Trump administration backs PLO in terror lawsuit, angering conservatives

March 11, 2018 15:54

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration sided with the Palestine Liberation Organization in a terrorism lawsuit the Supreme Court may soon consider, drawing an angry rebuke from conservatives, including one of its most steadfast Jewish community defenders, the Zionist Organization of America.

In 2015, a federal jury in Manhattan ruled in favor of American victims injured in six terror attacks that occurred in Israel in 2002-2004, handing down a $656 million decision against the PLO. An appellate court overturned that decision a year later.

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Solicitor General Noel Francisco supported the appellate court’s finding in a Supreme Court filing last month, mostly on technical grounds.

The Trump administration’s argument “hurts the American terror victims, aids and comforts terrorists, and makes them less concerned about facing consequences for their hideous actions,” said a March 7 statement by Morton Klein, the ZOA president, and Susan Tuchman, the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice.

The Supreme Court will say by March 29 whether it will consider the appeal by the litigants in the case, known as Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization.

The lead plaintiff, Mark Sokolow, told JTA in an interview that he was shocked by the solicitor general’s filing. He noted that the Obama administration had intervened on behalf of the PLO in 2015, persuading the District Court to substantially lower the bond — usually the equivalent of the judgment, in this case $656 million — which allowed the PLO the resources to file its appeal.

The Obama administration argued then that the award would cripple the ability of the Palestinian Authority to function, which would pose a risk to US interests in the region.

“We did not think anything along those lines would come out of this administration,” Sokolow said, citing President Donald Trump’s invocations of “America first” when it comes to foreign policy.

Trump has gone much further than the Obama administration in using American funds to pressure the Palestinians to hew to US policies. His administration has frozen $65 million in transfers to the United Nations relief agency assisting Palestinians and their descendants. It backs a bill in Congress that would cut US funding to the Palestinians until the Palestinian Authority stops paying the families of Palestinians who attack Israelis and Americans.

(The Obama administration withheld funds commensurate with the payments to Palestinian attackers; the bill Trump backs would cut almost all funding to the Palestinians.)

On the other hand, Trump is deeply invested in a bid led by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Sokolow, his wife and two of his daughters were injured in a suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem in 2002 that killed an 81-year-old man. His fellow plaintiffs are families of victims of terrorist attacks in Israel that killed 33, including several Americans, and wounded over 450. Their suit argued that the late PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat had paid attackers and their families.

They were suing under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows American victims of international terror attacks to sue for damages in the US.

Francisco’s filing touched on issues of preserving the executive branch’s prerogative to intervene in such cases in order to protect American foreign policy interests — the core argument of the Obama and Bush administration’s interventions in the lawsuit, launched in 2004. But most of it turned on technical constitutional arguments.

The PLO is entitled to due process, the solicitor general argues, because it qualifies as a “person” under US law. The filing also argues that the presence of two PLO offices in the United States does not meet the test of establishing the PLO as a legitimate US target for litigation. It also argues that the terrorists would not have necessarily known that some of the casualties were American, which mitigates another application of US law, that allows lawsuits against entities that deliberately target US interests.

The legalities drew special ire from critics of the filing. “The United States has in effect assented to the jurisdictional hurdles imposed by the Second Circuit, which will prevent many if not most victims of international terrorism from suing to hold their terrorist attackers accountable,” said the ZOA.

In October 2017, Republican and Democratic lawmakers in both chambers of Congress urged the solicitor general to support Sokolow’s appeal. Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., initiated a letter in the US House of Representatives signed by 67 Republicans and Democrats.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who helped author the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act which underpins the plaintiffs’ case, initiated a letter signed by 23 senators of both parties. Rice is Sokolow’s representative in the House. Grassley a year ago joined a number of other senators in filing an amicus brief in the case; the House has also filed an amicus brief.

Lawmakers have yet to weigh in on the solicitor general’s filing, but cries of outrage are already reverberating in conservative media, usually a redoubt of Trump support. Joel Pollak, a top editor at Breitbart news, scored an exclusive interview with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and asked tough questions about Francisco’s filing.

“The question some of [the plaintiffs] have raised is why the Trump administration is taking the opposite side from them — why it’s fighting their attempt to claim damages from the Palestinian government. Is there any prospect of a change in that policy?” Pollak asked.

