The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has simply have gone too far, beyond any limits of the law or of basic decency, in an effort to destroy my reputation. I can no any longer remain silent. The full story must now be told.
The IAA’s efforts, lead by its director, Shuka Dorfman, and his agents Amir Ganor and Ron Kehati, to terminate the legal trade of antiquities in Israel, has lead them to file malicious, criminal and intentionally false charges against me. Their accusations against me are completely false. The charges being leveled against me now are a repetition of previous false accusations made by the IAA, which were heard by the court in Israel and were found to be totally baseless and without any merit.
Yet they persist in their harassment against licensed antiquities dealers in Israel by making false and malicious charges against me. They have made it perfectly clear that I am their prime target because, using their words, I am “the leader of the legal antiquities trade in Israel and the most knowledgeable in his field.”
Their goal is quite simple: to destroy the reputation I have painstakingly built over the last twenty-five years. To do so they have acted to negate my academic reputation as a lecturer at Haifa University, where I teach ancient inscriptions for the past 8 years, and my role as an active field archaeologist for the past 12 years at the Tel Aviv University Megiddo Expedition.
They will do whatever it takes to stop my writing books (11 to date) and many articles because in them I publish finds from private collections (which is, in fact, a rescue publication of items which otherwise would remain forever unknown to the archaeological community). But now they have crossed the Rubicon, making new accusations against me that are not only blatantly false, but purposely intended to link me with the activities of others with whom I have absolutely no connection.
In a news conference the IAA has insinuated that I had “an involvement in a ring dealing with forgeries.” They purposely distorted the truth by announcing my name as one of the “criminals,” with the malicious intent to connect me in the mind of the public with the fake Joash inscription and the highly debated James ossuary. Even the IAA has never made such charge against me; the IAA knows perfectly well that I never saw either of these pieces before they were published, nor did I have any connection with them what-so-ever. Yet they purposely and maliciously linked my name with these objects and with the pomegranate “forgery” sold to the Israel Museum, with which I also had absolutely no involvement. The IAA never charged me with any involvement with these objects, yet included my name in their announcement of indictments against those that did, to purposely give the misimpression that I had some involvement with them. Again the purpose of the IAA is clear: to destroy my reputation and ability to continue to be a licensed antiquities dealer, and thereby harass, intimidate and destroy all of the antiquities dealers that operate in Israel in full compliance with Israeli law.
IAA agents carry government credentials making them the equivalent of policemen, but with far more encompassing power. Their ostensible mandate is to prevent the looting of archaeological sites in Israel and to supervise the legal antiquities trade. In their total control over the issuance of trade licenses and export licenses, they act simultaneously as investigators, interpreters of the law, promulgators of regulations, judges, and experts in antiquities. Using their almost unlimited power in the area, their harassment against me (using methods which would not embarrass even a senior KGB agent) started 25 years ago when I received my license to deal with antiquities, and has continued unabated. The following are just some of the unconscionable acts the IAA has perpetrated against me:
1. An IAA agent has “visited” my shops at least once every single month in the past 25 years (and sometimes as often as once a week), checking my inventory and the provenance of the items which I sell. They often take pictures of items that I own without my permission and issue frequent gratuitous oral and written warnings to me not to break the law.
2. IAA agents have attended every one of the 33 public antiquities auctions which I have held during the past 17 years, making obvious note of the buyers and collectors in attendance.
3. The IAA has spread false rumors about me and my activities in order to cause tension and suspicion between me and other licensed dealers and collectors.
4. IAA agents remind me continuously that they have established and maintain a file on each dealer containing the dealer’s “profiles and activities, and that my file is the thickest of all of them.
5. The IAA has recorded or tape-recorded all of my conversation with the IAA, oral or telephonic, and continues to keep such recordings “in my file.”
6. IAA agents suddenly appeared at the area that I supervise at the Megiddo excavation site for the sole purpose of embarrassing me before the excavation directors, my colleagues and my team members.
7. I was humiliated many times by IAA agents who continually conduct “investigations” into my activities. All allegations made by the IAA against me in the past were proven to be either false or fabricated, and totally without merit.
8. In the last year, under the pretext of their “investigation of forgeries,” I was interrogated over twenty times by IAA agents, and by the police under the supervision of the IAA agents, humiliating me and treating me as a criminal by taking my fingerprints and photograph.
9. Four IAA agents, flashing an improper warrant, in search of “looted antiquities,” entered my three shops and my residence, confiscating not illegally obtained antiquities (which I have never had), but my business and my personal computers, together with documents which had nothing conceivably to do with their “investigation,” but contained material for my new book and my PhD research thesis.
This is only a very short list of the illegal and unethical activities of the IAA directed at me.
The public announcements and press conference by the IAA during this last week (December 2004), in which they purposely linked my name to a host of allegedly illegal activities with which the IAA knows that I have absolutely no connection, leaves me no alternative but to immediately file suit against the IAA and its agents personally, for irreversibly damaging my name and reputation and for the serious financial consequences of their malicious and criminal acts.
I am greatly encouraged and appreciative of the great outpouring of support I have received from my clients and colleagues. I will continue to do all within my power to establish the veracity of my claims and the ultimate vindication of my name and reputation.