The History of Arabs in IRAQ
The history of Arabs in Iraq can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia. Arabs were mentioned in Assyrian manuscripts. They were known to be talented singers and musicians. In “Ancient and Oriental Music” book edited by Egon Wellesz, chapter V, page 236, “The Music of Ancient Mesopotamia”, Henry George Farmer states, “…It has been said that ‘the old danced whilst the young made music. One imagines that there were toil songs among the ancient Semites, as we know in the ‘well song’ of Numbers xxi.17. Singers and drummers, in a picture of Assyrians felling palm-trees, certainly appear to be facilitating labour. Indeed an Assyrian annalist gives a picture of the Arabs who, as prisoners of war, were working as slaves at Nineveh, where they sang their native songs to relieve their sorrows. Their exotic music fascinated the idle Assyrians who begged for more.”
The earliest mention of the term ‘Arab’ was recorded during the reign of the Assyrian King, Salmanassar III (858-824 BCE) when Assyrians were at war near Al-Asi River, north of Homa in Syria. The war was between the Assyrian army on one side and the Arameans, Phoenicians and Arabs on another; all backing the king of Damascus. The war ended in favor of the Assyrian King who wrote: “Qarqar is the capital; I burnt and destroyed it: 1200 Knights, 20,000 soldiers and 1000 camels for the Arab Jandibo….”
During the Assyrian king, Tiglat Pilesar III (745-727 BCE), who was mentioned in the Torah, Arabian queen, Zabiba, was recorded as follows: “…and so the Aribi [meaning Arabian] queen, Zabiba paid taxes …” to the Assyrian king Pilesar III. In his reign, there was also a mention of another Arabian queen, Sams, Shams or Shamsa.
Arabs were also mentioned during King Sargon II (721-705 BCE). He was quoted as saying, “The distant Arabs who live in the Badiya [or Peninsula] don’t have a king or ruler and they never paid taxes to any king before me.”
In documenting the war against Babylonians, Assyrian King, Sencharib (705-681 BCE) stated that, “he took soldiers of an Arabian army, led by Basqanu, as prisoners”. Basqanu was the brother of Arabian queen Yatie. In 691 BCE, Sencharib also mentioned that he went to war against another Arabian queen, Talkhono, and later against the Arab King, Khazayli.
The term ‘Arab’ was recorded in Assyrian manuscripts as Aribi, Arbi, Arabi or Urbi. Arabs were also mentioned numerous times in the Torah as well as ancient Persian, Greek and Roman manuscripts.
Therefore, the statements indicating that Arab history began with Islam and in the Arabian Peninsula are far from the truth. In ancient times, and depending on who was in power and were they lived, Arabs spoke their native language, Arabic, and the languages of the region, Aramaic and Hebrew; all Semitic languages. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever as to which of the Semitic languages appeared or was spoken first. One thing is certain: Only Arabic (of all Semitic languages) is still used today in its original form (more than one and half thousand years) in books, newspapers, TV/radio, films, the UN and religious mosques and institutions with the largest number of speakers (among other speakers of Semitic languages).
Jaroslav Stetkevych, an emeritus professor of Arabic at the University of Chicago, described Arabic language as follows: “It has lived for one millennium and a half essentially unchanged, usually gaining, never completely losing. Venus-like, it was born in a perfect state of beauty, and it has preserved that beauty in spite of all the hazards of history and all the corrosive forces of time. It is true that there was not always that Praxitelean limpidity of line about it. Figuratively speaking, it has known its Gothic, its Renaissance and its Baroque periods. It has known austerity, holy ecstasy and voluptuousness, bloom and decadence. It exuberated in times of splendor and persisted through times of adversity in a state of near-hibernation. But when it awoke again, it was the same language. The fact that Arabic long survived and still had the vitality to burgeon a new might be due to religious and social factors, but the quantitative ability to expand and the qualitative capacity to attain perfection and to maintain its essential characteristics are merits of the language exclusively."
Ancient Arabs followed paganism and practiced Judaism, Christianity and later Islam. At the present time, Christian Arabs live in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt. Their history is parallel to that of Christianity in the “Middle East”
In the 20th Century and with the European and later Euro-American colonization, the terms ‘Arab Jew’ or ‘Jewish Arab’ became a matter of debate to the extent of rejecting these terms by Ashkenazi Jews (mostly eastern European converts to Judaism), Zionists and pro-Zionists in the industrial west. With this rejection along with discrimination against Jewish Arabs (especially in Israel) and the mistreatment of Arabs in general by the industrial west and Israel, the history and contributions of Arabs in general and Jewish Arabs in particular have been marginalized. The cultural identity and contributions of Jewish Arabs became near extinct.
The interference of Ashkenazi Jews, implementers and funders of Zionism, in the lives of Jewish Arabs has been mentioned in depth by Naem Giladi and Ella Shohat, Iraqi Jews. In his book, “Ben Gurion’s Scandals,” Giladi mentions in details how the Zionists used terror to force Iraqi Jews to leave Iraq for Israel and used as cheap labor. The book mentions handful other crimes to ensure that the Israel project becomes a success. In a publication by the Link, in 1998, Giladi was quoted stating, “I write this article for the same reason I wrote my book: to tell the American people, and especially American Jews ,that Jews from Islamic lands did not emigrate willingly to Israel; that, to force them to leave, Jews killed Jews; and that, to buy time to confiscate ever more Arab lands, Jews on numerous occasions rejected genuine peace initiatives from their Arab neighbors.… I write about it because I was part of it.”
In my documentary film, “The Other Arabs”, I interviewed Naem Giladi and ten other Iraqi Jews about their lives (in Iraq and later in the USA, UK or Israel) and contributions. With the exception of four, seven were born and raised in Iraq, two of them still live in Israel, and I was able to interview them when they were visiting their son in New York. In one of the (two) trailers posted on Youtube and the website of the Institute of Near Eastern & African Studies (INEAS), Naem Giladi states (translated from Arabic): “Iraqi Jews refused to leave Iraq. As a result, the Zionists began to use explosives near several Jewish buildings concluding with Masouda Shemtov Synagogue. The type of bombs used was the same as those stored in temples by Zionists. One of the components used in the bombs was not available in Iraq. It was brought from Israel by Zionists to use in Baghdad.”
1. “Ancient and Oriental Music,” edited by Egon Wellesz, Oxford University Press.
2. “The Link,” Volume 31, Issue 2, April-May 1998.
3. “Tareekh al-Musiqa al-Arabiyah” by Subhi Anwar Rashid, Bavaria Institute, 2000.