Sunday, September 29, 2013

Iraq clinging to Jewish archive is a bad joke

 Linda Menuhin, central figure of 'Shadow in Baghdad', together with the film's director, Duki Dror, at the Haifa premiere on 22 September

Powerful piece in JIMENA's Jerusalem Post blog  by Linda Menuhin arguing against the return of the 'Jewish archive' to Iraq. Linda is the central character of a new film, 'Shadow in Baghdad', honouring the memory of her father, who disappeared in 1972.

"More than 40 years have passed since I fled Iraq, yet Iraq has never left me. Time and again I earnestly tried to bury my past, without much success. This year on Yom Kippur I honored my father's memory with a sense of fulfillment.

"On the eve of Yom Kippur in 1972 my father, a distinguished lawyer in Iraq, disappeared. He was the first Jewish person to disappear during the Ba’athist regime’s years in power. In 2003, as U.S. troops entered Iraq, and the Ba’athist regime was toppled, denial of my father’s destiny was no longer an option. During that time, the memory of Iraq became a steady visitor at my home in Israel. All my energy became focused on deciphering the clues of my father’s disappearance. Friends all over the world, including some inside Iraq, tried to help trace documents that might give us a clear idea of what happened to him.

"This long lasting search for my father is the center of a new feature documentary, Shadow in Baghdad, by award-winning filmmaker Duki Dror. It took Mr. Dror four years to complete this film. For me, this story is a journey that I carry every day of my life. Documents helped me reconstruct my father's image and paved the way to a rational understanding of what happened to him.

"Documents are part and parcel of human history. They provide living memory that registers an entire community’s existence. To this end I am looking forward to visiting the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) exhibition, Discovery and Recovery, which will feature Jewish Iraqi documents seized by the American troops in 2003. This exhibition, which will open on October 11th, might present a balanced view of my life in Baghdad while highlighting the positive cultural relics of my living Iraqi-Jewish community and our ancestors.

"The exhibition may help me develop lost memories. Were it not for the recovery and rehabilitation of the Jewish archive, these documents would have been forever lost in the sewage water of Sadaam Hussein's secret police headquarters where they were found. While the U.S. government has rehabilitated and digitized these Jewish documents, they are committed to returning the originals back to Iraq despite the fact that there is no longer a Jewish community left there. It saddens me that the majority of Iraqi Jews will never be able to see the documents within the archive as Iraq does not allow Israeli citizens into the country.

"Some of these documents, like student records from the Frank Iny School, belong to Iraqi Jews, like myself, who are now living scattered around the world. This is not to mention religious books confiscated from Iraqi synagogues by the Ba'athist regime. Some of these books belonged to Jews who were afraid to carry them while fleeing the country illegally.

"Why would Iraq insist on retrieving this Jewish communal treasure while the country is ravaged by factional warfare? If Iraq cannot protect its own people how on earth can it protect documents of a living community it persecuted? The concept of Iraqis clinging to these Jewish documents and claiming them as part of Iraq's national heritage is a bad joke."

Read article in full 

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Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

the main problem now is not the Iraqi Arab govt. The problem is the US State Dept and the White House. They control these objects and they don't much care for how Jews feel or for doing justice if justice favors Jews.
So Obama has to be shamed into cancelling Bush's commitment to return the Jewish archive to Iraq. That ought to be easy enough for Obama, at least in principle, since he already has thrown out Bush's letter to Sharon about recognizing the main Jewish settlement blocs in Judea-Samaria as part of Israel in a final settlement with the Arabs.

In this situation, I think that most American Jews would support the Jewish position here, except for the hard line lackeys of Obama and the Democratic Party. The problem is to inform them and get publicity for this situation.

bataween said...

I hope you're right, Eliyahu. Alternatively, the situation may be resolved in the law courts, without recourse to Obama.