Monday 26 August 2019

US and Israeli Collectors Buy Up What Remains of Yemen’s Ancient Heritage

Four historic buildings in Sana’a’s old quarter were destroyed
 during bombing by Saudi warplanes in June, 2015.
Photo MintPress News

Yemen was once described as a living museum, but U.S. made bombs dropped by the Saudi-led Coalition’s jets have not only killed thousands of civilians and led to famine and the spread of disease but also pulverized the country’s rich architectural history and left its inimitable heritage at the mercy of the highest bidder.
During their war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have established smuggling networks in the country to loot historic sites.[...] The smuggling of Yemeni antiquities is often carried out by diplomats operating out of Yemeni embassies from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in return for lucrative sums of money allegedly provided by patrons from the United States and Israel. Yemen is the cradle to many civilizations and home to multiple faiths — particularly Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which all thrived in Yemen for millennia. For the Israelis, many of Yemen’s antiquities are seen as the rightful property of the Jewish people and there is reason to believe that Israel is also involved in the looting of Yemen’s heritage. Officials in Sana’a say they have strong evidence that Yemeni artifacts are being sold off to American and Isreali buyers. [...] Aden, in the eastern province of Marib, is favored by smugglers for shuttling stolen artifacts abroad. Here — according to the testimonies of a number of smugglers arrested by Houthi forces and now serving their sentences Sana’a’s Central Prison — smugglers are able to work in broad daylight in facilities provided to them by high-ranking officials in the ousted government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, with direct coordination of both Emirati and Saudi officials.
Ahmed Abdulkareem. 'US and Israeli Collectors Buy Up What Remains of Yemen’s Ancient Heritage' Mint Press August 26th, 2019

Benjamin Netanyahu holds a 500-year-old
Torah scroll
 brought to Israel, at the
Knesset on March 21, 2016. Haim Zach | GPO
I think this piece is a little contentious, in particular the way it keeps returning to the role of the US (which I am not denying, it seems though that Trump-bashing and Jew-bashing are the main aims of this text). I am discounting the evidential value of the guy the journalist spoke to  "A.M.M., who asked to be identified only by his initials, worked as an antiquities smuggler for a security outfit based in the UAE". So I think we do not know what the real story is here. I was intrigued by the "hand-carved doors" mentioned in the article, are these turning up on the market now as architectural salvage? But certainly, if you go to eBay you can find several hundred antiquities which are labelled as having come from Yemen, including cut up Torah scrolls coming from sellers in Israel. They are being brought to Israel, cut up and sold off to buyers all over the world. Think about that.

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