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Television Broadcast Was No More Than "Rumor"

For many months, individuals related to the IAA (The Israel Antiquities Authority) have leaked false information to the media and press on five continents and to thousands of websites on the Internet.

By Oded Golan
March 2004

    At this stage, I wish only to mention two important facts which may assist the reader in analyzing the recent "media circus":

1. The number of times that I have sold or mediated in a sale of antiquities in my entire life is smaller than the number of fingers on my hands, and this in itself is much smaller than the number of sales or exchanges performed by any serious antiquities collector I know in the world.

2. In all my 42 years of collecting antiquities, I have never sold a single item to any individual or institution outside Israel (I reiterate - not even a single item in the entire 42-year period was sold by me outside Israel!).

    For many months, individuals related to the IAA (The Israel Antiquities Authority) have leaked false information to the media and press on five continents and to thousands of websites on the Internet.

    These include allegations of a "forgery industry" in operation for over 15 years in Israel, whose participants include senior renown members of the academia, international forgers, research institutions, laboratories, and collectors – all headed by the antiquities collector, Oded Golan, the undersigned... In these reports, individuals from the IAA and the Israel Police have spoken to almost every possible media about the exposed "industry" and sales of "hundreds of forged items worth millions of dollars to museums and collectors outside Israel," as well as other horrific false allegations. There is no need to repeat those here. The dissemination of this biased information reached an acme on February 18, 2004, in a television broadcast of a feature on the "Uvda" [Fact] series on Israel Channel 2. The title of this one-sided broadcast was "The Hunt for Oded Golan" and its topic was "the forgery of antiquities."

    The sale and purchase of antiquities is a legal pursuit in Israel and collecting antiquities has been my hobby for over 40 years. Today, my privately owned collection of biblical antiquities is perhaps the largest and most important of its kind in Israel, if not the world. The collection comprises thousands of items, some of which are extremely rare, the majority of which have been purchased from antiquities dealers (licensed by the IAA) over several decades. My collection was accessible to interested researchers and was even partially loaned to museums and academic research purposes up to recently.

    In the last 15 months, individuals from the IAA and the Israel Police initiated "investigations" and other steps designed, inter alia, to destroy the collection of antiquities in Israel and the livelihood of licensed antiquities dealers. Other motives and interests may also be involved. These investigations included the interrogation of many antiquity dealers, collectors, research institutions, museums, conservators, members of the academia, and others. The investigation, which cannot be commented on in detail at this time, has not been completed at the time of writing these lines. Indeed, after the broadcast, I received another summons for interrogation.

    A police official in uniform and IAA officials appeared in the "Uvda" program in an unprecedented public appearance during investigative proceedings and in the midst of my own interrogations and the interrogation of others. This appearance took place even before findings were submitted to the General Attorney (to say nothing of conclusions) and before legal proceedings have been completed. They provided information lacking any factual basis, intentionally omitted significant sections representing my own position and omitted information confirming the authenticity of several of the antiquities items which appeared on the broadcast (including information supporting the authenticity of the inscription "Ya’akov (James) son of Yosef brother of Yeshu" engraved on the ossuary which has been in my possession for over 25 years). They simultaneously played the roles of investigators, prosecutors, and judges.

    Without going into the legal issues in depth, the violation of civil rights and privacy, personal property, libel, direct damage to personal property, publication of information without rights (including scientific information), were all blatantly clear to anyone viewing the program. Equally obvious was the absolutely improper conduct. On one hand, as the object of investigation, I am prevented from responding freely to the media and restrictions of discussing information at this stage apply to me. On the other hand, IAA and police officials repeatedly stated to the courts that the information concerning the investigation is classified, yet the Israel Police had no trouble in approaching the media and providing the information to the public during the legal proceedings.

    Over the 15 months of the "investigation," three searches were conducted in my home and warehouses, and thousands of items were taken from me (most of which have since been recovered, only after serving a warning of filing a motion to the courts for their recovery). IAA and police officials performed countless acts of negligence (from breaking the Yehoash tablet which they took from my possession to improper handling and storing the valuable antiquities from my collection which IAA officials had seized, causing breakage and the destruction of rare and valuable items).

    It is unnecessary to point out that all the information presented to viewers of the television broadcast was no more than "rumor" alleged by a police officer and an IAA official. Not even a single piece of evidence was presented in the program to support any of the various allegations, including my alleged involvement in the sale of forged antiquities and the existence of an internal ring of forgers and academic researchers who manufacture and sell hundreds of forged items, worth millions of dollars, to museums and collectors all over the world, for over 15 years, with the help of forgers and senior academic researchers ("from Cairo to Toronto").