Wednesday 20 November 2013

Lobbyists and the "Iraqi Jewish Archive"

The coin dealers' lobbyist Peter Tompa is making a real meal of the supposed problem of the "Iraqi Jewish Archive". He wants the US (who took it out of Iraq for conservation and study during the US-led  occupation) to withhold from sending it back to Iraq. I asked him two questions:
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? 
He seems unwilling to answer (and here) with any details, suggesting instead: "If you feel strongly that the Iraqi Jewish archive should be repatriated, why not start your own counter-campaign?" I do not think any "counter-campaign" is necessary. The US is obliged to return what they took. Not to do so would be another huge blow to US foreign affairs. Simple as that.

Is not the only possible approach to send the documents back to where the US took them, to show the world what great guys the Americans are? That's why the country paid all that money for its conservation in the first place. Then all the US collectors and other lobbyists currently kicking up a fuss about the archive can help the Iraqi Jewish organizations to lobby the Iraqis to allow the transfer of the documents to a suitable outside institution - in other words attempt to achieve the desired end by persuasion rather than force. Surely there is more kudos in that, both for the US and the Iraqis and just as much an expression of American care.

And the Iraq Kurdish archive? Where is the corresponding collection of papers concerning other oppressed groups in Iraq from the archives of the security services? Did the US look for any of those papers in the flooded basement? If they found them, why did they leave them there? Or did they? What other material did they leave behind in order to save the documents referring to just this one group to influence world opinion?

Vignette: Kurdish settlement.


Cultural Property Observer said...

In the 1930's, the Nazis seized the property of Jews forced to flee Germany under German laws at the time. The international community has rightly deemed that the rights of deported Jews trump those laws. So, what's the difference here?

Hopefully, if the Administration and the State Department and its cultural heritage center ignore Congress' efforts to ensure the trove goes to its rightful owners or their community representatives, Congress will use its budgetary and legislative authority to ensure the documents go to the people-- not state--to which they rightly belong.

Paul Barford said...

You have answered neither question.

You want the USA to ignore the rule of law? On the basis of which law?

"the documents go to the people-- not state--to which they rightly belong" IS cultural property nationalism isn't it?

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