Iraq in the 40s had 350,000 Jews. Today it has somewhere between four and none.
Despite that the Obama administration plans to send the Jewish Archive consisting of religious artifacts, bibles, marriage contracts, community records and private notebooks seized by the Iraqi Secret Police from the Jewish community back to Iraq.
The material is not the property of the Iraqi government, either Saddam’s regime which stole it, or its Shiite successor which claims to want it, but not the Jews who owned it. It’s the property of Iraqi Jewish refugees and their reconstituted communities in America, Israel and anywhere else.
The personal material, like marriage contracts and school books, should go to the families that owned them and to their descendants. The religious material, which a Muslim country that purged its Jewish and Christian communities has no use for, should go Iraqi Jewish religious communities wherever they are now.
Jewish bibles seized from the custody of the Nazi SS would not be sent to the German government. There is no reason to send Jewish bibles into the custody of the Iraqi government.
To its credit, the State Department in the past, which paid for the salvage and restoration of the records, did ask Iraq nicely. And the Iraqis have always insisted on seizing the Jewish Archive.
“They represent part of our history and part of our identity. There was a Jewish community in Iraq for 2,500 years,” said Samir Sumaidaie, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “It is time for our property to be repatriated.”
Was. Past tense.
Iraq does not have a Jewish community. It will not have a Jewish community. Its government does not want a Jewish community. It never did. It is a Muslim country and has no use for Jewish religious artifacts, except to resell them at auction to the highest bidder, unless some of the Salafis get their hands on the archive first and destroy it.
The United States did make a commitment to send the Jewish Archive back to Iraq. But that was an illegal and ill-considered decision. Material taken from the Iraqi Secret Police should have been returned to its proper owners.
And its proper owners are not a Muslim Iraqi government that has responded with Anti-Semitic tantrums over the archive.
Among the most important items in the collection are the oldest copies of the Talmud and the Old Testament. That is why, experts argue, the former Iraqi regime kept the collection guarded in the intelligence building.
Experts add that Israel is keen on obtaining the manuscripts in order to prove their claim that the Jews had built the Tower of Babel as part of its attempt to distort the history of the Middle East for its own interests.
Arab League Deputy Secretary General Ahmed ben Helli has confirmed attempts by Israel to steal ancient Iraqi archives. “Iraq has been subjected to the biggest theft of its manuscripts and historic treasures,” he said. “Israel is accomplice to this.”
What possible justification is there for turning over Jewish documents to bigoted sociopaths like this?
Iraq Jewish refugees, like so many other Jewish refugees from Muslim countries, lost everything they had. They should not be forced to bear the looting of their bibles and religious items a second time. This time at the hands of the United States government.
The Iraqi government does not need Jewish books it cannot read. It does not need to victimize Iraqi Jewish refugees one last time. It refuses to do the honorable thing and return these items back to the Jewish communities they were stolen from, but that does not stop us from doing the right thing.
Property stolen from Iraqi Jewish communities should go back to them.