Even without Scrolls, the Latest Discovery at the Dead Sea Could Help Fight Forgery

Feb. 16 2017

Last week archaeologists discovered a cave near the Dead Sea that almost certainly once contained ancient scrolls like those found at eleven other caves nearby. They believe looters took the documents in the 1950s, leaving broken jars and blank parchment behind. Yet despite the absence of texts, experts still expect the new discovery to prove helpful, as Michelle Z. Donahue writes:

Over the past fifteen years there has been an increase in the number of Dead Sea Scroll fragments offered for sale on the private art market, said Lawrence Schiffman, a professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University and an authority on the scrolls. “Many of the fragments that entered the market since 2002 appear to be forged.”

Some forgeries have expert lettering on parchment as old as the actual scrolls themselves, Schiffman said. “It’s possible some of this is coming from caves where people were able to locate ancient blank material to write on.”

The blank parchment that archaeologists recently found may shed light on how high-quality forgeries could be making their way to the market. And because it was recovered by scientifically rigorous methods, the parchment will help experts assess fragments that show up for sale.

“When things turn up, you just don’t know where they came from—you’re relying on the testimony of the seller,” [the archaeologist Randall] Price said. “We need these controlled excavations so that when something’s found, there’s no doubt of its origins and authenticity.”

Read more at National Geographic

More about: ancient Judaism, Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls, History & Ideas

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy