Architects back suspension of Israelis from international union

Jewish Chronicle,  20 March 2014

British architects have backed calls to suspend Israeli counterparts from their international union. The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) passed a motion proposed by its former president Angela Brady on Wednesday. She had campaigned for the organisation to urge the International Union of Architects (IAU) to suspend members of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) until "illegal projects" in the West Bank cease.

Israeli architects work to maintain the illegal occupation
Ms Brady and her supporters said the Israeli union had repeatedly ignored an IAU resolution and had helped sustain settlement building...the Institute's full council voted by 23 to 16, with 10 abstentions, to adopt the policy.

Ms Brady said the outcome was "a positive result for a positive way forward". The Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine group, led by campaigner Abe Hayeem, also supported her initiative.

Constructive Dialogue's Daniel Leon called the result hugely disappointing. He said his colleagues were considering their "ongoing membership of an organisation that might not want us as members".

Fuller article in Jewish Chronicle 20 March 2014

 

"On November 14, two days after Palestinian factions in Gaza agree to a truce following several days of violence, Israel assassinates the leader of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Jabari, threatening to escalate the violence once again after a week in which at least six Palestinian civilians are killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks. Although Israeli officials know that Jabari is in the process of finalizing a long-term truce, and that he is one of the few people in Gaza who can enforce it, they kill him anyway, marking the start of a week-long assault on Gaza that kills more than 100 Palestinian civilians, including at least 33 children, and wounds more than 1000 others."

Israel's History of Assassinating Palestinian Leaders
The IMEU, Nov 6, 2013

Israeli assassins - they also kill unarmed demonstrators
On November 6, several news outlets reported that the widow of former Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat announced that the results of a Swiss investigation into her late husband's death concluded he was poisoned with polonium, a radioactive substance.

In November 2012, Arafat's body was exhumed in order for medical examiners to take samples of his remains to test for polonium, part of a murder investigation launched by French authorities at the request of Suha Arafat following the discovery last summer of traces of the highly toxic substance on some of his personal effects. In October 2004, after enduring a two-year siege by the Israeli military in his West Bank headquarters, Arafat fell seriously ill. Two weeks later he was transported to a French military hospital where he died. Doctors concluded he died from a stroke caused by a mysterious blood disorder.

At the time, many Palestinians suspected that Arafat was murdered. Over the years, he had survived numerous assassination attempts by Israel, and just six months before his death then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that an agreement he had made with US President George W. Bush promising that Israel wouldn't kill Arafat was no longer valid, stating: "I released myself from the commitment in regard to Arafat."

Two years prior to that statement, in an interview published in February 2002, Sharon told an Israeli journalist that he regretted not killing Arafat when he had the chance during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, stating: "I am sorry that we did not liquidate him.'' In 2002, current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then in the opposition following his first term as prime minister (1996-1999), told the Likud party Central Committee: "We must completely and totally eradicate Arafat's regime and remove him from the vicinity... This one thing must be understood: If we do not remove Arafat and his regime, the terror will return and increase. And only if we do remove them is there any chance of turning a new leaf in our relationship with the Palestinians." When Arafat died, Netanyahu was serving as Minister of Finance in Sharon's government.

PARTIAL LIST OF ISRAELI ASSASSINATIONS OF PALESTINIANS
2012 - On November 14, two days after Palestinian factions in Gaza agree to a truce following several days of violence, Israel assassinates the leader of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Jabari, threatening to escalate the violence once again after a week in which at least six Palestinian civilians are killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks. Although Israeli officials know that Jabari is in the process of finalizing a long-term truce, and that he is one of the few people in Gaza who can enforce it, they kill him anyway, marking the start of a week-long assault on Gaza that kills more than 100 Palestinian civilians, including at least 33 children, and wounds more than 1000 others.

2012 - On March 9, Israel violates an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and assassinates the head of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair al-Qaisi, sparking another round of violence in which at least two dozen Palestinians are killed, including at least four civilians, and scores more wounded. As it usually does, Israel claims it is acting in self-defense, against an imminent attack being planned by the PRC, while providing no evidence to substantiate the allegation.

