Letter 13   12-Jun-2004   Will the Liberal government criminalize investigation of archeological forgeries?

"In Israel, we have a saying: One time was a mistake, two times it's a bad habit, and three times it's a way of life.  This is a way of life that needs to change." Amir Ganor

  12 June 2004

The Right Honourable Paul Martin
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON    K1A 0A2

Mr Prime Minister:

The James Ossuary

The New Yorker magazine of 12-Apr-2004 contained an article on the subject of archeological forgery in Israel, of which Oded Golan's "James ossuary" is the leading example:

The most famous item from Golan's collection is the ossuary, or stone burial box, of James, son of Joseph, a Jew who died in the first century in Jerusalem.  The James ossuary, as it became known, was unveiled at a press conference in the fall of 2002, and was shown on CNN and in newspapers and magazines around the world; it was acclaimed by some scholars as the most important archeological find of the last two millenia.  On its side was a short inscription in Aramaic Ya'akov bar Yosef akhui d'Yeshua' which was widely translated as "James son of Joseph brother of Jesus."  It was quickly put forth that the person whose bones had been stored in the ossuary was the man referred to in Galatians 1:19 as "James the Lord's brother," whom Christian believers call James the Just.  Like other significant items from Golan's collection, the ossuary is now locked in a closet in Jerusalem, in the headquarters of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the government agency responsible for protecting the nation's antiquities as well as for policing the trade.  The James ossuary was recovered during a police raid on Golan's apartment last July; since October, 2002, Golan has been under investigation by the Antiquities Authority, which believes that he is at the center of a forgery ring that may have done more damage to Biblical history and archeology than anyone since the master forger Moses Wilhelm Shapira, who produced thousands of fake Biblical objects in Jerusalem more than a century ago.
David Samuels, Written in stone: The James ossuary was heralded as a major archeological find a physical link to Jesus.  Is it real?  New Yorker, 12-Apr-2004, pp. 48-59, p. 48.

The Ivory Pomegranate

Prominent also among Israeli forgeries is the $600,000 Ivory Pomegranate purporting to establish a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount:

Since the announcement of the purported James ossuary, in October of 2002, other artifacts have come under suspicion including some of the most famous Biblical relics in Israel.  The most widely publicized object ever found relating to the First Temple is a thumb-size ivory pomegranate, with a long neck and six elongated petals.  The body is solid, with a small, deep hole in the base, which scholars have suggested was meant for the staff of a priest in the Temple.  Around the shoulder of the pomegranate, which is now part of the permanent collection of the Israel Museum, is an incised ancient Hebrew inscription, part of which is missing.  The inscription is believed to read, "Belonging to the Temp[le of Yahwe]h, holy to the priests."  In late March, the Israeli press reported that this artifact, too, is suspected of being a fake.

As a symbol of the historical Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, the pomegranate is a prized exhibit in the Israel Museum's collection, and the museum defends its authenticity, saying that evidence has yet to be provided to show otherwise.  The pomegranate was purchased on behalf of the museum in 1988 for more than six hundred thousand dollars, by an anonymous collector who was represented by intermediaries for Raffi Brown, an antiquities dealer in Jerusalem and a onetime colleague of Oded Golan and Robert Deutsch.
David Samuels, Written in stone: The James ossuary was heralded as a major archeological find a physical link to Jesus.  Is it real?  New Yorker, 12-Apr-2004, pp. 48-59, p. 57.

Fraud Expands To The Borders Of Credulity As A Gas Expands To The Walls Of Its Container

David Samuels ends by relating the following incident, suggesting that fraud never confines itself, but rather crawls forward indefinitely until it bumps into a wall of disbelief:

Late one night not long ago, I received a phone call from someone I met while reporting this story, who told me about a remarkable find, currently in the collection of a well-known museum "It's from a legal excavation," my source said.  His voice filled with awe as he swore me to secrecy before telling me of his treasure: a detailed engraving of the Ark of the Covenant, the box that once held the Tablets of the Law, which the Israelites carried around the desert for forty years.  The dimensions of the sanctuary, he revealed, correspond exactly to those given in the Book of Exodus.

"Isn't that a bit suspicious?" I asked.

