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Tel Aviv University
[TAU] The City of David dig and Critical Archaeology in the Shadow of BDS

 

Editorial Note: 
 
As previously reported by IAM, the archaeological dig at City of David in the Silwan neighborhood has become a battleground between traditional and critical archaeologists. 

Like their critical peers in liberal arts, critical archaeologists reject the "Zionist narrative", the claim of traditional archaeology that Jews were rooted in the Biblical Land of Israel.   Critical archaeology - also known as Biblical minimalism, or the Copenhagen School - was launched by a number of archaeologists: Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas L. Thompson (University of Copenhagen), Philip R. Davies, and Keith Whitelam (University of Sheffield).   In a book entitled The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinians History,  Whitelam claimed that traditional archaeologists excavated sites with a view of creating the link between modern Israel and its Biblical homeland. 

The critical Copenhagen School found followers among faculty of the Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv University - Israel Finkelstein, Zeev Herzog and Raphael Greenberg.  Greenberg was among the founders of Emek Shaveh: Archaeology in the Shadow of the Conflict, a group of archaeologists and community activists.  Its mission statement asserts: "Our fundamental position is that an archaeological find should not and cannot be used to prove ownership by any one nation, ethnic group or religion over a given place. We, the members of Emek Shaveh, are dedicated to changing the view according to which the ruins of the past as tools in the service of a national struggle [sic]. We oppose attempts to use archaeological finds to legitimize acts that harm disadvantage communities."
 
Greenberg and members of Emek Shaveh have been particularly upset that Elad, described as right-wing NGO,  has funded, via the Israel Antiquities Authority, the City of David excavations.  Over the years, they have initiated a number of actions against the Silwan dig.

The current tension stems from an agreement reached by the Department of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority to conduct the excavations. Emek Shaveh organized a petition against Tel Aviv University to terminate the arrangement.  Posted on the Emek Shaveh site, the petition carries the signatures of dozens of prominent scholars from around the world and some well known radical and leftist Israeli academics such as Bernard Avishai, Louise Bethlehem, Naomi Chazan, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Yaron Ezrahi, Amos Goldberg, Galit Hasan-Rokem, David Shulman, and Zeev Sternhell.  Comments by some of the Israeli signatories imply that, by refusing to terminate the contract, Tel Aviv University is putting itself in danger of some unspecified BDS action.
 
The Emek Shaveh archaeologists' appeal to the international academic community follows a similar action by the Department of Politics and Government of Ben Gurion University.  As IAM commented, the speedy response of the community was possible because, for decades now, the campuses have served as incubator of anti-Zionist sentiments that put Israel under scrutiny that spared other countries.    
 
The City of David petition bears out this point.  It is not clear whether the signatories read Emek Shaveh's mission statement to the effect that "an archaeological find should not and cannot be used to prove ownership by any one nation, ethnic group or religion over a given place. "  If so, would they have express similar indignation over excavations in France or Russia aimed at finding historical roots to the French and Russian nations?  Given that critical archaeology of the Copenhagen School applies to Israel only, the answer is a resounding no.    



By The Palestinian Electronic Intifada

Tel Aviv University’s role in settler-run archaeological dig "playing into hands of BDS," Israeli academics complain

Submitted by Ben White on Thu, 12/27/2012 - 05:18

Dozens of academics from Israel and abroad, worried about the threat of academic boycott, have sent a petition to Tel Aviv University (TAU) requesting the cancelation of the university’s participation in the settler-run archaeological dig in the Silwan neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem.

The partnership between TAU and Elad’s project was revealed in October, and TAU’s Institute of Archaeology began digging in the “City of David” national park last week. Elad“is responsible for settling over 500 Israeli Jews throughout Silwan,” and the organization’s director “has himself been caught on tape admitting the digs he oversees endanger Palestinian homes situated above.”

The university’s response to what TAU archaeologist Prof. Rafael Greenberg has called “a clear politicization of research” has been to defend the dig on the grounds that it “will be carried out using modern scientific methods, at the highest professional standards, with particular attention paid to professional ethics.”

TAU is not alone in its relationship with the settler group’s project in Silwan; Hebrew University now offers an “Archaeological Field Summer School” at the City of David, where students can gain credit for the studies.

The organizers of the petition to TAU, worried about damage to their efforts to fight support for the Palestinian call for academic boycott, claimed that a boycott has already begun to bite. In the words of Prof. Sidra Ezrahi:

Tel Aviv University would be causing immeasurable damage to academia in general and to our desperate efforts to steer clear of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in particular. We’re already getting cancellations of conference participation and this is playing straight into the hands of the BDS movement.

