Monday, October 05, 2015

Blaming "the Jews" for Middle East antiquities looting

OH DEAR: Jewish conspiracy looting Mideast antiquities, say Arab archaeologists. Prominent Iraqi, Syrian historians claim Jews seek to destroy region’s Arab heritage to avenge 2,500-year-old Babylonian exile (Tamar Pileggi, Times of Israel/AFP).
According to a prominent Iraqi historian and archaeologist and a Syrian director of the country’s famed Palmyra museum, an “international Jewish mafia” is plotting to loot Iraq and Syria of its most valued antiquities in an effort to prove the veracity of the Jewish Bible and eradicate evidence of Arab heritage in the Middle East.

“The Jews are always looking for antiquities – especially Middle Eastern ones, and particularly Iraqi ones – in order to prove that the Torah is true,” Ali al-Nashmi, the Iraqi archaeologist, said on the pan-Arab Mayadeen television channel earlier this month.

MEMRI has posted both interviews here with English subtitles. My spoken Arabic is not good enough to make out more than a word or two here and there. But MEMRI is good at providing reliable translations in the videos they post, so, along with the AFP, I am taking them at their word in what follows — with all the usual caveats about things I have not fully verified firsthand myself. The content reported in the video and the article is almost the same (see below).

Given Palestinian Jewish-Temple denial, widely repeated in the Arab world etc., and the depredations of the Waqf on the Temple Mount, it's hard not to see a certain amount of projection in the reported comments.

After some more comments on the same lines as those already quoted, we come to this:
Walid Al-As’ad, the director of the Palmyra Museum, spoke to the Mayadeen network in a similar vein, explaining that Jews are driven to “erase the Arab origins of these antiquities” – this time a reference to Syrian artifacts – and “destroy the city [of Palmyra] and wipe it off the face of the Earth, in order to erase the memory of their Babylonian exile,” an exile he said was abetted by archers from Palmyra who served in the army of Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar II when he destroyed the First Temple and exiled the Jewish elite to Babylon.
Neither interviewee seems to have a very clear idea of what the "Torah" is. Palmyra (Tadmor) is not mentioned in the Pentateuch. The only biblical mentions of the site are in 1 Kings 9:18 and 2 Chronicles 8:4, with reference to the reign of Solomon. The story about the archers does not appear in the Bible at all. I don't know whether the Talmud mentions Tadmor. (The video does not show either speaker saying the phrase "in order to erase the memory of their Babylonian exile," although it appears — not as a quotation — in the caption below the video.)

Then we come to this:
In August, Islamic State jihadists beheaded Walid’s father, Khaled Al-As’ad, and hanged his mutilated body in public. The elder As’ad had served as director of the Palmyra Museum for 40 years until his retirement in 2003, when Walid took over the position.
Now I know the junior Mr. Asaad (As'ad) lives in a Baathist state and his government may have put him up to this, or he may be speaking out of fear of reprisal from ISIS. Or both. So I'm trying to cut him some slack. But this is just sad, and it brings shame to the memory of his father.

For reports on the destruction of Palmyra (by ISIS, not the Jews) and the murder of the senior Asaad (also by ISIS), see here, here, here, here, and many links. Some other relevant recent posts are here and here, and don't forget to follow those links.