Disputed Israeli Archaeological Exhibit to Open at Metropolitan

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that it will stage in the fall of 1986 an exhibit of archaeological artifacts from Israel that include many items from the West Bank. The items from the West Bank have been the subject of a dispute which held up the proposed exhibit for nearly two years.

The exhibit is expected to contain a significant amount of archaeological artifacts from the West Bank. “The final selection hasn’t been made, but some of the more beautiful things in the region are from that area, and we’re going to pick them based on artistic merit,” said William Macomber, the Metropolitan’s president, at a news conference at City Hall last week.

A similar exhibit as the one now scheduled by the Metropolitan was cancelled by the Smithsonian Institution. The Metropolitan had intended to show the Smithsonian exhibit, which was to have opened last month when it left Washington. The Metropolitan reportedly said that it would present its own show should the Smithsonian decide against staging one of its own.

Israel decided against providing items to the Smithsonian exhibit because it wanted to exclude items from the occupied West Bank, housed in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem. Israel was concerned that Arab groups may sue, claiming ownership of the items from the West Bank.

But last month, the State Department issued a document, called a certificate of immunity from judicial seizure, that provides protection for foreign exhibits from lawsuits from other countries.

The Metropolitan cancelled the exhibit two years ago saying that it was concerned with providing proper security for the exhibit and also that it considered the showing of artifacts from disputed territory inappropriate.

Many of the items to be displayed by the Metropolitan have never before been displayed outside the Middle East.

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