Saturday, January 18, 2014

US Senators issue archive resolution


Video showing the painstaking restoration process by US conservationists
 
A bi-partisan resolution co-sponsored by ten US Senators has been introduced in the US Congress. The resolution 'strongly recommends' that the agreement to return  the Jewish archive to Iraq be re-negotiated. Assisted by Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee, the World Organisation of Jews from Iraq asked for the original wording to be toned down, fearing it might prejudice talks WOJI has been conducting with the Iraqi government through its Washington ambassor Lukman Faily.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa) issued the following press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C.  -- U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) are working together to ensure that roughly 2,700 Jewish artifacts -- including Torah parchments and ancient prayer books -- discovered in Iraq in 2003, are not returned to that country.

 Instead, the Senators believe the treasures should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in the artifacts. There are few Jews remaining in Iraq today.
American soldiers uncovered a collection of Jewish historical items stolen from Iraqi Jews by Saddam Hussein, who hid them in the basement of the Iraqi secret police. In 2003, the U.S. and the Coalition Provisional Authority signed an agreement whereby the U.S. would preserve the artifacts and then send them back to Iraq this year. The collection, which cost nearly $3 million to preserve, is being displayed by the National Archives and Records Administration.
"These priceless artifacts were stolen by the former government of Iraq," said Senator Toomey.  "We should not ship the collection back to a country where their owners no longer reside.  With this bipartisan resolution, I am pleased to join Senators Blumenthal and Schumer in urging the State Department to reexamine returning the collection to Iraq."
Said Gregg Roman, Director of Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh:  "Senator Toomey's bipartisan leadership regarding the Iraqi Jewish Archive is refreshing and fully welcomed. It does not make sense to send these precious artifacts back to Iraq when they were stolen in the first place, let alone no longer having a community in Iraq to look after them."
 The archive will also be displayed in New York City from February 4, 2014 to May 18, 2014.  The archive is scheduled to be sent back to Iraq in June 2014.
Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.),  Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.),  Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) are also sponsors of the resolution. 

"The draft RESOLUTION(...) strongly recommends “that the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq.”

"The planned resolution mentions that Iraq was once a center of Jewish life dating back to 721 B.C.E. ..., and goes on to say that ”the Ba’ath regime confiscated these artifacts, later dubbed the Iraqi Jewish Archive, from synagogues and communal organizations”, it mentions that “under great urgency and before adequate time could be dedicated to researching the history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, an agreement was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority on August 20, 2003, stating that the Iraqi Jewish Archive would be sent to the United States for restoration and then would be sent back to Iraq after completion”.

"The resolution continues: “the Iraqi Jewish community is the constituency of the Archive and is now represented by the diaspora outside Iraq”; and that, “the current Government of Iraq has publicly acknowledged the importance of the Archive and demonstrated a shared respect for the wishes of the Iraqi Jewish diaspora by attending the December 2013 burial of several Torah fragments from the Archive in New York”,…. “Now it is Resolved,  That the Senate—

(1) strongly urges the Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq the provisions of the original agreement that was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed;

(2) recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it;

(3) recognizes that the agreement between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority was signed before knowing the complete history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive;

(4) reaffirms the United States commitment to cultural property under international law; and

(5) reaffirms the United States commitment to ensuring justice for victims of ethnic and religious persecution.”

 *Members of Congress Ileana Ross-Lehtinen and Steve Israel, have received no response to their bi-partisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. They are now writing again to the State Department with six definitive questions that they seek answers for – including the option of not returning the Iraqi archives to Iraq.

1 comment:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

no surprise that Kerry has not answered. He is pro-Arab slime.