March 19, 2019
The Honorable Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W. Washington, DC 20220
Dear Secretary Mnuchin:
We strongly urge you to rebuff those supporting, promoting and legitimizing Arab governments’ seizure of the property and patrimony of the Jewish people. All across the Middle East and North Africa Jews, who had resided in the region for millennia, either fled or were expelled by the Arab rulers of these nations. Their property, both individual and community, was seized.
In recent years, U.S Department of State actions have unfortunately enabled the seizure of Jewish property by these governments. In 2018 an agreement was signed with Libya, whose Jewish population fled with only suitcases of possessions, that failed to recognize Libyan Jewry’s claims to their patrimony. Also in 2018, Algeria, a state that denied its Jewish population citizenship upon independence and converted synagogues to mosques, proposed an agreement. These agreements have moved forward under the camouflage of deterring looting despite the lack of hard evidence that these agreements are effectively addressing a real problem. In simple terms, this is a case of an agenda in search of a problem.
Today, the target is Yemen and you are being urged to enact Emergency Restrictions on the import of cultural property from that nation. These proposed restrictions would effectively recognize the Yemen regime’s ownership claims to all that region’s cultural property, including Jewish patrimony. Proponents are advocating this approach despite the uncontested evidence that the real threat to these cultural artifacts is the documented daily destruction and ruin from the bombing campaigns of that government and its allies. Rather than condemning that government’s unprecedented historic disregard for cultural heritage, some advocates and Congress members have launched a campaign urging you to endorse the Yemeni regime’s claims to Jewish property by enacting Emergency Restrictions.
This campaign has misrepresented import statistics to justify the request for Emergency Restrictions, while releasing of a “Red List” that directly targets Jewish ceremonial items. Make no mistake, the Yemeni regime views the property of Yemen’s ancient Jewish community, which fled to Israel on Operation Magic Carpet, as Yemeni government property. That Yemeni government arrested a Rabbi for bringing a Torah to safety in Israel, claiming that Torahs are government property. The United States must not endorse or legitimize this wrong. We urge you not to facilitate this seizure of Jewish patrimony and not impose Emergency Restrictions.
Executive Director, JIMENA