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OU Urges Senators Toomey, Blumenthal to Support Senate Resolution 333, Urging State Dept. to Renegotiate Terms of Iraqi Jewish Archives

Posted on February 3, 2014

Dear Senator,

As representatives of AJC, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, Anti-Defamation League, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, World Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith International, American Sephardi Federation, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the World Organization of Jews from Iraq (WOJI), we encourage you to support S.Res.333, which urges the State Department to renegotiate with the government of Iraq to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archives be kept in a place where its long-term preservation can be guaranteed.

This resolution, introduced by Senator Toomey and Blumenthal and currently cosponsored by Senators Schumer, Kirk, Cardin, Rubio, Roberts, Kaine, Boxer, Menendez, Moran, Inhofe and Coats, reaffirms United States commitment to cultural property under international law and to ensuring justice for victims of ethnic and religious persecution.  It also asserts that Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants.

The over 2,700 pieces of Iraqi Judaica and other documents  which have come to be known as the Iraqi Jewish Archives were seized from synagogues, schools and other Jewish institutions by the Baath regime in the 1970 and 1980s. In 2003, coalition forces discovered them warehoused in the basement of the Mukhabarat secret police headquarters, where they faced imminent destruction due to flooding.

A U.S. led rescue operation transported the items back to America where the National Archives has worked diligently to restore and care for these priceless artifacts and to put some of them on display.  In order to provide a legal basis for the transfer of the items an agreement was signed between the National Archives and the Coalition Provisional Authority which stipulated that the archives would be returned to Iraq.  This agreement was undertaken without any consideration for, or consultation with, representatives of Iraqi Jewry. S.Res.333 acknowledges that the agreement was signed before knowing the Archive’s complete history.

These treasured artifacts rightly belong to the Iraqi Jewish community and their descendants, now scattered throughout the world and represented by international communal organizations such as the World Organization of Jews from Iraq (WOJI).

We urge you to cosponsor and support S.Res.333, urging the State Department — in cooperation with Jewish organizations and the Jewish community — 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 it would be accessible to Iraqi Jews and its long-term preservation can be guaranteed.

Thank you for considering our views on this critical matter.

Respectfully,

 

Rabbi Andrew Baker

AJC

Director of International Jewish Affairs

 

Nathan Diament

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Director of Public Policy

 

Betty Ehrenberg

World Jewish Congress, North America

Executive Director

 

Malcolm Hoenlein

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

Executive Vice Chairman

 

Daniel Mariaschin

B’nai B’rith International

Executive Vice President

 

Susan Heller Pinto

Anti-Defamation League

Director of Middle Eastern Affairs and International Analysis

 

Maurice Shohet

World Organization of Jews from Iraq (WOJI)

President

 

Dr. Stanley A. Urman

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries

Executive Vice-President

 

American Sephardi Federation