Israeli Antiques Dealer Cleared of Forgery Sues IAA for $3m

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An antiquities dealer acquitted in the largest antiquities fraud trial in Israel of all time has reportedly filed a lawsuit for more 3$ million in damages from his former prosecutors.

Robert Deutsch told blogger Matthew Kalman that he estimates he has lost more than $1 million in revenue and experienced health problems due to the severe blow his reputation suffered in the case, which pitted experts from both sides in a sometimes impassioned debate over the authenticity of several ancient objects.

The most prominent items at the center of the dispute were the ossuary, or bone box, said to be of “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” and "Jehoash's tablet", an artifact with an inscription said to be from the time of the First Temple.

Jerusalem District Court Judge Aharon Farkash acquitted Deutsch in March 2012, eight years after the feud began. Farkash stressed in his ruling he was not rendering an opinion on the authenticity of the objects, but rather declaring that the prosecution had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that they were fakes.

Now Deutsch is charging the Antiquities Authority, its director Shuka Dorfman, the head of its anti-theft unit Amir Ganor, as well as the Jerusalem District Attorney Liora Havilio and Assistant District Attorney Dan Bahat, who led the prosecution, with slander.

Deutsch claims that the prosecution based its case on charges that were demonstrably false, and that the accusations damage his health and destroyed his professional and academic reputation, Kalman reported. 

“I lost a third of my business,” Deutsch told Kalman. “I’m not judging my clients because they don’t know what’s true. I am on trial for faking and they don’t want to buy from a faker if I am.”

Deutsch also claims the allegations against him destroyed his academic career after Haifa University expelled him from the doctorate candidacy and fired him from his teaching post. The Megiddo excavations, where he was an area supervisor, let him go as well.

Deutsch told Kalman that although he published 12 scholarly books, none of them has been cited due to the dispute. “I can never restore my name,” Deutsch said. “My name was killed in the academy."

Neither the Israel Antiquities Authority nor the Justice Ministry responded to requests for comment, Kalman reported.

The Jehoash tablet, one of the objects claimed a forgery in Deutsch's trial.Credit: Baubau

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