Action alert: save Jewish documents from Iraq

Page from 16th-century bible with commentary found in Iraq

Page from 16th-century bible with commentary found in Iraq in process of preservation at National Archives, Washington

Here is the story in a few lines (Caroline Glick has all the details here):

Iraq had a Jewish population of 137,000 in 1940. Today there are about a dozen left, thanks to Islamic Jew-hatred, fanned in part by our old friend, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and continued through the days of Saddam Hussein.

A collection of books and documents belonging to what was left of the Iraqi Jewish community was looted by Saddam and kept in the basement of the secret police building. In 2003 the documents were rescued from the flooded building by a Defense Department Mideast expert named Harold Rhode. They were brought to the US, where they have been preserved and are being exhibited at the National Archives. Here is a short video from the Archives that tells the remarkable story.

The State Department has decided that they belong to the Iraqi government, because they were found in a government building, and plans to return them to Iraq next year.  Of course, they are not the property of anyone but the Iraqi Jewish community, the great majority of whose surviving members and descendants live in Israel.

It is as if someone burglarizes your house, the police take custody of the stolen property, and decide to give it to the burglars — because after all, it was in their possession.

Here is a letter I wrote to the president and to my senators. I ask my US readers to please think about doing the same.

Dear President Obama,

As you may know, the National Archives are restoring and exhibiting historical Jewish books and documents that were stolen from the Iraqi Jewish community by Saddam Hussein, and brought to the US after the Iraq war by Harold Rhode, a retired Defense Department cultural expert.

Now I understand that the material is slated to be returned to the government of Iraq next year.

This material belongs to Iraq’s Jewish community and no one else. It is no different from the property of German Jews that was stolen by the Nazis. Sending it back to Iraq – whose Jewish population has been reduced from 137,000 in 1940 to approximately one dozen today – is unjust and offensive.

The great majority of Jews of Iraqi descent now live in Israel. The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda, Israel, is prepared to receive this material and is the proper place for it.

Please help the 2,500 year old Iraqi Jewish community get its history back!

Vic Rosenthal

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