October 30, 2015

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District Judge Robert Shelby Hears Statements on "Disproportionate" and "Excessive" Force in Artifacts Trafficking Sting

Thursday October 29, 2015 U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby heard statements in a court hearing to decide whether a United States Bureau of Land Management agent, Dan Love, had violated a Blanding doctor's rights when arresting him during an artifact trafficking sting operation into the sale of looted Native American objects.  In an earlier ruling, the judge dismissed four of the five claims alleged by the family of Dr. James Redd, but had indicated there were sufficient facts to warrant a formal hearing to review the evidence on the final accusation before determining if the suspect's Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. 

This case garnered the general public's attention last year when the event was highlighted in a LA Times long-form article by award-winning journalist Joe Mozingo.  In his news report, Mozingo retold the story of the prominent physician, who had been charged in 2009 with one felony count of unlawful receipt of property stolen from an Indian tribal organization (18 U.S.C. 1163) during Operation Cerberus Action, named after the three-headed dog in Greek mythology.

James Redd, the town of Blanding's only doctor for almost 30 years and his wife Jeanne were two of the 24 suspects in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico charged with felonies for allegedly trafficking in archaeological artifacts from the Four Corners area of the American Southwest.  On the day after his arrest, Dr. Redd was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Apparently distraught over the charges against him and the members of his family, Redd had asphyxiated himself by rigging a garden hose to the exhaust pipe of his Jeep.  A week after Redd's death, a second defendant indicted in the case, Steven L. Shrader, of Santa Fe, N.M., also killed himself, dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on the same day he was scheduled to appear in federal court in Salt Lake City.

After his death, Redd's wife Jeanne plead guilty to three felony counts of unlawful receipt of property stolen from an Indian tribal organization (18 U.S.C. 1163), two felony counts of violation of ARPA (16 U.S.C.470ee (b)) and theft of Government property (18 U.S.C. 641) admitting that she owned and sold valuable Native American seed jars, pottery and jewelry. The couple's daughter, Jericca Redd, also plead guilty, admitting to one felony count of unlawful receipt of property stolen from an Indian tribal organization (18 U.S.C. 1163) and two felony counts of violation of ARPA (one count each of 16 U.S.C.470ee (a) and (b)).

On September 16, 2009, citing consequences suffered and the seriousness of the crime that had impacts felt by her and the community, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups bypassed federal sentencing guidelines and sentenced Redd's wife to to a lighter sentence of 36 months of probation. Redd's daughter received 24 months probation. In addition, the family members were ordered to pay a fine and forfeit 812 archaeological objects, including human remains, they had once had in their possession. 

In May 2011 Jeanne Redd filed an excessive force lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, claiming that the Bureau of Land Management and the FBI had pushed her husband, James Redd, to suicide through “"excessive, overreaching and abusive treatment"” at the time of his arrest. Approximately eighty federal agents were reportedly deployed in the city of Blanding on June 10, 2009 as part of Operation Cerberus Action, tasked with executing warrants on the Redds and 14 other individuals.  

As arrest warrants were being served, a large but disputed number of officers, some wearing flak jackets and some carrying assault rifles arrived at the Redd’s home just after sunrise.  They detained Mr. Redd for several hours after he had returned home following early morning rounds at the health clinic, questioning him extensively in his garage. 

Family members have reported that a BLM special agent interrogated Redd for four hours before taking him into custody,  During the questioning one agent reportedly taunted him by pointing to garden tools in the garage and asking him “Which shovel do you like to dig bodies with?”  The family also indicated that officers had hinted that Dr. Redd might lose his medical license for illegally removing native american artefacts from Navajo territory. 

The constitutionality of an officer’s use of force depends on whether the officer’s conduct was “objectively reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances,” which must be assessed “from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” United States Supreme Court GRAHAM v. CONNOR, (1989) No. 87-6571 Argued: February 21, 1989   Decided: May 15, 1989.

During yesterday’s hearing U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby told an attorney for the Redd family that he didn’t see sufficient evidence to suggest that the action taken by federal Bureau of Land Management agents necessarily violated Redd's constitutional right but he did comment on the the number of officers deployed.  He ended the hearing by saying he would take the matter under advisement before issuing a prompt ruling.

While many feel the leniency shown to the Redd family during their sentencing sends the message that heritage looting in the American Southwest is unimportant and not worth stiff sentences but the case also illustrates that a disproportionate amount of law enforcement manpower may have been deployed to a home were suspects were not actively resisting, not attempting to flee, and not posing any imminent danger to law enforcement officials. 

In total, two suspects charged in this case committed suicide, as did case's informant Ted Gardiner. Gardiner shot himself in his Salt Lake City home during a confrontation with local police officers who had been summoned for the second time in three days because of concerns about his mental health.  