The full article is available at IMEU, 6 November 2013

Gabriel Piterburg on Facts on the Ground By Nadia Abu El-Haj

"...she has been vindicated by Israeli archaeologists themselves. A group of Israeli archaeologists that had been sent after the 1967 war by the state to dig the West Bank, where most of the biblical stories are supposed to have occurred, said, because they are honest archaeologists, "what we have found is that the biblical stories have no corroborating evidence outside the biblical text itself". This is the same argument that Nadia Abu El-Haj makes. The findings of these archaeologists triggered a big debate in Israel in the late 1990s and early 2000s."

facts on the ground
Q: Can you tell us about the controversy Facts on the Ground sparked when it was published?

A: Nadia Abu El-Haj is a Palestinian American, but from a younger generation than Edward Said. She did her doctorate in anthropology at the University of Chicago and published this book in 2001. It's important to tell the story of the controversy surrounding it because it really shows the lunacy of US politics and culture, especially when it comes to talking about Israel/Palestine. The book was picked up by an alumna of Barnard College in New York where Abu El-Haj teaches and was at the time a candidate for tenure. This alumna was an American Jewish settler in the Occupied [Palestinian] Territories. She started a campaign to deny Abu El-Haj tenure on the grounds that this was an anti-Semitic book, that she was an incompetent scholar who could not read Hebrew, and who falsified the topic she was studying. She basically wanted to see her fired. This thuggish attack engendered a wave of support for Nadia Abu El-Haj. Barnard College eventually dismissed the criticisms of her and she was given tenure.

Q: What can you tell us about the book?

A: The book itself is a study of the archaeology of Palestine as it was developed by the Israeli state as a continuation of the 19th century Christian tradition of unearthing the Bible and of finding archaeological remains in order to prove the historical veracity of the Old Testament and therefore the claim of the Jews over the Holy Land. In a way this is part of the myth of the return to the land of Israel, in which the Jews are not immigrating to Palestine and dispossessing the indigenous people, but are in fact returning and reclaiming what had been originally theirs, by divine right and archaeological proof.

What she did was to study the science of archaeology from the perspective of what one could call the criticism of knowledge – to show how knowledge is part of power, politics, of ideology of political purposes and specifically to show how this was part of the Zionist claim over Palestine and the emptying of this land – not only physically but also discursively and scientifically – of the Palestinians' presence. The author undertook a long period of research in Israel/Palestine, which was preceded by a very thorough study of Hebrew. She did extensive research in Israeli archives and journals and carried out interviews. What she was able to do was a very thorough empirical, documented study of Israeli archaeology and how it was part of ideologically and politically claiming the land and, as a consequence, disinheriting the Palestinians.

Q: Given that she is an anthropologist not an archaeologist, is she really qualified to take such a stand? It's surely unfair to criticise all Israeli archaeologists for being ideologically motivated?

A: I think this is sheer nonsense. The implication of this would be that you cannot criticise a field of knowledge unless you're a practitioner of it. It's like saying you can't be a critic of colonialism unless you are a colonial officer, because otherwise you don't really know the craft. Or you can't, as a lawyer, sue for medical malpractice because you're not a doctor. Historians study medieval guilds without being craftsmen and peasants and without having done a single day of agricultural work. EP Thompson wrote magnificently on working-class consciousness – last I hear, he wasn't exactly a member of the British working class.

I think she has been vindicated by Israeli archaeologists themselves. A group of Israeli archaeologists that had been sent after the 1967 war by the state to dig the West Bank, where most of the biblical stories are supposed to have occurred, said, because they are honest archaeologists, "what we have found is that the biblical stories have no corroborating evidence outside the biblical text itself". This is the same argument that Nadia Abu El-Haj makes. The findings of these archaeologists triggered a big debate in Israel in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Original piece in The Browser

David Recruited to Expel Palestinians  -  When Archaeology Becomes a Curse
by Jonathan Cook 28 September 2008

"...no physical evidence shows that King David ever used the buildings. Little more can be deduced than that the remains date to the Canaanite period 3,000 years ago. "Even if we did find a Hebrew inscription saying 'Welcome to King David's palace', that would not justify Elad's political aims. The residents of Silwan and their ancestors have been living here for hundreds of years and their rights cannot be ignored. Every time a Christian site is found in Israel should the Vatican be given the land and Israelis evicted from their homes?"

