Escaping a Pogrom in Iraq: My Warning about Hamas’ Extremism

The photos and videos posted by Hamas on Oct. 7 are horrifying. These images brought back my trauma from the Farhud in Baghdad, Iraq in 1941. During the Farhud, mobs raped women and girls, looted Jewish homes, and killed Jews in a brutal rampage. My brother witnessed the violence, and fortunately, our family was spared. However, the events left a lasting impact on me.

My father had always taught me to judge people by their individual actions, and not as a group. This lesson has stayed with me throughout my life. When I saw the pro-Hamas demonstrations after the Oct. 7 massacre, it reminded me of the events in 1947 when the Arab League rejected the partition of Palestine and declared war on the newly created Israel. The demonstrations in Baghdad at the time made us fear another Farhud.

The Arab armies’ attack on Israel in 1948 and Israel’s survival resulted in heightened persecution of Jews in Arab countries. I was forced to flee to Iran and eventually made my way to Israel as a refugee. Like myself, 850,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes and became refugees.

Though the situations of refugees from Arab countries and Palestinians in Gaza are not completely analogous, the experiences of oppression and exile do not have to lead to the events on Oct. 7. Hamas’s treatment of the Fatah movement and their discrimination against minorities, women, and homosexuals is reminiscent of the totalitarian regimes I have experienced.

As someone who has survived the Farhud and understands the hardships of being a refugee, I empathize with both the Jews and innocent Palestinians affected by the recent events. I hope for the Palestinian people to find the courage to stand up to Hamas and work towards establishing a democratic and prosperous Palestinian state.

The author’s views and opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.