained for the Jewish people, and for each
of its individuals, if they could but do as they pleased. These regimes
are incapable of solving the problems besetting their own nations, and
they try hard to disclaim responsibility, unburdening it on others.
Thus they strive to blunt the sting of their nations' despair, redir-
ecting it at helpless hostages whom they have imprisoned within their
The similarity between these regimes and movements and those regimes
and movements which threatened the entire world until they were defeated
in the Second World War is manifest to one and all.
The criminal plot of the Baghdad hangings and that which goes by the
name of "The Liberation of Palestine is part and parcel of the self-
same design. Unless a halt is put to it from outside, it will not cease
on its own. Between the design of genocide and its perpetration, there'
stands the State of Israel alone--Israel and its strength.
Thinking people of the world must understand this reality. As in
May 1967, this is not a matter of demands and counter-demands, between
which a compromise must be sought. The conflict is one between a furor of
destruction and a nation defending itself from its would-be assassins.
The Baghdad hangings have illumined the fate of .the remnants of Baby-
lonian Jewry with a nightmarish light. The land of Iraq has become one
great prison for its Jewish remnant. Our brethren are prey to terror
Statement by Prime Minister Eshkol Page 4
Jan. 27, 1969
at the hands of villains.
Iraq has become a gallows to its Jewish citizens. For 2,500 years
the Jews have helped to build up Babylon,Iraq with all their hearts and
souls. When Israel attained statehood we welcomed those driven out from
Now, the persecutions have culminated in the hanging of nine Jews
and Iraq's leaders promise that this is not the end. The sole and
only crime of these nine martyrs consists in their Jewishness. We know
full well, and I do declare that the Iraqi government also knew, that all
accusations levelled at these Jews were entirely baseless. It is not for
nothing that their trial took place behind locked doors.
Anpeals Went Unanswered.: The oppression of Jews in the Arab countries has
been going on incessantly for years- yet the world's conscience has not
been stirred. Thus we have come to this pass- the hangings in Baghdad.
As soon as we learnt of the death sentences, we appealed to everybody
likely perhaps to take action in order to rescue these people in Iraq.
Many, including states, personalities, religious leaders, as well a-
the U.N. Secretary-General, appealed to the Baghdad rulers- to be fobbed
off with mendacious denials deliberately, misleading These lies were
meant to cover up for the murderous death sentences already passed,
in spite of statements to the contrary. Once the ground had thus been
prepared, the murder was carried out. I cannot help but reach the sorry
conclusion, that the world and all its institutions have failed to muster
the necessary determination in this matter- and in the matter of Jews
in Arab lands in general. Last-minute appeals and making do with hyp-
ocritical replies will not relieve the awesome responsibilityoorcexcuse
the blind eye turned towards the fate of the *ews in Arab countries.
World Action Needed: From this rostrum, I demand that the entire world
should act, each one to the best of his capacity, in order to avert
further acts of murder, to save the families, and to protect the Jewish
If there is a conscience in this world, let its voice be heard, now.
Let it awaken to the immediate need to rescue the remnant of the Jewish
communities in the Arab countries.
Our hearts mourn for the victims, and our fraternal feelings go out
to the bereaved families and communities.
We are firmly resolved to accomplish Israel's revival until its full
Our actions will aim at strengthening the State of Israel and at the
salvation of Jewish communities in distress.