Friday, March 16, 2012

Trial by Ordeal

Robert Deutsch to Sue IAA

Claims antiquities department ruined his name and reputation

By Hershel Shanks

“I will sue the IAA.” Robert Deutsch, a victorious defendant in the lawsuit brought by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the so-called “forgery trial of the century,” told Biblical Archaeology Review in an exclusive telephone interview. “I don’t want to talk with gloves on,” he added as he spoke passionately. Deutsch was declared not guilty on all charges.

“They tried to ruin my name and for that I will sue them for all of my expenses and all of my damages,” Deutsch said. Before the lawsuit, he had taught at Haifa University and had excavated at Megiddo. Not any more. He claimed his expenses in the lawsuit were more than 2.5 million shekels, or about $650,000.

“More than 120 witnesses tried very hard to connect me with forgeries—unsuccessfully because there is no connection. All they were trying to do was spoil my name…and they will pay for that.”

Deutsch said that the real reason the IAA went after him is because he is both a scholar and an antiquities dealer. “They told me several times during the investigation that I ‘denigrated the academy’ because I am an antiquities dealer.” He emphasized that he is licensed by the IAA. “I received my license from them and somehow that makes me a criminal. They told me several times that they wanted to close my business, most importantly, because I am both a scholar and a dealer. I had the chutzpah to write books despite being a dealer. To them it is a crime for a dealer to write books.”

It is widely assumed that the IAA would like to put all antiquities dealers out of business.

“For all of these things, they will pay,” Deutsch continued. “They are the real criminals here, ruining a scholar’s name and reputation. ...”





As was the case in Marion True's lengthy ordeal in an Italian court, defendant Robert Deutsch has come through a grindingly traumatic legal process to be adjudged as being free to go about his business. But what is that business now?

A defendant in such a case faces enormous legal costs, being unavailable to operate his business much of the time over long periods, and incalculable damage to his good name and professional reputation. A verdict of "Not Guilty" cannot in any way undo such terrible and unfair economic and personal consequences.

This raises a very troubling question: Is this justice? Or does being required to stand trial on such charges [for all practical purposes] inevitably result in ruin that is not much less than the consequences of being found guilty?

Whether Deutsch can prevail in his suit and recover a monetary award remains to be seen. He is a tragic figure, and the ordeal he has suffered through can never be undone. It is hard to visualize how any amount of money could possibly compensate for that ordeal, and the damage inflicted upon his business and reputation.

One approach to rectifying that inequity would be to develop a more equitable legal framework, which if the prosecution's case were not adjudged to be convincing enough to justify the defendant's ordeal, result in punitive damages sufficient to give governments qualms about entering into such proceedings.


Wayne vs. Goliath

Well Said

by Wayne Sayles

An editorial by David Harper in yesterday's World Coin News hit the nail precisely on the head in describing the cultural property battle that coin collectors are forced to endure. Harper is Editor of the venerable Numismatic News and Executive Editor of World Coin News. After eloquently outlining the issues, which can be found at the link above, Harper characterized the situation as a David and Goliath fight with the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild having a stiff uphill climb.

He closed with an astute observation: "The ultimate question is whether all American coin collectors, and not just American collectors of ancient coins, consider this to be their fight. I think it is." That was certainly factual and well said. The ACCG is pitted against the massive resources of bureaucracy and the tenacity of academic ideologues. That the guild is now in its eighth year of advocacy for ancient coin collectors is somewhat remarkable and that it is internationally recognized for that advocacy is astounding.

Mr. Harper's point, however, is obvious. For the future of ancient coin collecting to be assured, it will take more than a volunteer advocacy group. The battle that is presently being waged by ACCG will need to become a concern to far more than the small group of collectors playing the role of David. If all coin collectors were to join in the opposition to bureaucratic tyranny, the combined weight might be enough to generate serious support in Washington for a rational solution to the problems that collectors and the trade are facing.




Wayne Sayles has such superb writing skills that the smooth readability of his remarks conveys them so persuasively that readers sometimes may not spend enough time in thought while reading them. In this case (knowing the background for this post), I find much to think about.

I've been part of the ACCG since its foundation in 2004 and I've seen Wayne carry that organization since the day of its inception. He has acquired some very helpful assistance since then, but is still the mainspring that drives the ACCG. Under his inspiring leadership, it has grown from a handful of concerned volunteers to become an effective opponent to the "massive resources of bureaucracy and the tenacity of academic ideologues."

Wayne is a true warrior, as those who have been through these battles know. I am awed by what he has achieved, and proud to have been able to make a minor contribution to some of these achievements. This is a just cause, and that innate justice honors and ennobles all who strive for it.

The "cultural property war" is in a very real sense actually Wayne vs. Goliath. The missiles he has launched have hit their target often enough, and forcefully enough, to stun Goliath at times. The battle however is still undecided. I have faith that justice will prevail and one day the ACCG will get its day in court.

When the truth finally comes out regarding behind-the-scenes collusion and anticollecting bias at the Cultural Heritage Center, Wayne will (figuratively) hold up in triumph not the severed head of Goliath, but that of Medusa.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

David vs. Goliath

Help David Take on Goliath

by Peter Tompa

Obviously, I agree with this World Coin News editorial:

I would also note if any of the political appointees in the Obama State Department or US Customs actually studied the issues, they might also question how their agency's actions comport with President Obama's promises to curb over regulation, particularly when it harms small businesses. Are grossly overbroad import restrictions doing anything other than killing off small businesses and discriminating against American collectors compared to their European and Chinese counterparts?