"It means it could only have been done by an eyewitness," he explained.  "It's the most valuable artifact in the history of the Torah and the Jewish people.  It's a direct link to Moses and to the giving of the Torah on Sinai."  He waited for me to absorb the news.  "I didn't believe it, either," he said.  "Until I saw it with my own eyes."
David Samuels, Written in stone: The James ossuary was heralded as a major archeological find a physical link to Jesus.  Is it real?  New Yorker, 12-Apr-2004, pp. 48-59, p. 59.

Three Statements On Religious Relics

Some authorities view scientific analysis as invalidating all religious relics that predate the second century:

Frank Zindler, Editor of American Atheist Press questioned whether proper peer review was followed prior to the news of the alleged discovery being made public at a press conference and in the pages of BAR.  He added: "Considering the fact that virtually all religious relics claimed to date from before the second century are hoaxes or misunderstandings, it is a priori likely that this 'find' will be found fraudulent if objective scientific study should ever be allowed."
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_ossu.htm

A similar conclusion has been reached by men of understanding without benefit of laboratory analysis, as for example by Charles Reade in his 1861 novel The Cloister and the Hearth, addressing the trade mainly in the bones of saints and in pieces of the cross during the fifteen century:

"Railest on me for selling a false relic now and then, and wastest thy earnings on such as sell nought else.  I tell thee, Bon Bec," said he, "there is not one true relic on earth's face.  The Saints died a thousand years agone, and their bones mixed with the dust; but the trade in relics, it is of yesterday; and there are forty thousand tramps in Europe live by it; selling relics of forty or fifty bodies; oh, threadbare lie!  And of the true Cross enow to build Cologne Minster.  Why, then, may not poor Cul de Jatte turn his penny with the crowd?"
Charles Reade, The cloister and the hearth, Everyman's Library, Dutton: New York, last reprinted 1972, p. 375.  Originally published 1861.

With respect to contemporary Israeli relics after all the forgeries have been subtracted, there may be nothing left:

[T]he Israel Antiquities Authority contends that the forger set in motion the potential exposure of a forgery ring that could be connected with every known Hebrew inscription referring to Solomon's Temple.  Between a hundred and two hundred antiquities relating to the First and Second Temple periods, as well as a complementary series of Egyptian finds, are currently suspected by the Antiquities Authority to be forgeries.

"We need to clean up archeology," Ganor said, referring to the market for artifacts of dubious provenance.  "Now I understand that teachers in universities were involved in these things.  That the people in the museums in Israel were involved in these things, the people of the geological survey were involved, the collectors were involved.  In Israel, we have a saying: One time was a mistake, two times it's a bad habit, and three times it's a way of life.  This is a way of life that needs to change."
David Samuels, Written in stone: The James ossuary was heralded as a major archeological find a physical link to Jesus.  Is it real?  New Yorker, 12-Apr-2004, pp. 48-59, p. 59.

Archeological Forgery For The Purpose Of Nation Building

That the Israeli archeological forgeries were not merely profitable swindles, but rather were bricks in the building of a nation, can be inferred from the general principle that Jewish real-estate claims are better validated by a Bible that is understood as archeologically-supported history rather than as literature wandering primarily between the categories of fantasy at worst and historical fiction at best.  The nation-building political significance of archeological forgeries emerges in the political implications of particular artifacts, as for example the four-million-dollar "Jehoash Tablet" whose discovery "caused a sensation, because of its alleged connection to Solomon's Temple" (p. 55):

Herzog knew that a stone from Solomon's Temple would be a politically explosive artifact tangible proof that, contrary to claims made by Arafat and other Palestinian spokesmen, the Jewish Temple had indeed once stood in Jerusalem, on the site of the Temple Mount.  That site is occupied by the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock holy places for Muslims and is bordered by the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.  According to Abdullah Kanaan, the secretary-general of Jordan's Royal Committee for Jerusalem Affairs, "Jewish gangs and extremist factions" were using the newly discovered Jehoash tablet to "support their bid to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque."  The Geological Survey of Israel described the find as "an archeological sensation that could have global repercussions and that effectively vindicates Jewish claims to the Temple Mount."  With such historical claims at stake, the price for the Jehoash tablet was reportedly set at four million dollars.

