The Iraqi parliament passed a law on Thursday criminalizing ties with Israel punishable with the death sentence or life imprisonment.
The law, titled “Criminalising Normalisation and Establishment of Relations with the Zionist Entity”, was approved on Thursday with 275 legislators voting in favor of it in Iraq’s 329-seat assembly. The law forbids the “promotion of any ideas, ideologies, principles, or Israeli or Zionist conduct, in any form.” The bill still needs to receive the approval of a parliamentary subcommittee but media reports predict it will likely pass.
The legislation also bans any form of “financial or moral assistance” to Israel or any institution affiliated with it, thereby prohibiting companies working in Iraq and found to be in violation of the law, which applies to all Iraqis, state and independent institutions, as well as foreigners working in the country, according to a text carried by the Iraqi News Agency (INA).
The law was proposed by influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr whose party, which opposes close ties with the United States and Israel, won more seats in the Iraqi parliament in elections last October.
Due to a political standoff, the Iraqi parliament has been unable to pass any legislation including electing a new president or forming a government except for this anti-Israel law which an official statement described as “a true reflection of the will of the people”.
In September 2021, a conference of 300 tribal leaders in autonomous Kurdistan, which maintains cordial contacts with Israel, was organized by a United States think-tank to advocate for normalizing relations between Israel and Arab countries by joining the Abraham Accords. The Iraqi government declared the gathering to be “illegal” and threatened to arrest the leaders, who were forced to recant.
Jews have a long and rich history in Iraq. Ur, in the south of the country, was the birthplace of Biblical Abraham. It also hosted the Jews during the Babylonian exile and it was there the Talmud was written down. The Kurdish regional capital of Erbil in the north was once the heart of the ancient kingdom of Adiabene, which converted to Judaism in the 1st century and helped fund the building of the Temple of Jerusalem. In 1917, Jews comprised 40% of Baghdad’s population but in 1947, when the modern state of Israel declared its independence, the Jews were forced from Iraq due to violence. A small population of Jews remains.
Earlier this year, Iran fired a dozen ballistic missiles towards the northern city of Erbil in the Kurdish-run north, saying it was targeting an Israeli intelligence base.