New York, NY, February 7, 2014…The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the Senate passage of Resolution 333 which urges the United States Government to renegotiate with Iraq the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to ensure that the documents are kept in a place where its long-term preservation can be guaranteed and accessible to the Iraqi Jewish community throughout the world.
The Archive, which includes religious books and community documents confiscated from the persecuted Jewish community by the Baathist Government of Saddam Hussein, was discovered in May 2003 by U.S. forces in the headquarters of the Iraqi Military Intelligence in Baghdad.
“This important resolution, which was adopted by unanimous consent, balances the U.S. commitment to cultural property under international law, while recognizing the unique significance of this Archive to Iraqi Jews and their decedents who overwhelmingly live outside Iraq,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “We thank Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and the twenty seven co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle for their leadership on this issue and we look forward to swift House action.”
The Archive was eventually brought back to the United States and restored at the U.S. National Archives. Before the Archive was brought to the United States, and before scholars and members of the Iraqi Jewish community could evaluate the materials, an agreement was signed between the National Archives and the Coalition Provisional Authority which stipulated that the Archive would be returned to Iraq.
The Jewish presence in Iraq is the oldest in the Jewish Diaspora, dating back to 721 BCE. With government harassment and persecution beginning in the 1940’s, this ancient Jewish community was forced to flee Iraq. These refugees then settled in Israel, and across the Jewish Diaspora, primarily in the United States and Europe. Today, the remaining Jewish community in Iraq numbers but a handful of people.
In 2010, ADL wrote to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the U.S. to reassess its agreement to eventually return the Archive to Iraq.