The Point has been covering this story for a while. This goes back to 2013.
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.
Despite that, the State Department has announced that the stolen Jewish property will be sent to the Iranian puppet regime in Baghdad.
The United States will return to Iraq next year a trove of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to keep in this country, a State Department official said.
A four-year extension to keep the Iraqi Jewish Archive in the U.S. is set to expire in September 2018, as is funding for maintaining and transporting the items. The materials will then be sent back to Iraq, spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement sent to JTA on Thursday.
Rodriguez said the State Department “is keenly aware of the interest in the status” of the archive.
“Maintaining the archive outside of Iraq is possible,” he said, “but would require a new agreement between the Government of Iraq and a temporary host institution or government.”
No, it doesn't. The archive doesn't belong to the Iraqi government, but to the Jewish population that was ethnically cleansed from Iraq.
The United States recovered the archive and should have turned it over to the Jewish community. Instead we had a bizarre Kafkaesque process in which the archive was restored to be turned over to the thieves who stole it.
Jewish political leaders have invested a lot of energy into looted art in Europe. And that's a worthwhile cause. Yet this is a far more compelling issue. The archive contains the history of a Jewish community. It matters far more than a Klimt painting. Sadly, the priorities are those of a secular Ashkenazi leadership that is uninterested in the Iraqi Jewish archive because it's Sephardi and religious. Meanwhile the American Sephardi Federation's Ashkenazi boss Jason Guberman-Pfeffer seems far more interested in defending the hateful anti-Israel prejudices of David N. Myers, than in fighting for the archive.
And, another factor was the reluctance of a largely liberal leadership to stand up to Obama.
The archive is set to be exhibited at the Jewish Museum of Maryland Oct. 15-Jan. 15. The exhibit page says the items include a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793 and an 1815 version of the Zohar, a Jewish mystical text.
“There is no justification in sending the Jewish archives back to Iraq, a country that has virtually no Jews and no accessibility to Jewish scholars or the descendants of Iraqi Jews,” Gina Waldman, founder and president of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, said Friday in a statement to JTA. “The U.S. government must ensure that the Iraqi archives are returned to its rightful owners, the exiled Iraqi Jewish community,”
Stanley Urman, executive vice president for Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, echoed Waldman in saying there was no justification for sending back the archive.
“This is Jewish communal property. Iraq stole it and kept it hidden away in a basement. Now that we’ve managed to reclaim it, it would be like returning stolen goods back to the thief,” Urman told JTA on Friday.
It's exactly like it. Meanwhile here's the bizarre anti-Semitic justification on the Iraqi side for wanting the archive. Here's Al Arabiya's explanation
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.
Harold Rhode, who discovered the trove while working as a Defense Department policy analyst assigned to Iraq’s transitional government, said he is “horrified” to think the material would be returned when it had been “stolen by the government of Iraq from the Jewish community.”
“It would be comparable to the U.S. returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis,” he told The Jewish Week.
It's exactly like it.
I don't expect Tillerson to care. Between McMaster at the NSC, Mattis on Defense and Tillerson, foreign policy is under the control of the usual Islam Firsters who are very concerned with Muslim feelings, particularly in the oil states, and very little else. And so the old Obama plan to turn over stolen Jewish religious items to a hostile Islamic regime is moving forward.
But President Trump can and should block the move. It's the right thing to do. And Jewish activists should make that case.