Disturbing news from Baghdad, via McClatchy:
An Anglican priest here says he’s working with the U.S. Embassy to persuade the handful of Jews who still live in Baghdad to leave 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 what he felt was the danger they faced after a news story was published last month that made reference to the cables.
“The U.S. Embassy is desperately trying to get them out,” White said. So far, however, only one, a regular confidante of the U.S. Embassy, according to the cables, had 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 U.S. Embassy said it would take steps to protect the individuals whose names appear in the cables and suggested in a statement that should any wish to leave, the U.S. would help relocate them.
“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 embassy said.
It 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,” the statement said.
A furious White also hit the website 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 a request for comment. Previously, WikiLeaks has said that it had no choice but to make its copies of 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 White persuades Baghdad’s remaining Jews to leave it will mark the end of a 2,700-year presence that dates to the Assyrian conquest of the Judean Kingdom.
By the time U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, Baghdad’s Jewish community, which had numbered about 130,000 in the 1950s before most fled to Israel, was down to about 35 members.
Now there are so few Jews here that their sole remaining place of worship, the Taweig synagogue, is shuttered, even during the Jewish High Holidays that conclude with Yom Kippur on Saturday.