Dave Harper believes ACCG is David, the underdog, in this battle against the bureaucratic Goliath. The latest political news is that President Obama apparently thinks he is an underdog too. Perhaps, that will encourage his political appointees to take a serious and independent look at what the bureaucracy has wrought. At a minimum, Harper's editorial should put world coin collectors on notice-- it's ancient coins today, early modern coins tomorrow.




Harper's editorial should put antiquities collectors everywhere (including coin collectors) on notice -- in reality, it's ancient coins today, early modern coins tomorrow, and all other types of antiquities thereafter. The ACCG's valiant efforts are the only effective resistance from any organization to the onward march of this bureaucratic Goliath.

There is a tendency for antiquities collectors who do not live in the USA to believe that this struggle does not concern them. In my opinion, such a view could not be more mistaken. Efforts by bureaucrats to suppress private antiquities collecting are a global threat, and what happens in the USA will have profound effects for collectors everywhere.


Unprovenanced Documents

Questions About Provenance of WikiLoot Documents “Silly”?

by Peter Tompa

“Chasing Aphrodite” author Jason Felch has called my questions about the provenance of the source documents for his “WikiLoot” project “silly.” But are they?

Specifically, I asked Mr. Felch on his “Chasing Aphrodite” blog:

“What is the source of these documents? Were they released legally or leaked unofficially? There would be some considerable irony if you are going to hunt looted material with “looted” documents. If the latter, shouldn't the NSPA apply?”

He responded:

“Your crack about nspa and "looted" documents is silly. I know you're used to fighting for your cause in the trenches, but hope you have more constructive thoughts to contribute about WikiLoot soon. We're open to them.”


Yet, Mr. Felch strongly made the point at a recent talk in Washington, D.C., that museums holding artifacts illicitly excavated under Italian or Greek law were holding stolen goods and were subject to potential prosecution by the US Department of Justice under the National Stolen Property Act.


Moreover, the “Chasing Aphrodite” blog has discussed Professor Urice’s article on the subject.


Why wouldn’t the same analysis apply to illicitly obtained Italian and Greek government documents?

WikiLoot is a serious project that deserves some serious questions asked about it. To ask such questions, particularly at the invitation of WikiLoot itself, is not silly.




Peter Tompa's questions are not silly -- they are very pertinent and very important.

As Tompa noted in his reply to a comment regarding this post, his blog includes in its focus the ethics (or lack thereof) revealed by "end justifies the means thinking."

Concerning matters relating to the interests of archaeology and individual/institutional possession of ancient artifacts, Jason Felch appears (to this observer) to have an ethical perspective dominated by such thinking. The same can be said for many archaeologists -- including those who appear before the Cultural Heritage Center's CPAC committee to voice their support for import restrictions.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The end justifies the means

CPAC To Meet

By Peter Tompa

The Federal Register reports that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee will meet to discuss renewals of current MOU's with Guatemala and Mali, and to conduct further discussion in secret about a request from Bulgaria. See

Archaeo-blogger Rick St. Hilaire's post about the upcoming meeting seeks to portray the secrecy and culture creep that has marked the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs'administration of the CPIA as both necessary and consistent with the statutory mandate. See

However, others-- including several former CPAC members-- have questioned this, most recently during a public forum on Capitol Hill. See




Rick St. Hilaire's perspective on the obsessive secrecy and anticollecting bias that has characterized the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Cultural Heritage Center's administration of the CPIA (under the direction of Maria Kouroupas) is contrary to the clear intent of Congress in enacting the CPIA legislation. That intent is a matter of historical record.

During the Kouroupas administration, the CPIA has gradually been twisted into a tool for restricting and suppressing private collecting of antiquities and the trade that supplies it.

That was exactly what trade experts had anticipated at the time the CPIA was being drafted, as this excerpt from p. 30 of COIN COLLECTORS AND CULTURAL PROPERTY NATIONALISM records:

" Opposition focused on implementation of the Convention’s Article 9 by authorizing import restrictions on archaeological material through bilateral agreements between the United States and source countries. It was argued that the legislation would award DOS a “blank check” that could be used to embargo importation into the United States of almost all antiquities. The trade maintained that giving the State Department such broad authority, was not required either by the spirit or the letter of the UNESCO Convention and expressed concerns that DOS, for diplomatic expediency, would use its powers to the benefit of foreign countries and detriment of the US art market. The proposed legislation required the Executive Branch, as a precondition for the conclusion of bilateral agreements with source countries, to reach certain findings through consultation with a panel of experts, but the trade was concerned that arriving at these findings would be ritualistic and pro forma. Since requirements for such findings were vague and could not be appealed to a court or overruled by Congress, they would not constitute any effective check on the State Department’s broad discretion."

This paper can be found online at .

It appears that St. Hilaire believes that when the interests of archaeology are involved, the end justifies the means. "Due process of law," "innocent until proven guilty," the Constitutional rights of US citizens, the principle that a litigant has a constitutional right to his day in court before his rights may be judicially altered -- none of these fundamental American legal principles seem to matter as much to Mr. St. Hilaire as championing the interests of archaeology.

One day the pro-collecting advocacy movement will finally have its day in court, and the true story of what has taken place behind the scenes at Cultural Heritage Center will be made public. In my opinion, the public and our legislators will be shocked by what will be disclosed.

Freedom of information is essential to the preservation of our liberties and our democratic society. Every US citizen should understand that obsessive secrecy and refusal to make mandated freedom of information disclosures may indicate that something which cannot stand the light of day is being concealed.