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Leaving Paradise

Adam Shatz: Iraqi Jews

6 November 2008
Memories of Eden: A Journey through Jewish Baghdad 
by Violette Shamash, edited by Mira Rocca and Tona Rocca.
Forum, 326 pp., £14.99, February 2008, 978 0 9557095 0 0
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Baghdad, Yesterday: The Making of an Arab Jew 
by Sasson Somekh.
Ibis, 186 pp., £9.50, November 2007, 978 965 90 1258 9
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... On 27 April 1950 a man whose passport identified him as Richard Armstrong flew from Amsterdam to Baghdad. He came as a representative of Near East Air Transport, an American charter company seeking to win a contract with Iraq’s prime minister, Tawfiq al-Suwaida, to fly Iraqi Jews to Cyprus. Only six weeks earlier, the Iraqi government had passed the Denaturalisation Act, which allowed Jews to emigrate provided they renounced their citizenship, and gave them a year to decide whether to do so ...

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