An Iraqi historian and archaeologist, as well as the director of Syria's Palmyra Museum, both claimed on Wednesday that an "international Jewish mafia" was conspiring to steal the Middle East's most precious antiquities in an effort to destroy the region's Arab heritage.
"The Jews are always looking for antiquities" historian and archaeologist Ali al-Nashmi said in an interview posted on Youtube and translated by MEMRI, adding that "they extort, steal and establish gangs," as a means to pilfer the area of its historic treasures.
Al-Nasmi claimed that "this ancient theory from the days of the Babylonian captivity 2,500 years ago" could be traced all the way to the 19th century, where it "was reinforced following the 1897 Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland."
This lead to the formation of the Zionist effort to steal antiquities in which "a mafia connected to the Jewish capital was born," he added.
Also featured in the video was Walid Al-Assad, director of Palmyra Museum, whose 82 year-old father was beheaded by ISIS in late August. Al-Assad referred to the Jewish conspiracy as an effort "to erase the Arab origins of the antiquities in the area" and "to destroy the city [of Palmyra] and wipe it off the face of the Earth."In August, Islamic State (IS) militants beheaded antiquities scholar Khaled Asaad
in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra and hung his body on a column in a main square of the historic site.
ISIS, whose insurgents control swathes of Syria and Iraq, captured Palmyra in central Syria from government forces in May and have a reputation for destroying artifacts they view as idolatrous under their puritanical interpretation of Islam.