Palestine today demanded the United Nations to pressurize Israel to return a stolen rare Byzantine-era baptismal font.
Palestinian Permanent Delegate Ambassador to UNESCO Mounir Anastas demanded that the UN organization’s Committee of the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property to pressurize the Israeli occupation government to return the stolen baptismal font that was stolen by the Israeli military from Tuqu‘ town, southeast of Bethlehem, in last July.
Speaking to Voice of Palestine radio this morning, Anastas said that the subcommittee convened to discuss several issues, including the illicit transfer of cultural property by the Israeli occupation authorities from the Palestinian territories, over the past two days.
He added that he delivered a speech to the committee, condemning Israeli actions regarding the illicit transfer of Palestinian cultural property and demanding the Israeli occupation authorities to return the stolen font to its original place and urging the UNESCO to insert a permanent item on its agenda to discuss the illicit ownership of cultural and historical property.
On July 20, Israeli soldiers used a forklift truck to steal the stone-made font, which dates back to the fifth or sixth century A.D., from the town.
A documentary prepared by Jerusalem’s Christian Media Center reveals that the rosy font, which weighs approx. eight tons, was part of a local Byzantine-era church.
The font was seen placed for long at the site of the ancient church in Khirbet Tuqu‘, the ancient town of Tuqu‘, before being stolen by unauthorized dealers using a huge forklift in 2000.
In 2002, Tuqu‘ Municipality managed to retrieve the font and placed it in the vicinity of the mayor’s house, pending the construction of a local museum.
The stolen 1500-year-old receptacle is one of three rare baptismal fonts hewn in rosy rock. The two others include the one recently discovered at the Church of the Nativity and another belonging to Beit Jubrin Church.
Israel has frequently stolen and acquired ancient artifacts from the occupied territories through unauthorized dealers and looters.
Israel has been using archeology as a key tool in reinforcing its bogus territorial claims to historic Palestine, including “Judea and Samaria”, the Jewish nationalist name used to refer to the occupied West Bank, and give them a veneer of historical and religious legitimacy.