On July 26, 2022, the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) met to consider proposed renewals of MOUs with Belize and Libya. CPAC is comprised of the following members: (1) Stefan Passantino (Chairman- Public); (2) Steven Bledsoe (Public); (3) Karol Wight (Museums); (4) J.D. Demming (Public); (5) Ricardo St. Hilaire (Archaeology); (6) Joan Connelly (Archaeology); Rachael Fulton Brown (Archaeology); (7) Anthony Wisniewski (Collector-Sale of International Cultural Property); (8) Mark Hendricks (Sale of International Cultural Property); and (9) David Tamasi (International Sale of Cultural Property). Because CPAC was meeting in person after a long hiatus due to the pandemic, it was unfortunately impossible to determine if all members were present.
Prior, a program officer for the Cultural Heritage Center,
was also present to run the Zoom presentation. Again,
other Cultural Heritage Center staff may have been in the room, but it was impossible
to tell given the Zoom image quality.
Passantino welcomed the speakers. He
acknowledged “familiar faces” and commented there were new speakers for this
session. He indicated that each speaker
would be given 5 minutes for their presentation. He asked Committee members to hold questions
to the end. He further indicated that
speakers would be grouped, with those discussing Belize alone or Belize and
Libya speaking first.
Eleanor King (Howard University) spoke on her own behalf as well as for the
Society for American Archaeology. Belize
meets all the criteria for a renewal. Its
cultural heritage is still in danger due to looting which is exacerbated by its
rugged terrain and porous borders.
Belize does take self-help measures in the form of awareness campaigns
against looting, posters warning about purchasing looted objects, and workshops
devoted to the subject. Import
restrictions are not only the best available method to prevent importation of
stolen objects, but they are also the only real ones available. Given the
porous nature of Belize’s borders and the country’s restricted resources, it
would be impossible to seal all exit points from the country. Finally, there are extensive collaborative
efforts between US and Belizean archaeologists.
King’s written comments can be found here:
Daniels (Smithsonian and University of Pennsylvania) spoke on behalf of the
Archaeological Institute of America (“AIA”).
Dr. Daniels indicated that the AIA’s membership comprised of approximately
200,000 professional archaeologists, corresponding members, students, and
enthusiasts. Both Belize and Libya have
met all the necessary criteria for renewal.
Both Libya and Belize still suffer from looting. Both have dedicated archaeological
departments. Although the archaeological departments in Libya must answer to
different governments, they operate with the same common purpose. Dr. Daniels indicates ASOR will provide
further information on Libya. There are
a host of collaborative projects with Belize.
Before the 2011 Revolution, the AIA ran tours to Libya. The AIA also ran
tours to Belize before Covid.
written comments on Belize can be found here:
AIA’s written comments on Libya can be found here:
Knerly (Hahn Loeser) spoke on behalf of the Association of Art Museum
Directors (“AAMD”). He first addressed
Libya. He first questioned if Jewish
artifacts can be considered Libyan state property now because antiques held
prior to 1968 were not state property under Libyan law. He
noted there are a host of issues related to the scope of the designated list if
CPAC decides to recommend a renewal of the MOU with Libya. With regard to the MOU with Belize, he criticized
the open-ended nature of the designated list of archaeological material, effectively
being extended an extra five years with every renewal. He also criticized the Form Article II that
has been put in place in more recent agreements. These should be tailored to the individual
AAMD’s written comments on Libya and Belize may be found here:
Tompa (Peter Tompa Law) spoke on behalf of the International Association of
Professional Numismatists (“IAPN”). His
comments focused on Libya. ASOR received
$800,000 in State Department grants that paid for work that was then used to
justify renewing this MOU. However, on a
closer look, the report ASOR submitted actually demonstrates that Libya has not
taken adequate self-help measures to justify a renewal. He also noted that one cannot assume most
coins on the designated list are only found in Libya, or even that they
“circulated primarily” there, which is the State Department’s own
standard. The State Department should at
least be held to its own standard and the coin types that do not meet it should
be delisted. Tompa finally indicated we should all look forward
to the day Libya is at peace and the $800,000 given to ASOR to help justify a
renewed MOU with Libya can instead be used to fund a Portable Antiquities
Scheme in Libya.
Tompa’s complete oral comments can be found here:
personal written comments can be found here:
written comments on Libya may be found here:
written comments on Belize may be found here:
Myers spoke on behalf of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (“ACCG”). He first noted that the 28-day notice
provided for public comment, while far better than the 5 days allowed for
comment on proposed emergency import restrictions for Afghanistan, still falls
far short of the 60 days public notice period under the Administrative
Procedure Act. He also noted the
injustice of import restrictions on Jewish cultural artifacts. He indicated
that hoard evidence proved that most types of coins on the current designated
list are found in far greater frequency outside of Libya than they are found inside Libya. This is particularly true for the famous type
with the Silphium plant on the reverse which was made to pay mercenaries from
Crete. He further indicated that the MOU
has not been effective with only one Immigration and Customs Enforcement
seizure of an artifact that left Libya at least 10 years prior to the MOU.