This follows a familiar pattern whereby so-called liberal critics of Israeli government policies are motivated by concern for the country’s international image and a desire to combat the BDS campaign. For example, opposition in 2008 to freedom of movement restrictions on Palestinian students from the West Bank was partly due to the assumption that the policy helps “those who are trying to impose an academic boycott on Israel.”

Tel Aviv University’s role in occupation

In fact, TAU’s relationship with the Elad dig in occupied Silwan is not even the half of it, in terms of the university’s complicity with grave violations of international law and human rights abuses.

TAU is proud of its intimate relationship with the state and the military. As the Winter 2008-2009 edition of TAU’s Review put it, the university “is at the front line of the critical work to maintain Israel’s military and technological edge.” In the same issue, President Zvi Galil boasted of “how much TAU contributes to Israel’s security,” adding that he is “awed by the magnitude and scientific creativity of the work being done behind the scenes at TAU that enhances the country’s civilian defense capabilities and military edge.”

Plenty of work indeed. The Review refers to “defense-related research throughout the TAU campus,” with MAFAT, “a Hebrew acronym meaning the R&D Directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defense,” funding 55 projects at TAU (correct as of January 2009).

TAU’s ties to the military that enforces the colonial occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is illustrated with a few examples (from many). An estimated 50 percent of students in the Security Studies Program “belong to the middle and upper echelon of Israel’s defense establishment,” a course designed to equip them “with new conceptual tools and concepts.” The program is headed up by Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel, a Major General (res.) in the Israeli military, who also runs TAU’s decade-old Science, Technology and Security workshop. In the words of Ben-Israel: “Military R&D in Israel would not exist without the universities. They carry out all the basic scientific investigation, which is then developed either by defense industries or the army.”

TAU also offers a special engineering program for soldiers who excel, with dozens of students a year participating in the IDF Academic Reserve Program that supplies them,according to Dean of Exact Sciences Prof. Haim Wolfson, “with an open-minded academic approach, skill set, and expertise for key research posts in the army.”

Meanwhile, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an “external institute” of TAU, “operates seminar, workshop, and lecture programs jointly with the National Security College, IDF Command, and National Security Council.” At a December 2008 conference, the INSS head noted that “we are now on the threshold of Tel Aviv University campus and this proximity is more than geographical proximity of buildings — it is a fertile and mutually stimulating proximity.”

It was the INSS which published IDF Major-General (res.) Giora Eiland’s paper advocating “the destruction of homes and infrastructure and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people” in a future attack on Lebanon. The TAU-affiliated think tank also published a paperby Colonel (res.) Gabriel Siboni, recommending that the IDF devastates “economic interests,” “centers of civilian powers” and “state infrastructure” in Lebanon, as a way of “meting out punishment” that will “demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.”

Long, shameful legacy

These are some examples of TAU’s complicity with Israel’s colonial and criminal policies, a legacy that goes all the way to the Nakba: TAU campus includes land belonging to the destroyed village of Sheikh Muwannis, with the home of the former village sheikh now serving as the university’s faculty club. The case for boycott is much bigger than a politicized archaeological dig.

News of the petition came as final approval was given by Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the University Center of Samaria located in Ariel settlement to be granted full university status. This is a development also seen by some as a blow to efforts to fight the academic boycott campaign, with one petition arguing that the decision will mean “an inevitable identification between the entire Israeli academic community and the policy of settlements and occupation.” As BDS opponent Bar-Ilan Prof. Jonathan Rynhold put it: “[the Ariel upgrade] makes [the anti-boycott] case much more difficult to make.”

Yet that “identification” between Israeli academia and the occupation already exists – and the case for academic BDS rests on the intimate relationship of institutions like TAU with the fabric of the state’s security-military apparatus guilty of routine apartheid and war crimes as part of a decades-old military regime. Silwan and Ariel are just the tip of the iceberg, and the more this complicity is exposed, the harder it will be for international institutions to justify official links with Israeli universities.



===========================================================


THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2012

Silwan and Tel Aviv University

I began writing about the injustices in Silwan four years ago and returned to the subject in 2010 when it became a focus for protest by Solidarity, a movement now pretty much exhausted, alas. 

