Don’t Send the Iraqi Jewish Archive Back to Iraq

Oct. 26 2017

In 2003, U.S. forces in Iraq discovered thousands of books, Torah scrolls, and documents belonging to the local Jewish community in the flooded basement of the headquarters of Saddam Hussein’s secret police. They sent the collection, which includes many manuscripts dating to the 16th century, to Washington, DC, where it has been preserved and restored. But, following an agreement between the Obama administration and the Iraqi government, the State Department plans to return the archive to Iraq next year. Joseph Samuels, who was born in Baghdad in 1930, urges them to reconsider:

[T]hese artifacts belong to the Iraqi-Jewish community and their descendants. Returning the trove to Iraq is tantamount to returning stolen treasure to a thief. President Trump and the State Department should do all that they can to prevent such an injustice. . . .

After the failed Arab war against Israel in 1948, the Jews of Iraq and other Arab countries faced anti-Semitism and open hostility. We suffered arrest, torture, public execution, and confiscation of property. The Iraqi-Jewish artifacts are a rare example of what was stolen from more than 850,000 Arab Jews and the historical Jewish presence that Arab regimes are attempting to erase. At present, there are only about 3,000 Jews living in Arab countries who are continuing our story.

Decades later, the Baath Party, led by Hussein, looted and confiscated public and personal items from synagogues, Jewish schools, and community properties. . . .

[Today’s] Iraq has proved itself an unreliable custodian, and we fear these historical treasures could be lost forever. . . . I implore the Trump administration, on behalf of all Jews from Arab lands and our descendants, to keep our icons of history from being sent back to those who stole them from us.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Donald Trump, History & Ideas, Iraqi Jewish Archive, Iraqi Jewry, Mizrahi Jewry, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship