U.S. Declines Sanctions Against Russia in Jewish Literature Battle
After ruling that Russia must return the contents of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson’s collection of rare Jewish literature, the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. has been directed by the Department of Justice to refrain from imposing financial sanctions against Russia, as the saga surrounding one of Judaism’s most comprehensive literary collections continues.
Schneerson fled Europe during World War II and his collection of nearly 12,000 books and 50,000 documents were seized by the Nazis. When Soviet forces helped defeat Hitler’s forces, the Soviets took possession of Schneerson’s collection and sent it back to Moscow, where it currently remains inside the Russian State Library.
“It is the United States’ judgment that the imposition of the requested civil contempt sanctions against Russia would be counter-productive to these efforts, as well as for related issues such as the continuing Russian embargo on art loans to the United States,” reads a statement from the Department of Justice.
The DOJ was asked to provide insight into the case by the district court in Washington due to the foreign policy implications that financial sanctions against Russia might have for the United States.
“The inevitable accumulation of monetary contempt sanctions would also only serve to create an enduring new obstacle to resolving the dispute,” the DOJ statement continued.
Attempts by Bill Clinton’s administration and the U.S. Senate to have Schneerson’s collection returned to Chabad have been rejected by Russian authorities.
“The library forms part of the Russian library reserve and is inalienable. The history of its claiming by U.S. plaintiffs appears to us provocative,” Russian Culture Minisiter Alexander Avdeyev said in January of 2012.
The statement from the Department of Justice claimed that applying financial sanctions against Russia for refusing to perform an act within their own territory, would be without precedent, and “would be contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Russia’s foreign ministry has stated that decisions in American courts have no sway inside Russia.
“The courts of one country cannot consider claims against other countries and their property without the express consent of the latter,” the ministry has said.