Monday, 23 May 2011

Utah Man Denies Antiquity Smuggling Accusation

As we have seen, the artefact collector and antiquity dealer are all to frequently keen to play the victim. Another such victim seems to be the case of Utah tour guide John Lund, reportedly accused in Israel of selling artefacts without the required permits, and attempting to remove them from the country without an export permit (apparently on Monday May 16th, but he says 14th) . He signed some papers ("in Hebrew") admitting this, but upon his arrival in the States, he began protesting his innocence. See Sarah Dallof, 'Utah historian accused of smuggling antiquities out of Israel', May 19th, 2011. There's a video from KSL Broadcasting Salt Lake City (can't seem to embed it) in which he makes light of the charges, comparing himself to Goody Two Shoes encountering a "dragon". See also Matthew Kalman, 'Retired U.S. Academic Is Arrested in Israel on Suspicion of Antiquities Trafficking', The Chronicle of Higher Education May 18, 2011.

There is also a May 19th text by Sheena McFarland in the Salt Lake Tribune: 'Utah tour guide accused of smuggling Israeli artifacts'. (updated May 20th), and another in the same vein by Molly Farmer and Sarah Dallof, 'Murray resident John Lund accused of smuggling Israeli artifacts disputes allegations', Deseret News,May 20, 2011 (this one seems to have mysteriously vanished from the Internet, but is in Google cache).

He claims he'd brought these antiquities INTO Israel from the US as "teaching material". "Dr Lund admits he lacked the proper paperwork for some of these artefacts, but says he had no idea he needed it". That is a bit odd for somebody who has been leading tour groups there over the years. Part of the qualifications for which job should surely be familiarity with all local laws likely to affect the customers of the company which employs him in matters such as this. The information about needing export licences for antiquities from Israel is in many tour guides both printed and online.

A group of (American?) tourists was reportedly stopped and their 'property' seized on the Israel/Egypt border because they'd allegedly bought them from Lund and tried to remove them from the country without the proper formalities. Did Dr Lund not inform them about export procedures for these items? Did they REALLY not know that what they were doing was illegal? Or did they just not care? Did they lie when they said they had bought the items from Lund? I am surprised we have heard nothing from these people who are now out of pocket and labelled law-breakers due to the lack of information from the travel firm's agent.

I am unclear how Lund can claim he did not know of the legal requirements when, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority press release, he was detained in Jerusalem for allegedly selling antiquities about "two weeks" before his arrest at Ben Gurion airport and had "hundreds of antiquities" seized when authorities searched his room. This would presumably be when he was guiding this 14 day tour. Did he fail to enquire then why in fact he was having to surrender his 'property'? Or did he just hand hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars' worth of his property to the Israeli authorities with a shrug?

However, having once had all (?) the stuff in his room reportedly taken away, how come he was then in the middle of May two weeks later arrested taking more antiquities out of Israel without the paperwork? Where did he get them from? He is now stating he brought them into Israel from the States, so why were they not seized at the beginning of May with the rest, but ended up being seized two weeks later? If he could earlier prove legal import why was he no longer able to do so when he left the country? All very odd.

Journalist Chi-Chi Zhang of Associated press has a number of articles syndicated which present Lund's side of the story: 'Utah man accused in Israel of smuggling artifacts', and 'US tour guide says he didn't know bringing antique oil lamps, coins broke Israeli law', May 20th and on on May 23rd: ' Utah Tour Guide David Lund Accused by Government of Israel of Smuggling Artifacts'. The man's name is - apparently incorrectly - given there as "Tour guide David Lund" . Apparently:
the retired lecturer from Murray, Utah, said he was never informed of any wrongdoing in more than 30 years of guiding thousands of people to visit holy sites in the Middle East and bringing antiquities with him to tell biblical stories."They're saying I was trying to sneak these items out of Israel, and it's just a gross misrepresentation of the facts," the 70-year-old Lund said. His latest trip began earlier this month when he led a group of 96 tourists to Israel. Like his previous outings, Lund brought along antiquities such as oil lamps and coins to help illustrate the history and tell stories about the region. They were antiquities he said he had purchased on previous trips around the Mediterranean region. Lund said he was questioned at customs about the items when he entered Israel and allowed to pass without any problems.
So he's done this before? The logic of a tour guide "bringing antiquities with him to tell biblical stories" as he takes tourists around the sites and museums of the Holy Land beats me. Are there not enough objects in the museums to tell those stories? ("Helped tell biblical stories as part of the trip designed to highlight sites important to Christians", "He incorporates the artifacts into the tours by explaining the travelers the parables of Jesus" - so how many lamps and Roman glass vessels do you need to do that then? ). The photos show he had quite a few duplicates of each object type. Would not a powerpoint presentation on his laptop be enough for evening cultural talks? Why then do the Israeli Antiquity Authorities say they saw him selling these items? Are they not telling the truth? What would be the connection, if any, between the alleged sale watched by IAA staff and the reported seizure of artefacts from tourists, allegedly from the same group, at the Israeli border? If I understand what he is saying, Lund asserts that these artefacts were purchased from legitimate Israeli dealers - so why could those carrying them not show documentation of that fact? Why are these people not now coming forward to claim their property?