The epigrapher Joseph Naveh, of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, first saw the tablet in mid-2001.  In a Jerusalem hotel room, he met a man who called himself Izak Tzur, and who was accompanied by a young Arab.  Removing the stone from his briefcase, where it was packed in bubble wrap, Tzur speculated that the tablet had come from the area around the Temple Mount.  If Naveh talked about the tablet, or mentioned it to anyone, he was told, the Arab who had found the tablet would be placed in great danger for undermining Palestinian claims to the Old City of Jerusalem.
David Samuels, Written in stone: The James ossuary was heralded as a major archeological find a physical link to Jesus.  Is it real?  New Yorker, 12-Apr-2004, pp. 48-59, p. 53.

And of course the Jehoash Tablet too has come to be recognized as forged:

Yosef Naveh, the epigrapher who had first seen the tablet in a Jerusalem hotel room, immediately pronounced the inscription to be a forgery.  [...]  The Web-based scholar Rochelle Altman, whose book about writing systems is forthcoming, was also skeptical.  [...]  The use of these foreign scripts "on an inscription purporting to be written by a king of Israel is prima facie evidence of forgery."
David Samuels, Written in stone: The James ossuary was heralded as a major archeological find a physical link to Jesus.  Is it real?  New Yorker, 12-Apr-2004, pp. 48-59, p. 55.

Where's The Hatred?

The above discussion of archeological forgery, then, reminds us that success in corrupting history can sometimes be so total as to include museum directors, faculty members at universities, scientists in geological surveys, journalists and writers, filmmakers, and antiquities dealers and collectors.  But as we live in a culture which bows before truth, historical revisionists are bound to ultimately cleanse history of such corruption, no matter how deeply and ubiquitously it may have entrenched itself.

What is happening in the field of Middle-Eastern archeology, then, is historical revision, and the Canadian Jewish Congress teaches that historical revision incites hatred but can any hatred be detected here?  The David Samuels New Yorker article describes none, and none can be imagined.  The total number of people responsible for the Israeli forgeries is likely small, and public sentiment toward the forgers will resemble public sentiment toward other fraud artists that the press uncovers daily, which falls somewhat short of a hatred requiring government intervention to quell.  No ethnic or religious or national group will be hated, as the vast majority of people within every group fell victim to the deception rather than being party to it for example, it may be doubted whether one Jew in a million world-wide was involved.  As both those who perpetrated the hoaxes, and those who today expose them, may be predominantly Jewish, then taking either of the opposing positions in the controversy must be viewed as siding with one Jewish faction against another, and thus cannot be viewed as being either pro-Jewish or anti-Jewish.  And it would have been the height of folly, and a step toward despotism, to have pointed to the artifacts' widespread and prolonged acceptance as an excuse to certify them as "historically recognized," and to have attempted to silence critics who challenged their authenticity by means of criminal prosecution.  The Canadian Jewish Congress doctrine that historical revision incites hatred is contradicted here as it has been in every other instance of historical revision considered on the pages of the Ukrainian Archive, and the advisability of requiring historians to write with a copy of the Criminal Code lying open on their desks has been contraindicated.

Sister Branches of Nation-Building Disinformation

The state of Israel may be summed up as having been built on the twin pillars of disinformation and homicide.  Any who balk at naming "homicide" as one of the pillars of Israel might benefit from reading the account of Deir Yassin 1948 from the pen of Albert Einstein www.ukar.org/asper/asper08.html, or Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht www.ukar.org/feuerl01.html#deir yassin, or Israel Shamir www.ukar.org/shamir06.html, and by reading the account of Kafr Kasem 1956 from the pen of Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht www.ukar.org/feuerl01.html#Curfew.

As for the pillar of disinformation, it can be divided into two principal branches:

  1. The first disinformation branch hyperbolizes the historical ties of Jews to the Middle East, arguing that Jews do not usurp the land gratuitously, but rather exercise a Biblically-corroborated title to it.