Événement/Events: Fondation pour le droit de l’art /Art Law Foundation

Location: Auditorium, Fédération des Entreprises Romandes
98 rue de Saint-Jean, 1201 Genève

La date de l'événement:
Vendredi 13 novembre 2015

Sur le thème: 
L’art & le blanchiment d’argent 
Money Laundering in the Art Market 
Événement en français

Programme et l'inscription:
On or by 3 November 2015

Le marché de l’art n’est pas épargné par les questions de blanchiment d’argent. L’actualité en a fait la démonstration. Les nouvelles recommandations du GAFI en matière de blanchiment qui seront mises en oeuvre en Suisse à compter du 1er janvier 2016, le phénomène malheureux du financement de l’État islamique par la vente de biens culturels et les réflexions entourant la règlementation des ports francs soulèvent des questions importantes pour le domaine de l’art sous l’angle de son exposition aux risques de blanchiment d’argent. Alors, mythe ou réalité: l’art est-il un moyen de blanchir des avoirs criminels?

Le but de cette journée est de faire un panorama de la problématique, d’exposer les règles qui s’appliquent au blanchiment d’argent dans le marché de l’art et d’esquisser des solutions pour prévenir les risques correspondants.

La professeure:
Ursula Cassani (Université de Genève), Jean-Bernard Schmid (procureur), Thomas Seydoux (Connery Pissarro Seydoux), Solange Michel (Interpol), le professeur Xavier Oberson (Université de Genève), Yan Walther (SGS Art Services) et Laurent Crémieux (Inspection fédérale des finances) comptent parmi les intervenants à cette journée.

Cet événement est organisé par la Fondation pour le droit de l'art et le Centre du droit de l'art.



Location: The Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly, London

Program Date: 
Tuesday, 01 December 2015

Topic: 
Art, Law and Crises of Connoisseurship
Conference in English

Programme and Registration:
Early Bird Rate until 15 November 2015

In the public realms of law and the art world, a ‘connoisseur’ must be recognised as being an expert, as being capable of giving credible testimony regarding the subject, and as remaining actively engaged with the world in which attributions and authentications are made. This public recognition takes years of work and is hard-won.

Yet, does this public recognition of expertise signify accuracy or truth in the claims that a connoisseur makes about art? This one-day conference investigates the always-interrelated and often mutually-troubled processes by which connoisseurship is constructed in the fields of art and law, and the ways in which these different fields come together in determining the scope and clarity of the
connoisseur’s ‘eye’.

Speakers Include:  
Martin Eidelberg (Rutgers University), Charles Hope (Warburg Institute), Nicholas Eastaugh (Art Analysis and Research Ltd.), Irina Tarsis (Center for Art Law), Brian Allen (Hazlitt Ltd.), Tatiana Flessas (LSE), Megan E. Noh (Bonhams) and Michael Daley (ArtWatch UK).

This event is organised at the The Society of Antiquaries of London by ArtWatch UK, the Centre for Art Law, and the London School of Economics and Political Science.




October 29, 2015

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i2MStandards offers systematic approach to problem of fakes and forgeries in the art market -- Colette Loll, ARCA Alum


Colette Loll, Art Fraud Insights
Tom Mashberg's article for The New York Times, "Art Forgers Beware: DNA Could Thwart Fakes" (October 12, 2015) discusses "a new authentication system that would let artists sign their works with specks of synthetic DNA."

One method is being developed at the Global Center for Innovation at the State University of New York at Albany. The school said it had received $2 million in funding from the ARIS Title Insurance Corporation, which specializes in art.

Here's a link to the program's website: https://www.i2mstandards.org

Colette Loll, of Art Fraud Insights -- quoted in Mashberg's article -- consulted on the project. Loll attended ARCA's program in International Art Crime in 2009 and 2010. In October, Ms. Loll was in London with artist Eric Fischl "and some of the top conservation and materials scientists in the field," Colette wrote in an email. "I have been consulting on this initiative for over a year now." Ms. Loll explained:

“The i2MStandards initiative offers a systemic approach to fighting the prolific problem of fakes and forgeries in the art market. We have been talking about the problem for a long time, it’s wonderful to participate in a very real solution.”

Here's a link to the program's video: https://www.i2mstandards.org/media/.

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

October 28, 2015

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Reporting from UNESCO ICOM COMCOL 2015 Annual Conference in Soul, Korea

COMCOL is the International Committee for Collecting of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) which aims to deepen discussions, and share knowledge on the practice, theory and ethics of collecting and collections development.


This year ICOM Council on Museum Collecting (COMCOL) is hosted by the National Folk Museum in Seoul, Korea.  


Speakers participating in this conference have gathered from as far away as the Netherlands, Zambia, Brazil, England and myself, from the United States.

On our first day of this conference, we toured the Gyeongbokgung Palace, and were welcomed by an extremely knowledgeable docent at the National Folk Museum in the same complex as the Palace before beginning our conference schedule for the day.  The group also received the Gyeonggido Dodanggut, which is a shamanic ritual of community, designated as Korea’s Important Intangible Heritage #98, held in Suwon, Incheon and other areas of Gyeonggi provence to wish for the well-being and prosperity of a village.  This particular ritual consists of two parts: telling the origin and history of village guardians and praying for safety and longevity of the village and its residents.

The President of COMCOL, Léontine Meijer-van Mench (Germany) , Deputy Director at Museum Europäischer Kulturen (Museum of European Cultures) Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz initiated session one with a presentation, “What does sustainability mean for institutional collecting?” 

