Carole Basri recalls her Iraqi Jewish legacy; empowerment through law

Editorial | Republic Underground 

April 4, 2021

Over March, Republic Underground news hosted a series of interviews and events in honor of Women’s History month that explored the lives and successes of inspiring women. Among them, was Iraqi-Jewish American filmmaker and lawyer Carole Basri.

Tsukerman opened the discussion by asking Basri what her inspiration was. Carole Basri was inspired by her “family saga.”

“My mother was born in Belgium to Iraqi Jewish parents who came there in 1924, and they had to escape Hitler in December 1939. They just escaped in time. They went to Baghdad and there was a pro-Nazi uprising Farhoud. So, they were there for the Farhoud. I always saw the connection between what was happening with the Nazis and what happened in Iraq, and the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arab countries.
So, that got me interested in a little bit of how do you protect yourself legally from these things from happening?”

She then talked about how, as Israel became a state, Jews from Iraq were forced to leave Iraq and flee. Her father’s family fled to Israel and lived in the refugee tent camps there at that time. Carole Basri herself felt strongly about her roots as an American, laying down roots in American history and law in NYU law school and Columbia law school.

“I think that my family history really influenced me. I always wanted to make sure that I understood the law and how it worked,” she noted that she felt it was the best protection for her family to understand the law to be protected.

She then noted how she was inspired by her Americanism to be independent, recalling that her parents were placed in an arranged marriage as was the custom in the Middle East.

Learn more about The Farhoud from the historical research works of Dr. Edy Cohen. 

“I always felt it was very important, as a young woman, to have a career, and be able to make decisions for yourself based on the fact of having a career. And again, knowing the law, and knowing what your rights are, so that brought me to law,” she noted also how the importance of American history and a deep understanding of it shaped her influences.

Tsukerman noted that it was an empowering idea to know how society and law works and how it can give one power to take their life into their hands. She then turned the conversation toward life after law school.

 

Basri talked about her early career under Ted Kennedy and running a committee at the young age of 23. She worked on the cases of an important bill and case on due process. She worked on the antitrust act and noted the importance of the right to hearings for antitrust hearing time periods. Basri highlighted the importance of public information and allowing the voices of all people.

Tsukerman noted that popular and partisan media narratives drown out the importance of voices in modern discourse.

“You see the same people saying the same things over and over again, and the more they get a platform the bigger their platform gets,” said Tsukerman, noting how her purpose in creating her media angle was to hear “unheard” voices and angles on world events.

“We’ve been hearing a lot lately on antitrust issues related to big tech companies include big tech companies, “Tsukerman stated, noting that big tech companies have been accused of controlling content and narratives, and how big tech social media companies target unpopular perspectives. She noted how these companies decide what is acceptable, and how antitrust debates have risen over breaking up social media monopolies due to this abuse of the law.

She then asked Basri what her perspective was on the issue of major tech and social media dissolution.

Basri noted that, in her opinion, “bigness” alone isn’t bad, despite some theories within the Biden administration that bigness by itself can be bad. She did not share this opinion, stating that if one got there through innovation, it was not necessarily negative.

“However, I do believe that if there are predatory acts, even small ones, that would get you to the point of being able to bring anti-trust suits,” she then noted that the First Amendment was an issue of major concern in this area.

 

Stay tuned for more follow ups on powerful discussions of First Amendment rights, the law, and protecting the voice of underserved perspectives.