  2. The second disinformation branch hyperbolizes the Jewish holocaust, arguing that the Jewish right to temperate and civilized homicide of Palestinians is founded on the Nazi precedent of intemperate and savage homicide of Jews.
No one doubts either that Jews have historical ties to Palestinian lands, or that they suffered great losses during WW II; however, Jewish leaders judged that syllogistic flaws in their two above claims could be compensated by means of the hyperbolization of their premises, and it is the hyperbolization which is today the subject of increasing doubt, a doubt which is expressed in the case of historical ties by among others David Samuels in the New Yorker excerpts reproduced in this letter, and a doubt which is expressed in the case of the Jewish holocaust by among others Boaz Evron:

Two terrible things happened to the Jewish people during this century: [First, t]he Holocaust and the lessons drawn from it.  [Second, t]he non-historical and easily refutable commentaries on the Holocaust made either deliberately or through simple ignorance and their use for propaganda purposes among non-Jews or Jews both in Israel and the diaspora constitute a cancer for Jews and for the State of Israel.
Boaz Evron, Holocaust, a Danger for the Jewish People, published in the Hebrew journal Yiton 77, May-June 1980

And anyone who balks at the allegation that the Jewish holocaust has been distorted and hyperbolized might benefit from reading the following papers:

  1. Early Jewish-Holocaust Fabulism:

  2. Deschenes Commission Witch Hunt:

  3. John Demjanjuk Show Trial:

  4. Frank Walus Show Trial:

  5. Treblinka:

  6. Jewish Collaboration in the Jewish Holocaust:

  7. Evacuation Of Jews Eastward Prior To Arrival Of German Forces:

Comparing the hyperbolization of historical ties to Palestine with the hyperbolization of the Jewish holocaust forces upon our attention the discrepancy that debunking of the former proceeds calmly, such that not one of the revisionists who challenges the authenticity of the forged artifacts has been thrown in jail.  The challenge to the hyperbolization of the Jewish holocaust, however, does not proceed calmly, and the Canadian Jewish Congress advocates the criminal prosecution of the challengers.

Where Does The Liberal Party Stand?

Would you be so good, then, as to clarify the Liberal party position as to how this discrepancy is to be resolved, which is to say the discrepancy between the Canadian Jewish Congress not asking the government to prosecute the debunking of archeological forgery, while at the same time demanding that the government prosecute the debunking of Jewish-holocaust misrepresentation?  To remove the incongruity, the Liberal government could adopt one of two positions: (1) that those who challenge the authenticity of archeological artifacts should be subjected to criminal prosecution, or (2) that those who challenge the authenticity of some holocaust stories should share exemption from criminal prosecution.

You already know what my answer is.  My answer is that archeological forgery and Jewish-holocaust hyperbolization are both covered under the statement of Amir Ganor, Chief of the Israel Antiquities Authority theft-investigation unit "One time was a mistake, two times it's a bad habit, and three times it's a way of life.  This is a way of life that needs to change."

And everybody already knows what your Justice Minister Irwin Cotler's answer is.  His answer is that the Canadian tradition of protecting truthful utterance should be swept aside, and that the Canadian Charter guarantee of equality before the law should be flouted, and that whereas exposers of archeological forgery unfortunately cannot be prosecuted, exposers of holocaust fabulism should be thrown in jail.

But what I am asking is what the Liberal party answer is.  As the elections approach, this is a question that Canadians of Ukrainian, German, Polish, Lithuanian, Arab, and Muslim extraction are particularly interested in, as also are the many Canadians who view with alarm the Liberal-party encroachments upon their freedom of speech, and the Liberal-party undermining of the Canadian Charter guaranty of equality before the law.

Lubomyr Prytulak


Irving ABELLA, National Honourary President, CJC, Department of History, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON  M3J 1P3
Suzanne BEST, Manager Intake Services, CHRC, 344 Slater Street, Ottawa, ON  K1A 1E1
Hon. Irwin COTLER, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, 284 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario    K1A 0H8
Bernie FARBER, Executive Director, CJC, 4600 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON  M2R 3V2
Mary M GUSELLA, Chief Commissioner, CHRC, 344 Slater Street, Ottawa, ON  K1A 1E1
Sherri HELGASON, Director Investigations Branch, CHRC, 344 Slater Street, Ottawa, ON  K1A 1E1
Ed MORGAN, Chair, CJC (Ont), Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, 84 Queen's Park, Toronto, ON  M5S 2C5
Moshe RONEN, Chair Board of Governors, CJC, 4600 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON  M2R 3V2
Len RUDNER, Director of Community Relations, CJC, 4600 Bathurst Street, Toronto, ON  M2R 3V2