Keynote speaker Kidong Bae (Korea), ICOM chair of the National Committee of Koreaand former President of the Korean Museum Association; now, Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology, Hanyang University and Director of the Jeongok Prehistory Museum, Gyounggy Province; Seoul spoke about the History of Collections and Museum Development in Korea.

In the afternoon session Yukiko Shirahara (Japan) Chief curator at the Nezu Museum presented a thought provoking paper on “Addressing the Dilemma of Sustaining Museums and Collections in an Economic Downturn”. The final paper presented by Ho Seon Riw (Korea) concerned the “Future-Oriented Collecting Policy of the National Hangeul Museum.  “Hangeoul” is the unique writing style of Korea.

In the closing of the first day of the conference, students of “Gayatori” performed Gayageum byeonchang, folk songs accompanied by the traditional Korean zither-like instrument the Gayageum.  These students are officially appointed to maintain this important intangible cultural property.  Maintenance of “intangible cultural property” is ICOM’s priority #23.  Gayatori plays Korean traditional musical instrument which includes both 12 stringed and 25 strings in performance, accompanied by flute and choral voices of the players.

This reporter will present in the next day’s session a paper titled, “Renaissance at the Academy: The Rebirth of Connoisseurship and the Examination of the Object”  

October 27, 2015

America’s Museum of the Bible - Hobby Lobby Owners Under Federal Investigation for Possibly Trafficked Assyrian and Babylonian Cuneiform Tablets

For years various academics have questioned the collecting and conservation practices of billionaire collector Steve Green, the philanthropist behind the $800 million, eight-story Museum of the Bible.  Slated to open in 2017, the museum will occupy a historically protected warehouse built in 1923 just minutes away from the National Mall and the US Capitol in Washington DC.  But Green's collection raises more questions than it answers.

Where are the thousands of antiquities coming from that have been purchased to supply this expansive museum?   And as a private museum, has the largest evangelical benefactor in the world cut corners in formulating his museum's acquisition policy, forgoing the standards propounded by museum associations and those dictated by international treaties?

Most of the general public are more familiar with the Green family via their landmark case against the US government objecting to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which required that corporations above a certain size provide medical insurance benefits to their employees, including coverage for certain contraceptive methods.  In approving an exemption as a result of the case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, 573 U.S. (2014), the US Supreme Court decided in Hobby Lobby's favour stating that the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring that for-profit corporations supply their employees with access to contraceptives at no cost to the insured employee could be opted out of by commercial enterprise owners who are opposed to contraceptive coverage based upon their religious beliefs.

GC.MS.000462, a papyrus fragment sold
on eBay in 2012 which has a text from
Galatians 2:2-4, 5-6 in the New Testament
But the Green's success in rulings over contraception has now been overshadowed by a federal investigation into the museum's collection practices regarding antiquities from ancient Assyria and Babylonia, what is now Iraq.

According to the Museum of the Bible website, the Green's purchased their first biblical object in November 2009.   Since that time, their collection has grown to an estimated 40,000 objects including Dead Sea Scroll fragments, biblical papyri, rare biblical texts and manuscripts, cuneiform tablets, Torah scrolls, and rare printed Bibles.   That's 6,666 objects per year or a whopping 18 objects purchased per day. Compare that to the number of employees currently working for the Greens in relation to their new museum and one can surmise that an object's collection history has not been a principle concern among the staff or consultants vetting historic items for inclusion in the museum's collection.

In April of 2014 Italian papyrologist Roberta Mazza, a lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at University of Manchester, pointed out her concerns surrounding a papyri fragment in the Green's collection. Mazza identified a small papyrus codex page containing lines from Galatians 2 in Sahidic Coptic during a visit to the exhibition, Verbum Domini II, organized by the Green Collection in Vatican City, Rome.  As might be expected, the fragment had a less than stellar collection history.

Belonging to the Green Collection, the fragment was first identified back in October 2012 by Dr. Bryce C. Jones, then a PhD student at Concordia University's Department of Religion.  The Galatians 2 papyrus had previously been listed for sale on the online auction site eBay that same year through an irreputable dealer using the name “mixantik”.  “Mixantik”, who also has used the names "ebuyerrrrr" and "Yasasgroup", is/was an Istanbul-based trader with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ancient Coptic and Greek papyrus fragments from Egypt, all with little or no provenance.  This seller was also someone whom academics like Dr. Dorothy King and archaeologist Paul Barford had openly reported for trading contrary to Turkish and International law.

Concerned about the provenance of this piece of papyrus as well as other Green Collection practices, Roberta Mazza asked David Trobisch, the current director of the Museum of the Bible, both publicly and privately for more information on the acquisition circumstances of two specific pieces in the family's collection, GC.MS.000462 (Galatians 2) and P. GC. inv. 105 (the Sappho fragments). 

From the Green's employee she learned that the Galatians 2 Coptic fragment was purchased in 2013 by Steve Green from someone referred to as "a trusted dealer".   Records in the Museum of the Bible/Green Collection archives attest that the papyrus was part of the David M. Robinson collection which was sold at a Christie’s auction in London in November 2011.   

