Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Don't Let the Iraqi-Jewish Archive Go Back to Iraq!

Jewish groups have sponsored this petition asking the US Government not to send the Iraqi-Jewish archive back to an uncertain future in Iraq.  This is part of a larger effort in Congress to pressure the State Department and the Obama Administration to do the right thing and make sure the archive is turned over to Iraqi-Jewish representatives.  These groups have even developed this platform to help deported Jews make a claim to their own heritage.  A late start but an effort anyone who really cares about preserving the history of the Iraqi-Jewish community should support.


Paul Barford said...

"make sure the archive is turned over to Iraqi-Jewish representatives"

as a lawyer, under which law would you urge this happen? Whose law, US law, Iraqi law or international law? Or is this a candidate for one of those extra-legal processes you elsewhere despise?

Tell me, is this proposal ("made by Jews, should belong to the Jews") not a expression of the "cultural property nationalism" your ACCG denigrates?

Cultural Property Observer said...

You've claimed in the past that the archive is made up of documents "about Jews," when in truth it is comprised of many documents taken from deported Jews. Shouldn't the same principles that apply to Holocaust art apply here as well? If you feel strongly that the Iraqi Jewish archive should be repatriated, why not start your own counter-campaign? Perhaps, SAFE and other like minded groups will join in....

Cultural Property Observer said...

I note cultural heritage lawyer Lucille Roussin, United States of America, has signed the petition. Good for her. And on reflection, perhaps SAFE will make an exception in this case to its usual repatriationist given the facts.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this. He's speaking figuratively about Mr. Barford of course:

"Peter, it seems your friend in Warsaw is concerned about law, but not about morality. It also seems that he is painting a rather nasty picture of himself as an anti-s....well I won't use the word, but maybe he is?. But if he moves further in that direction, puts the noose around his own neck, then I urge you to spring the trap, let him drop (you may recall the videos of the trap sprung under Saddam).

In the meantime, I have received assurances that a new US law, or a rider to a current bill -- "Save the Jewish Archive" -- may be possible, and I am urging people in political circles to make this happen. I believe with some success.

Warm regards,


Paul Barford said...

What is immoral, Mr Houghton is bombing the building (any building) by the US in 2003.

The US is still ten years on desperately trying to make good the damage done to its reputation by the Iraqi escapade by going through the motions of looking after the results of some of the damage they did in a sovereign country.

US "cultural policy" is firmly integrated with US foreign policy (I use both terms loosely). In this regard your fantasy-"Save-the-Jewish-Archive"-law merely goes against the interests of the US. And you call me anti-a... ("well I won't use the word, but maybe he is?"). Do you love Iraqi Jews so much that you are willing to further damage your own country to win them some boxes of lost papers? That's not very patriotic.

Is not the only possible approach to send the documents back to where the US took them, show the world what great guys you are? That's why your country paid all that money for its conservation. Then help the Iraqi Jewish organizations to lobby the Iraqis to allow the transfer of the documents to a suitable outside institution - in other words achieve by persuasion rather than force, surely more kudos in that, both for the US and the Iraqis and just as much an expression of American care.

Cultural Property Observer said...

"Some boxes of lost papers?" Surely, they are more than that-- otherwise what's the fuss about.

Assuming the Iraq war was wrong, do two wrongs make a right? I've heard that more than once on your blog.

And of course, if Iraq treated its Jewish citizens with dignity, the documents would not ended up where they were in the first place and there would still be a thriving community in the country. So, I'm afraid you are fantasizing if you think Iraq will make these documents available to Jewish scholars and return what personal and religious documents that may be claimed by individuals and groups.

You still have not told me why this is any different than Holocaust Art in the end. Lucille Roussin for one must see the parallels. Why can't you?

John H said...

Bah, humbug!
"Numismatics comes to the aid of oppression." Who says so? Paul Barford on his blog of 21 November 2013, in an attack on the Israeli Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett in what some people might well regard as an anti-Semitic slur.

Yes, the same Paul Barford who not only embraced communism in the late 1980's, but lauded this vile system of State-sponsored oppression, murder, and incarceration with out trial.

Whether is qualified to speak with authority on US Cultural Policy is debatable. His qualifications for speaking about oppressive regimes, is I suggest, peerless.

Paul Barford said...

Peter Tompa writes:
you are fantasizing if you think Iraq will make these documents available to Jewish scholars and return what personal and religious documents that may be claimed by individuals and groups.

In 2003 onwards, 4486 US soldiers laid down their lives (as the glib euphemism goes) and many thousands of Iraqis died too. This was so the US could replace one regime which they considered bad with one (they say)that would bring Iraq a better future. Are you saying that those sacrifices were all in vain, that nothing has changed? That the US failed? Tell that to the bereaved families.

As you see, I suggested you and like minded groups could help lobby the US-reconstructed post-2003 government of Iraq to persuade them to see things your way. Do you fear that America will fail at that too?

As for Holocaust art, tell me as a lawyer, does the mere fact that a work of art formerly in Jewish hands changed ownership between 1933 and 1944/5 make it “Holocaust art”, or are individual cases assessed by a court to ascertain that? Have you any specific documented examples in the IJA in mind here for putting forward such a case?

I have no idea why Lucille Roussin signed the petition. Neither do I see her commenting here, just your metal detectorist friend dragging the discussion down to the lowest argumentum ad hominem level. Despite all, I am surprised to see such a comment here.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Well, this is not a political blog, but I will note that Iraq is no longer threatening its neighbors and has a democratic government, as imperfect as it may be. One of those perfections is virulent antisemitism. Without assurances (and there are none) how will be sure the archive will be preserved?

Holocaust art cases should be decided on a case by case basis, but we know this material was in the possession of Saddam's secret police-- and they certainly did not buy it or get it donated to them.

As for personal comments you take issue with, I'd note I usually don't sensor other people's comments unless they are way off. Here, you might consider two things. First, one of our great Presidents, Harry Truman, said, "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen." Second, you should note that though there are a number of cultural property blogs that basically take the same position as you do, they for the most part do not make ad hominem attacks on others and for that reason, there is no response in kind to them or their authors.

Cultural Property Observer said...

I note a typo in my last comment, of course, it should have read, "One of those imperfections is virulent antisemitism. Without assurances (and there are none) how will be sure the archive will be preserved?"

Paul Barford said...

The word "censor" too. It's from the Latin.

I think when you publish a statement in which Mr Howland accuses me of anti-semitism because I comment on my blog on an Israeli (economics) minster's TV appearance with an illegally exported ancient coin, it is obvious that the term is getting very devalued.

I have just discussed where the material came from (or rather lack of information on that topic) on my blog, maybe you'd like to take a look as it in part answers a question posed here.


telephone books and newspaper clippings.

I would suggest that when you run out of arguments and rely on metal detectorists to harangue your guests, discussion has hit rock bottom. You have not answered the question concerning by which US law you would forfeit the Iraqi/Jewish material, and not answered the point about cultural property nationalism. Maybe now, though, Dick Stout will come along to your aid so you can dodge it again.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks for the other typo catch.

Mr. Howland speaks for himself, not me.

As for the content of the archive, come now-- it contains far more significant material than newspaper clippings and telephone books-- as you yourself concede in your own blog.

As for cultural property nationalism, I'm not sure how the return of artifact to the people-- not the state-- that created or owned them relates.

Finally, these were found in Iraqi Secret Police headquarters that does suggest they were seized from deported members of the Iraqi Jewish community.