Fears of Jewish and Christian minorities in Iraqâ€”the Arabian kingdom carved out of the old Turkish province of Mesopotamiaâ€”that independence for that land would bring them woe are being sadly vindicated by the developments of the past few weeks.
Great Britain’s mandate over Iraq was terminated in 1932, and the country, under the rule of King Feisal, was admitted to the League of Nations immediately as an independent state. British supervision of the country was withdrawn.
The League granted the new Kingdom independence and a place in the council of nations after Sir Francis Humphreys, High Commissioner for Iraq, had assured the Mandates Commission that the country, “if given the support and inspiration of membership in the League of Nations, is now fit to stand alone; it now is capable of self-government.”
Iraq, under the terms of its treaty with Britain, asumed sole responsibility for its internal affairs. No special clauses in the treaty and in the terms of her entrance into the League provided for any special treatment of Jews and other minorities in the country. Provisions in the Iraq constitution, however, allow for freedom of conscience, establishment of schools by the various religious communities, etc.
Out of Iraq’s total population of 3,000,000, there are approximately 110,000 Jews, about 60,000 of whom live in Bagdad. Although industrially and commercially they play an important role, their influence in politics is negligible, being less than that of the Christians of the country, who form a smaller group numerically.
Their position has never been too secure since the withdrawal of British control of the country and they have been affected from time to time by sporadic anti-Jewish waves. In August, 1933, when agitation against the Assyrian Christians was strong, serious anti-Jewish feeling developed, particularly in the province of Mosul.
Following the death of Feisal in September, 1933, things took a turn for the worse under the rule of young Ghazi I. For the past year, anti-Jewish feeling strengthened by feeling over Palestine, has grown. During the past week it cropped out in a series of discriminatory measures against the Jews.
All Jewish newspapers and publications from abroad have been placed under a strict ban. Non-Jewish papers carrying reports favorable to the Jews and their work in Palestine have been confiscated. Jewish officials in the government service, some of whom had held their posts for fifteen years, were summarily dismissed.
Through the strict censorship established by the government it is safe to state that the Iraq Kingdom has definitely embarked on an anti-Jewish program which may, unless the government sees the light, have serious consequences.
Chancellor Schuschnigg and his government persist in pursuing in Austria a policy which they hope may win over the Nazi elements to their cause by giving them everything they ask for except rule of the country. Since anti-Semitism is one of the Nazi tenets easiest to adopt, the government is offering up the Jews at the sacrificial altar.
Dismissals of Jews from office continued remorselessly during the past week, particularly in the medical profession. But more serious, despite the government ban on all political meetings except those of Dr. Schuschnigg’s own party, permits were granted for twenty-two rallies of the Anti-Semitic League, a thinly veiled Nazi organization. Protests by the anti-Nazi league and the Jewish community thus far have been unavailing.
Jerusalem’s municipal politics continued to furnish grist for the headlines. The Jews demanded, on the basis of their numerical superiority, that a Jewish mayor be named over the city. Following conferences with the authorities at which this demand was voiced, Daniel Auster, one of the newly-elected Jewish councillors, resigned, but later withdrew his resignation. Despite the large Jewish population in Jerusalem, Jewish voters number less than 5,000. It was pointed out recently that 160,000 Jews in all Palestine who are eligible for the franchise have failed to obtain it.
A significant development of the week was the threat of Near East and India, organ of the British Colonial Office, to Jews to cease objections to the proposed legislative council for Palestine. Despite the threat, the Zionists renewed their opposition to a measure which would give Palestine a more or less representative government on the basis of the crystallized status quo.
In the United States, President Conant of Harvard administered a telling rebuke to the Nazis by summarily rejecting the proffered Hanfstaengl scholarship. Samuel Untermyer sharply protested to the State Department against negotiations leading to a trade agreement with Germany. The New York Federation launched a drive to raise $2,071,000 before January 1 to complete its budget.