Back in the day, when the Iraq post-war outcome was in question, one of the favorite claims made by my politically conservative brethren, (those who were the most invested in success of the post-war) was that a Iraqi democracy would bring a change to the political structure of the Middle East. A successful Iraqi democracy would put pressure on the other arabian countries to leave behind primitive beliefs and modernize - voila - end of conflicts in the Middle East. Never mind that somewhat real elections have been held for years in arabian countries, this rising tide lifts all boats argument was strongly advanced by President Bush as a way to end terrorism and conflict. This argument seemed reasonable, after all we went to war against Saddam basically because he was a squeaky cog in the islamo-fascist terrorist infrastructure.
Other great hopes of modernization included the now distant expectation that a democratic Iraq would normalize relations with Israel. It is well beyond any shadow of a doubt that this was all fantasy. Iraq is not becoming the great arabian democracy any more than it is becoming a friend of Israel. While the voices pontificating the fall of Iraq after US troops withdraw may be premature, what will certainly not change is the fact that Yishmael is still Yishmael.
Take for example two recent stories. Both represent a different focus, or pose of the "new" Iraq. One example is representative of the fact that Iraq is still a very islamic land. In the INN story below, we find that the Tomb of Yechezkel is slated to become a mosque. Democratic Iraq seems to have no tolerance of religious expression or history. Islam has no need to turn a Jewish shrine into a muslim one if it is recognized as a place of holiness already with the exception of wanting to erase all vestiges of the once large and proud Iraqi Jewry. How irrational this is? One day, the Iraqi government mouth piece may even deny Jews ever lived in Iraq.
The second story from Jpost is also outrageous. US ally PM al-Maliki has approved a plan to ask the UN to demand Israel pay for damages (financially) caused by the 1981 bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor under construction at that time for Saddam Hussein (YmShm) by French nuclear engineers. At the time of the first Gulf War, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney pointed out that the bombing by Israel made the US attack much simpler. Conceivably, a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons would have changed the balance of power in the region and possibly the world in very bad ways. (this is the best lesson in thinking about Iran with nuclear weapons). At the time of the bombing though, Israel was treated as a villain. The UN resolution al-Maliki is basing his claim on Security Council Resolution 487 according to the story below gives Iraq the opportunity to demand compensation. Of course, al-Maliki would not have been PM nor been involved in the government of Iraq had Saddam lived and had still been running the show there. What a strange way to say thanks for helping to bring democracy to Iraq. But this brings us back to the theme of the story - Irrational arabians doing irrational things. This is the new Iraq. This is the new and improved Iraq. This is the Iraq which carries the hope of arabian social revolution and modernization with it. This is the new Iraq which, if it holds together, could become a democratic and powerful force opposing Israel in the future.
Iraq De-Judaizing Ezekiel's Tomb - by Hillel Fendel
(IsraelNN.com) Early reports that Iraq plans to retain the Jewish nature of the Tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel are apparently false. Sources in Baghdad say that the government plans to turn it into a mosque and erase all Jewish markings.
Iraq announced earlier this year that it would revamp the ancient burial site, which is located in Al-Kifl, a small town south of Baghdad. The U.S.-backed government announcement implied that its Jewish nature would continue to be emphasized.
Since then, however, reports have surfaced that the government is actually planning to build a mosque there, including removing the ancient Hebrew inscriptions that adorn the site. Some reports say that all or some of the lines of Hebrew script have already been erased.
Ezekiel (Yechezkel, in Hebrew), lived in the sixth century BCE, having accompanied the exiled Judeans to Babylon. His prophecies include the Vision of the Dry Bones, as well as the future return of Jewish People to the Land of Israel even if they are not deserving (Chapter 36: 22-25). Thousands of Jews often visited the site of his tomb annually before Iraqi Jewry came to an abrupt end in the middle of the 20th century, and Moslems and Christians continue to visit it even today.
Shelomo Alfassa, Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, reports that Islamic political parties have pressured the government to remove the Jewish inscriptions. He quotes the Iraqi news agency Ur News as reporting that the writing and ornamentations “are being (or have been) removed… under the pretext of restoring the site.”
Alfassa quotes sources to the effect that Iraq’s Antiquities and Heritage Authority “has been pressured by Islamists to historically cleanse all evidence of a Jewish connection to Iraq - a land where Jews had lived for over a thousand years before the advent of Islam.”
Four months ago, a German-based Iraqi journalist tipped off the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq in Israel (AJAII) that plans were afoot to build a mosque on the site of Ezekiel’s Tomb. AJAII asked Dr. Jabbar Jamal al-Din, a lecturer in Jewish Thought at Kufa University in Iraq, to investigate these reports – and he said that he believes them to be untrue.
Baghdad Sources: Room for Concern
Sources in Baghdad, however, feel otherwise. Prof. Shmuel Moreh - Israel Prize Laureate in Arabic Literature and Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University of Jerusalem - told Israel National News that he had received worrisome phone calls from non-Jewish friends in Baghdad. Prof. Moreh, who serves as the Chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq, said that the plans are to turn the holy site into a mosque, and “some told me that they are taking off the Hebrew inscriptions.”
Alfassa provides the following translation of the relevant report in Ur News: “The officials of the Department of Antiquities and Heritage say that their restoration programme will continue until 2011 and is designed to carry out essential maintenance and prevent the dome and roof from collapsing. But their hidden purpose, sources say, is the removal of features that emphasize a historical connection with the Jews who built the shrine and lived in the city for hundreds of years after the Babylonian exile.”
Though well over 100,000 Jews lived in Iraq a few decades ago, this number has now been decimated to no more than eight, Prof. Moreh said. “There are others,” he added, “but they barely know that they are Jews; in many cases, their parents did not tell them.”
Alfassa concludes: “Iraq - the Biblical Mesopotamia -is almost as rich in Jewish history as the Land of Israel. The tomb of the prophet Ezekiel dates back to the Babylonian exile in the sixth century BCE. It was there in Iraq that Abraham discovered monotheism, and it is where the prophets Ezra, Nehemiah, Nahum, Jonah and Daniel are all buried.”
'Israel must compensate Iraq for Osirak'- Jan. 5, 2010 JPost.com Staff - THE JERUSALEM POST
Iraq will demand that Israel pay compensation for bombing the unfinished nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, an Iraqi member of parliament told the Iraqi al-Sabah newspaper in an article published on Tuesday.
Muhammad Naji Muhammad claimed that his government was planning to enlist the United Nation's help to pressure Israel into compensating Baghdad, according to a DPA report cited by Channel 10.
"Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Foreign Ministry turned to the UN and the Security Council demanding that Israel pay us reparations for damage caused to the reactor in 1981," Muhammad was quoted as telling the newspaper.
Baghdad is demanding that the UN establish a committee to assess the scope of the damage caused by the Israeli strike in order to calculate the appropriate compensation.
The Iraqi demand is based on UN Security Council Resolution 487, which was drafted following the bombing of the reactor in June 1981. The resolution harshly condemned Israel's aerial attack and determined that Iraq had a right to demand compensation over the damages.