Libyan Jews Unhappy at new Cultural Property Protection Agreement

The US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs I. Steven Goldstein and Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Under Secretary for Political Affairs Lutfi Almughrabi have signed a landmark bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on cultural property protection at the U.S. Department of State.

As part of the ongoing cooperation between the United States and Libya’s Government of National Accord, the United States will impose import restrictions on categories of archaeological material representing Libya’s cultural heritage dating from 12,000 B.C. through 1750 A.D. and Ottoman ethnological material from Libya dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D.

Restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage and trafficking and are among the many ways the United States is combatting the financing of terrorism and disrupting the global market in illegal antiquities. These restrictions continue similar restrictions implemented by the U.S. government on an emergency basis on December 5, 2017.

The cultural property agreement negotiated by the State Department under the U.S. law implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property underscores the United States’ commitment to our relationship with Libya, as well as our global commitment to cultural heritage protection and preservation.

The United States now has similar bilateral agreements with 17 countries around the world, as well as emergency import restrictions on cultural property from Iraq and Syria.

While the agreement is intended to protect Libya's heritage, Gina Waldman, a Libyan Jew and President of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) claims it actually legitimises Libyan confiscation of Jewish property.

(Sources: US State Dept, The Times of Israel)

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