Despite the fact that I am on vacation, I am always looking for good, important content. Sometimes, important content finds me as demonstrated by this important guest post by David Kelsey aka The Kvetcher:

Mandaeans in traditional outfitsOne of the tragedies of the Iraq War–and there are so many tragedies of this war—is the final destruction of the Mandaean people. Estimates of how many lived in Iraq at the start of the war vary. What everyone agrees upon is that far fewer of them live there now. Only 5,000 Mandaeans are thought to survive in Iraq.

I will not use the word “genocide,” since in the Jewish community, this is apparently a divisive term, and I sure don’t want to upset the ADL’s Abe Foxman or others who gets quite irate over the unapproved use of such a term. The NY Times, who has historically always had more pleasant issues to discuss in polite company than the destruction of a small people, finally wrote about their situation. More disappointingly (as one should expect nothing moral from the ADL), the American Jewish World Service has been silent. The U.S. Holocaust Museum has nothing to say about what is happening to them either. It’s almost bizarre that a situation this clear cut has never the less not surfaced on the radar of those who are entrusted to be concerned about such things.

Anyway, I dare not use the politically charged term “genocide” for what is happening to the Mandaeans. What I will say is that at the beginning of the war, there was a community in the tens of thousands in Iraq, the largest community of Mandaeans in the world, and it seems in not too long, if the situation is allowed to continue, there will be no Mandaean community in Iraq at all. This is because the Iraqi Mandaeans are being burned, forcibly converted, killed, and their women–who are forced to wear veils in accordance with Muslim fundamentalist law–are targets for rape. Whoever can get out is doing so. The problem is, the alternatives for getting out are not terribly good. It is never fun to be civilians in the crossfire of a civil war, and it is particularly unpleasant to be a non-Muslim community in the crossfire of two competing and dominant Muslim communities. Other Muslim nations and communities have not been terribly hospital to the Mandaeans. For instance, the Kurds, who one would think would be sensitive to their plight in light of their own horrific treatment by Iraqis, apparently have been not quite as hospital as one might have hoped and are in the habit of “persecuting” them for being infidels when they seek refuge in Kurdish areas.

Saddam Hussein protected these people in ways the U.S. cannot or will not. My point is not to reminisce fondly over Saddam Hussein, but rather, to point out the horrifying reality that this is happening under our watch.

I propose we scream for them, and don’t stop screaming until someone does something. These people must be rescued, and taken to a safe place. No one cares about them, because they are not part of a larger group. They are their own thing.

We should concern ourselves over this Aramaic speaking group of Semites, who are partially as small as they are because they are committed pacifists. If we do not speak up for them, I fear no one will. This will be the end of an ancient, Judaean people, who appeared to have left when the Babylonians conquered Judea. You may read their defense against the Rambam’s accusation here, where they also attempt to interpet his words to prove that Abraham was himself originally a Sabatian (Mandaean) before becoming a Jew, a popular Mandaean narrative. There is good reason to speculate a historic Jewish connection to the Mandaeans at some point.

For more on Mandaeans, including an informative video, check out this article.

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About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • CK, there’s only one thing you do more than look out for underdogs and that bashing America.

    Since when did Saddam protect the Mandeans?????

    Whats your source for that?

    Noam Chomsky? Norman Finkelstein?

  • This is an example of what Islam has been doing to Middle Eastern people for 1400 years. What a great religion of peace.

  • I only bash America because I love her so much, but man, sometimes you know, she just gets me so mad…

    Michelle, why is it that you reflexive republicans never READ. This is a guest post by David Kelsey. BTW, I hate Saddam Hussein. Now can you focus on what is important? The Mandaeans and not the sensitivities of those of a certain ideology? Jeez – who cares?

  • “I will not use the word “genocide,” since in the Jewish community, this is apparently a divisive term”

    A very informative and interesting post. Except Kelsey’s need to word above quote the way he did. No, I understand it because it’s Kelsey. But why he needed to slip “Apparently” in there I don’t know.

