MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER “NO KURDS INVOLVED” : Three Iraqi delegations secretly visit Israel to meet academics, Gov. officials: Report Kurdistan 24 – 7 Jan 2019

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Three delegations from Iraq secretly visited Israel in the past few months and reportedly met with government officials, as well as academics, to discuss Iraqi-Jewish heritage and build a foundation for future ties between the two countries, an Israeli television channel claimed on Sunday.The delegates were some 15 Iraqis who met with Israeli academics and government officials, as well as visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Hadashot TV news reported.

Such visits are highly uncommon since Iraq is formally at war with Israel and is a member of the Arab League which boycotts Israel. The country has prohibited its passport holders from traveling to Israel.The visits were unofficial and “under conditions of great secrecy,” according to the TV channel.

The delegates were not from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, which has been more open to the Jewish state, the TV report stressed, but rather from “Iraq proper- that is, Baghdad.” The three delegations included Sunni and Shia members – “influential figures in Iraq.”

The report did not identify the members of the delegations, nor did it specify with which government officials they held meetings in Israel, but stated that the last visit took place in December.

The meetings were mostly of a “social-cultural nature,” the TV reported. The goal of the three visits was “to build ground for future ties” between Iraq and Israel, with delegates returning to Iraq as “kinds of future ambassadors” for Israel there, Hadashot added.

The Jewish community in Iraq is the oldest outside of Israel. Between 1950-1952, around 120,000 – 130,000 Iraqi Jews were airlifted to Israel, leaving a community of some 10,000 in the country. Nowadays, there is an estimated 230,000 Iraqi Jewish descents in Israel.

Over the past decades, Iraq has been in a formal state of war with Israel. Iraqi forces participated in the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel. A decade later, in 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, which was built by Saddam Hussein in the southeast of Baghdad, named Osirak.

Nowadays, Iraq and Israel hold no diplomatic, socio-cultural, or economic relations.

Editing by Nadia Riva