Sessions seemed caught off guard.

“Those present very difficult legal questions,” he said. “And our team is working on it. So I will have to get back with you on the status of that case.”

Brian McNicoll, a columnist on the conservative Townhall website, chided Sessions and Francisco: “Doesn’t it seem like the administration of the most pro-Israel president in a generation might be interested in winning justice for Americans injured or killed by terrorists?”

James Glassman, a top State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, wrote in a Op-Ed for The Hill that siding with the PLO in this case would not help advance the peace process. “In fact, it is counter-productive,” he said. “Imposing actual, financial costs on those who use and support terrorism is the right way to achieve peace.”

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A New Bipartisan Consensus on Israel

A New Bipartisan Consensus on Israel
by Stephen M. Flatow /

The Algemeiner

J Street and the radical wing of the Democratic Party have worked hard in recent years to chip away at the party’s traditional support for Israel. And they’ve made some progress — to judge by recent public opinion polls –in the changes in the Democratic Party platform and the number of Democratic congressmen who have signed J Street’s letters criticizing Israel.
But a speech at the AIPAC conference, made by the senior US senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, has struck a powerful blow against those trends in his party.
As the Senate minority leader, Schumer is the most powerful figure in the Democratic Party today.
What he said to AIPAC has established 10 principles of a new American political consensus concerning Israel and the Palestinians. And J Street is far outside of it:
1. Tearing down Jewish settlements will not bring peace.
“Now, some say there are some who argue the settlements are the reason there’s not peace,” said Schumer. “But we all know what happened in Gaza. Israel voluntarily got rid of the settlements there, the Israeli soldiers dragged the settlers out of Netzarim, and three weeks later, the Palestinians threw rockets into Sderot. It’s sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.”
2. Giving more Israeli lands to the Palestinians will not bring peace.
“Some say it’s the borders,” Schumer told the AIPAC conference. “But they forget during the negotiations in 2000, Ehud Barak was making huge territorial concessions that most Israelis didn’t like, it was [Palestinian head Yasser] Arafat who rejected the settlement. It’s not the borders, either.”
3. Making concessions on Jerusalem will not bring peace.
Schumer: “And [the obstacle to peace is] certainly not because we’ve moved the embassy to where it should belong in Yerushalayim [Jerusalem]. It’s not that either.”
4. Most Palestinians do not accept Israel’s existence.
The reason “why we don’t have peace,” Schumer said, is “because the fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East.”
5. The Torah says that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews.
It may not be politically correct to acknowledge Israel’s biblical right to the Jewish homeland. But it’s a fact that is acknowledged by millions of Jews and tens of millions of Bible-believing Christians. We don’t have to feel embarrassed to say it, just as the senator was not embarrassed to say: “Of course, we say it’s our land. The Torah says it.”
6. Israel remains vulnerable.
A generation that has grown up with an Israel that seems almost invincible has to be reminded that creation of a Palestinian state would reduce Israel to just nine miles wide, as it was before the 1967 Six-Day War.
Schumer recalled walking through the corridors of his high school in Brooklyn that Spring, his radio glued to his ear, “deathly worried that Israel would just be pushed into the sea by the Arab onslaught. … Now, the younger generation never experienced this. They haven’t lived through a time when Israel’s very existence was balanced on the edge of a knife.”
7. The Palestinian Authority isn’t “moderate.”
The great myth of the Oslo era was that the Palestinian leadership genuinely made peace and rejected terrorism. “Too many believe that this Palestinian Authority is moderate and really wants peace.” But it does not, declared Schumer.
8. The Palestinian Authority (PA) actively supports terrorism.
It’s not just that the PA leaders are unreasonable and extreme; they directly support terrorism. “The dark truth,” Schumer said, is “that the Palestinian Authority, every day, actively aids and abets terrorism.”
9. The PA’s payments to terrorists must cease.
The PA can’t disguise its payments to imprisoned terrorists and the families of dead terrorists. It can’t pretend they are “social welfare” payments. It cannot route them through a third party. What it must do, Schumer said, is to “cease making payments to the families of terrorists.” Period.
10. The PA must stop glorifying terrorists.
It’s not a case of “we have our heroes, and they have theirs.” It’s not a matter of “what they do is their business.” Glorifying terrorists encourages more terrorism. “The PA has to stop calling them martyrs,” said Schumer, and “stop giving them parades.”
The leadership of the Democrats, as represented by Schumer, has now in effect joined hands with the leadership of the Republicans — and the majority of the American public — when it comes to Israel.
J Street and other harassers of the Jewish state have been left behind in the dust. A powerful new pro-Israel consensus has been reaffirmed. I hope it continues to grow.

Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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Abbas: Peace with Israel is ‘treason’

Abbas: Peace with Israel is ‘treason’
March 8, 2018

Why would the Palestinian leader make genuine peace with the Jews when the PA’s aspirations remain what they have always been, namely, the destruction of the Jewish state?

By: Daniel Krygier

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told the Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah recently that he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor” by signing any agreement with the Jewish state that does not live up to Palestinian aspirations and demands. This was clearly a reference to the Trump administration’s peace plan, which is expected to be unveiled in the near future.

Briefly, Abbas’s statement illustrates why the Arab-Israeli conflict is perhaps the world’s most intractable conflict. In theory, it is easy to solve, but in reality virtually impossible under current circumstances. The reason is quite simple: Arab leaders like Mahmoud Abbas have incited their populations for decades against the very existence of Israel within any borders. Why would the Palestinian leader make genuine peace with the Jews when the PLO’s aspirations remain what they have always been, namely, the destruction of the Jewish state?

Many liberals in Israel and abroad have for years dismissed the PA’s hateful propaganda against Jews and Israel as “meaningless statements for internal consumption.” Self-appointed liberals also believe that, magically, peace can be achieved by Israeli concessions alone. This self-delusion is rooted in desperation and the refusal to recognize the vast cultural and mental gulf separating the Middle East from Western democracies. Abbas is at the same time instigator as well as a hostage of a culture of hatred against the Jewish state that does not leave any room for compromise.

The difference between Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, is more in style than in content. Abbas has carefully cultivated an image of “moderation” in the international arena by claiming that he seeks the establishment of an Arab state along the 1967 ceasefire lines, with “East Jerusalem” as its capital. However, Abbas has himself admitted that he rejected the peace offer from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. This offer from 2008 gave Abbas everything the Palestinians say they want – in English: a state next to Israel with a capital in “East Jerusalem.” The problem is that nothing short of Israel’s destruction will satisfy Abbas’ despotic regime in Ramallah.

In 1979, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Nearly 40 years later, the peace remains cold, and hatred against Israel and Jews is endemic in Egyptian society. From the point of view of the “Arab Street,” Sadat was a “traitor” for signing a peace deal with the Jews. The price for treason in the Arab world is usually death, and Sadat paid with his life for the Camp David peace agreement with the Jewish state.

Abbas is in no hurry to end his luxurious and internationally funded lifestyle for a signed paper with the Jews that would endanger his own life. As long as it is considered “treason” in Ramallah, Gaza and elsewhere to make peace with the Jewish state, the Arab-Israeli conflict will continue, and Israeli concessions will only make it worse.

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Silver Half-Shekel: Mitzvah Protecting The Souls Of The IDF Soldiers

Silver Half-Shekel: Mitzvah Protecting The Souls Of The IDF Soldiers

Breaking Israel News
By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz March 8, 2018 , 3:50 pm

Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” Exodus 30:15 (The Israel Bible™)

After nearly 2,000 years of waiting, it is now possible to purchase a silver half-shekel that can be displayed at home and stored in a vault for use in the Third Temple. Or it can be given to IDF soldiers to protect them from their enemies.

Over 20 years ago, Reuven Prager, the tailor specializing in Biblically-styled clothing who sells such coins, started minting silver half-shekel coins for the purpose of performing the Biblical commandment incumbent upon every Jewish male. Regardless of personal wealth, every Jewish man was required each year to give a half-shekel coin to the Temple.

The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” Exodus 30:15

In Temple times, the half-shekels funded the costs of the Temple service. It was also required in order for public offerings to be considered communal since every Jewish household had contributed towards its purchase.

The half-shekel was described in the Bible as weighing 20 geira.

