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Restitution of Archaeological Artifacts: The Arab-Israeli Aspects

  • Talia Einhorn (a1)

Since the second half of the last century, public international law has been developing rules regulating the restitution of cultural objects removed from occupied territories during armed conflict. Today it is generally recognized that customary international law forbids pillage. The Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict further mandates that artifacts removed from an occupied territory must be returned to the competent authorities of that territory at the close of hostilities. The Arab-Israeli case highlights the problematic side of this solution. Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza strip and the territory known as the “West Bank” came under Israeli control. Israeli archaeologists carried out numerous excavations, and discovered artifacts of special importance to Jewish cultural heritage. It is regrettable that, as a result of the peace treaty with Egypt, these artifacts can no longer be exhibited and appreciated at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, but had to be delivered to Egypt, where they now face an uncertain future. A similar fate may befall the artifacts excavated in the Golan Heights. The Palestinian claim for restitution cannot be based on the Protocol. The Problem is nevertheless the same in all cases; if the artifacts are to be preserved, properly appreciated and made available for purposes of study and research, it may be more appropriate to distribute them among the states by way of compromise and agreement, that will seek to enhance their cultural significance, rather than use the arbitrary sole criterion of the place of discovery.

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1 The wording of the agreement, signed in Tel-Aviv by the Israeli Antiquities Authority and an Egyptian archaeological delegation on 21.1.1993, is given in paragraph 4.2.b infra. S. also Lapidoth, Ruth/Hirsch, Moshe, The Practice and Case-Law of Israel in Matters Related to International Law, Israel Law Review 27 (1993) 515. Regarding the Sinai findings s. Ronnen, Meir, Sinai: A Shared Heritage, ARTnews October 1994, pp. 147–148.

2 Annex II, art. 2.B.30 of the Cairo Agreement of April 1994: “e. With due consideration to the Palestinian demand that Israel shall return all archaeological artifacts found in the Gaza Strip and Jericho area since 1967, this issue shall be dealt with in the negotiations on the final status.”

3 Ben-Dov, Meir, The Last Days of the Bashan Gods, Ha-aretz Daily Newspaper (in Hebrew) 9.10.1994.

4 Nahlik, Stanislaw E., International Law and the Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflicts, The Hastings Law Journal 27 (1976) 1069, at p. 1083; Rudolf, Walter, Über den internationalen Schutz von Kulturgütern, in: Staat und Völkerrechtsordnung - Festschrift für Karl Doehring, Berlin: Springer 1989, 853 at p. 860.

5 Rollet-Andriane, Louis-Jacque, Precedents, Museum 31 (1979) (UNESCO, Paris) 4.

6 Nafziger, James A., The New International Legal Framework for the Return, Restitution or Forfeiture of Cultural Property, New York University Journal of International Law and Politics 15 (1983) 789, at p. 790.

7 As regards the development of the regulation of international protection of cultural property in times of war s. Williams, Sharon A., The International and National Protection of Movable Cultural Property - A Comparative Study, Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana 1978, pp. 1529.

8 205 The Consolidated Treaty Series (Parry, Give (ed.)) 277; 36 United States Statutes at Large 2277.

9 SolfWaldemar, A. Waldemar, A., Cultural Property, Protection in Armed Conflict, Encyclopedia of Public International Law, vol. 9 (1986) 64, at p. 65; S. also Mössner, Jörg Manfred. Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, Encyclopedia of Public International Law, vol. 3 (1982) 204, at p. 211.

10 Black, S.'s Law Dictionary, 6th. ed., Minn: West 1990; Hackworth, Green Haywood, Digest of International Law, vol. 6, Washington: US Government Printing Office 1943, p. 403.

11 International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg), Judgment and Sentences, American Journal of International Law 41 (1947) 172, pp. 235–238.

12 Siehr, Kurt, International Art Trade and the Law, Recueil des Cours 243 (1993–VI) I, p. 113.

13 For details s. DuBoff, Leonard D./ Caplan, Sally Holt, The Deskbook of Art Law, 2nd ed., Oceana 1993, Booklet D: Art: The Victim of War, at p. D–79.

14 249 UNTS 216 (1956).

15 Article 1(3).

16 Clément, Etienne, Some Recent Practical Experience in the Implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention, International Journal of Cultural Property 3 (1994) 11; Williams, supra n. 7, pp. 34, 41.

17 Prott, Lyndel V., War, Heritage and Normative Action, Museum 45 (1993) (UNESCO, Paris) 45, at p. 46.

18 Article 2.

19 Strebel, Helmut, Die Haager Konvention zum Schutze der Kulturgüter im Falle eines bewafmeten Konfliktes vom 14. Mai 1954, Zeitschrift für auslaändisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 16 (1955/1956) 35, pp. 50–51.

20 Article 4(1).

22 Article 4(3).

24 Article 4(4).

25 Article 5.

26 Strebel, supra n. 19, p. 58.

27 Lang, Gordon, UNESCO and Israel, Harvard International Law Journal 16 (1975) 676, pp. 678–679; S. also Nafziger, James A., UNESCO-Centered Management of International Conflict Over Cultural Property, The Hastings Law Journal 27 (1976) 1051, pp. 1051–1053; Regarding the 1956 UNESCO Recommendation to prohibit excavations in occupied territories s. von Schorlemer, Sabine. International Kulturgüterschutz, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1992, pp. 301–302.

