Dr. Amatzia Baram, University of Haifa Professor of Middle Eastern History and Director of the Center for Iraq Studies, revealed new and, sometimes, surprising information about the historical relationship between Saddam Hussein and the Jews of Iraq, at an ASUH event last night at Magen David Sephardic Congregation in Rockville, Maryland.
Over 60 participants heard Prof. Baram explore, through anecdotes and historical records, Saddam’s background and the way the late Iraqi leader interacted with Jews. Among the most compelling stories Prof. Baram used as evidence, was the that of Saddam’s mother and her affinity for her Jewish neighbors. Prof. Baram also referenced Saddam’s close advisor, Tariq Aziz, who once bluntly explained to an Arab journalist that putting Iraqi Jews to death was strategically important to the Ba’ath Party’s survival and popularity.
“Saddam’s personal relationship with the Jews of Iraq was fascinating,” one participant noted. “He viewed the Jews as people, but could totally flip that around and hang them without batting an eye.”
About Prof. Baram, another guest remarked how engaging and affable he was in describing the complexities of this murderous, yet nuanced individual. In addition, she was interested to learn that the University of Haifa was a leader not just in Iraqi studies, but also in a variety of academic fields such as marine sciences, child development, and brain research.
Among the special guests in attendance was Monique Daoud, daughter of the late Meir Basri. Mr. Basri was a statesman, writer, Arabic poet, and leader of the Jewish community of Baghdad.
ASUH wishes to specially thank Gail Shirazi and the Sally & Irving Korobkin Education Fund for supporting this event. Thanks also to Magen David Sephardic Congregation and its Executive Director, Andrea Choobineh. All photo credits to Ariel Levis.
R: Prof. Baram, Gail Shirazi, and Monique Daoud,
daughter of the late Meir Basri, the last president of the Iraqi Jewish community