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Talking points

• During the 20th century, 850,000 indigenous Jews from the Middle East and North Africa were ethnically-cleansed or forced to emigrate without their assets or possessions. If you are a former Jewish refugee from an Arab country or Iran, or a descendent, your personal or familial story is the foundation of your personal argument. Please share your story in writing!

• UN resolution 242 stated that Jews fleeing Arab lands were bona fide refugees under international law. Unfortunately, Arab governments have been indifferent to international law on this matter, showing little interest in preserving Jewish heritage or the authentic memory of Jewish life in their countries. There are multiple reports of Jewish sites and property being unprotected, looted and destroyed in Arab countries.

• The United States has signed agreements, such as the IJA agreement, with multiple Arab dictatorships infamous for their persecution of Jews. These nations either expelled or terrorized their ancient Jewish communities into flight and seized their property. Today, these countries claim private and communal Jewish property, as their own national heritage through cultural patrimony laws. US government agreements enforce these cultural patrimony claims, effectively endorsing these seizures of Jewish property.

• Under the Cultural Property Implementation Act, our government has been signing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) – agreements between the US and foreign governments that blockade the entry of property to the USA and deny Jews from Arab countries the rights to their historic heritage. The signing of MOUs with Middle Eastern countries validates Arab countries’ confiscation of Jewish property and heritage. The MOUs claim to be about looting, but their broad scope and limited evidence of success suggests their real impact is providing a legal vehicle to legitimize foreign confiscations and wrongful ownership claims.

• Legitimate efforts to curb looting are essential, but they must be targeted to preserve archaeological resources, and not to disguise the brazen property confiscations of tyrants.

• US cultural agreements with Arab governments are based on a flawed premise – that Jewish cultural property constitutes the national heritage of Arab countries. In fact, Jewish cultural property in Arab countries was expropriated from private homes, schools, and synagogues.

• No such agreement should be made with a state where Jews were subjected to state-sanctioned Anti-Semitism, Nuremberg like laws and in some cases ethic-cleansing.

• The annual State Department Human Rights Report, reports violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and that Report must include violations of the Declaration’s Article 17. Article 17 states that no individual or community should be arbitrarily deprived of their property. Therefore, the United States should not enter into any agreement, and should withdraw from any existing agreement, with a foreign state that either condones, supports or promotes any Article 17 violation by that state.

Concrete Calls to Action

• Our political leaders need to get informed and stand up to future MOUs and agreements with Arab governments that legitimize foreign confiscations and wrongful ownership claims to stolen Jewish property.
• President Trump should be encouraged to issue an Executive Order to nullify the Iraqi Jewish Archive agreement.

• Please contact any Congressman or Senator that you work with and ask them to actively work to get the funding limitation to stop the IJA transfer or to pressure President Trump to nullify the Iraqi Jewish Archive agreement and let us know which Congressman/Senator you spoke with.

• Please contact your Rabbi to identify influential members who can effectively help influence policy-makers and President Trump to nullify the Iraqi Jewish Archive agreement and pass legislation to project the rights of Jews from Arab countries and Iran.

We ask that the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Heritage adheres to the limitations set by Congress under the Cultural Property Implementation Act by denying broad, excessive import restrictions to nations that have neither valued nor cherished the ancient heritage of Jewish, Christian, and other minority peoples. MOUs should be targeted to deter looting of significant items where there is hard evidence they are being sold in the USA and must cease being a vehicle to legitimize Arab seizures of Jewish property. Ideally, future MOUs from the region will include provisions that list and name specific Jewish and Christian items to be excluded from the restricted list of item.

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