Silwan is the heart of East Jerusalem's Arab population, which the ultra-nationalist settler organization, Elad, has been trying to push back from the Old City's main entryway to the Jewish quarter, the Dung Gate. Elad is succeeding--with the help of a sympathetic rightist mayor, and the state's Antiquities Authority--by developing "The City of David," a kind of Jewish archaeological theme park, though any evidence that the excavations have anything to do with King David will persuade only the Bar-Mitzvah boys who flock to the place to earn their manhood.

Elad has also been putting up apartments for its cadres; its declared aim is to encircle the old city with Jews, and link up to Jewish neighborhoods to the north and east, preempting any redivision of sovereignty in the city.  (You can watch this "60 Minutes" report on Silwan, to get a more vivid picture.) Some of the excavations in question have been started over a hundred years ago, but there would be no "City of David," and no mistreatment of the local Arab neighborhood, without Elad, no Elad, without rightist money from abroad, and no Elad power over the place without the collusion of the Antiquities Authority. 

It is disgraceful, then, that some of Tel Aviv University's archaeologists are using the political umbrella created by this collusion to start a dig of their own, presumably independent of Elad, and organized purely for scientific research, but unimaginable apart from what Elad is doing there. I said earlier that the Solidarity movement is pretty much exhausted. That's because peace groups around the city have been simply overwhelmed by the momentum toward annexation engendered by the Netanyahu government and its allies. Institutions outside of Jerusalem--even those built on liberal standards--are simply accommodating to, "normalizing," the facts on the ground. 

The one hope we have to counter Tel Aviv University's surrender to this momentum is pressure, including international pressure, from scholars who refuse to let the university administration off the hook. Thus, the following letter, and its signatories.  You can join the petition by linking to this website.  You can also read about the whole affair in this Haaretz report.

Here is the letter:

We, members of the academic community in Israel and abroad, representing a wide range of disciplines, wish to protest recent developments that are taking place at Tel Aviv University with the full knowledge of the university administration. We understand that an agreement has been signed between representatives of TAU and the Israel Antiquities Authority, according to which the Institute of Archaeology will conduct excavations in the village of Silwan in Palestinian East Jerusalem. These excavations are funded at least in part by the Elad Foundation, which has legal control over the area called “City of David National Park.” 

The express intention of this Foundation is to “Judaize” the area known as the “Holy Basin,” including Silwan. It pursues this aim by gaining control, through purchase or other means, of houses in Silwan and by planting colonies of Israeli settlers, under armed guard, in the neighborhood. Elad also funds and oversees archaeological excavations and development of the National Park in Silwan as part of its ultra-nationalist program. 

The public nature of archaeological activity at this site, which is carried out in the open with direct impact on the lives of the Palestinian residents of the area, has spurred international bodies-- among them ICOMOS, the body that advises UNESCO on the subject of preservation and heritage, and which includes an Israeli representative-- to re-affirm that any professional intervention in a densely inhabited heritage site requires the cooperation of the local residents. In the absence of such cooperation, archaeological excavation in a built-up area becomes a one-sided, arbitrary governmental act and fails to meet the basic requirements of academic research. 

The planned excavation in Silwan will ostensibly take place in an area designated as a “National Park,” but it is adjacent to—only a few dozen meters away from—the homes of local residents and forms part of the general ideological project of the Elad Foundation. Excavations in this area are conducted under heavy protection by the Border Police and privately contracted security forces. 

Apart from the direct, deleterious impact of these excavations on the lives of the local residents, Tel Aviv University is about to enter indirectly into partnership with an extremist political organization—thereby establishing a de facto position on an issue that is at the center of crucial debate within Israel, with serious political and moral implications. In entering into such a partnership, Tel Aviv University will be granting the Elad Foundation the professional recognition it seeks, recognition that academic institutions in Israel and abroad have thus far refused to grant. 

We appeal to the administration of Tel Aviv University out of deep concern over its unseemly participation in such a project, involving one of its academic units in political activity camouflaged as an academic enterprise. This action will have an inevitable impact on the international reputation of scientific research in Israel—within and beyond the field of archaeology. 

At this time of increasing threats to the freedom of research in Israel, it is imperative that academic research remain untainted by overt political agendas. We therefore ask that the administration of Tel Aviv University direct the members of the Institute of Archaeology to desist immediately from their connection, direct or indirect, with the Elad Foundation and from any project that is funded, partly or in whole, by that foundation.

The list of signatories can be viewed here.

