Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Bye, bye, Rockefeller

Human rights organization "Emek Shaveh. Archaeology in the Shadow of the Conflict" failed to prevail at the Israeli Supreme Court which sided instead with the view of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, that it had the right to remove the library and archaeological artifacts from the Rockefeller Museum. At issue in this case is the question whether the Israeli authority has the right to cultural assets housed in an East Jerusalem institution. Emek Shaveh had argued that the highly prized books and manuscripts housed at the Rockefeller Museum since its founding in 1936 under the British Mandate and in its location just outside the Old City walls, as well as archaeological finds from across the West Bank (esp. from Sebaste, the old Israelite capital Samaria), are cultural assets of an occupied territory (East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in 1967) and hence forbidden from being transferred by international law. The Israeli Supreme Court, in its decision 3556/16 of July 19, 2016, rejected that view and asserted that international law does not apply in this case, which falls instead under the general ordinance for the Israeli Antiquities Authority, whose mandate it is "to manage and hold a scientific library for the archaeology and history of the land of Israel and its neighborhoods."  Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut pointed out that artifacts had been removed on prior occasions and that therefore any kind of "freeze" in the handling of East Jerusalem archaeological assets was unrealistic. Finally, the justice invoked Israeli law, including the "Jerusalem Basic Law," to assert that Israeli law applies to East Jerusalem and international law has no standing when it comes to the inner affairs of the country.

For Emek Shaveh's petition not to transfer the Rockefeller Museum library and assets to West Jerusalem see http://alt-arch.org/en/press-release-rockefeller-museum-petition-july-2016/.

For the Supreme Court decision (in Hebrew) see http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files/16/560/035/v03/16035560.v03.htm.

For a background article on "nationalization and cultural avoidance" (in Hebrew) see https://www.colman.ac.il/node/6497, posted by Professor Orna Ben-Naftali, The Emile Zola Chair for Human Rights at the Striks School of Law at the College of Management – Academic Studies (COMAS) and its former Dean.

(Thanks to Prof. Pnina Lahav, BU-LAW, for drawing my attention to this case.)

No comments:

Post a Comment