This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight—twenty giera to the shekel —a half- shekel as an offering to Hashem. Exodus 30:13

Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, a renowned Torah scholar from the Middle Ages, who is more famously known as the “Rambam,” said that the weight of the coin was equal to 160 grains of barley, which in modern measurements would be approximately eight grams of silver. The value of the coin is dependent upon the whatever the market’s value is on silver.

Even after the destruction of the Second Temple, the practice was continued until 135 CE when the Roman Emperor Hadrian outlawed it.

Prager’s deep desire to recreate this mitzvah (Torah commandment), despite its having been out of practice for almost 2,000 years is reflective on how dear the commandment is to Jews. Due to the significant time gap from when the half-shekel was last given, Prager conducted research on a subject many modern rabbis have not covered.

Every year, Prager chooses an image for the coin based on the utensils for the Temple. While has placed featured images of the musical instruments and vessels on the coin, he has avoided using the image of the seven-branched menorah (candelabra) that stood just outside the Holy of Holies.

Silver half-shekel (Photo courtesy Reuven Prager)

“I only wanted images of vessels that actually exist now and stand ready for the Third Temple,” Prager explained to Breaking Israel News. “The menorah that stands in the Old City is supposed to be used for Third Temple, but it is is only gold-plated. The Bible states specifically that the menorah be made out of beaten gold.”
Reuven Prager (Screenshot)

Prager is scrupulous about the Biblical requirements, and since the menorah is such an essential part of the daily Temple service, he has refrained from using its image on his half-shekel silver coins.

“This year, I received a Halachic (Torah law) ruling concerning my Biblical wedding ceremonies that surprisingly, also applied to the half-shekel,” Prager explained. “It referred to the halacha that states that in the absence of a menorah made from beaten gold, a menorah made from any metal could be used in the Temple service.”

Prager applied this ruling to the half-shekel project, and for the first time, he chose a menorah as the image for the face of the coin.

Performing the mitzvah requires sanctifying the coin to the Temple. This changes the status of the coin, making it forbidden to use the coin for any other purpose. Since there is currently no Temple for sanctifying the coin, performance of the mitzvah today is typically completed by handing such a coin to “Otzar Hamikdash” (the Temple treasure), an organization that was established for the purpose of storing these coins until the building of the Third Temple.

Three times a year, a ceremony called Trumat HaLishka is held in which the coins are given over to Otzar Hamikdash, and are officially considered to be sanctified to the Temple. The next ceremony will be held on Thursday, just prior to the beginning of the Hebrew month of Nissan.

Otzar HaMikdash has thousands of coins stored in a vault to be used for the Third Temple insured for 125 percent of their value, taking into account the fifth that must be added to replace anything sanctified.

And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. Leviticus 27:31

Five years ago, Prager added another Biblical aspect to his endeavor.

“Whereas every other commandment incumbent on adult men begin from the age of 13, the mitzvah of the half-shekel is unique in the Torah in that it is incumbent from the age of 20,” Prager noted. “This is because initially the mitzvah was intended as a way to count the men available for battle.”

Everyone who is entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, shall give Hashem’s offering. Exodus 30:14

Prager decided to reconnect the mitzvah to its military roots by setting up a fund called, “MASHAL” – Mahatzit Shekel L’Chayal – (half-shekel for a soldier). Prager uses the funds to purchase silver-half shekels. He then goes out to the streets of Jerusalem and distributes the coins to young IDF soldiers, religious and secular while explaining to them the mitzvah and the significance of the coin.

Also, a confirmation email is sent to the donor when his coin is given to a soldier.

“The packaging for the coins distributed to soldiers was designed so it fits into their military identification card that they carry in their uniform at all times,” Prager said.

“They can take it into combat. The Bible wanted to have them do this mitzvah so they have an insurance policy for their soul from the moment they go into the army.”

To purchase coins, contact Reuven Prager by email at

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Former Syrian general: Hezbollah is in possession of chemical weapons

March 8, 2018 09:23

Iran is building and testing short- to medium-range missiles armed with chemical warheads in Syria, former Syrian general Zuhair al-Saqit told [The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication] Maariv. Al-Saqit, who heads the Center for the Detection and Monitoring of the Use of Chemical Weapons in Belgium, also said that Iran’s Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah is in possession of chemical weapons, mostly handed to it by the Assad regime in order to hide their existence from international monitors.

In an interview in Paris, al-Saqit said that a large part of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, which were hidden from international inspection bodies, were transferred to Hezbollah.