The fact that the auction sale records give no mention of the eBay seller, and conveniently does not contain a photographic record or detailed description of what the 59 packets of papyri fragments contain is suspect to say the least.  This lack of detailed documentation on auction sales involving antiquities makes it difficult to ascertain if any given object's origin is either licit or illicit.  This easy loophole leaves the door open for both buyers and sellers to slide suspect objects into the stream of international commerce undetected.  In a nutshell this method may be used to effectively launders smuggled cultural contraband and give an illegitimate object a plausibly legitimate collection history. 

Speeding forward to today, The Daily Beast has reported that the Greens have been under federal investigation for the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq over import irregularities related to 200 to 300 clay cuneiform tablets seized by U.S. Customs agents in Memphis on their way to Oklahoma City from Israel.  The jointly-written article was written by Biblical scholars Joel Baden, professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale University and Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame.

Cary Summers, president of the Museum of the Bible, spoke with Daily Beast reporters exclusively on Monday and stated that a federal investigation was ongoing and that “There was a shipment and it had improper paperwork—incomplete paperwork that was attached to it.” 

In 2008, the U.S. imposed an emergency import restriction on any archaeological and ethnological materials defined as "cultural property of Iraq. This import restriction was imposed to protect items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific or religious importance at risk of trafficking as the result of unrest in the country.  This import restriction continues additional restrictions already in effect continuously since August 6, 1990.

The selling of ancient Iraqi artifacts is absolutely prohibited under UN resolution 1483 from 2003, as you may find in paragraph 7 of the link here. 

A source familiar with the Hobby Lobby investigation told reporters at the Daily Beast that the cuneiform tablets were described as samples of “hand-crafted clay tiles” on their FedEx shipping label and were valued at under $300.   If true, this seems less like an simple oversight on the part of the shipper and more like direct falsification, not just of these objects' value but of their historic significance and origin as its doubtful that cuneiform tablets will be showing up in the Wall Decor section of Hobby Lobby anytime soon. 

American imports of art, collections and collectors' pieces, and antiques from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria increased sharply between 2011 and 2013. Is a pattern developing?  Is this how heritage artifacts from source countries plagued by conflict are being folded into legitimate museum and private collections?

David Trobisch has stated that the Green Collection has one of the largest cuneiform tablet collections in the country.

In selecting antiquities, individual collectors and museums have choices. They can choose to focus exclusively on the historic, aesthetic and economic benefits of their acquisitions in formulating their collections or they can add ethical and moral criteria to their purchase considerations and not purchase conflict or blood antiquities.

By Lynda Albertson 

Excerpt from ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums
©2013


October 19, 2015

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UNITAR - UNOSAT and UNDP Reports on Destruction in the City of Sana'a, Sana'a Governorate, Yemen and Its Effects on Civilians

On August 28, 2015 UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme - UNOSAT, a technology-intensive programme delivering imagery analysis and satellite solutions to relief and development organisations within and outside the UN system illustrated satellite-detected damage and analysis of the destruction in the city of Aden, Aden Governorate, Yemen. 

Using satellite imagery acquired 10 and 23 September 2015, as well as 15 May 2015, UNITAR-UNOSAT they have now done the same thing for the city of Sana'a, Sana'a Governorate, Yemen. 

As noted in an earlier ARCA blog post Sana'a is the largest city in Yemen and the centre of Sana'a Governorate. Inhabited for more than 2,500 years, Sana'a old city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (Date of Inscription: 1986) noted for its many-storeyed tower-houses built using pisé de terre, an ancient rammed earth method of construction that dates back to at least 7000 BCE in Pakistan.   Prior to becoming the latest victim of unrest the city of Sana'a hosted 103 mosques, 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century.

The UNITAR-UNOSAT report, published October 15, 2015 identified a total of 652 affected structures within a city.  Detailing their findings the report noted
Approximately 283 of these were impacted as of 10 and 23 September 2015, with 54 destroyed, 94 severely damaged, and 135 moderately damaged. Previously, using the 15 May 2015 satellite image, UNITAR-UNOSAT had located 369 affected structures, of which 60 were destroyed, 72 severely damaged, and 237 moderately damaged. Additionally, 8 impact craters and 16 areas with significant amounts of debris were observed in September 2015. A total of 7 medical facilities were identified within 100 meters of damaged and destroyed buildings, and it is possible that these facilities also sustained some damage. Notably, as of 10 and 23 September 2015, significant reconstruction of structures damaged as of 15 May 2015 was visible across the examined area. This is a preliminary analysis and has not yet been validated in the field.  

A copy of the report in its entirety can be found here.  Along with a full-sized PDF version of the site damage map here

Image Credit World Food Program (WFP), Rome
Another UN group, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working in Yemen to document how the conflict has changed the daily lives of a normal citizen. Over a six month period they have been collecting interviews from within six different governorates in Yemen -Sana’a, Taiz, Hadhramout, Hajjah, Sa’adah, and Ibb asking the Yemeni’s they spoke with to speak of their main daily challenges, their future concerns and what ongoing risks they face on a daily basis. 

