Seizure of ancient seed collection in Turkey sign of ‘hyper-nationalist’ atmosphere under Erdogan

Specimens of ancient and modern seeds were taken by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which claimed the collections “belonged to Turkey.” (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 09 October 2020

Seizure of ancient seed collection in Turkey sign of ‘hyper-nationalist’ atmosphere under Erdogan

  • Seeds were held by British institute

LONDON: A large collection of seeds held by the British Institute at Ankara have been seized by Turkish authorities, according to reports.
Specimens of ancient and modern seeds were taken by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which claimed the collections “belonged to Turkey,” The Times newspaper reported.
The seizure was revealed by the institute’s Chairman Stephen Mitchell in a letter to board members leaked to Middle Eastern news website Al-Monitor.
The seeds were donated to the institute by Gordon Hillman, a well-known and pioneering UK archaeobotanist who passed away in 2018.
Mitchell said Turkish officials took “108 boxes of archaeobotanical specimens and four cupboards comprising the modern seed reference collections” to the headquarters of government-run museums in Ankara, and requests for more time to minimize damage were refused.
The collection was the work of Hillman, who worked for the UCL Institute of Archaeology, and comprises seeds and botanical specimens from ancient sites from across the region that date back thousands of years.
There are also modern specimens in the collection, which is used by experts as a reference tool.
The Turkish authorities have “removed this research resource from the wider Turkish and international community of researchers. It was a nice, small research facility, open to anyone who wanted to use it. Now it’s all gone,” said Dorian Fuller, an archaeobotanist at the UCL Institute of Archaeology.
It is not the first time the Turkish government has been criticized for over-zealous action with regard to the country’s cultural and historical sites.
Earlier this year, the former Byzantine cathedral Hagia Sophia was reopened as a mosque after many years functioning as a museum.
Analysts say the seed seizure is another example of the “hyper-nationalist atmosphere” prevalent under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“For over a decade now Turkish nationalists have been mulling over a ‘seed conspiracy’ — based on the idea that ‘Israeli seeds’ are pushed upon Turkish farmers in order for them to produce tomatoes, onions or eggplants of a lesser quality, with no smell or taste but bright colours,”Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told The Times.
“The theory has now expanded to cover a vast western conspiracy to deprive Turkey of seeds — and is now apparently shared by Erdogan, who has reinvented himself as a super-nationalist. This has more to do with the hyper-nationalist atmosphere in Turkey today than anything else.”


Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

Updated 26 November 2020

Court orders authorities to reveal Israeli citizenship criteria to Palestinian Jerusalemites

  • Without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs
  • Vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied

AMMAN: An Israeli court has forced state authorities to reveal the criteria that need to be met for Palestinian Jerusalem youth to become citizens of Israel.

The judicial order will mean that approximately 20,000 Palestinians aged between 18 and 21 living in East Jerusalem will now know the requirements when petitioning for Israeli citizenship, which is not automatically granted to them as residents of the city.

The vast majority of Jerusalem’s 330,000 stateless Palestinians have not applied, nor have the desire, to become Israelis. But the court decision should in future make the application process easier for those interested in carrying an Israeli passport and having the protection of the Israeli government regarding their legal status.

Jerusalem attorney, Mohammed Dahdal, who has practiced civil and human rights law for more than 30 years, noted that without Israeli citizenship, residents of East Jerusalem could not obtain an Israeli passport, vote in national elections, or work in state government jobs, among other things.

However, they did pay taxes to Israel and received social benefits such as national insurance, unemployment payments, and healthcare coverage.

Dahdal told Arab News that after 1988, when Jordan disengaged from the West Bank, which included East Jerusalem, Jerusalemites became stateless citizens. He said the ruling had come about after a Palestinian from Jerusalem had appealed to the court after revealing a loophole in the law.

He noted that the court decision, published by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, made four conditions to ensure receipt of an Israeli passport. “That the applicant has no other citizenship, that they were born in Israel (for Israel, East and West Jerusalem are both parts of Israel), that the applicant is between 18 and 21 years old, and has lived continuously in Israel during the five years preceding applying for citizenship.”

The lawyer added that the Israeli government had fought in court to have the criteria for citizenship kept under wraps.

Former Jordanian member of parliament, Audeh Kawwas, who was on Wednesday appointed as a member of the Jordanian Senate, told Arab News: “If the aim is to solve the statelessness issue of Jerusalemites, I am for it and I have spoken about it (as a committee member) in the World Council of Churches.

“However, if this is an attempt to disenfranchise Palestinians and to make the city more Israeli, then I am totally opposed.”

Hazem Kawasmi, a community activist in Jerusalem, told Arab News that many young Palestinian Jerusalemites were in a desperate situation, as no government or institution was taking care of them and their needs.

He said: “They are living under occupation with daily harassment from the police and Israeli intelligence and face all kinds of racism and enmity.

“Israeli citizenship helps them get high-skilled jobs and it is a prerequisite for many jobs. It helps them travel for tourism or work to Europe and the US without the cumbersome, complicated procedures of getting visas, that is if they get it at all.

“Finally, Israeli citizenship makes the youth feel safe not to lose their residency in Jerusalem and movement and work in Israel,” he added.

Khalil Assali, a member of the Jerusalem Waqf and an observer of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that he was doubtful that Israel would speed up the process for granting Israeli citizenship. “They have made this move to show their newly established Arab friends that they are acting democratically.”

Hijazi Risheq, head of the Jerusalem Merchants’ committee, told Arab News that the Israelis were looking for ways to turn the city into a Jewish one. By giving citizenship to youth between the ages of 18 and 21, Israel was aiming to deter them from carrying out hostile acts against Israel and keep them away from the Palestinian National Authority and its security forces, he said.

Jerusalem-based human rights activist, Rifaat Kassis, said: “The idea that Jerusalem is Arab has become an empty slogan. Meanwhile, Israeli racism has become the overriding power that forces Jerusalemites trying to have a dignified life with their families to live under difficult conditions.”