Restitution of Archaeological Artifacts: The Arab Israeli Aspect

International Journal of Cultural Property, Vol. 5, pp. 133-153, 1996

12 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2020

See all articles by Talia Einhorn

Talia Einhorn

Tel Aviv University - Faculty of Management; Ariel University

Date Written: September 11, 2011


Since the second half of the 19th century, public international law has been developing rules regulating the restitution of cultural objects removed from occupied territories during armed conflict. Today it is generally recognized that customary international law forbids pillage. The Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict further mandates that artifacts removed from an occupied territory must be returned to the competent authorities of that territory at the close of hostilities. The Arab-Israeli case highlights the problematic side of this solution. Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the territory known as the 'West Bank' came under Israeli control. Israeli archaeologists carried out numerous excavations, and discovered artifacts of special importance to Jewish cultural heritage. It is regrettable that, as a result of the peace treaty with Egypt, these artifacts can no longer be exhibited and appreciated at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, but had to be delivered to Egypt where they face an uncertain future. A similar fate may befall the artifacts excavated in the Golan Heights. The Palestinian claim for restitution cannot be based on the Protocol. The problem is nevertheless the same in all cases; if the artifacts are to be preserved, properly appreciated and made available for purposes of study and research, it may be more appropriate to distribute them among the states by way of compromise and agreement, that will seek to enhance their cultural significance, rather than use the arbitrary criterion of the place of discovery and the borderline delineated in the peace agreement.

Keywords: cultural property, cultural heritage, protection of cultural property in warfare, international law

JEL Classification: K19, K33

Suggested Citation

Einhorn, Talia, Restitution of Archaeological Artifacts: The Arab Israeli Aspect (September 11, 2011). International Journal of Cultural Property, Vol. 5, pp. 133-153, 1996, Available at SSRN:

Talia Einhorn (Contact Author)

Tel Aviv University - Faculty of Management ( email )

P.O. Box 39010
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 6139001
+972548181540 (Phone)


Ariel University ( email )

+972-54-8181540 (Phone)

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