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

Hizballah Prepares for War, and UN Peacekeepers Do Nothing

Dec. 10 2018

According to last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2373, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—the peacekeeping force created after the Second Lebanon War to keep both Israel and Hizballah out of southern Lebanon—is authorized “to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” If anything ought to rouse UNIFIL to action, writes Elliott Abrams, it should be the IDF’s recent discovery and destruction of tunnels dug by Hizballah to move troops into the Galilee:

The existence of these tunnels, dug from precisely the area of southern Lebanon that UNIFIL is meant to patrol, means that this area is indeed “utilized for hostile activities.” What, then, is the meaning of [UNIFIL’s statement in] response that it “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”? The meaning is that UNIFIL will likely do nothing.

UNIFIL is not supposed to be merely a means of communication, or the Security Council would have bought cell phones instead of paying for a military force. Moreover, there are no “appropriate authorities” in Lebanon; if there were, Hizballah would never have been able to dig its tunnels.

The tunnels are hardly the only brazen Hizballah violation of the Security Council resolutions undertaken right under UNIFIL’s nose. Consider this: Hizballah is blocking roads in southern Lebanon to smooth the path of missiles it is moving into the area. . . . Then there is the village of Gila, just north of the Israeli border, where there is a Hizballah headquarters and according to the Israelis about twenty warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout points, and dozens of underground positions. All this was built in an area supposedly patrolled by UNIFIL. . . .

This is a test of UNIFIL and its new commander, [Stefan Del Col, who took over in August]. “Communicating” to “appropriate authorities” is a euphemism for doing nothing at all. Hizballah is preparing for war. UNIFIL is supposed to get in its way. If it cannot hinder Hizballah’s war preparations in any way, and is even ignorant of them, UNIFIL is a waste of time and money.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, United Nations