Monday, August 26, 2013

Obama Administration To Return Stolen Jewish Artifacts To The Iraqis Who Stole Them

This is truly despicable.

Harold Rhode over at Pajamas Media has a piece ( h/t, Liberty's Spirit)  that outlines how Jewish historical artifacts, Torah scrolls and holy books stolen from the Iraqi Jewish community before they were forcibly expelled from Iraq were recovered and preserved...and are scheduled to be returned not to the Jews that they belong to but to the anti-semitic country of Iraq that stole them:

The National Archives is readying an exhibit of Iraqi Jewish artifacts due to open on October 11. Appallingly, the U.S. government has agreed to then return the Iraqi Jewish archives — including holy books — to Iraq, which systematically expelled its Jewish community, by June of 2014.

How did the Jewish Iraqi community — which dates to 721 B.C.E. when the Assyrians conquered Samaria and eventually deported the population to central Mesopotamia, and which was one of the two main sources of Mishnaic and Talmudic learning — lose, find, and lose again its patrimony?

The incredible story of how this unlikely turn of events came to pass has never been told in its entirety until now; I am one of the few who can tell it.

After American forces entered Baghdad in May 2003, the head of the Jewish and Israel section of Saddam Hussein’s Mukhabarat (intelligence agency) came to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), offering information about Saddam’s intelligence operations against Israel and Jews. He did this in order to curry favor. Former Iraqi officials frequently came to opposition groups to tell their stories, in return for which they would get “safe passage” documents stating that since they were cooperating with post-Saddam authorities, they should not be harmed.

The tipster visited the INC to talk about the rumored Jewish archives hidden in the basement of the Mukhabarat headquarters. After his visit, INC chairman Ahmed Chalabi called Judy Miller, the former New York Times reporter then embedded with a mobile unit looking for WMD, and me. I was an Arabic/Hebrew speaking policy analyst with the Office of Net Assessments in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, then assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority, at the time.

We rushed over to talk with Chalabi, who told us that a former Mukhabarat employee reported that a huge treasure trove of Iraqi Jewish and Israeli material was amassed in the Mukhabarat building, and that he was prepared to show us where it was located. He also said there was an ancient copy of the Talmud written on leather or parchment.

Miller and I then went off to the Mukhabarat building with the former Saddam officer and an INC contingent.

The tipster indicated from outside the building where in the basement the Jewish and Israel sections were located. Then — he promptly disappeared. Despite the bombed-out structure’s instability, looters were overrunning the building. Danger was everywhere.

We were, in fact, standing beside a large metal device which had lodged itself halfway into the ground. We later learned that this live, undetonated bomb had penetrated through three or four stories of the building and destroyed the building’s water system. It had pierced the wall almost at ground level. We saw, through the hole it made, that the Jewish and Israel sections were flooded.

Rhode goes on to relate the amazing story of how the artifacts were rescued, restored and shipped to America, with the aid of Ricard Perle and Dick Cheney, among others. And then
tells how they were stolen in the first place:

After Israel became a state in 1948, martial law was declared in Iraq and many Jews left in the mass exodus in 1950-51. Almost all of those who remained behind left by the 1970s. They were not allowed to take much with them.

In 1950-51, they were allowed one suitcase with clothing — sometimes not even their personal documents — and nothing more. They were forced to leave everything else behind, including their communal property. For many years, Jews were not permitted to leave Iraq at all and were persecuted. With time, the few Jews who remained in Baghdad transferred what communal holy books and religious articles they had to the one remaining synagogue which functioned. This was in Batawin, a section of Baghdad which in the late 1940s was the neighborhood to which upwardly mobile Jews moved. The remaining Jews stored this property in the synagogue’s balcony, where the women sat during prayer.

The Jews did not freely relinquish this material. They did it under duress, having no other option.

In 1984, Saddam sent henchmen with trucks to that synagogue. Those scrolls, records, and books were carted off to a place unknown. Local Jews who were at the synagogue at that time witnessed this thievery, and described to me personally how the material was carted off against their will.

The post-Saddam Iraqi authorities agreed to the Jewish artifacts being taken to America to be restored, but guess what? These thieves now want 'their' stolen property returned. This is the equivalent of heirs of Nazis demanding that artwork stolen by Hitler's henchmen from all over Europe be returned to them as rightful owners.

Moreover, considering how Iraq feels about Jews, there's no guarantee the artifacts will be given the care and reverence they deserve.

They belong to the Iraqi Jewish community, almost all of whom now live in Israel. And their proper home is the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center outside of Tel Aviv, the only museum in the world dedicated to the history of Iraqi Jewry.

There's a petition you can sign here to stop the transfer and return these historic and holy artifacts to their rightful owners.

These holy artifacts must not go back to the people that stole them.

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