ACCG’s written comments may be found here:
FitzGibbon spoke on behalf of the Committee for Cultural Policy (“CCP”) and
the Global Heritage Alliance (“GHA”). She
focused on Libya. One cannot conflate
Libya and Belize. There is no
functioning government in Libya. Reports
from British archaeologists do not paint the same picture as in the ASOR
report. There is poor stewardship of
Libya’s cultural heritage. The overbroad
designated list encompasses 13,000 years of Libyan history. Ambiguities in that list recognize Libya as
the de-facto custodian of the cultural heritage of its displaced Jewish
population. The MOU should be
terminated. Alternatively, CPAC should
only recommend new emergency restrictions on limited numbers of cultural goods
consistent with the statute.
CCP’s and GHA’s written comments about Libya can be found here:
CCP’s and GHA’s written comments about Belize can be found here:
Waldman spoke on her own behalf as well as Jews Indigenous to the Middle
East and North Africa (“JIMENA”). She
was born in Tripoli, from which she and her family were brutally expelled. The driver of the bus meant to take her out
of the country instead set it afire with her and her family in it. She was saved by British Christians and
eventually settled in California. MOUs
are supposed to stop looted property, but here the Libyan government was the
looter. Libya took all the Jewish
community’s religious artifacts, and all its private and communal
property. Unless the current MOU is
re-written to explicitly exclude Jewish and Christian property, the MOU will
legitimize Libya’s confiscations of minority cultural heritage and
property. There was a carve out done in
the MOU with Morocco and the same should be done here. Libya has desecrated the synagogue where Ms.
Waldman worshiped by turning it into an Islamic Center. She has presented CPAC with a video showing
this desecration. The person who took
the video was arrested and was sentenced to 8 months in a Libyan prison. Libyan authorities have robbed the Jewish
community, desecrated its synagogues, and even erected skyscrapers over its
cemeteries. Libya cannot be considered a
custodian of Jewish cultural heritage.
written comments can be found here:
Luzon was born in Benghazi. This MOU
will just justify the Libyan Government’s taking of Jewish property. CPAC should follow the Moroccan example and
recommend an exemption for Jewish cultural heritage. There needs to be a carve-out for Jewish
religious articles. Libya has robbed its Jewish citizens. He understands Libyan Jewish cultural heritage
was carted up and put in a storeroom. He
does not know what happened to it. A
Synagogue he attended has now been converted into a Coptic Church.
Gerbi is a doctor in psychology and the President of “ASTREL,” an
organization which represents the Jews of Libya in exile. He now lives in Israel and appeared on zoom
from a museum in Israel devoted to commemorating Libya’s Jewish diaspora. In 1967, when he was 12 years of age, he spent
days hiding with his family from a rampaging mob that was looting and
destroying Jewish homes and businesses. In
2002, Ghaddafi invited him to Libya to visit his aunt, the last Libyan
Jew. Ghaddafi wanted his help in
normalizing relations with the United States.
He was fearful he would suffer the same fate as Saddam Hussein. Mr. Gerbi worked with Congressman Tom
Lantos on this issue and after relations with the U.S. were normalized Qaddafi
invited him to Libya in 2007 to see Jewish sites and restore DAR BISHI
Synagogue. However, during his trip he
was arrested and the money he raised to restore the Synagogue was stolen. He was deported to Malta without any
money. After he got back to Rome, there was an
assassination attempt and he moved to Israel.
In 2009, Qaddafi reconciled with him and again invited him home to
restore the Synagogue, but this never happened.
After the 2011 Revolution, he was invited back to serve in the
government, but on his arrival, he was threatened with death and fled again
with the help of the Italian Government.
He recently was invited back to Tripoli to restore Synagogues but was
again threatened with death and was forced to leave again.
Fusfield spoke on behalf of B’nai B’rith International. B’nai B’rith is our nation’s oldest and best-known
Jewish advocacy and social service organization, promoting the rights and
concerns of the Jewish community on a wide range of issues. No issue is of greater importance to the
Jewish community than the rights of the nearly one million Jewish refugees from
the Middle East and North Africa. Nowhere
did this Jewish presence end more tragically than in Libya, where Jews had lived
since the 4th Century B.C.E. and numbered as many as 40,000 in the early 1900s
but lost their entire population as a result of anti-Semitic pogroms and immigration
to Israel. The cultural patrimony of the
Libyan Jewish diaspora is gravely threatened by the absence of guarantees to
custody of materials that are rightfully theirs. The Jewish community wrote a
letter in December 2018 requesting the exclusion of Jewish ritual items from
the current Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Libya.
