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The Trial of Shafiq Ades *

After World War II, the British decided to sell their military equipment that was left behind in Iraq from previous military involvement. The Iraqi Government examined the equipment and purchased anything that the army could use. The remnants were sold as scrap-iron after an official committee headed by General Ghazi Al-Daghistani ascertained that they were of no use for military purpose.

Two Iraqis, Shafiq Ades, a Jew - the son of a wealthy family originating from Aleppo in Syria was the chief importer of Ford cars in Iraq -, and Naji Al-Khedhairi, a Moslem - prominent businessman in Baghdad -, associated in the purchase of the remnants. They sold part of them for local use, shipped the remainders on a cargo-boat, and sold them to Italy as scrap-iron. At a certain point in time when there was a delay in the shipment by the authorities in Basra, Naji Al-Khedhairi filed a petition with the government protesting the delay. Shafiq Ades did not sign that petition.

Shafiq Ades

Many months elapsed after the business deal was completed. In May 1948, when the Arab armies waged war against Israel, the lives of the Jews in Iraq and their property were endangered. The government started to conduct a hostile campaign against the Jews charging them with treason, and referring to them as the Fifth Column. Anti-Jewish publications were appearing in the newspapers. Ades was chosen as the most convenient target for venting the feeling of revenge towards the Jews.

But Ades did not give-in to the hostile newspapers, especially to that of the Istiqlal Party and did not make any payments to local journalists to stop the hostile publications against him. As a result there were people who seized the opportunity to conspire against him, and charged him as “A Zionist who sold arms to the Jewish State”. The British consul in Basra advised him to flee the country, but Ades was confident of the protection of his friends in high places. He did not believe that his life was in danger. He consulted with the province executive Mahmoud Al-Tabakchali on this matter, and the latter did not support the idea that a case was being built against Ades that would endanger his life.

Newspapers started to issue large headlines in which they attacked Ades and demanded his trial. Members of the Istiqlal Party with the support of the Defense Minister Sadiq Al-Bassam demonstrated in Baghdad and Basra demanding Ades’ execution. The police then arrested Ades on charges of shipping arms to the Jews of Palestine via Italy in guise of iron-scrap. The charges included treason, sabotage of the war effort, support of communism and anarchy. His Arab partner, who cosigned the junk deals, was neither charged nor even mentioned in the indictment.

Ades’ arrest took place at a time of economic crisis and public unrest in the country, while the army had suffered a military defeat with Israel in Israel's War of Independence. His connections with Government leaders and his non-involvement in Zionist affairs were apparently of no help this time. Consequently, Ades was tried by a military court presided by Abd-Allah Al-Na’asani. Many witnesses appeared on behalf of the prosecution who swore-in by the Koran that Ades was indeed guilty.

Famous lawyers were afraid to defend Ades. Yet there were few that did, since they believed that justice was too important to be ignored. They were Ali Mahmoud Sheikh Ali, Faiq Tawfiq and Mohammed Zaki Khattab. They traveled to Basra, but the presiding military officer prevented them from carrying out cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, arguing that he would not accept witnesses on the defense’s behalf. They protested to the Ministers of Justice and Defense.

The attorney Faiq Tawfiq dared to send a copy of the protest to the British Embassy, and (in turn) the Embassy notified the government. As a result, the police arrested Tawfiq. But with the intervention of Minister Ahmad Mukhtar Baban, Tawfiq was saved from a calamitous fate.

A Meeting at the Royal Palace

The newspapers and the people in the street had all but declared that Ades was guilty and called for his execution. The military court was specifically established to guarantee that all of Ades’ assets were confiscated and that he would be sentenced to death for treason. As expected the court ruled for such a sentence.

Ades’ execution needed the Regent Abd-Al-Ilah’s approval. But two days following the military court’s ruling the regent was holding off on taking any action. In the meantime, furious demonstrations were organized, and the councilors of the Royal Palace exerted pressure on the Regent (to approve the death sentence) suggesting that he might want to consult with former Prime Ministers and members of the cabinet. Consequently, a meeting was held at the Royal Palace on the third day following the court ruling (to decide on the judgment).

At the opening of the meeting, Abd Al-Ilah looked depressed and did not speak. He then said: “I trust you are unwilling to allow an injustice to prevail in this country and we would not want to shed the blood (of an innocent person). The Islamic religion prohibits such an injustice. We are waging a war against the Palestine Jews; but this does not mean we should assassinate an innocent Iraqi Jew. What do you think of this?”

After consultation between the people present, they replied: “Either you hang this Jew and save your chair or you lose your chair for his sake.” On hearing their words, he signed (the appropriate papers) approving the death sentence, and said: “God! You are a witness that I am innocent from shedding the blood of this Jew.”

On 19 Elul, 5708, September 23, 1948, Shafiq Ades was hanged at the age of 48 in front of his new completed mansion in Basra. His execution was a festive event, celebrated by approximately 12,000 spectators from all parts of Iraq. Jubilant huge crowds chanted slogans wildly; hand-clapped violently, rejoiced and cheered enthusiastically. In addition to a 5-million Dinar fine, all property left by Ades was confiscated.

The staged trial and execution of Shafiq Ades was a major blow to the Jewish community of Iraq. During the black day of Ades’s execution, the lawyer Mohammed Zaki Khattab said to Menashe Za’arour: “A day will come when the Iraqi people will exculpate the innocence of Ades, the same as the French people exculpated the innocence of Dreyfus”.