Iran continues to be a major supplier of chemical weapons to the regime of President Bashar Assad and continues to develop chemical weapons in Syrian territory, he said. Iranian scientists, technicians and military personnel are developing missiles with chemical warheads ranging from five to 35 kilometers that can be carried in vehicles or by small army units within Syria — or across the border, he said.

General al-Saqit came to Paris to warn European governments that, contrary to popular opinion, the problem of chemical weapons is not yet off the table. “The Syrian army and the militias supporting it carry out daily attacks on the population, which uses chlorine gas. Only yesterday there was such an attack,” he said.

Al-Saqit deserted the Syrian army in 2013 and left the country after being responsible for the scientific development of chemical warfare weapons during the civil war. He refused to use chemical weapons against civilians and replaced chemical munitions with harmless materials.

The center he heads today receives and records testimonies from the field and examines them. According to him, contrary to the regime’s official stance, the videos from Syria showing victims of chemical attacks are not fabricated.

On the issue of Syrian cooperation with North Korea, al-Saqit confirmed that North Korea had indeed supplied Syria with chemical weapons and assisted in their installation and operation against civilians. He also said that in his capacity as senior officer in the Syrian army, he accompanied North Korean officers who came to advise on chemical weapons for the various units.

Translated by Eric Sumner.

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Netanyahu: 2 State Solution ‘Doesn’t Work with What We See’

“You can say it will be good if we give [the Palestinians] a state … empirically it doesn’t work with what we see,” Netanyahu stated.

By: World Israel News Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians “doesn’t work with what we see,” while stressing the key component of Israel’s security any such deal.

After his meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump and ahead of his address on Tuesday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference, Netanyahu sat with several American reporters on Monday in the president’s official guest house and took questions.

When asked about Trump’s peace proposal, which has so far been shrouded in secrecy with regard to specifics, Netanyahu said he “did not see a draft” during his meeting with Trump and would not say whether he has seen a draft before, NPR reported.

When asked if he believed in the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu said, “I haven’t named it. But I’ve defined it,” meaning that he did support such a solution, which specifics he defined in his 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University.

He told the reporters that Israel did not seek to govern the Palestinians, but that Israel must retain overriding security control in Judea and Samaria, which Palestinians seek for a state, arguing that the Palestinians are not capable of properly governing and combating terrorism.

“There is no ability by the Palestinians to deal with these things. Who does the job is the Israeli security forces,” Netanyahu said. “You can say it will be good if we give them a state … empirically it doesn’t work with what we see.”

Palestinians Consistently Reject Peace

The Trump administration is reportedly at the final stages of formulating a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians. However, the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected the US as a mediator and are looking to Europe and other countries to serve as moderators who would be more sympathetic to their positions.

Trump has called the agreement the “deal of the century,” and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat released alleged portions of the “deal,” which he rejected as “liquidating” Palestinian dreams of statehood, while amounting to an “apartheid system.”

Speaking to a Fatah gathering last week, Erekat presented a purported point-by-point outline of Trump’s proposal, which included, among other features, the following terms: a demilitarized Palestinian state with a strong police force and a “capital” outside the current municipal boundaries of Jerusalem; Israeli annexation of settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria and withdrawal from areas currently under Palestinian control; international recognition of Israel as the Jewish people’s homeland and the Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinians; and a solution for Palestinian “refugees” in the context of the future Palestinian state.

Commenting on the prospects of such a plan, Dr. Mordechai Kedar from Bar Ilan University told World Israel News that “the plan will go nowhere because Israel knows where it will lead and that is to another terror state. Israel is well aware that the entire concept would devastate Israeli security. Dealing with the core issues is fruitless because the Arabs reject the conclusions in advance. With its current boundaries, Israel is invincible. Unfortunately, due to the relationship with Trump and the US, Netanyahu cannot afford to say ‘no.’ I expect that he will give Trump praise and moral support, but in fact Netanyahu will drag his feet and do nothing to bring the Palestinians to the table.”