For a stark look at life for the Yemeni people under such conditions their eye-opening report can be read here. Yemen needs courageous and compassionate people if it is to turn around from these catastrophic realities.

By Lynda Albertson




October 18, 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015 - No comments

Art as a Tangible Asset

Panel Discussion: Exploring the Questions of Estate Planning, Gifting and Charitable Donations for Collectors and their Advisors 

Presented as part of The Print Center 100

Date:  Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Registration:  8:00am: Registration

Panel Discussion: 8:15 – 9:00am:
Questions and Networking

Focus during this event will be works being offered in
Freeman’s upcoming auction: Modern & Contemporary Art on November 01, 2015

Panelists include:

Robert J. Morrison
Founder, The Project Group, art collector and author with Rockefeller
Philanthropy Advisors of The Fine Art of Tangible Assets

Ruth Fine
National Gallery of Art Curator (1972-2012), where she organized the
Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Fifty Gifts for Fifty States Project; and Chair of
the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Board

Taylor Custis
Senior Wealth Strategist, Abott Downing

William R. Valerio, PhD
The Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO, Woodmere Art Museum

Kevin P. Ray
Greenberg Trauring, LLP.
Advises artists, art galleries, art collectors, museums and cultural
institutions, and art lenders on art-secured loans, consignments, questions
of title, provenance, and compliance with national and international law

Brian A Bernhardt
Senior Vice President, Corporate Client Group Director, Private Wealth
Advisor, Morgan Stanley

Location:
Freeman’s
1808 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA

Reservations are required as seating is limited.

Please RSVP to:
Tessa Laney
267.414.1239
tlaney(at)freemansauction.com

October 17, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015 - No comments

The Holy Site of Joseph's Tomb قبر يوسف, in Nablus Has Long Been the Target of Palestinian-Israeli Discord

Tomb of Joseph in 1908
Joseph's Tomb  (Hebrew: קבר יוסף‎, Kever Yosef, Arabic: قبر يوسف‎, Qabr Yūsuf) was set ablaze overnight in the West Bank amid unrest in the territory. The tomb is located at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, some 230 metres (750 ft) north of Jacob's Well, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Nablus in the Palestinian Authority, near the site of biblical Shechem.  In the biblical tradition, this is the burial site of the son of Jacob who served the king of Egypt.

The heritage attack came as the Palestinian-led Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-ʾIslāmiyyah (Islamic Resistance Movement), referred to by its acronym "Hamas" called for another day of ragein protest to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Both events serve to further escalate tensions that in the past two weeks have taken the lives of dozens in both Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 

The site of Joseph's tomb has been venerated throughout the ages by Samaritans, Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

Though the authenticity of Joseph’s Tomb has long been a matter of debate, its identification with Joseph is many centuries old. According to Jewish tradition Joseph's bones were returned from Egypt and buried in the town of Shechem. Shulamit Aloni, Israel's former Minister of Education, cited archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov, who asserted that the site contains the late Arab grave of a 19th century sheikh by the same name. The Muslim scholar believed to be buried there is Sheik Youssef Dawiqat, a cleric who is said to have healed the sick by reading them verses from the Koran.

But despite being the object of devotion by both Muslims and Jews, Joseph's Tomb has long been a flash point for violence against practitioners of the Jewish faith. The conflicts around the holy shrine underscore a stunning and long standing lack of regard for the sanctity of the place and the complexities of protecting just one of the many at risk religious sites in the Holy Land in its contested areas.

In addition to this week's fire Joseph's Tomb has been an ongoing bone of contention and symbol of discord between Palestinians and Jews for decades.

In the mid-1980s an Israeli Defence Forces military outpost was built at the site along with a yeshiva, Od Yosef Chai (Joseph Still Lives). By 2013 and due to its extremest views, the Israeli government cancelled its government funding support of the yeshiva's programs, due to the school's encouragement of violent actions and provocation against Palestinians and the security services.

On the eve of the Sukkot (the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles) at the end of September 1996 the site was fired upon during the the Western Wall Tunnel riots and six Israeli soldiers were killed.  During that incident, the tomb and army post were ransacked and the yeshiva, as well as hundreds of religious books, were burned.
Palestinians stand on the roof of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
on October 7, 2000
Also in October 2000 during the Al-Aqsa Intifada the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) declared an earlier "day of rage" on October 6th, urging Palestinians to attack Israeli army outposts in the occupied territories.

Then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered a unilateral retreat from the area around Joseph's tomb in order to prevent further loss of life to lower tensions after intense fighting left seventeen Palestinians and one Israeli soldier dead and wounded more than 170 people.

On October 7, 2000, based on a Palestinian agreement to protect the site, Israeli defence forces withdrew, and the last IDF soldiers evacuated religious site at 3:00 am. Palestinian policemen, who were supposed to take over the protection of the site, watched helplessly as a frustrated mob soon overran the shrine-  Palestinian Authorities said there was little they could do to stop the anger-led destruction.

