The U.S. National Archives is now displaying 24 out of 2,700 Jewish books and ancient documents that were recovered in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence ministry (Mukhabarat) during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The exhibit opened Nov. 8 and will run through Jan. 5, 2014.
According to an agreement the U.S. signed with Iraqi authorities, the collection—known as the “Iraqi Jewish Archive”—will be returned to the Iraqi government when its restoration is complete. But the Iraqi Jewish community says the Saddam Hussein government originally confiscated the materials from a synagogue in 1984.
Stanley Urman, executive vice president of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), previously told JNS.org, “We (JJAC) believe the agreement is based on a flawed premise, that premise being that the archives are the property of the Iraqi government. Our question is—how did they get into the basement of the Mukhabarat?”
A State Department official told JNS.org in an email last month that the department’s “primary concern in bringing the objects to the United States was that they be preserved, conserved, restored, and exhibited for the benefit of the Iraqi Jewish community, as well as posterity.”
But JJAC’s Urman said, “We question the willingness and ability of the Iraqi government to do what they purport to do, to preserve the Iraqi Jewish patrimony.”