The Dar Bishi Synagogue being renovated and turned into an Islamic Center. Tripoli, Libya 2021

The United States Department of State’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC), within the Bureau of its Education and Cultural Affairs, have been signing MOU cultural property agreements with Middle Eastern and North African governments that forbid particular Jewish cultural properties, like Torah scrolls, Hebrew manuscripts, candelabra, and religious ceremonial objects from entering the United States. The US Department of State, thereby recognizes foreign governments as the rightful owners and custodians of Jewish cultural properties that were stolen from Jewish communities when they were ethnically cleansed or fled antisemitic persecution.

For example, Torah scrolls and Jewish properties that were taken from families and communities in Libya are now not only not allowed into the US, but are seen as the national property of Libya – a country that ethnically cleansed its entire Jewish population and continues to desecrate and destroy Jewish property (see video above). Such agreements are in place with Libya, Yemen, Turkey, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, and Egypt.

What is most extraordinary about CPAC is the lack of congressional oversight, that is overstepping the CPIA law created to guide the commission’s work and protect the rights of minorities, that cultural property agreements have been signed without serious consideration and input from the minority communities the properties belongs to, and the influence of a powerful archeology lobby that that frequently ignores human rights violations of the governments they advocate for.

On July 26, 2022 the CPAC will meet to renew an MOU agreement with Libya, despite previous objections from major organizations in the Jewish community. So far requests from the Jewish community for rights to our communal and personal property have been completely ignored.

Join us by signing this petition demanding that MOU Cultural Property Agreements from the Middle East should include carve-outs that list and name specific Jewish items to be excluded from items restricted from entering the USA. Together, we must demand that the State Department adheres to the limitations set by Congress under the Cultural Property Implementation Act and that they begin acting in accordance with Article 17 of the U.N Declaration of Human Rights.

Update: On July 26th, JIMENA’s cofounder and president, Gina Bublil-Waldman, testified to the CPAC committee. You can read a transcript of her speech here.

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