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Do not give holy Jewish artifacts to a country that expelled its Jews

Do not give holy Jewish artifacts to a country that expelled its Jews
March 6, 2018, 3:24 pm
Times of Israel

Carole Basri
Carole Basri Carole Basri is an adjunct professor at Fordham University Law School, a visiting professor at Peking University School of Transnational … [More]

Imagine being forced to leave your home, leaving all your belongings, your history, and your heritage behind. Now, imagine that they were rediscovered and brought to safe-keeping — just to be stolen from you again.

That is the fate of the Iraqi Jewish community.

In May 2003, over 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents, records, and religious artifacts were discovered by a US army team when in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters flooded. This written record provides a robust understanding of the 2,600-year-old Iraqi Jewish community: the texts were sent to the US to be preserved, cataloged, and digitized, and they have been on exhibit in a number of cities for several years. Now, based on an executive order signed by President Bush in 2003, and extended by the US government in an executive order signed by President Obama, the Iraqi Jewish archive is set to be returned to Iraq in September 2018.

On a parallel track, but unknown to the Iraqi Jewish community, the Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2004 was amended in 2008 to include import restrictions on Jewish artifacts, including Torah scrolls, made on or before 1990. Then, the State Department put together separate Memorandums of Understanding, where the Jewish religious and cultural artifacts from Egypt, Syria, and Libya would be returned to the governments that had ethnically cleansed their Jews out of existence. Yet the Emergency Protection Act and the Memorandums of Understanding stipulate that religious or cultural artifacts need to be returned to their country of origin (limited, in the case of Iraq, to those artifacts made before 1990). It is like saying Jewish property that was looted during World War II and found in the US must be sent back to Germany. It allows these Jewish artifacts and documents to get into the wrong hands, hands of people who never owned them, and might not protect them from destruction.

The key point to remember here is that these artifacts — religious and cultural artifacts that are sacred to my community — never belonged to Iraq in the first place. The items are expropriated property stolen under the color of law that either belonged to private citizens or to the Iraqi Jewish community. It is critical to note that there is no longer a Jewish community in Iraq.

It is not just about the Iraqi Jewish archive though. They are part of a larger issue impacting Jews and Christians that needs to be solved. The Emergency Protection Act and the Memorandums of Understanding result in unfair consequences, and they do not take into account the circumstances at hand. The issue of potential return of stolen Jewish property to countries such as Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya that ethnically cleansed the Jews is growing as red lists are published at US Customs, and countries such as Yemen may be added to those countries covered by Memorandums of Understanding. Suffice to say that the Emergency Protection Act and Memorandums of Understanding are not understanding or protecting at all of Jewish and other minorities’ artifacts.

Indeed, the Jewish populations of those Middle Eastern countries are now minuscule after years of violent persecution leading to ethnic cleansing. Of the million Jews living in Arab countries in 1948, fewer than 4,000 Jews remain. In Iraq in particular, the count is just five Jews.

Yet, the United States government, using the Emergency Protection Act and Memorandums of Understanding has placed import restrictions on cultural artifacts produced by Jews, Coptic Christians and other minority peoples, on behalf of Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq. Further, the United States government has promised to return the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq’s sectarian government in September 2018, including the notes of the Ben Ish Hai, a 19th century scholar, and a 16th century Jewish book seized by Saddam Hussein’s secret police, .

To provide some background: when Jews were expelled from Iraq, they were not permitted to take religious and cultural artifacts, like Torah scrolls and holy books, with them. Under Iraqi law, Jews could only take one suitcase with three summer outfits, three winter outfits, one pair of shoes, one blanket, underwear, socks and sheets, one wedding ring, one watch, one thin bracelet, and no more than 50 dinars. No prayer books, photographs, Torah scrolls, menorahs, kiddish cups and other heirlooms were allowed to leave. Even women and children were searched on leaving. In short, there was no way to take out any sacred Jewish artifacts — artifacts that mean the world to our community and are the only pieces of our past we have to show our future generations.

In fact, much of the Iraqi Jewish archive is from my grandfather’s school, the Frank Iny School. The Frank Iny School was always privately owned until it was expropriated by the Iraqi government in the early 1970s.

Thus, private as well as communal property will be returned to the country that persecuted and ethnically cleansed the Jews who lived in Iraq for more than 2,600 years, since time of the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. This is a tragic situation for Iraqi Jews who have already been persecuted enough.

The community is organizing a petition to prevent the Jewish archive from being returned to Iraq, and asking people to sign it.

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