As seen in the October 7, 2000 photo above, the rampaging rioters took out their frustrations by severely damaging much of the humble site. During the incident vandals attacked the tomb with pickaxes, sledgehammers and even with their bare hands. Jewish prayer books were ripped apart and their pages left scattering in the wind.  Furniture and religious objects were also burned. A rabbi, who had walked to the site on October 8th, hoping to salvage the Torah scrolls, was murdered. As a result of the increase in violence Isreali Defence Forces reduced the Jewish presence to the site to a once-monthly evening visit, trucking in worshipers on that day by the busload.  This change in visitation however did little to decrease tension between the two religious factions and left the site extremely vulnerable to sporadic attack.
Crypt destruction inside Joseph’s Tomb.  Photo published
in March 2003, the two pillars beside the crypt are still visible.

While previous desecration to the site were severe, up until March 2003 there were no reports of damage to the cenotaph which sits inside the shrine. Sometime between 2000 and 2003, the crypt was smashed into the pile of rubble seen in the image to the right.  The site remained in shambles for years as can also be seen in this later photo article by New York Times photojournalist Rina Castelnuovo who shot images of worshipers still gathering in the detritus.

In September 2007 during a visit for Chol Hamoed Sukkot, it was discovered that the tomb had been vandalised even further; this time the inner spaces had been filled with garbage and set alight.  In an act of reconciliation, a group of Palestinians set to work to clean the tomb in November of that same year only to have determined vandals return in February 2008 setting fire to by igniting tires they brought inside.

Ten months later on December 23, 2008 the IDF accompanied a team of workers from the Shechem Echad organization to Joseph's Tomb. With funding by anonymous donors, and experience restoring historic Jewish graves throughout Samaria, the team set about repainting the blackened walls of the defaced site, and to restoring the tomb's cenotaph. Their restoration work would be short-lived and did little to deter further site damage.  Not long after they finished, fresh footprints where found in the newly poured and not yet dried cement.

April 23, 2009 the site was defaced again. Boot prints were found on the grave itself and swastikas had been painted on the tomb's walls along with ominous graffiti depicting a blood-dripping sword and a boot hovering above a Star of David symbol underscoring that holy places in contested areas create the potential for military, theological, and political clashes, as long as there is political divide.

On April 24, 2011 a skirmish between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youths at the site resulted in more tires being set on fire, this time at the entrance of the tomb. According to a less than clear investigation by the Israel Defence Forces and the Palestinian Authority, the event seems to have been sparked when Palestinian security forces opened fire on three cars full of Israelis who entered the West Bank compound of Joseph's Tomb without IDF permission, breaking through a local checkpoint. How the two incidences fit together has never been fully explained.

On Sunday July 6, 2014 angry Palestinians tried to again tried to firebomb Joseph’s Tomb as riots in the area dragged into their fifth day following the Shin Bet confirmation that several Jewish suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder of East Jerusalem teenager, Muhammed Abu Khdeir. The rioters were stopped from damaging the tomb by Palestinian Authority security forces who used tear gas to deter the assailants from approaching close enough to do serious damage.

During Shabbat on August 1, 2015 Palestinian vandals again targeted the site and tried to burn down the ancient tomb as a "revenge" attack for the lethal arson by Israeli extremists that killed a Palestinian infant in the West Bank a day earlier.

On September 21, 2015 rioters hurled stones and firebombs, and rolled burning tires at Israel Defense Forces soldiers guarding twenty busloads of Jewish worshipers who had come to pray at the tomb during a Yom Kippur Eve visit. One soldier was injured.

As reported by Palestinian news agency WAFA today's most recent attack on the Nablus tomb compound has drawn sharp condemnation from Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas denounced the arson as an “illegal act that harms our culture, religion and ethics” and ordered the damages to be repaired, adding that the authorities would be opening an investigation to find the culprits responsible. Israel's military estimated that 100 people converged on the tomb before Palestinian security forces arrived and were able to push them back and extinguish the blaze.

But despite political condemnation of the destruction, some Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the area remain far from reconciliation.  Leaders of the extreme right yeshiva, The Od Yosef Hai that was once located at Joseph’s Tomb and then moved to Yitzhar, referred to the torching of the tomb as a pogrom.  Frequented by violent Jewish settlers, the yeshiva's aggressive doctrine has called upon settlers and their supporters to exact revenge against their opponents and members of its leadership have been known to actively condone the use of violence.

In the past, some of the controversial yeshiva's students have allegedly been involved in 'price tag' attacks against Palestinian villages and area security forces demonstrating that finding an accord is still a long way off. According to the Hebrew news site site Kipa Od Yosef Hai has demanded that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the army “immediately and completely cancel the terror monstrosity known as the ‘Oslo Agreements,’ and bring back Jewish control over Nablus and the rest of Israel.”

The yeshiva's, rigid stance underscores that shared religious sites in the Holy Land revered by both Jews and Muslims, and that anchor competing religious and national identities have been, and will remain, physical and diplomatic battlefields for Israel and Palestine. Rooted in strife, the significance of sites like Joseph's Tomb and Temple Mount/Haram el-Sharif, one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, magnify the religious significance of the location.  This gives them symbolic and strategic importance in the political tensions making them vulnerable during the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.