=============================================

http://www.alt-arch.org/tau_petition.php

PETITION: STOP THE EXCAVATIONS IN SILWAN
Academics call Tel-Aviv University to desist from their connection with Elad

We, members of the academic community in Israel and abroad, representing a wide range of disciplines, wish to protest recent developments that are taking place at Tel Aviv University with the full knowledge of the university administration. We understand that an agreement has been signed between representatives of TAU and the Israel Antiquities Authority, according to which the Institute of Archaeology will conduct excavations in the village of Silwan in Palestinian East Jerusalem. These excavations are funded at least in part by the Elad Foundation, which has legal control over the area called “City of David National Park.”

The express intention of this Foundation is to “Judaize” the area known as the “Holy Basin,” including Silwan. It pursues this aim by gaining control, through purchase or other means, of houses in Silwan and by planting colonies of Israeli settlers, under armed guard, in the neighborhood. Elad also funds and oversees archaeological excavations and development of the National Park in Silwan as part of its ultra-nationalist program.

The public nature of archaeological activity at this site, which is carried out in the open with direct impact on the lives of the Palestinian residents of the area, has spurred international bodies-- among them ICOMOS, the body that advises UNESCO on the subject of preservation and heritage, and which includes an Israeli representative-- to re-affirm that any professional intervention in a densely inhabited heritage site requires the cooperation of the local residents. In the absence of such cooperation, archaeological excavation in a built-up area becomes a one-sided, arbitrary governmental act and fails to meet the basic requirements of academic research.

The planned excavation in Silwan will ostensibly take place in an area designated as a “National Park,” but it is adjacent to—only a few dozen meters away from—the homes of local residents and forms part of the general ideological project of the Elad Foundation. Excavations in this area are conducted under heavy protection by the Border Police and privately contracted security forces.

Apart from the direct, deleterious impact of these excavations on the lives of the local residents, Tel Aviv University is about to enter indirectly into partnership with an extremist political organization—thereby establishing a de facto position on an issue that is at the center of crucial debate within Israel, with serious political and moral implications. In entering into such a partnership, Tel Aviv University will be granting the Elad Foundation the professional recognition it seeks, recognition that academic institutions in Israel and abroad have thus far refused to grant.

We appeal to the administration of Tel Aviv University out of deep concern over its unseemly participation in such a project, involving one of its academic units in political activity camouflaged as an academic enterprise. This action will have an inevitable impact on the international reputation of scientific research in Israel—within and beyond the field of archaeology.

At this time of increasing threats to the freedom of research in Israel, it is imperative that academic research remain untainted by overt political agendas. We therefore ask that the administration of Tel Aviv University direct the members of the Institute of Archaeology to desist immediately from their connection, direct or indirect, with the Elad Foundation and from any project that is funded, partly or in whole, by that foundation.


