The Present Past of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Israeli Archaeology in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 - British Library Research Repository
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The Present Past of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Israeli Archaeology in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967

2007

Abstract

As in many contested regions, the past is always present in the Middle East conflict. Here, however, the past has far greater weight than any other region, and archaeologists are those that give the distant past a palpable, physical expression. In this sense, archaeology and politics have always been intertwined. If Jewish and Israeli archaeology has been characterized, at times, by its national-historical mission, the same is true for its Palestinian counterpart. Thus, archaeology has been mobilized either to strengthen the bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel or to deny or ignore such a relationship. Without detracting from its objective scientific value, archaeology contributes to the elaboration of new collective identities based on new narratives of the past. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each and every excavation has the potential to acquire political overtones and to sow the seed of controversy. The study offered here is a survey of the work conducted by Israeli archaeologists in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967. The compilation of such a database is of tremendous importance for both researchers and those decision-makers who might be in a position to influence the future relations between Israelis and Palestinians and decide the fate of archaeological sites and finds in these regions. As Raphael Greenberg and Adi Keinan emphasize, "[t]he archaeological wealth revealed here should [also] engender discussion regarding protection, preservation, future research and development in the future Palestinian state." Greenberg and Keinan focus their attention on the products of Israeli archaeology in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They do not deal here with the threats posed to the sites themselves as a result of the conflict: whether it is widespread destruction and looting of sites by Palestinian villagers or the damage caused to sites of all kinds— including synagogues, churches, and monasteries—by rapid development in all parts of the territory. Neither do they provide a detailed examination of the policies of the Palestinian authorities in the realm of archaeology or the activities and discussions of these issues in Palestinian universities. These topics warrant academic research of their own. With this study we inaugurate the series of Research Papers of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for International and Regional Studies. This series hope to contribute to academic and public discussion on different aspects of inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts around the world and in our region in particular.

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