WASHINGTON (JTA) — A new House resolution urges the State Department to renegotiate the terms for the return to Iraq of an archive of Iraqi Jewish texts.
The nonbinding resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced Friday by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) “recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it.”
It matches a similar resolution approved last month by the Senate.
U.S. troops uncovered the archive in the Iraqi secret service headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, much of it waterlogged.
Iraqi agents under Saddam Hussein had looted many of the articles after the dictator had driven the remnants of the Jewish community out of the country in a terror campaign.
Under an agreement with the Coalition Provisional Authority that had governed Iraq, the materials were sent to the United States where experts, led by a National Archives team, restored them.
Iraqi Jews in Israel, the United States, Britain and elsewhere oppose the archive’s return to Iraq under the agreement, saying the government now in place is not sympathetic to Jewish interests and would not make it available.
The State Department until recently was adamant that the archive be returned to Iraq. A spokesman did not return JTA’s multiple requests last week for comment on its current position.
Jewish groups, including the Orthodox Union, the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, have advocated for not returning the archive to Iraq.
The archive, now on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, is due to be returned in June.