Elsewhere there is talk about Lund having seized from him a "binder of ancient coins he's using as research for an upcoming book" and we are told that he is writing a book "Bible Coins of Interest to Christians, which is why he had so many coins, including Greek, Persian, Roman and Egyptian coins in addition to Jewish coins". So he had these "Egyptian coins" when he was in Egypt too and managed to get them across the border? Lucky for him he was not stopped, eh? (I am not sure the Egyptians would let him go so easily). This of course raises the question of how many books on "["Biblical"] Coins of Interest to Christians" can the market take? I thought there were plenty of them - and websites, though none of the ones I have seen discuss the question of the sources, licit and illicit of the material they encourage people to acquire and collect. I find the fresh reports difficult to reconcile with the photos of the coins as seized, none are in a "binder" but there is at least one in a decorative olive wood box - hardly the sort of container I'd use to transport "research material" and several packaged with descriptive cards of the type attached by dealers to make an item more attractive - again, hardly necessary I would have thought for a "researcher". But... it takes all sorts I guess.

Lund said "he had no idea a visa (sic) was required to bring antiquities in and out of the country and was never told by any authorized dealers in Israel to do so". Concerning items brought into the country, there is a quite detailed customs notice online which lays down the procedure to be adopted when importing personal property worth more than 200 dollars and not falling into certain groups (which Mr Lund's travelling antiquity collection does not), and reminding travellers that "the exportation of [....] all antiquities [...] is subject to special authorization". If he was "questioned at customs about the [antique] items [in his baggage] when he entered Israel" (and he asserts and stresses that after questioning he was "allowed to pass without any problems"), would that not have alerted him, even if somehow previously ignorant of that fact, that the Israeli authorities take an interest in controlling the movements of such material across their frontiers? What about the requirement to declare items like this on entry? When he was "questioned" about them, was he not made aware of this? But then elsewhere Lund is confusingly reported as saying: "I understand why Israel would have strict policies on antiquities, but I don't understand why they didn't stop me when I entered the country if they had a problem with the items I had". Did he openly declare when he entered the country that he had the items or not?

But in fact if he was accompanying the tour he was supposed to be accompanying, Lund would have been entering Israel from Egypt (at least that is what this suggests), or would that be Jordan, where the trippers he was guiding ended up? Both countries which place restrictions on the export of antiquities, and both states party of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (since 1973 and 1974). If he was stopped and questioned about these artefacts when entering the country from Egypt or Jordan and was unable to show at that time (for it seems he was unable to do so on 16th May) that they had been purchased in other countries, then why were they allowed through? How did he manage that?

If Dr Lund had indeed legally and purchased and exported the items suspected of having been dug up in the Holy Land that were seized at the airport "on previous trips around the Mediterranean region", a responsible collector would have the export licences and invoices with which he will now be able to clear his name when faced with such a situation.

When he was searched at Ben Gurion airport, it is reported that Lund had recently-written "che[que]s totaling more than $20,000" on him, and authorities believed these were from "the illegal sales of ancient coins, clay oil lamps, and glass and pottery vessels". Lund denies this, he says "the checks were given to him by members of the tour group who wanted to buy antiquities legally, and he took them to legitimate dealers and paid for the items with his Visa card". This was a tourist group of Mormons or Amish? Do travelling Mormons abroad not carry their own visa cards for some reason? I do not understand this. Really I do not. In any case, again to clear his name all that is needed is for the antiquity dealers in Israel to show the records of those legal transactions. They are obliged to keep such records by Israeli law.