    DK, “Genocide” is not a divisive term in the Jewish community. Not in the least. The author of “Night” would agree with me. The word “Holocaust” may be one our people feel a certain ownership towards, mainly because it’s a word (modern) historically afforded to the WWII-era Nazi genocide of Jews, Gypsies, Gays and others.

    Why would Kelsey shortchange the Jewish Community’s concern over any kind of genocide, be it Aushwitz, Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda, etc…? Does any Jew support genocide? Does any Jew really think only Jews have suffered from genocide?

    DK – what the heck are you thinking? Maybe you could just say “Yeah, what was I thinking?”

  • ramon marcos,

    Unfortunately, the author of “Night,” was none too quick to risk upsetting the Turks by calling the genocide against the Armenians genocide, and the ADL and others actually attempted to block a resolution declaring just that. Now before you flip out, keep in mind, I actually attacked those who screamed and yelled about this, and fought with the Hipsters in defense of Foxman (sort of, but more against those who spend so much energy on something I felt could hurt Israel)–anyway, you can read my hipster detractors at Jewcy here:

    But my point isn’t just Armenia. I am distraught that while much of the Jewish community feels they can solve a civil war in in Africa backed by no less a formidable power than China, and will scream and yell over a WWI genocide, there has been NOTHING from the Jewish community over these poor Mandaeans, who are such a small number, such an unusual middle eastern people (kind of like you know who, right?) the U.S. army is there already, and quite frankly, these people have some relationship to us if we go back to the second temple period, and it makes me angry that we aren’t doing anything to help them. We should know better. We should help them.


    When a people is being exterminated under U.S. jurisdiction, this is my problem. This is an American problem. And I am shocked at having my patriotism questioned. What is happening under our watch is mindblowing horrific. This cannot continue. we must rescue this poor people being exterminated because they are not Muslim.

  • Give it up, Ramon. As fas as I can tell, Kelsey seems to think that the organized Jewish community and all of its representatives are total kefira. So every post of his has to contain some kind of dig at them.

  • Ramon, I think it’s not so much, rather: not at all, deliberate support of genocide, but indifference towards it which is troublesome. I’m an outsider to the American Jewish community, and I’ve encountered immense ignorance of / indifference towards political issues there, genocide abroad being one of them. That low degree of political knowledge pertaining to current world affairs is not a singular phenomenon representative of the average American Jew but representative of a people that is more likely to know the teams on the Superbowl rather than who their head of state is as surveys have shown. In my experience, people living on the East and West Coast are more politically informed than their midland peers, so, since, demographically, Jewish conglomeration can mostly be found around the bigger cities on either coast and the Chicago area, there might even be a higher rate of political knowledge than American Jews than among their non-Jewish fellow citizens on average. Still, differentiated political knowledge is often confused with echoing a certain party platform, which we both probably have witnessed a few examples among the commentors on here.

  • DK: Why do you resort to needless digs at ADL? It seems that your hatred of that organization is preoccupying you to the point that you cannot even write a plea for the Mandaeans without distracting your readers with jabs at Foxman. Get over it. Your beef with them is so insignificant when compared with the importance of your message to save the Mandaeans.

    You realize that the ADL has finally declared the Armenian Genocide a genocide, yes?

  • Ramon, Ephraim, Oyster, anyone else…

    I’m sorry I mentioned the ADL, as if your comments are any indication, it was indeed a distraction from what I was trying to accomplish.

  • When reading this post, I got the mistaken impression that the Mandaean population had dwindled to ~5k from ~65k due to being slaughtered. Upon reading their Wikipedia page, it seems that 80% of the Iraqi population have fled to Syria or Jordan.

  • Oyster,

    Their problems don’t end in Syrian or Jordan. If Jews had to convert to Islam in order to receive aid, which the NY Times reported is happening to the Mandaeans in Iraq and Syria, would you say, “Oh, well, at least they aren’t being burned alive, so it’s okay.”

  • (See replies 1 & 2)

    CK, I realize you didn’t write it, but you copied the whole thing.

