Monday, May 4, 2009

Unholy Hoaxes from a Nimble Journalist


Several weeks after my court testimony in Jerusalem, I chanced to read an opinion piece entitled ‘Hoaxes from the Holy Land’ (Los Angles Times, Nov. 29, 08), written by someone who knew how to rehash information that branded the Jehoash a forgery. I had never heard of this Nina Burleigh before. She spoke of ‘nimble defence attorneys’ who sought to prove (among other archaeological objects) the authenticity of the Jehoash inscription. It struck me as insipid, shallow and thoroughly unreliable, written by a third rate journalist who dared to venture into one of the most specialized fields in Semitic Studies - Hebrew and Aramaic epigraphy. Nina Burleigh’s article is a burlesque, paraded as a well-informed opinion piece. In fact she has no informed opinion of her own to speak of. A professional journalist would present a balanced, unbiased account of the controversy. This one pontificates, using abusive language, and passing judgement on experts in a field she knows absolutely nothing. What this journalist gave us was a piece of her own confused mind, mixed with misinformation and insults.
This is what she says about both the prosecution and the defence in the Jerusalem trial: “So prosecutors …collected a long list of archaeologists and epigraphers…These men and women …were no match for nimble, expensive attorneys …working for the defence.” I have already dealt with the question of epigraphers in my scholarly research, mentioned above. Let me just make a point here about the prosecutor and the defence lawyer.
As my account of my own experience in the Jerusalem court has clearly shown, it is the Prosecution that has been playing a nimble, tricky game, not the Defence. If one cares to consult the testimony of that Akkadian scholar from the University of the Negev, one will see that the defence lawyer, Mr. Bringer, urged his witness in the cross- examination to say whatever he wished to say. This is in complete contrast to the prosecutor’s stance, Mr. Bahat, who barred me from presenting whatever evidence I wished to present in court. Readers interested in checking this point may wish to consult my book King Jehoash and the Mystery of the Temple of Solomon Inscription, p. 122, where there is a translation of the court transcript.
I happen to be an observant Jew, native to the Middle East, mindful of Jewish customs and values. My views about the political situation in the Middle East are generally known from whatever I have written and published on the subject. In brief, and to focus on the issue at hand, I definitely oppose those who wish to destroy Muslim shrines in order to re-build the Temple. Those who wish to do so are mostly East European fanatic Jews who are foreign to the soil and culture of the Middle East. Further, I have never been in the business of looking for biblical artifacts and inscriptions with the aim of supporting the events narrated in the Hebrew Bible. I do not need any such proof or support for my beliefs. Nor is it appropriate to mix science with politics, or with beliefs.
Towards the end of her article, Burleigh unashamedly states: “Sober and serious biblical scholars need to take steps to shield the public from their more ruthless colleagues.” This is one of the most insipid and outrageous accusations she makes. I assume she would include me personally as one of those ruthless colleagues for doubting the Jehoash text to be a forgery. And she ends her mumbo-jumbo piece with: “The only trouble is, in this field, disinterested individuals are the rarest finds of all.” What does she know of this field of Semitic Epigraphy and of those very few who engage in it? If she is searching for a “disinterested” professional epigrapher, let her look no further – here he is. But she can expect nothing from me but contempt. She also has the gall to speak of ‘characters’, when she herself is shamelessly feeding misinformation and cheap gossip to the general, unsuspecting public.
May God protect and shield us from dishonest and deceptive prosecutors, and from third-rate, nimble, and abusive journalists who prostitute their pens in specialized fields about which they know nothing!

29th December, 2008
Copyright © 2008 by Victor Sasson