Signatures
1. Professor Aleida Assmann, University of Konstanz
2. Professor Jan Assman, University of Heidelberg, University of Konstanz
3. Professor Bernard Avishai, Dartmouth College
4. Professor Anita S. Barrows, The Wright Institute, Berkeley, California
5. Dr. Louise Bethlehem, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
6. Professor Kalman Bland, Duke University
7. Dr. Ben Bloch, clinical psychologist, Soledad, Calif
8. Professor Chana Bloch, Mills College
9. Professor Donald Bloxham, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh
10. Professor Janice Boddy, University of Toronto
11. Dr. Ellen Cantarow, Journalist
12. Professor Joseph H. Carens, University of Toronto
13. Professor Naomi Chazan, Hebrew University and Dean, School of Government and Society, the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo, former MK
14. Professor Mark Cohen, Princeton University
15. Professor Alon Confino, University of Virginia
16. Professor Edwin Daniel, FRSC (Fellow Royal Society of Fellows, Canada), University of Alberta
17. Professor Chandler Davis, University of Toronto
18. Professor Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University; University of Toronto
19. Professor Hent de Vries, Director, The Humanities Center, Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
20. Professor Michael Dietler, University of Chicago (Archaeology)
21. Professor Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago
22. Professor Debórah Dwork, Clark University
23. Professor Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
24. Professor Yaron Ezrahi, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
25. Professor Anita Clair Fellman, Old Dominion University
26. Professor Peter Fitting, University of Toronto
27. Professor Clive Foss, Georgetown University
28. Ms. Marcia Freedman, Former Member of Knesset
29. Dr. Elizabeth Freund, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
30. Professor Susan Gal, University of Chicago
31. Professor Luca Giuliani, Rektor, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
32. Dr. Amos Goldberg, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
33. Professor Barry Goldensohn, Skidmore College
34. Professor Anthony Grafton, Princeton University, Balzan Prize Recipient
35. Ms. Marilyn Hacker, Chancellor, Academy of American Poets
36. Professor Ian Hacking, Philosopher, University of Toronto, Companion of the Order of Canada
37. Professor Ruth HaCohen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
38. Professor Andras Hamori, Princeton University
39. Professor Peter Hilman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
40. Professor Galit Hasan-Rokem, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
41. Mr. Holland Hendrix, President Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
42. Professor John Haldon, Princeton University
43. Professor Gerald Hawting, Oxford
44. Dr. Judith Herrin, King's College, London
45. Professor Neil Hertz, Johns Hopkins University
46. Professor Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College
47. Mr. Norbert Hirschhorn, MD, poet, public health physician, London, England
48. Professor Barbara Hochman, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
49. Professor Baruch Hochman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
50. Professor Zvi Jagendorf, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
51. Professor Michael Lambek, FRSC, Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto
52. Professor Richard Borshay Lee, University of Toronto
54. Professor McKim Marriot, University of Chicago
55. Professor Michael Meltsner, Northeastern University
56. Professor Anita Mittwoch, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
57. Professor Ralph Nicholas, University of Chicago
58. Professor David Nirenberg, University of Chicago Founding Director of The Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society
59. Professor Alicia Ostriker, Rutgers University
60. Professor Jerry Ostriker, astrophysicist, Columbia University, former provost of Princeton
61. Professor Elaine H. Pagels, Princeton University, MacArthur Fellow
62. Professor Ilana Pardes, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
64. Professor Sheldon Pollock, Columbia University
65. Professor David S. Powers, Cornell University
66. Professor Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
67. Professor Marshall Sahlins, University of Chicago
68. Professor Jyotirmaya Sarma, University of Hyderabad
69. Professor Robert Schneider, University of Indiana, editor, American Historical Review
70. Professor Seth Schwartz, Columbia University
71. Professor Joan Wallach Scott, Princeton Institute for Advanced Study
72. Professor David Shulman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, MacArthur Fellow
73. Professor Dina Stein, University of Haifa
74. Professor Zeev Sternhell, Hebrew University; Fellow, The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
75. Professor Ann Laura Stoler, New School for Social Research
76. Professor Russell Tuttle, University of Chicago
77. Professor Alan Walmsley, University of Copenhagen (Archaeology)
78. Professor Michael Wayne, University of Toronto
79. Professor Abraham Udovitch, Princeton University
80. Professor Lucette Valensi, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
81. Professor Christian Wedemeyer, University of Chicago
82. Professor Donald Whitcomb, University of Chicago
83. Professor Chris Wickham, Oxford
84. Mr. C.K. Williams, Princeton University
86. Professor Dror Wahrman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
87. Professor Christoph Markschies, former Rektor of Humboldt University, Berlin
88. Dr. Tali Bitan, Haifa University 
89. Professor Patricia Crone, Princeton University, Institute of Advanced Studies
90. Professor Katharina Galor , Brown University, Program in Judaic Studies 
91. Professor Michael Steinberg, Brown University 
92. Dr. Chaim Noy, University of South Florida
93. Professor Guy Stroumsa, University of Oxford, Hebrew University, Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
94. Professor Sarah Stroumsa, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
95. Professor David N. Myers, University of California, Los Angeles
96. Professor Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert, , Stanford University
97. Professor Adam H. Becker, , New York University
98. Professor Gil Klein, , Loyola Marymount University
99. Dr. Daniel Breslau , Virginia Tech
100. Professor Aryeh Cohen,, American Jewish University 
101. Dr. Arietta Papaconstantinou, University of Reading
102. Dr. Josephine Crawley Quinn , Oxford University
103. Dr. Zuleika Rodgers, Dept of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Trinity College Dublin
104. Professor Mark Baker, Monash University, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation
105. Professor Paul L Scham, University of Maryland/Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studie
106. Professor Lawrence Rosenwal, Wellesley College/ Department of English
107. Professor Emeritus Gerald Schamess, Smith College School for Social Work
108. Professor William Marotti, UCLA Dept. of History
109. Professor Emeritus Gordon Schochet, Rutgers University, Department of Political Science 
110. Professor Emeritus Martin Shaw, University of Sussex
111. Dr. Lucian Reinfandt, University of Vienna



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