Judge Na’asani had a different interpretation of the Ades’ execution. He told several Jews of his acquaintances: “I have ruled for the death sentence, since I was aware that the Iraqi people were seeking a sacrifice. If Ades were not hanged, pogroms would have taken place against the Jews, and who knows how many people would have been killed. By hanging Ades, I have saved the Jews from a massacre”.

Shafiq Ades’ execution deeply distressed righteous Moslems. They were saddened to see that justice had been comprised.

A week after Ades’ execution, the Defense Minister resigned and was replaced by a minister who had good rapport with the Jews. The military courts were minimized from four to one.

*References:
1) The Story of an Exile By Nir Shohet.
2) Jewry of Iraq - Dispersion and Liberation 1968, Hebrew - By Abraham Twena. Original article was written in Arabic by Menashe Za’arour. (Translated from Hebrew – By Maurice Shohet)

Menashe Za’arour a veteran Jewish journalist in Baghdad who had contacts at the high echelons in Iraq, witnessed and investigated the Ades’ dramatic tragedy. Years after his immigration to Israel in 1951, he wrote an article on March 4, 1962 in the Arabic daily newspaper “Al-Yom” about his findings. According to Mr. Za’arour, the article was written following the information that he received at the time stating that the Iraqi government under Kassem’s leadership was intending to confiscate Ades’ assets that were in Iranian banks.

Congregation Bene Naharayim commemorated the 50th year of Shafiq Ades' execution on Sunday 22 Elul 5759 (September 13, 1998) at the Congregation's synagogue at 85-34 Midland Parkway, Jamaica Estates, Queens.
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The Life of Dr. Gourji Haron Raby **

Dr. Gourji (Haron) Raby, Dies at 91;
Longtime Physician and Iraqi Jewish Community Activist


Dr.Gourji Raby, a former Professor of Physiology at the University of Baghdad, and former Vice President of Congregation Bene Naharayim, died on Wednesday, 16 Siwan 5758 (June 10, 1998), at his home in Great Neck. He was 91.

The cause was colon cancer, said his children Dr. Samir and Dr. Khether Raby.

Photo of Gourgi Raby

Dr. Gourji Raby, 1973

Born in Baghdad in 1907, to Meir and Mariam Raby, he was the second cousin of Meso'uda Hillel (nee Raby), the wife of Hakham Abraham Hillel, who was three times the "Hakham Bashi" of Iraq, during the late nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century.

Dr. Raby had initially studied to become a teacher, but in 1927 he answered a newspaper advertisement to enter the first medical class at University of Baghdad. In 1932, he graduated as the school's first valedictorian. After a two-year residency in London, be returned to Iraq as a professor of physiology at the University of Baghdad and launched a medical practice in the Iraqi capital. In time he became the personal physician of the Iraqi royal family and the political elite of the country. In his prime, his name was synonymous with Iraqi medicine.

During the fifties and early sixties, Dr. Raby used to be consulted by the head of the Iraqi Jewish community at the time, Hakham Sasson Khedoury, on matters that related to the welfare of the community. For example, in policy decisions related to running the Frank Iny School, Dr. Raby's approach used to be that the school's principal at the time, Abdullah Obadiah, had already a proven record in bringing the education's level of the Jewish students to the highest standard in Iraq. Accordingly, this should be taken in consideration by the head of the Jewish community, when he consults the "Al-Lajna Al-Idariya" (The Management Committee) of the community, on the school's policy. Hakham Sassoon used to accept this view.

In 1966, Dr. Raby left Iraq for the United States. His two daughters were already living in the west. His wife and his two sons eventually escaped their country of birth after the Six-Day war, and joined the whole family in New York. In his new country of settlement, Dr. Raby successfully re-began his new career at the age of 60, eventually becoming Director of Ambulatory Care Services, at Queens Hospital Center. It was quite an achievement for an immigrant at such an age. He retired at the age of 81.

For decades, Dr. Raby was one of the most prominent members of the Iraqi Jewish Community in Baghdad and New York. In the early 1980's, he was one of the first contributors to the A.A. Society Inc, for the purpose of establishing the Iraqi synagogue in Jamaica Estates. In 1984, he was elected as Vice President of the first Board of A.A. Society Religious Corp., better known as Congregation Bene Naharayim.

On 27, Tashri 5755 or October 2, 1994, the Board of Trustees of Congregation Bene Naharayim honored him for his accomplishment both in Iraq and the United States.

Dr. Raby was a humble and peaceful person, admired by the members of the Iraqi Jewish community at large, as well as by his Moslem acquaintances who came to know him in Baghdad. That was reflected by the large number of people who attended his funeral on Thursday afternoon.

Dr. Raby will be remembered "Le-Toba" (for good) as someone who had the love to the human being as his guiding line.

He is survived by his wife, Rachel, his daughters Yvette, Joyce and son-in-law Frank Reiss, his sons Samir and Khether and daughter-in-law Katie, and grandchildren Alexander, Annabel and Sammy.

May his memory be blessed.

Maurice Shohet
Vice President - Congregation Bene Naharayim
Iraqi American Jewish Community

** From a letter sent on 18 Sivan 5758, June 12, 1998 by Congregation Bene Naharayim to the members of the Iraqi Jewish Community in New York.
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