British-Israeli historian Avi Shlaim has claimed to have uncovered compelling evidence of Israeli involvement in bombings aimed at driving Jews out of Iraq in the early 1950s. Shlaim’s autobiography, titled Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew, recounts his personal experiences as an Iraqi Jew and subsequent relocation to Israel. The book also delves into the research conducted by Shlaim regarding a series of bombings in Iraq that led to a mass exodus of Jews from the country between 1950 and 1951, many of whom ended up in Israel.
Shlaim asserts that he has obtained undeniable proof of Zionist underground activities related to these bombings, citing an in-depth interview he conducted with Yaakov Karkoukli, a former member of the Zionist underground in Baghdad during the 1950s. Karkoukli, who was 89 years old at the time of the interview, was associated with Yusef Basri, a Zionist intelligence operative in Iraq who was convicted by Iraqi authorities for orchestrating bombings targeting Iraqi Jews.
The bombings, which targeted various locations such as a coffee shop, a car dealership, and a synagogue, were carried out under the instructions of Meir Max Bineth, an Israeli intelligence officer, according to Karkoukli. Bineth allegedly supplied Basri with grenades, TNT explosives, maps, intelligence, and instructions emphasizing the aim to terrorize rather than kill.
Basri and another underground operative, Shalom Salih Salah, were executed by Iraqi authorities for their involvement in the bombings, while a third operative, Yusef Khabaza, managed to escape Iraq after being sentenced to death in absentia. Notably, Karkoukli contends that the bombing at the Masuda Shemtov synagogue in Baghdad in January 1951, which resulted in Jewish fatalities, was carried out by a Muslim Arab rather than Zionist operatives.
Bineth, the alleged source of orders given to Basri, later committed suicide after being arrested by Egyptian authorities in connection with his suspected role in the Lavon Affair. The Lavon Affair involved a failed Israeli false flag operation to plant bombs in Egypt and attribute them to the Muslim Brotherhood and leftists. Israeli officials have consistently denied any involvement by Zionist underground groups or official Israeli entities in the attacks against Iraqi Jews, instead attributing them to Iraqi nationalists.
Shlaim maintains that the testimony provided by Karkoukli is a firsthand account from an active participant and should be considered as more than mere oral history. He acknowledges that while oral history alone may not be conclusive, it is highly unlikely that Karkoukli fabricated the entire story. Additionally, Shlaim notes that Karkoukli substantiated his claims with a police report, adding further weight to the evidence presented.