In a new report, Israel’s National Academy of Sciences lashed out at the politicization of archeology in Israel, primarily by the political and religious right-wings and their enablers in successive governments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Above: Benjamin Netanyhu
Israel’s National Academy of Sciences Says Netanyahu Governments Misused Archeology To Further Right-Wing And Religious Goals
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
In a new report, Israel’s National Academy of Sciences lashed out at the politicization of archeology in Israel, primarily by the political and religious right-wings and their enablers in successive governments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ha’aretz reported.
The report especially cites extensive cooperation between the right-wing Elad nonprofit and Netanyahu governments.
Elad’s head, David Be’eri, was the only person summoned who refused to appear before the National Academy of Sciences’s panel that later issued the report.
According to Elad, Professor Yoram Tsafrir, the noted Hebrew University professor emeritus who headed the National Academy of Sciences’s panel, was biased against Elad because in the past petitioned the court against Elad because Tsafrir previously fought against Elad’s plan to build a Jewish settlement on top of antiquities. Elad is closely linked to the Jewish settlement movement and its archaeological work often appears to promote that bias.
The National Academy of Sciences report concludes that “it is inappropriate to give an organization with a political character a senior position in financing the excavations, determining tourism routes, designing the site and exhibiting it to the public, while ignoring the Arab residents.”
Elad told Ha’aretz the problem is with Tsafrir’s “bias,” not with Elad.
“The organization would have been glad to have cooperated and to have appeared before the committee had it not appointed Prof. Tsafrir as the head. For about two decades now Prof. Tsafrir has been leading a political fight in academic guise against the archeological excavations throughout ancient Jerusalem, and he has now harnessed to his efforts this respectable institution that is supposed to deal with national issues and create a public discourse that is fair and unbiased. Right from an initial reading of the report, it is evident that the suspicion was justified. The City of David and the development there are mentioned negatively [in the National Academy of Sciences report],” Elad’s response said.
But Elad’s work is widely (if quietly) questioned outside Israel, even by some academics who lean toward right-wing and fundamentalist views.
The National Academy of Sciences report also criticizes the government’s misleading use of archeological arguments to further its own political goals.
For example, the government insisted a national park was needed on Mount Scopus between the Arab neighborhoods of Issawiya and A-Tur in East Jerusalem because that site would preserve the antiquities supposedly located there by blocking planned Arab development.
But the report insists the area already has been surveyed and there are no antiquities there that need protecting, except in one specific area. However, the report notes there is no planned development for that area.
The report also lashes out the government’s plan to develop so-called “heritage sites” that are markedly Jewish or that emphasize the Jewish aspects of multicultural sites to the exclusion of the non-Jewish roles there and to non-Jewish sites.
The report also had scathing criticism for the government’s prohibition on research conducted on ancient human bones found in archeological digs. Under a law passed as a concession to haredim, bones found in dig site are not antiquities and therefore cannot be studied. Instead, by law they must be given to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for burial. “Opposition, sometimes violent, by haredi organizations is damaging to a key area of research,” the report notes.
The report also notes that because selling antiquities is legal (under most circumstances) in Israel but is illegal everywhere else in the Middle East, Israel has become an international center of illegal antiquities trade and money laundering.