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Iraq's last Jews forced to flee in WikiLeaks blowback?

Jews in Iraq, circa 1920
Jewish Multicultural Project

McClatchy Newspapers' Pulitzer-winning reporter Roy Gutman writes from Baghdad Oct. 7 that an Anglican priest in the city is working with the US embassy in an effort to convince the remaining nine Jews in Iraq to flee the country, because their names have appeared in cables published last month by WikiLeaks.

The Rev. Canon Andrew White said he first approached members of the Jewish community about the danger he believes they face after a local news story was published last month that made reference to the cables. "The US Embassy is desperately trying to get them out," White said. So far, however, only one—a regular confidante of the US embassy, according to the cables—has expressed interest in emigrating to the United States.

"Most want to stay," White said. "The older ones are refusing to leave. They say: 'We're Iraqis. Why should we go? If they kill us, we will die here.'"

The US embassy said: "Protecting individuals whose safety is at risk because of the release of the purported cables remains a priority. We are working actively to ensure that they remain safe." The statement also slammed WikiLeaks for releasing the cables: "Releasing the names of individuals cited in conversations that took place in confidence potentially puts their lives or careers at risk."

White also assailed WikiLeaks for publishing the cables. "How could they do something as stupid as that?" he said. "Do they not realize this is a life and death issue?"

WikiLeaks did not respond to Gutman's request for comment. WikiLeaks earlier said that it had no choice but to make the cables public after the publication in a book of a password that opened an encrypted version of the cables already available on the Internet.

"We had to warn them of the danger and tell them that we want them all to leave," White said. "I never wanted the Jews to leave Iraq. They belong here."

If the last of the community does flee, it will be the final end to a Jewish presence in Iraq that dates back to biblical times.

We don't dismiss the possibility that the US embassy is cynically exaggerating the threat and encouraging the Jews to flee to create bad publicity for WikiLeaks. But we also do not dismiss the possibility that the threat is very real. We recall that the world paid little note when Jews were forced to flee Yemen in a wave of actual pogroms during Israel's Gaza offensive in 2009. We also note with chagrin that WikiLeaks and its supporters on the left have maintained a shameful silence on the grim blowback of the cable releases on dissidents in Belarus, who were arrested en masse—and many tortured—on the apparent basis of their names appearing in the leaked documents.

We are still waiting from an honest accounting from WikiLeaks on this. But given that WikiLeaks' pointman in Belarus—who is accused of actively collaborating with the dictatorship—is the notorious anti-Semite Israel Shamir, we aren't holding our breath.

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