However, the previous administration’s refusal to acknowledge the letter
amounted to a de facto U.S. recognition of Libya’s confiscation of Jewish
properties in 1958 and 1969 and to the persecution Libyan Jewry suffered at the
hands of the regime. This MOU
legitimizes the confiscation of Jewish property seized by Libya’s government
when Jews were forced from the country. B’nai
B’rith strongly urges the Committee to include a derogation, or carve-out, for Jewish
personal and communal property should this MOU be renewed. We have seen a
precedent for this in the Morocco MOU, which clearly and explicitly excluded Jewish
property from its scope. To do less would be nothing short of a betrayal of American
B’rith’s written comments can be found here:
Panina Meghnagi is from the Libyan diaspora. She had to flee her home in Tripoli with one suitcase. Her family had to leave everything behind. They were stripped searched on leaving the country. Jews lived in Libya for 2,000 years before being driven out. Their cultural heritage has been destroyed, buried under Autostradas and Skyscrapers. There were 40,000 Jews living in Libya in the 1940’s. Pogroms took place in the 1950s. During the 1960’s most Jews and Christians fled the country. She implored the Committee to “love us” and do not renew this MOU. Morocco is a good example of a country that preserves its Jewish heritage.
Dr. Andrew Vaughn is the Executive Director of the American Society of Overseas Research (“ASOR”) and as Co-Director of ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives (“ASOR CHI”). Dr. Vaughn participated in meetings with Libyan cultural heritage officials in Tunisia. He was impressed with their motivation to work cooperatively to protect Libya’s cultural assets. Government actors and supporting militias are not involved in the antiquities trade which helps with enforcement. There have been instances where the public has returned chance finds to members of the Department of Antiquities. He has been working with Libya’s Department of Antiquities (“DOA”) towards creating temporary exhibitions in the US of material seized under the MOU. The DOA looks on ASOR as partners. Preservation efforts include that of materials of minority populations as a counter to extremism. Dr. Vaughn polled Libyan cultural heritage officials who indicated that ancient coins are the most looted item. (Note- they are also one of the most common ancient artifacts, see Tompa individual comments).
Dr. Vaughn’s written comments on behalf of ASOR can be found here:
Will Raynolds is the co-director of ASOR-Cultural Heritage Initiative. Despite the division of the DOA under two separate governments, the separate entities work well together. ASOR has intensive collaborations with both DOAs and smaller, local groups. Since the signing of the MOU, there have been sincere efforts to protect Libya’s cultural heritage. Raynolds was particularly heartened by voluntary returns of objects by Libyan citizens.
Raynold’s written comments on behalf of ASOR can be found here:
than an hour had already been devoted to public comment, Chairman Passantino
asked questions from members of the Committee to be kept short.
unidentified CPAC member indicated that he believed speakers from the Jewish
Diaspora had made a compelling case for exempting Jewish artifacts from any new
import restrictions. He asked Dr.
Vaughn about his views on the subject.
Dr. Vaughn does not answer the question, and instead indicates he
is not familiar with the legal aspects of such a decision.
Wisniewski asked Stephen Knerly if there were credible enforcement
efforts taking place in Libya. He
indicated that there are no such efforts and that is but one piece of Libya’s
failure to undertake self-help measures.
Wisniewski pointed Kate FitzGibbon to page 18 of her submission
where she discussed the State Department’s application of a “circulated
primarily” standard as a trigger for import restrictions on coins. Ms. FitzGibbon confirmed that the
standard contradicts the governing statute’s limitation of import restrictions to
coins “first discovered within, and subject to export control” by Libya.
also noted that with two DOAs in Libya there is no effective enforcement of
cultural heritage laws.
Wisniewski pointed Peter Tompa to page 7 of IAPN’s submission which
discussed the current designated list for Libya. He asked if there were any Roman Imperial
coins struck in Libya. Mr. Tompa
indicated that such coins were not struck in Libya and as stated in a
footnote only 0.18 % of all Roman Imperial coin hoards with Italian mint coins
are found in Libya. Anthony
Wisniewski also asked about Greek Coins.
Mr. Tompa agreed with Mr. Wisniewski that the Greek
designated list excludes large denomination stater and tetradrachm coins. Mr. Tompa stated that hoard
evidence indicates that Greek silver and gold coins from Libyan mints did not “circulate
primarily” there because the vast majority are found outside Libya. This includes high denomination tetradrachm
coins from Cyrene and Barce as well as the stater size coins with the silphium
plant on the reverse mostly found in Crete as described in Randolph Myer’s testimony.