Monday, May 4, 2009

Iraqi Bureaucratic Infighting, Babylon, Anti-Semitism and Torahs

The New York Times has reported on the new Iraqi government reasserting control over the site of ancient Babylon. See: For more about Babylon, also see:

The New York Times article chronicles the bureaucratic infighting over control of the site and touches upon the anti-Semitic comments of an Iraqi official associated with the State Board of Antiquities. As part of a political blame game, that official makes the claim that soldiers of Jewish heritage from Poland might have damaged the site in revenge for the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Jews thousands of years ago. As SAFE associated Blogger Paul Barford points out, this claim is simply ridiculous based on census data alone. See: (Finally, I agree with Mr. Barford on something!)

Unfortunately, this brand of anti-Semitism is not confined to the new Iraq, but rather is prevalent in the Arab world. And, though Mr. Barford does not mention it, if anything, such views were even more prevalent in the "Old Iraq" of Saddam Hussein.

I recently watched a rather interesting "History Channel" presentation that traced the roots of Saddam Hussein's Baathist party back to a failed pro-Nazi coup in Iraq in 1941. Like Hitler and the Nazis, the leader of that coup , "the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem," made hatred of Jews a cornerstone of his politics. See: This hatred of Jews later manifested itself in Saddam's Iraq to such an extent that Jews were even literally erased from the archaeological record. See:

Of course, though Mr. Barford is right to condemn Iraqi anti-Semitism, the fact that it continues to flourish at such a high level in the Iraqi government raises serious questions about returning Jewish artifacts like Torahs to Iraq that Barford and fellow SAFE associated archaeologists fail to acknowledge. See:

If the State manifests such a hatred for a particular religious group, isn't returning artifacts to that State's care simply wrong? Rather, shouldn't Joffe's principle of "non-refoulment" apply to ensure that Torahs from Iraq are instead reunited with Jewish groups that will treasure them? See again:

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