Saturday, May 1, 2010

BBC skews discussion on Iraqi Jewish archive

Millions of listeners to the BBC's World Service must have fallen off their chairs to hear Dia Kashi, an outspoken Iraqi Muslim, reveal that Jews have had a rich history in the region since Babylonian times. Baghdad was once a third Jewish, he said, and the Jews helped modernise Iraq. Funny that - so the Jews are not all colonisers and Khazar converts from Europe.

But BBC presenter Lyse Doucet, in her ignorance, seemed to think that the only possessions that the Jews left behind in Iraqi were their artefacts, Torah scrolls and marriage records. It fell to Dia to make clear that the Jews, who, he emphasised, were forced to leave Iraq, were also forced to leave all their property behind.

But, as we have sadly come to expect from al-Beeb, the ensuing discussion, about whether the Jewish archive rescued in 2003 from the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters and taken for restoration to Washington should be returned to Iraq (documented here, here, here and here on Point of No Return) - was skewed. Pitted against the Iraqi ambassador to Washington, pleading that the Jewish archive was Iraq's heritage, was Dov Zakheim, a member of the US administration. Zakheim made the curious point that digitisation of holy books was not the answer, as observant Jews would not use the internet on Shabbat!

The argument turned not on whether the archive rightfully belonged to the Jews of Iraq, but whether the US interim government had the right to remove it. "Wasn't that stealing?" Ms Doucet almost shrieked. There was nobody there to put the argument that if anyone has been stealing, it is the Iraqi authorities.

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