    The Mandaeans SHOULD BE A VERY SERIOUS issue, but by putting in ridiculous information (like that Saddam protected them) you get intelligent readers to question the whole issue.

    The thinking goes like this:
    If the article is wrong about Saddam protecting them…. maybe the whole thing is wrong….. and the Mandaeans aren’t really being persecuted.

  • Michelle is wrong. Why did Tariq Aziz last so long when so many powerful underlings were disposed of? Because Hussein did not feel threatened by Aziz. Why? Because he was Christian, and had no base. Hussein knew that Aziz understood that his power depended solely upon him.

    So too with the smaller minorites. (Note — Kurds are NOT a small minority, but a sizable minority.) Hussein did not feel threatened by the Mandaeans, and did afford them some protection, even if they were by no means in love with the bastard, who did persecute them to some extent, but indirectly. Not like what they are going through. Not at all.

    Both Simon Jeans, Solicitor and Advocate for the Mandaean Community, and Brikkha Nasoraia, Rabbi -that’s right, he goes by Rabbi!) and President of the International Nasorean Mandaean Supreme Council reported,

    “Simon Jeans: Saddam used to protect all the minority groups. This is how he operated – to buy off communities. He gave the Mandaeans a key piece of land on the river in the central part of Baghdad. In return, they gave him gifts such as the translation of their Holy Book in an Arabic language, and you had to co-operate with the regime in order to survive. I don’t want to give the impression that they were supporters of Saddam Hussein…”

  • The Jewish community is not trying to copyright the word “Genocide”. Although some on the fringe would like to. Yes, DK, that comment was a distraction. Although I wouldn’t have been as distracted if you said ADL in instead of Jewish Community.

    Sarah, you make a good point, albeit not a defense for Kelsey’s dig. For example, I was woefully unawares of the Armenian genocide (see, I said it), until my Junior High School days (not long after WWII) until I read Vonnegut’s “Bluebeard”.

    I remember after Operation Sheba the word “Falasha” was more divisive among the Israeli Jewish Community than genocide. There, that’s my dig…

  • Ramon, I was just elaborating, not defending anybody. If somebody really needs a lass of 5’9″ only to rush to his defence, that person does have more serious problems than I could ever deal with 😉

  • Sarah – I wasn’t clear on that… it came off wrong, didn’t want to imply you were taking sides… but let it be known that your 5’9″ already trumps my 5’7″… 🙂

  • Ramon, that’s ok – since you occasionally enjoy hinting at your advanced age, too, I suppose you’re entitled to the average of height of previous generations 😉

  • Sarah… that’s not enjoyment. And it’s not occasional. And don’t get me started about my hairline.

  • The Mandaeans are the descendents of the disciples of John the Baptist. They are known in the Torah as Tovelei Shaharit or hemerobaptists and therefore members of the Essenes since John the Baptist belonged to this group. This is their greatest hour of need and I hope countries and human rights organizations help them before it too late.

  • Mike Says:
    November 15th, 2007 at 2:04 am
    The Mandaeans are the descendents of the disciples of John the Baptist. They are known in the Torah as Tovelei Shaharit or hemerobaptists and therefore members of the Essenes since John the Baptist belonged to this group.

    For accuracy’s sake, they are not mentioned in the Torah or Tanach. There’s a likely reference to them in a Talmudic quotation known as a “Tosefta” – an extension.

    See “Hemerobaptists” in the Jewish Encyclopedia.

  • @ Michelle,
    I’m a mandaean and we were really protected by saddam. He wasn’t a very good person, he started wars against iran and kuwait.But to protect his people just like your nation also wanted.Under his regime there were no extremenists and no terrorists. So I loved him

  • @ Michelle,
    I’m a mandaean and we were really protected by saddam. He wasn’t a very good person, he started wars against iran and kuwait.But to protect his people just like your nation also wanted.Under his regime there were no extremenists and no terrorists. He didn’t really care about religions thats
    why we loved him, we finally had a government who accepted us


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