The Cultural Heritage of Middle Eastern Jews is Theirs, Not Iraq’s and Not Yemen’s

In accordance with a 2004 act of Congress, the massive archive of stolen Jewish books, documents, and artifacts that had long been in the possession of Saddam Hussein’s government—and is now in the U.S.—will be handed over to the current Iraqi government in September. Memoranda of understanding between Washington and the respective governments of Syria, Libya, and Egypt could concede the same rights to those countries as well. Carole Basri and David Dangoor want to ensure that Mizraḥi Jews don’t lose their communities’ treasures:

At the beginning of the last century, nearly one-million Jews lived in the Middle East and North Africa. Living in what is today known as the “Arab world,” these Jews had preceded Islam and the Arab presence in much of the region by around a millennium.

However, this all came to an end during the middle and latter part of the last century when these indigenous communities were forcibly expelled en masse, leaving no more than a few tens of Jews left in the Middle East outside of Israel.

In May 2003, with the Jewish community long since being forced to flee—leaving their assets and property, personal and communal, behind—more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents, records, and religious artifacts were discovered in the flooded basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters by a U.S. army team. This archive is a testament to the 2,600-year-old Iraqi Jewish community. As a result of their poor and neglected state, the archives came to the United States to be preserved, catalogued, and digitized, and have been on exhibit in a variety of cities for several years. Now, against the will and objections of the Iraqi Jewish diaspora, the U.S. government is preparing to ship the archives back [to Iraq], where its original and legal owners will never have access to or even be able to see it. . . .

On January 31, the International Council of Museums (“ICOM”) announced the release of a [document know as a] Red List for Yemen. The Red List directly targets Hebrew manuscripts and Torah finials, while reaffirming the Yemeni government’s claims to Jewish property. . . . Frequently, issuing a Red List is the first step in a process to hold public hearings and, ultimately, pass memoranda of understanding between the United States and foreign governments (like Yemen) that blockade art and cultural property, and deny U.S. citizens the rights to their historic heritage. . . .

The Iraqi Jewish Archives should be returned to its private and communal Iraqi Jewish owners, who were never consulted on the expropriation of their property or on the agreement made between the United States and Iraq on the return of their property to Iraq.

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More about: Iraqi Jewish Archive, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish World, Mizrahi Jewry, Yemenite Jewry

Iran Is Back on Israel’s Doorstep

Feb. 15 2019

On Monday, the IDF shelled Iranian-linked targets—most likely held by Hizballah—in the Quneitra province, which lies in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. There can thus be little doubt that the Islamic Republic has positioned its proxies in deadly proximity to Israel’s borders. Yossi Yehoshua comments:

Hizballah is trying to entrench itself in Syria now that Bashar al-Assad has reclaimed the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, precisely as it did in 2014 and 2015, [before Syrian rebels retook the area]. This was when one of the terror organization’s more prominent members, Jihad Mughniyeh, was appointed by Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be in charge of the Golan Heights area and of planning terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Mughniyeh was killed in a 2015 airstrike attributed to Israel. . . .

In addition, an increase in the number of incidents along the Syrian border was noted over the past two months, with the Israeli strikes in Syria . . . meant to signal to the enemy that it is best not cross any red lines. This is similar to the message Jerusalem conveyed to Iran when it [previously] attempted to entrench itself in [this part of] Syria and was pushed out of there after a series of Israeli airstrikes.

Unlike the situation of four years ago, Iran now has a real presence along the Syrian border, while Hizballah is working to resume its confrontations with Israel. And since the organization is up to its neck in domestic problems and thus cannot allow itself to face Israel on the Lebanese front, it finds Syria to be a more comfortable staging ground from which to take on the Jewish state.

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More about: Golan Heights, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syria