Big Brother Is Watching Iraqi-Americans

There was a knock on her door. security didnt alert her about a guest, as is the custom at her building. It was the FBI.
Lily G. (to protect her identity) is an Iraqi Jew who came to America through Israel 40 years ago. But the FBI had a file on her and her seven brothers, sisters, children and nephews. They wanted to know if she was a Muslim or a Jew. She shared with them her escape from Iraq, first to Israel then to America. She told them of the devastation, pogroms and intimidation of her family and the Jewish community in Baghdad.
Lilys husband was the jeweler to the highest ministers in Iraq. In fact, she lived the life of an Arabian princess. Her son slept on a jewel-encrusted bed. Although the family did business with Iraqi officials, there was never any socializing between the two. The societies lived separate lives. forced to leave the country in 1951, Lily speaks about her escape with tears in her eyes.
"We had to leave everything behind. The jewels we had we sewed into our clothes and used them to bribe our way out of the country." She remembered those frightening days, when the family was able to flee to Israel, then move to America.
The Jewish community had lived in Iraq for 25 years. But when the Nazis came to power in the late 30s and an alliance with Iraq began, the fate of the Jews there was sealed. In 1941, there were pogroms where Jews were beaten and raped and businesses trashed by the Iraqis. Within 10 years, the Jewish community was almost non-existent.
The FBI told Lily that they are looking for Iraqi nationals who may have contact with iraq. Her ties to her birthplace were cut almost half a century ago. The FBI left after an hours interview.
What amazed me is that having left the country 40 years before, her family is well known to the FBI. "Big brother" is watching all of us.
I asked another New York Iraqi Jew who smuggled himself out of the country and into Palestine in 1940 how he felt about the "liberation" of Iraq. He believes the Iraqis are not fighters but bullies. "They will be friendly to your face, but put a knife in your back," Ben Meir said bluntly.
"I dont believe Id ever go back," he added. Even if there is a new regime in Iraq, supervised by a democratic country, the memories of persecution, discrimination and repression against the Jews are so frightening even years after that personal experience.
"For years, and occasionally still, I have nightmares seeing myself back in Baghdad."

More from Around New York