Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ancient Relics/Current Realities

Whose Heritage?

In ancient, biblical times, Jews were dispersed from the Holy Land, from the land they occupied in antiquity, and were forced to settle as refugees in flight from persecution and certain death by those who occupied their land; the ancient Babylonians, the Romans.  They settled wherever they could, and always as inferiors within the societies in which they lived throughout the Middle East and Europe.

The lives of ancient Jews in countries of the Middle East where they took refuge and continued to worship their own singular religion to which was attributed all manner of sinister and threatening tales were always fraught with danger of reprisals for imagined threats to non-Jews.  Pogroms and bloodshed, socially outcast, slandered and scorned, they endured.

In modern times, after the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal, after Germany's Third Reich made their determined effort to rid the world finally of Jews, and when pity and horror after the Holocaust aided Zionism to establish the State of Israel, Jews were finally expelled from the Arab lands of the Middle East where they had found ancient refuge.

Almost a million Jews were deprived of their worldly possessions and thrust out of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and anywhere else they had settled in the region for thousands of years, adapting themselves to life among others like themselves in so many ways, but for their worship.  Just as in the countries of Europe where once they flourished, ancient Jewish artefacts now are prized possessions in museums, though the presence of Jews themselves is rare.

Iraq, once ancient Babylonia, is incensed that its Jewish archives removed by the United States following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, have not been returned to the country.  It treasures its antiquities, although during the invasion and occupation, its museums were looted by opportunists and taken abroad for sale, though many invaluable ancient treasures have since been restored.

Iraq's Tourism and Archeology Minister insists that Iraq is prepared to use "All the means", in attempts to have the Jewish archive returned to them.  Millions of documents that were transferred to the United States are in question, and Iraq now insists they must be returned.  Iraq, bitterly anti-U.S. through its Shi'ite clerics, aligned with Iran, has eradicated the living scourge of Jews from within its borders.

The once-ancient Jewish Iraqi community has been uprooted and dispersed; those that were not murdered made good their escape.  Should ancient Jewish artefacts belong to Jews themselves, or should the country in which they lived lives of desperation and torment insist that the archives are Iraqi in origin and thus belong to them for posterity?

The culture ministry spurns the very prospect of Jews being recompensed for seized property, let alone the very idea of Jews seeking to return to a country, a culture and a society that detests them, yet it insists it must secure ownership of ancient relics that reflect the heritage and traditions of Judaism in Iraq.

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