chapter  7
15 Pages

Legal and Illegal Aliyah

The Mossad emissaries originally went to Iraq to organize illegal aliyah, but they then discovered that the Jewish Agency Immigration Department was already working on legal aliyah from Iraq. Very soon, they took over this function, assigning the responsibility to Sereni. Their stated reason for this was concern that having more than one Zionist agency involved in Iraq could potentially put the emissaries at risk. But other considerations also seem to have been involved. Legal aliyah could be an alternative to illegal aliyah or an additional option, and it was especially important in times of crisis, in view of the difficulties involved in clandestine aliyah. The right to distribute immigration certificates conferred tremendous power, both because the people who had this right could decide destinies and because the Iraqi Jews viewed them as representatives of the Land of Israel. Of course, the Mossad emissaries preferred to be the sole representatives of Palestine and the only authorities acting in its name. The issue of the selection of candidates for aliyah was equally important. The emissaries thought they should choose candidates based on the values of the labour movement. The Immigration Department, too, saw a great advantage in appointing Sereni to the job: it saved considerable sums of money, as well as the bother and organizational problems of finding and sending a reliable aliyah emissary

Shortly afterwards, Sereni asked to be put in charge of Youth Aliyah, too. While visiting Palestine in early July 1942, he spoke to Henrietta Szold, the director of Youth Aliyah, and asked her to allocate certificates for Iraq. ‘It seems there are no candidates from other countries and they are willing to take youngsters from there,’ he said.1