- - Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Obama administration, in its misguided policy of appeasement of radical Islam, is preparing to commit another unacceptable act: returning the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq.

The archive was saved from destruction in the basement of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters building in May 2003, not long after U.S. troops captured Baghdad. Before it was removed to the United States, the U.S.-administered Coalition Provisional Authority interim government made an agreement with Iraq to return the archive after the documents had been repaired and digitized. The archive was then flown to the United States, where a team of experts from the National Archives and Records Administration has painstakingly prepared its priceless documents for digitizing and display. The archive is now on display in downtown Washington at NARA’s headquarters building, where it will be until Jan. 5.

The archive contains holy books and invaluable records from the Iraqi Jewish community, some of which date back more than 400 years. It includes a rare Bible from 1568 and court cases and correspondence from the president of the Jewish community discussing the loyalty of Iraq’s Jews.

The Iraqi Jewish Archive mustn’t be returned to Iraq. It doesn’t belong to Iraq, period. On the orders of Saddam, it was stolen from private homes, schools and synagogues in the 1970s and ‘80s. It is therefore the cultural property of the Iraqi Jewish community. Largely because of the violence and contempt that the modern Iraqi state has shown toward Iraq’s Jews, the Iraqi Jewish community has all but ceased to exist. From a one-time high of 870,000, the Iraqi Jewish community now numbers a scant five.

The archive should be returned to its rightful owners, in Israel. There it should be housed in Tel Aviv’s Babylonian Jewish Center, the only museum on earth dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of Iraq’s 2,500-year-old Jewish community.

STEVEN BERNSTEIN
Midland, Va.