Protecting heritage symbols like Joseph's tomb in spite of heightened religious and ethnic tensions will requires cooperation not just between Israeli and Palestinian political leaders and security authorities, but also the area's joint religious leaders who serve to shape the meaning and value that sacred places hold for believers and the attitudes of their respective followers.





October 16, 2015

The 2016 World Monuments Watch List

Yesterday, World Monuments Fund (WMF) President and Chief Executive Officer Bonnie Burnham announced the 2016 World Monuments Watch List. Established in 1996 and published every two years, the list brings to the fore diverse archaeological, architectural, and cultural sites at risk from an array of threats, ranging from forces of nature, development, climate change, natural decay and political upheaval.  This year's list features 50 sites in 36 countries. 

Some of those spotlighted include:

This year's list also included the Unnamed Monument which acknowledges the deliberate damage and destruction of thousands of cultural heritage sites in areas of political and social instability. This monument "seeks to shift the focus to local populations who are losing their cultural heritage and history, and away from our own outrage, which plays to the propaganda of those who are perpetrating this damage."   

Find the full 2016 World Monuments Watch List and more information at the World Monument Fund's website.

By Kirsten Hower


October 7, 2015

Wednesday, October 07, 2015 - , No comments

It Is Time to Act

by Marc Masurovsky and Ori Z. Soltes
On September 28, 2015, at the United Nations, President Obama proposed to fight ISIS and other forms of “violent extremism” using a savant blend of targeted air strikes, ideas, jobs, and good governance. As if DAESH/ISIL cares one bit. 

It’s hard to imagine how one can square those well-intentioned thoughts with the devastation that is reshaping forever the map of the Middle East. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Jordan are but a few of the countries directly affected by the apocalyptic and sustained outbursts of violence unleashed upon them by militants from DAESH/ISIL. 

Nearly as important is the eradication of cultural icons, described by every figure of international politics as “belonging to humanity.” Sites that have survived thousands of years of military conflicts, droughts, and societal mischief are now being razed by gangsters posing as religious fighters wishing to establish a pure version of their faith. This is not the place to comment on the merits of their plan, rather the consequences of this plan being implemented by means of the tools of our digital age combined with ruthless, genocidal violence. DAESH/ISIL has been able to recruit followers from one hundred different countries who are willing to give their lives to their cause. This is no small feat.  

Luckily, President Obama is no Neville Chamberlain, the famously appeasing British Prime Minister who wished the best of luck to Hitler in September 1938. His proposal to co-exist with Germany’s Chancellor proved to be at the expense of Europe writ large; the purpose of the appeasement of Germany was to keep Britannia intact and not to shed a drop of British blood, in the hopes that Hitler would be reasonable with a neighbor willing to declare itself a benign ally. We know how that story ended.

Are we now facing the same predicament? While we take time to invest in ‘ideas, jobs and good governance,’ the entire Mediterranean region may be revamped by DAESH/ISIL and both its followers and those fleeing its clutches. 

Since there is no international political will to send hundreds of thousands of troops to the Mideast to combat DAESH/ISIL, what can be done in the short- and mid-term to stanch the consequences of the genocide? How can we safeguard the artifacts and sites that embody thousands of years of history in what we habitually call “the cradle of civilization” while protecting the lives of those who live and coexist with them within that “cradle”? 

World War II provides us with useful examples of responses and initiatives that were put into place to combat and defeat the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan—and their allies). If adapted to our current predicament, managed, staffed, and financed properly, these measures and initiatives could have a measurable deterring impact on the financial and intelligence networks of DAESH/ISIL, and stop the reaping of enormous sums that this horrific organization obtains in exchange for looted antiquities and precious objects. 

1/ Economic warfare and countervailing strategies aimed at choking the financial, and commercial capacities of DAESH/ ISIL. 

During WWII, the United States and the United Kingdom initiated or refined measures aimed at establishing or strengthening barriers to the Axis countries’ ability to trade and obtain cash and commodities needed to supply the Axis war machine:

a/ the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) in the U.S., as amended, prohibited all financial and commercial relations with anyone directly or indirectly associated with the Axis. Translated into terms relevant to 2015, the TWEA would likewise prohibit nationals from countries where the TWEA is enacted from entering into transactions with anyone directly or indirectly connected with DAESH/ISIL. Current measures in place must be strengthened to reflect the wartime intent of the TEA.  

b/ specific directives were passed in the U.S. (Treasury Directive 51072 in particular) which aimed to regulate the importation into the U.S. of any asset worth 5000 dollars or more (in 1940 dollars). The purpose was to regulate, if not prohibit, cultural and financial assets in order to prevent the recycling of loot in the US and its monetizing to the benefit of the Axis. Such directives can be enacted in the US, purposed to regulate and/or prohibit the importation of cultural objects from conflict areas. (The British government imposed similar restrictions and its Ministry of Economic Warfare (MEW), together with the Exchequer and other departments became the locus of financial and commercial intelligence collection on the Axis for the duration of WWII). 