But the Salt Lake Tribune has another - conflicting - story. According to this one, in Bethlehem several tourists:
had run out of cash for souvenirs. He had them write him personal checks in $200 amounts in exchange for extra cash Lund had brought in case such a situation occurred. He also arranged group purchases of Bethlehem baby blankets and Bethlehem alabaster jars with spikenard inside and said he did not make money on the transaction.
Lund does however add that he
also facilitated the $2,000 purchase of a silver Tyre shekel, also known as a Judas coin, for one of the tour participants.
"We were buying antiques as souvenirs from legitimate dealers just like what normal tourists would do and no one ever told us we needed a special visa (sic)", of course if tourists buy antiquities from registered dealers, they get the export licence with the object. What did Lund do, throw them away? I also wonder about the bloke who claims to be writing a book on "Biblical coins of interest to Christians" and who is himself the owner of at least one "binder" of them, who would not tell a tour party member to save his money because he can buy a decent example of that shekel back in the states for about a quarter of the price.
Lund said he's currently gathering affidavits to build a defense case. He's in touch with the U.S. Embassy in Israel, and is seeking legal counsel. Despite the hiccup, Lund said he loves Israel, and now that he understands the laws, he'll try to make it right. "You wont' find a greater advocate for Israel then me and for sustaining the laws of the land," he said. Lund said he's concerned for American tourists in Israel who are in the dark like he was. "Innocently, all over the place, people are buying items, hauling them out of the country and not even aware that they're technically smugglers," he said. "I think Israel has an obligation to let us know that."
Umm, I think they do. How can anyone ignoring cultural property laws, Americans or not, claim to be doing it "innocently"? Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Surely it is also the responsibility of travel companies to employ as guides people who are knowledgeable about local laws that may affect their clients? Dr Lund has at best showed himself woefully ill-informed in this regard.

More about Lund:
Books by Lund include, 'Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon' and 'The Church and the Negro' ("A discussion of Mormons, Negroes and the priesthood"). On the latter see also: Darth J, "The Church and the Negro" Friday, May 20, 2011, at 07:28 AM here.

Journalists have been confused about who he is, see Rogueclassicist, 'Journalists Just Aren’t Trying Any More', May 19, 2011


darktech said...

So Dr. Lund's a smuggler you say? Then call me one too. I bought coins of antiquity in a _jeweler shop_ in Israel, and was given no such export papers, proof, or instruction that any such thing was necessary. I'm certain that those coins are not sitting in those shops so any Israeli with a wild hair up their nose can go get an antique, genuine biblical coin from Jesus' day. Give me a break. Those shops are there to sell to American and European tourists, and you know it. I'll bet the shops don't even know they are supposed to be providing the documentation, or they would be up in arms that their customers will never be allowed to bring their friends back to Israel to buy more junk.

Paul Barford said...

Then call me one too. I bought coins of antiquity …
Well, Dan, if you took the coins home to the US without following the proper procedure, you did indeed break the law of the country you were visiting. Yes. If you did that, you are a smuggler. Did you? The illegality of an act is not defined by whether or not a person is CAUGHT doing the thing, does it?

I really do not accept the argument that antiquities are somehow reserved for American and European collectors and tourists, that it is somehow the American “right” to walk in anywhere they like and just take what they want (or shoot or torture anyone they want or whatever).

In the same way French financiers cannot imagine they could walk into a New York hotel and do there to immigrant worker chamber maids just what they want, acting as if they were committing some kind of ‘minor indiscretion’ back home, and expect not to be subject to US law.

It is not any shop’s obligation to arrange export licencing for you, that is your responsibility. The customer (in such cases) is committing no crime in buying the object. It is when that customer then decides that instead of leaving it behind he will take it out of the country that he should institute the proper procedure. If there is no time to do that, the customer can forgo the purchase. The same applies if somebody wanted to export any number of items out of any country. That goes for cars, certain types of electronic equipment, narcotics, underage girls, porn, weapons or any of the other things that people want to take home with them but are controlled by the law of the “source country” – or the destination country. Neither is it anyone’s obligation to tell you what the law is in a country you are visiting – that is your responsibility to find out (if you cant find the answer from available travel guides, or [if you can trust them to know] your travel firm’s representative, contacting your consulate in the country concerned might be a good move).

Israel has (actually incredibly liberal) laws concerning the sale, possession and export of cultural property, and it is the obligation of visitors to the country to find out what they are, respect them and uphold them.

I personally would not boast online about having possibly disregarded them in an effort to excuse somebody else who may also have done. But then that's just me, I guess.

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