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The Highest Total So Far: 23 Iraqi Jews Reported Murdered

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At least 23 Jews were murdered by the Iraqi regime in the past year, the highest such total ever, the European office of the American Jewish Committee charged today in a report on Jews in Middle Eastern countries.

Fifteen Jewish men and three women arrested by Iraqi police and security forces during an eight-month period beginning Sept. 1972 never have been seen or heard from again and must be presumed dead, the AJ Committee affirmed.

Five more Jews, members of the Reuven Kashkush family, were machine-gunned to death in their home by a police unit, as part of Iraqi “vengeance” following the Israeli commando raid into Beirut last April. Still another Jew found murdered in his house in unexplained circumstances may have been yet another security forces victim, the AJ Committee reported.

NO OTHER CONCLUSION CAN BE REACHED

“Persistent refusal of Iraqi authorities to provide any information about the fate of the 18 persons arrested plus recent revelations by the highest Iraqi leaders of prison torture and killings in that country permit no other conclusion than that these Jews were put to death,” according to the report which covers developments during the Jewish year 1972-1973.

The largest previous toll of Jewish deaths in any one year occurred when nine Jews were publicly hanged in Baghdad and Basra on alleged treason charges in Jan. 1969, and two others were executed by Iraq in prison the following Aug. Meanwhile, Syrian authorities continue to “play dumb” regarding the fate of Albert Elia, the secretary of the Jewish community of Beirut, known to have been kidnapped by Syrian security forces in Sept. 1971.

No more than 400 Jews still live in Iraq according to AJ Committee estimates. The Jewish community–once 120,000 strong, the largest in the Middle East–is at the brink of disintegration as Jews depart steadily when emigration is permitted. While passports and exit visas are at present being granted to some Jews, others are still being refused departure. Jewish communal life in Iraq is virtually at an end as has already been the case in Libya where there are only 30 Jews compared to 42,000 in 1945.

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