Tuesday 12 February 2013

Chabad Book Madness Gets Even Crazier: US Oversteps the Mark

I certainly missed this one. And how... The last I heard about this is reflected in my post 'Return to Sanity over Chabad-Lubavich Library' Thursday, 20 September 2012 (for earlier coverage see 'Washington Judge Challenges Preservation of Historical Material in (Foreign) State Collections', Monday, 9 August 2010 and a mention here: 'Loan Washington your Stuff and Kiss it Goodbye?', Wednesday, 6 June 2012). The Art Newspaper refers to a further installment in this sick story (Laura Gilbert,  'Russian agencies move to sue US Library of Congress', 12 Feb 2013).  -
the Brooklyn-based Jewish group Chabad [...] has been trying to obtain two collections of Jewish books and manuscripts from Russia since the 1980s and filed a lawsuit in 2004. On 16 January, a Washington, DC District Court sanctioned the Russian government $50,000 per day because Russia had not followed the court’s July 2010 order to turn over the library and archive to Chabad.
Pretensions to the status of Welthaupstadt or not, no US court has of course the right to do that. Not surprisingly.
Shortly after the order, Russia initiated an embargo, which is still in effect, on lending art to American museums, claiming it feared Chabad would seize its art in order to enforce the judgment. American museums responded by refusing to loan art works to Russian institutions. 
Chabad has declared it would "enforce the judgment by seizing other Russian property in the US and through monetary sanctions". Now the news agency Pravda is reporting that Russia’s Foreign Ministry has recommended that two Russian government agencies sue the US Library of Congress, "as the conduit for an international interlibrary loan in 1994 of seven books from Russia to Chabad, which were never returned".

Vignette: Chabad Lubovich conference USA (photo Tina Fineberg)


Dorothy King said...

It's a mad case - but then to most Jews Chabad are a bit mad (they think their late rabbi was the Messiah, for example, and that's just one example ...).

From a purely legal point of view, Russian museum assets cannot be seized whilst on loan to the US, as US law prevents the seizure of cultural property owned by foreign governments. The only possible exception to this may be the Chicago cuneiform tablets case, but think that was overturned on appeal and in theory Iran still owns them.

Paul Barford said...

I have no problem with Chabad wanting their books back, it is the US court verdict which is mad. Just who do they think they are?

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