28 Articles 12–13 of the Convention. The procedure to be followed in such cases is detailed in articles 17–19 of the Regulations for the Execution of the Convention, 249 UNTS 270 (1956).

29 Turner, Stefan. Die Zuordnung beweglicher Kulturgüter im Völkerrecht, in: Internationaler Kulturguuml;terschutz und deutsche Frage (Fiedler, Wilfried (ed.)), Berlin: Mann 1991, p. 71; S. also Engstler, Ludwig, Die territoriale Bindung von Kulturgütern im Rahmen des Völkerrechts, Köln: Heymann 1964, p. 222, who regards this as an excessive positive undertaking of the Contracting Parties.

30 Strebel. supra n. 19, at p. 69.

31 Nahlik, Stanislaw E., Biens culturels et conflit armé, Recueil des Cours 120 (1967–1)65, pp. 137138.

32 Ibid., pp. 136–138. The only exception is the duty of the High Contracting Party, that failed to prevent the exportation of the cultural property from the occupied territory, to idemnify the holders in good faith thereof. It is mentioned in article 1(4) of the Protocol.

33 Nahlik. supra n. 4, p. 1083.

34 Strebel. supra n. 19, p. 71.

35 Nahlik. supra n. 4, p. 1083.

36 Nahlik. supra n. 4, pp. 1083–1086.

37 Siehr, supra n. 12, pp. 162–163.

38 Turner, supra n. 29, p. 73.

39 Rudolf, supra n. 4, p. 861.

40 Malanczuk, Peter. Israel: Status, Territory and Occupied Territories, Encyclopedia of Public International Law, vol. 12 (1990) 149, at p. 163.

41 18 ILM (International Legal Materials) 362 (1979).

42 Malanczuk. supra n. 40, p. 165.

43 Malanczuk, supra n. 40, pp. 170–171; S. also Blum, Yehuda Z., The Missing Reversioner: Reflections on the Status of Judea and Samaria, Israel Law Review 3 (1968) 279, p. 288.

44 Malanczuk, Peter, Jerusalem, Encyclopedia of Public International Law, vol. 12 (1990) 184, at p. 193.

45 Malanczuk. supra n. 40, p. 176.

46 This is the statement made by Dr. Nasmi Juabeh, Professor of Archaeology at Bir Zeit University and adviser to the Palestinian delegation, according to Abraham. Helga. West Bank and Gaza - Roots: The Arab-Israeli peace talks include the hotly disputed issue of archaeological sites. The Art Newspaper, No. 37. April 1994, p. 20.

47 Shavit, Ya 'akov. Two Competing National Societies within a British Mandatory, The History of Eretz Israel, vol. 9 (Shavit, Ya 'akov (ed.)), Jerusalem: Yad Yizchak Ben-Zvi 1982, 11, at pp. 12–19 (in Hebrew).

48 Merryman, John Henry. The Nation and the Object, International Journal of Cultural Property 3 (1994) 61, p. 70.

49 Merryman, Ibid., p. 70.

50 Merryman, John Henry. Two Ways of Thinking about Cultural Property, The American Journal of International Law 80 (1986) 831, p. 846.

52 For the version of October 1993 s. Siehr, Kurt, The UNIDROIT Draft Convention on the International Protection of Cultural Property, International Journal of Cultural Property 3 (1994) 301307. The version of 26.1.1990 was reproduced in the International Journal of Cultural Property 1 (1992) 252–255.

53 Siehr, Kurt, The UNIDROIT Draft Convention on the International Protection of Cultural Property, (1992) 1 International Journal of Cultural Property 321, p. 328; S. also Siehr, Kurt, Öffentliches Recht und intcmationales Privatrecht beim grenzüberschreitenden Kulturgüterschutz, in: Rechtsfragen des international en Kulturgüterschutzes (Dolzer, /Jayme, /Mussgnug, (eds.)), Heidelberg: Müller 1994, pp. 83104, at pp. 101–102; Siehr, supra n. 12. p. 279.

54 S. the final text of the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects, International Journal of Cultural Property 5 (1996) I. Seite der “Documents”.

55 Siehr. supra n. 12, pp. 123–128.

56 O'Connell, D. P., State Succession in Municipal Law and International Law, vol. II, Cambridge: Cambridge University 1967, pp. 155156; Rosenne, Shabtai, The Effect of Change of Sovereignty upon Municipal Law, British Yearbook of International Law 27 (1950) 267, pp. 267–273.

* Dr. iur. (Hamburg). Senior lecturer, The Institute of Law and Business Studies, Kiryat Ono, Israel (affiliated with the University of Manchester, UK). I am indebted to Prof. Dr. Kurt Siehr of the University of Zurich Centre for Private International Law for his invaluable observations. Thanks are also due to Mr. Ronny Reich of the Israel Antiquities Authority for his help, and to the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and Private International Law in Hamburg and the Max Planck Gesellschaft for generously supporting this research.

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International Journal of Cultural Property
  • ISSN: 0940-7391
  • EISSN: 1465-7317
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