Read an interesting article in the NY Times Saturday about the new $200 million museum opening in Athens. Apparently there is now hope in Greece that it will become the permanent home for the Parthenon Marbles – an ancient frieze from the Parthenon that was taken by the British in the early 19th century.
Toward the end of the article:
Greece retains only 36 of the 115 original panels from the Parthenon frieze, which depicts a procession in honor of the goddess Athena. Britain has long asserted that when (British Ambassador) Lord Elgin chiseled off the sculptures some 200 years ago, he was acting legally, since he had permission from Greece’s Ottoman rulers.
Ottoman law, Ottoman law…
Something about this sounded strangely familiar – then it hit me. Ottoman law has also been invoked in defense of a very different sort of theft: namely Israel’s nationalization of Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories.
From a 2005 B’tselem report:
The declaration of the territory as state land was grounded on a manipulative use of the Ottoman Land Law of 1858, which was absorbed in the British mandatory legislation, and later in Jordanian law. According to the 1858 law, the state may take possession of land that is not worked for three consecutive years. In accordance with the military legislation, through which the Ottoman Law was applied, the burden of proof was on the person contending that his parcel of land is not state land.
Who knew? It’s almost a hundred years since the Ottoman empire went under, but its legal genius is still appreciated more than ever…