With the help of Customs (today’s DHS), these objects would have to be accompanied with full documentation attesting to the objects’ geographic origins and the identity of the various owners in order to preempt the resale and/or display of these looted objects on US soil. 

c/ the publication of a Proclaimed List (US)  (or Statutory List in the UK) of individuals who have done or are doing business directly or indirectly with the Axis powers. This list was meant to act as a deterrent and as reference for anyone wishing to transact with individuals who might be linked with “violent extremism.” Create such a list of individuals, companies and officials connected directly or indirectly with DAESH/ISIL. 

2/ The implementation of trade and other barriers: 

During World War II, the British government oversaw the imposition and enforcement of a naval blockade in the Atlantic Ocean.aimed at deterring traffic between Europe and Africa on the one hand and the Americas on the other that the Allies deemed of benefit to the Axis powers. Blockade enforcers boarded ships and inspected their goods, commandeered those ships to vetting stations, confiscated and sequestered suspicious cargo, worked with shipping companies to ferret out suspicious individuals and interdict dubious shipments from leaving European shipping points through a navy certification (navicert) program.

Blockade-like measures could be adapted to today's more complex international environment along land, sea and air routes to preempt plundered assets from reaching international markets around the world. 

In that regard, as a more practical and enforceable measure, a 120-day renewable moratorium could be imposed on all transactions involving cultural, artistic and ritual objects with a direct provenance leading to the zones occupied by DAESH/ISIL, regardless of their “cultural significance” and if they have earned the coveted label of “national treasure.” (The new AAMD protocols on "safe harbor" for "conflict antiquities" reflect this extremely limited view of objects worth protecting).

Such a moratorium would prohibit all transactions outside of the conflict areas involving those objects, regardless of their purpose—trade or display. The moratorium could be established for a period of 120 days, and, if efficacious, could be renewed at will until no longer needed. 

3/ Tightening up due diligence and documentation rules for cultural and artistic objects: 
Cultural institutions, members of the art trade, individuals and/or corporate entities, have historically been lax when faced with the acquisition of rare and unique objects whose aesthetic and historical value might trump a defective provenance due to lack of documentation. Such laxity is rampant through the art world and, although some museums and auction houses have increased their vigilance, most are not operating at a level of diligence that meets the ethical smell test. 

In order to preempt the entry of looted antiquities into private and public collections, documentation accompanying these objects must be considered a precondition to their sale and/or display in areas outside of the zones occupied by DAESH/ISIL. This is a critical measurable way of preventing a contaminated object from entering a collection or a display case. 

4/ Military intervention to protect sites that we deem critical to humanity: 

In order to put an end to the devastation wrought by individuals and organizations bent on reshaping the planet and its societies to suit their own narrow vision of life, one has to become somewhat selfless and recognize that some issues are worth the ultimate sacrifice, because of their larger significance. 

Complacency and idle chatter are the enemy now. For every day that goes by where another international conference seats the “stakeholders” to debate endlessly about how to stop the onslaught, is another day of victories for DAESH/ISIL whose henchmen amuse themselves by destroying monuments, some as old as several millennia, that had stood unmolested since their creation.

DAESH/ISIL do not believe in dialogue. They can only be defeated with force. And so must it be. Does the international community have what it takes to “take them on”? 

Let’s face facts: we cannot do away with extremism. It is here to stay, it has always been with us and will always be, as a virulent extension and manifestation of human nature. 

Social and economic inequities, political and religious intolerance and persecution, all manners of discrimination based on creed, belief, cultural and linguistic background, sexual and other orientations, constitute the petri dish from which groups like DAESH/ISIL sprout and spread. The eradication of DAESH-like movements can only happen through a radical overhaul of how we globally conduct business and how we treat one another. 

Until then, let’s consider the following as deterrent countermeasures to DAESH/ISIL-controlled trafficking in artistic, cultural and ritual objects extracted illegally from territories that this movement occupies and/or influences: 

-economic warfare,
-regulation of the antiquities trade,
-publication of lists of individuals and companies known to do business directly and indirectly with DAESH/ISIL agents and representatives, 
-beefing up import and export restrictions on poorly documented antiquities originating from zones held or influenced by DAESH/ISIL, 
-120-day renewable moratorium on all trade of antiquities from conflict zones,
-ground-based, naval, and air blockades to preempt traffic of looted assets from DAESH/ISIL zones of occupation, 
-strengthening of human and signal intelligence capacities, 
-military protection of cultural sites “dear to humanity,” 
-building broad coalitions around minimalist goals aimed at preempting the looting and plundering of lands under DAESH/ISIL occupation and containing the hydra towards a view to neutralize it and roll it back. 

It is time to act. 


HARP was co-founded in September 1997 in Washington, DC, by Ori Z. Soltes, Willi Korte, and Marc Masurovsky to document cultural property losses suffered by Jewish individuals, families, and institutions between 1933 and 1945 at the hands of the National Socialists and their Fascist allies across continental Europe; to conduct historical research into the wartime and postwar fate of stolen, confiscated, misappropriated cultural property.