Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Iraq wants the archive back without the Jews

 The National Archives in Washington DC, where an exhibition of items from the Jewish archive opens on 11 October prior to the archive's return to Iraq

Reminder: Have you signed the petition yet?

" Where U.S. diplomats have served in the Mideast, religious freedom has not been put on the back burner. That's because religious freedom isn't even in the kitchen, " write Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison in the Patriot Post about Iraq's demand for the return of the Jewish archive without any Jews. Too right they are. But it's too late for Jews to return - they want only to be considered as the rightful owners of the archive and acknowledged as the victims of a grave injustice.

 The National Archives is preparing to put these treasures on display in October and then to send them back to Iraq. Is this the right thing to do? Americans have paid more than $3 million repairing and restoring this record of Iraq's historic Jewish community.

Question: Why would Iraqis want this Jewish Trove when they don't want the Jews? The idea that Jews driven out of Baghdad over a forty-year period might want to come back is fanciful. But the simple fact is: They can't come back. The Iraqi government that was installed by American arms doesn't want the Jews to come back. It would not even allow them to come back.

Is this Iraqi Freedom? What is especially concerning here is that the history of the ancient Iraqi Christian community is showing every sign of paralleling that of Iraq's Jews. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, there were two million Christians living there.Their churches and villages had been in Iraq since Bible times. But since being "liberated," Iraq's Muslims -- Shia and Sunni -- have driven all but 600,000 Iraqi Christians out of the country. Many of those exiled Christians -- in historic communions whose names recall Bible peoples -- Chaldeans and Assyrians -- have fled to Syria.

Syria? How bad must post-Saddam Iraq be that Christians would seek refuge in Syria? We know from every day's headlines that Bashar al Assad is one of the worst despots on earth. It seems highly likely he has killed 100,000 of his own people, and has probably used chemical weapons in violation of all international law. The one thing this evil man seems not to be doing is slaughtering Christians, his own Christian minority or those seeking asylum from Iraq.

Why, therefore, is the Obama administration helping Syrian rebels to oust Assad? What assurances has the Obama administration given us that Christians will be protected when Assad is toppled?

For that matter, what assurances have we gotten from Egypt that their military, which we lavishly fund, will protect the endangered Coptic Christian churches?
The Obama administration has embraced an idea of "democracy" that says whenever the local population votes, their decision must be respected. We saw how that turned out with the terror Gaza. They daily shower Israeli villages with rockets. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood won most of the votes in their 2012 elections -- and immediately proceeded to harass and persecute Egypt's Christians.

It's not too late to re-orient U.S. foreign policy in this perennially troubled region. We should tell Iraq they can have their treasured Jewish books back when they welcome the descendants of the Jews who wrote those books.

In every area where U.S. diplomats have served in theMideast, religious freedom has not been put on the back burner. That's because religious freedom isn't even in the kitchen. Because they fail to respect their neighbors who worship differently, these countries are forever in turmoil. It won't get any better until they think better of it.

Read article in full 

Returning the archive is legal, but is it ethical? See this discussion on archaelogist Paul Barford's blog


Bill said...

Is a reasonably detailed description of the contents of the archive available? It would help to settle some arguments about its disposition. Paul Barford, for example, argues that a good part of the archive consists of documents ABOUT the Jewish community generated by the Iraqi government, which arguably should be given to Iraq. On the other hand, my understanding is that the archive includes Torah scrolls, which were certainly stolen from the Jewish community and should be returned to it, in Israel, not given to the Iraqi government. It would be helpful to have a clearer idea of how much material of different types is involved.

bataween said...
This link contains a list of the 24 items which will be on display at the National Archives in October. We will have to wait for their website to be up and running for a full inventory of the different sorts of documents. In my view Barford is mistaken. The community would have run its own affairs and the documents belong to the Jews.

Joe in Australia said...

From the descriptions I think the 1568 Bible is the Plantin Polyglot. It's the only one of the listed items which sounds at all commercially valuable, and even if it's in good condition (which seems unlikely) its value would be measured in thousands of dollars, no more. The real value of the documents is the personal value to the people concerned and their relatives, and as a record of a destroyed community.

bataween said...

Joe, I believe that Bible is the Ketuvim, the final section of the Tanakh. the Plantin would have been relevant to the Christian world, it would not have been in the possession of Jews in Baghdad.
I don't think any of the documents have commercial value - don;t forget they suffered water damage and most are fragments. As you say they have personal and historical value. It is a point of principle that they should go back to their owners.