2019-11-20 | International News

Take Action: Sign Petition to Protect Jewish Cultural Property

Despite the protestations of the American Jewish Community, the U.S, government continues to sign cultural property agreements which transfer ownership of confiscated Jewish communal and private property to Arab governments. The U.S Department of State is currently considering MOU Cultural Property Agreement requests from Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. Join us to demand the U.S. consider the rights and requests of Jews and religious minorities from the Middle East and North Africa before signing any further agreement.

Since 2003, the US Department of State and various government agencies and leaders have led initiatives that officially recognize Arab governments cultural property claims. Various agreements with governments in North Africa and the Middle East are based on a flawed premise – that Jewish cultural property constitutes the national heritage of Arab governments. In fact, Jewish cultural property in Arab countries was expropriated from private homes, schools, and synagogues. It is the heritage and patrimony of 850,000 indigenous Jewish refugees who were ethnically cleansed and fled state-sanctioned antisemitic persecution under duress.

Protect Cultural Property of Jews, Christians, and Religious Minorities from The Middle East and North Africa

The Honorable Michael Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

Since 2003, the US Department of State and various government agencies and leaders have led initiatives that officially recognize Arab governments cultural property claims to confiscated Jewish property such as Torah scrolls and manuscripts. Various agreements with governments in North Africa and the Middle East are based on a flawed premise - that Jewish cultural property constitutes the national heritage of Arab governments. In fact, Jewish cultural property in Arab countries was expropriated from private homes, schools, and synagogues. It is the heritage and patrimony of 850,000 indigenous Jewish refugees who were ethnically cleansed and fled state-sanctioned antisemitic persecution under duress. Jewish patrimony was never the property or national heritage of Arab governments – in fact most Arab governments have done little to preserve the remnants or memory of Jewish history in the countries. Today Jewish communities from Arab countries and their descendants live outside of the Arab world and most are restricted from entering their countries of origin.

Despite the protestations of the American Jewish Community, the US continues to sign cultural property agreements which transfer ownership of our cultural property to Arab governments. These include:

Algeria: Despite the protestations of the organized Jewish community, on August 14th, 2019 the US Department of State signed a cultural property agreement with Algeria which validates Algerian claims to confiscated Jewish property.

Egypt: The U.S. cultural property MOU agreement with Egypt, signed in November, 2016, covers virtually all objects of cultural heritage through 1517 A.D, including, Hebrew “scrolls, books, manuscripts, and documents, including religious, ceremonial, literary, and administrative texts.” This effectively hands ownership of Jewish property to the Egyptian authorities.

Iraq: In 2003 U.S. forces transported tens of thousands of confiscated Jewish items found in Iraq to Washington D.C. for restoration. The Iraqi Jewish Archive is slated to be returned upon the request of the Iraqi government.

Libya: On February 23, 2018, the US Department of State signed an MOU with Libya to restrict importation of objects of ‘Libyan cultural heritage’ including items owned by the ethnically-cleansed Libyan Jewish community.

Syria: The 2016 designated list of import restrictions from Syria includes “[t]orahs and portions thereof” and “Jewish paintings [which] may include iconography such as menorahs,” and “religious, ceremonial, literary, and administrative material,” including but not limited to maps, archival materials, photographs, and other rare or important documentary or historical evidence.”

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE IS CURRENTLY CONSIDERING MOU CULTURAL PROPERTY AGREEMENT REQUESTS FROM YEMEN, MOROCCO, TUNISIA, AND TURKEY!

We, concerned American Jewish, Christian and other Middle Eastern religious minority communities in diaspora are requesting the following from congress and the U.S. Department of State:

1) MOU Cultural Property Agreements from the Middle East should include carve-outs that list and name specific Jewish and Christian items to be excluded from the restricted list of items.

2) We ask that the State Department adhere to the limitations set by Congress under the Cultural Property Implementation Act by limiting restrictions to significant cultural items as specified in statue and ceasing the adoption of broad, excessive import restrictions to nations that have neither valued nor cherished the ancient heritage of Jewish, Christian, Yazidis, and other minority peoples.

3) MOUs demand that the governments themselves show they are taking measures to preserve and protect the heritage in their own countries and therefore, governments should be asked to present an inventory of remaining Jewish moveable and non-movable patrimony and an account of what they are actively doing with respect to the care of synagogues, cemeteries and other sites and items of Jewish and Christian heritage.

4) Article 17 of the U.N Declaration of Human Rights 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 agreements, with a foreign state that either condones, supports or promotes any Article 17 violation by that state.

5) We ask Congress and the Department of State to recognize, in the clearest terms that Torah scrolls, Jewish manuscripts, and Jewish cultural materials bearing Hebrew letters are rightfully owned by Jewish communities in diaspora.

6) Jews and other Americans must never be subject to the unsubstantiated claims of foreign tyrannies and all detentions and seizures enforcing MOUs should be governed by the provisions of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this important issue.

Sincerely,

**your signature**



C.C. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Eliot Engel House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member, Michael McCaul Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Chairman, Jim Risch Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs Relations, Bob Menendez
56 signatures

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