Preservation vs. Vandalism

Leo Rennert
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is staging its most ambitious exhibition -- a massive archeological reconstitution of King Herod's palaces and burial site, including his elaborate sarcophagus.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post devote lengthy articles to the exhibit, including prominent mention of Palestinian protests that Israel is appropriating artifacts from the West Bank that belong to a future Palestinian state.

The Times' headline reads: ''Anger That a Herod Show Uses West Bank Objects" (by Jodi Rudoren, Feb. 14, page A9)

The Post headlines its version: "In Israel's Herod exhibit, Palestinian see cultural theft" (by Joel Greenberg, Feb. 14, page A7).

Both articles provide a forum for bogus Palestinian charges that the Israel Museum is violating international law because the exhibit somehow assumes that the West Bank will always be part of Israel, leaving no room for a Palestinian state.

This is utter nonsense. Under the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestinians, Israel is given responsibility for antiquities in the West Bank pending a final peace deal. The accords call for both sides to protect archeological sites and also allow for excavation.

The Israel Museum thus is following the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords, especially given the fact that it has no intention to keep West Bank artifacts and is prepared to return them.

Still, the Palestinian Authority sees an opportunity to crank up its anti-Israel propaganda machine, knowing that the Times and the Post can be counted on to give Palestinian complaints full coverage.

Nevertheless, my beef is not so much with the Times or Post's coverage of the King Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum. Rather, my beef is with the total absence of coverage of constant Palestinian vandalism of Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem and Joseph's Tomb near Nablus. Like many of Herod's artifacts, these tombs are also located in the West Bank.

But with one big difference: Rachel's Tomb and Joseph Tomb's, the burial sites of the biblical matriarch and of the patriarch Jacob's favorite son, have become regular targets of desecration by Palestinian vandals.

So one might well ask: If the Palestinian Authority really is so devoted to in-situ preservation of antiquities in the Holy Land, why does it countenance attacks on Jewish heritage sites like Rachel's Tomb and Joseph's Tomb? Don't these despicable attacks violate the Oslo Accords and international law?

And why do the New York Times and the Washington Post remain silent when such desecration of Jewish religious heritage sites occurs? Why feature King Herod, but ignore Rachel and Joseph?

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is staging its most ambitious exhibition -- a massive archeological reconstitution of King Herod's palaces and burial site, including his elaborate sarcophagus.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post devote lengthy articles to the exhibit, including prominent mention of Palestinian protests that Israel is appropriating artifacts from the West Bank that belong to a future Palestinian state.

The Times' headline reads: ''Anger That a Herod Show Uses West Bank Objects" (by Jodi Rudoren, Feb. 14, page A9)

The Post headlines its version: "In Israel's Herod exhibit, Palestinian see cultural theft" (by Joel Greenberg, Feb. 14, page A7).

Both articles provide a forum for bogus Palestinian charges that the Israel Museum is violating international law because the exhibit somehow assumes that the West Bank will always be part of Israel, leaving no room for a Palestinian state.

This is utter nonsense. Under the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestinians, Israel is given responsibility for antiquities in the West Bank pending a final peace deal. The accords call for both sides to protect archeological sites and also allow for excavation.

The Israel Museum thus is following the letter and spirit of the Oslo Accords, especially given the fact that it has no intention to keep West Bank artifacts and is prepared to return them.

Still, the Palestinian Authority sees an opportunity to crank up its anti-Israel propaganda machine, knowing that the Times and the Post can be counted on to give Palestinian complaints full coverage.

Nevertheless, my beef is not so much with the Times or Post's coverage of the King Herod exhibit at the Israel Museum. Rather, my beef is with the total absence of coverage of constant Palestinian vandalism of Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem and Joseph's Tomb near Nablus. Like many of Herod's artifacts, these tombs are also located in the West Bank.

But with one big difference: Rachel's Tomb and Joseph Tomb's, the burial sites of the biblical matriarch and of the patriarch Jacob's favorite son, have become regular targets of desecration by Palestinian vandals.

So one might well ask: If the Palestinian Authority really is so devoted to in-situ preservation of antiquities in the Holy Land, why does it countenance attacks on Jewish heritage sites like Rachel's Tomb and Joseph's Tomb? Don't these despicable attacks violate the Oslo Accords and international law?

And why do the New York Times and the Washington Post remain silent when such desecration of Jewish religious heritage sites occurs? Why feature King Herod, but ignore Rachel and Joseph?

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers