Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Don't let the Iraqi Jewish archive get sent back to Iraq!

I've signed THIS PETITION at Avaaz.Org, and I urge others to sign it, too:
"I call upon the US government NOT to return the Jewish archive to Iraq. To do so would compound the injustice done to the Jews of Iraq, whose property it was before they were robbed of it through a deliberate state policy of persecution and ethnic cleansing. The archive should be returned to its rightful owners and assured of proper care and conservation. We suggest it should go to Israel, where the greatest concentration of Jews of Iraqi descent are to be found."
Further explanation by Lyn Julius is below (with more at her excellent website Point of No Return). See also Bruce Montgomery's article, "Rescue or Return: The Fate of the Iraqi Jewish Archive," in the International Journal of Cultural Property (excerpts here).

—Jeff Weintraub

Don't let the Jewish archive go back to Iraq!

Why this is important

Ten years after the US military found a trove of Jewish books, records and religious artifacts in the flooded basement of Saddam's secret police headquarters in Baghdad, the US government is preparing to ship it back following restoration.

The archive contains holy books, including a rare Bible from 1568, Torah scrolls seized from synagogues, and personal and community documents and records.

Iraq's government, however, is insisting that the archive go back to Iraq: it points out that the US interim administration (CPA) signed a memorandum in 2003 promising its return.

The archive must not be returned.

Here's why:

*The archive does not belong to Iraq, but was stolen from private homes, schools and synagogues in the 1970s. It is the cultural property of the Iraqi-Jewish community.

*According to Jewish law, sacred objects such as Torah scrolls must be entrusted to a living Jewish community.

*The Jewish community in Iraq is virtually extinct. Jews of Iraqi origin and their descendants now live outside Iraq - in Israel and the West.

*When there were Jews in Iraq, the modern Iraqi state showed only contempt for them and their heritage. It did its utmost to persecute and destroy its ancient, pre-Islamic Jewish community. From 140,000, the community has dwindled to five people. To return the archive to Iraq will be to compound a crime: returning stolen property to those who stole it.

*Iraq itself does not have the resources to conserve and store the archive safely.

*Iraq's Jews and their descendants, 90 percent of whom are in Israel, will be debarred from access to original documents and history if the archive returns to Iraq.

*The memorandum drawn up between the US CPA interim government and Iraq in 2003 was signed on a flawed premise: that the archive is part of Iraq's national heritage.

It is not. Unless we challenge this erroneous idea, the return of the Jewish archive sets a precedent for all Arab countries who seized the property of 870,000 Jews to claim back as their national heritage any confiscated items that might have left the country. Indeed these states can claim as their own the property of all oppressed communities.  Web: iraqijewisharchives.org


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