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How Israel Weaponizes Archeology by Kathryn Shihadah, If Americans Knew

How Israel Weaponizes Archeology

 

by Kathryn Shihadah, 

in

If Americans Knew

 

 

Israeli bulldozers demolish part of an historic Islamic building near Al-Aqsa Mosque, not far from the City of David archaeological site, where land is being confiscated from the Palestinian village of Silwan in what some have called “bulldozer archeology.” Says Palestinian archeologist Hamed Salem, “This important historical site is no longer an archaeological park; it’s an ideological park.” (Photo: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP / Getty)

by Kathryn ShihadahIf Americans Knew

From the Zionism’s earliest days in the late 1800s until the present, Israel’s battle has always been about land, but for some the issue goes much deeper—literally. What is underground is as valuable as what is above ground, and the battle has been raging for years.

The battle is over ancient artifacts, from Jerusalem to Gaza to Qumran.

The “Jewish State” prioritizes anything that might boost its legitimacy as rightful owner of Holy Land real estate, and has appropriated the science of archeology to help create its narrative.

The goal is to highlight the ancient Jewish presence and discount all other communities. whether historic or current. The Israeli narrative assumes, for example, that Christians may have been present for a short time, but only as visitors, leaving virtually no trace; the same goes for any Muslim presence.

In order to back up this version of history, Israel has found it necessary to destroy villages, demolish ancient sites, appropriate historic areas, rewrite textbooksredraw boundary lines, and more. With the illusion of an ongoing, dominant Jewish presence, Israel can assert that it is simply “re-claiming” what is rightfully theirs, instead of taking what belongs to others.

FACTS UNDER THE GROUND

It is no surprise that Israel/Palestine is an archeological gold mine: ancient trade routes crisscrossed the region; it was the historic home of the Philistines and Crusaders; a stone’s throw from the early civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Phoenicia; part of the Roman, Greek, Persian, and Ottoman empires, to name a few; and the dwelling place of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

In fact, Palestine is home to the oldest archeological organization in the world, the Palestine Exploration Fund, founded in 1865. Here excavators have feasted on a dizzying array of strata, ranging from Upper Paleolithic (about 40,000 BC) to late Ottoman (19th century AD), and everything in between; their findings have led to the advancement of the science of archeology itself. No wonder archeologists from around the world have been assembling for at least a century and a half to unearth and study Palestine’s ancient cultural riches.

When Israel created itself in 1948—and even before this date—the “Jewish State” worked to take control of archaeology, and thus, of the region’s history. It toiled to erase footprints of the numerous civilizations that had preceded the Jewish presence, as well as the peoples that have come afterward.

How Israel Weaponizes Archeology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“HAND TO HAND”

The claim to the land is based on a very small window of time, as Illene Beatty pointed out in Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan: “The extended kingdoms of David and Solomon, on which the Zionists base their territorial demands, endured for only about 73 years… Then it fell apart… [Even] if we allow independence to the entire life of the ancient Jewish kingdoms, from David’s conquest of Canaan in 1000 B.C. to the wiping out of Judah in 586 B.C., we arrive at [only] a 414 year Jewish rule.”

The Israeli narrative pushes the window open a few hundred years more: history (at least, relevant history) supposedly “started with King David and ended with the destruction of the second temple [70 A.D.], restarting with Jewish settlement in the nineteenth century.” Some Greek and Roman presence and a “smattering of early Christianity” are tolerable. But ancient Philistines, Arabs, and Muslims are never acknowledged as part of the region’s history. They would impinge upon Jewish interests.

The official explanation, according to an introductory film that is shown to tour groups in Jerusalem, is simply, “For two thousand years, the city passed from hand to hand.” The “righteous return” and the settler agenda are the only account to which visitors are exposed. On Palestine, there is only silence.

As Israeli author and activist Uri Avnery reminds us, the Zionist claim to the land of Palestine, based as it was on the Biblical history of the Israelites, requires proving that the Bible is true. Almost all of the founders of Israel were professing atheists, but they gritted their teeth and gave their orders.

During the early years of Israel’s existence, bulldozers removed Ottoman and Mameluke remains, Arab and Crusader artifacts, Byzantine and Roman and Greek and Persian remnants—in order to find “pay dirt”: biblical Hebrew artifacts. The search is ongoing. (Read this and this, for example.)

And over the years, the narrative has been pieced together for a single purpose: to manufacture “legitimacy.”

“I TOLD YOU SO”

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