Fundamentalist Jewish settlers claim to have found King David's city
When news emerged in June that...dozens of skeletons from the early Islamic period unearthed in Silwan close to the al Aqsa mosque had been discarded without inspection, no archaeologist would speak on the record.

The Palestinian residents are used to living in the shadow of history and religion, given dramatic physical form as the great silver dome of the al Aqsa mosque and the looming presence of the Mount of Olives. But of late, history has become a curse for most of Silwan's residents.

"We have cameras everywhere watching us night and day," said Jawad Siyam, 39. "Armed Israeli guards wander through our alleys. Our open areas, the places where I played as a child, have become no-go zones."

The reason is the growing number of settlers who have moved into Silwan since the early 1990s claiming a biblical right to the land. At least 50 Jewish families, comprising 250 people, have taken over Palestinian homes dotted across Silwan and turned them into secure compounds over which Israeli flags flutter. Similar takeovers are occurring out of sight in other Palestinian areas of occupied East Jerusalem. The settler organisations, backed by private donors from abroad, hope to make a peace agreement impossible and so ensure East Jerusalem never becomes the capital of a Palestinian state.

But only in Silwan have the settlers defied the law so publicly, openly recruiting an array of official Israeli bodies, from the Antiquities Authority to the Jerusalem municipality. Silwan's takeover is being masterminded by a shadowy organisation known as Elad, which unusually has been preferred over the Nature and Parks Authority to run an important archaeological site in the village centre. With funding provided by secretive backers in Russia and the United States, Elad has transformed Silwan into the "City of David". Even the signposts in the area are oblivious to the existence of the Palestinian village and its tens of thousands of residents.

The heart of the City of David is an archaeological park that is being relentlessly extended into ever more corners of Silwan. "The settlers began by taking over homes around the site," said Mr Siyam, whose grandmother's home was one of the first to be seized in 1994 after her death. "Then they were given the main excavation site, and built new homes in the park. And now they are finding new sites, fencing off more land and digging under our houses." Many homes in Mr Siyam's neighbourhood have developed cracks in the walls, he said, after excavations began last year to unearth a drainage channel believed to be from the period of King Herod. Residents fear their foundations have been damaged. The dig was intended to run 600 metres underground to the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, but was halted by the courts in February after it emerged that the archaeologists were digging without licences. Nonetheless, Elad has recently begun work on other tunnels.

The organisation's main focus is the City of David site itself, over which it was given control in 1998 in a dubious deal with the Parks Authority and Jerusalem municipality. Elad has poured money into excavating the area and subcontracted Israel's main archaeological body, the Antiquities Authority, to oversee the uncovering of what appears to be the original location of Jerusalem. "This is an important site, but Elad has a very clear agenda," said Yonathan Mizrachi, a former archaeologist for the Antiquities Authority. "They want to use archaeology, even bogus archaeology, to provide cover for their political agenda of pushing Silwan's Palestinians out.

"What is so disturbing is that they seem to be setting the agenda of the Antiquities Authority, too." Mr Mizrachi and two other archaeologists have been leading alternative tours of the City of David since January in a bid to challenge Elad's claims that it has unearthed the 3,000-year-old palace of King David, thereby making Silwan the capital of an ancient Israelite kingdom.

But the dissident archaeologists face a Herculean task. Last year, 350,000 tourists were led around the site by Elad guides. The intermittent alternative tours are lucky to muster a dozen visitors. "If Elad can convince people that this was once the home of King David, then it will be easier for them to justify their takeover of Silwan and the removal of the Palestinian population," Mr Mizrachi said. The archaeologist in charge of the City of David excavations, Eilat Mazar, has ostensibly uncovered such evidence in the form of ancient stone walls she said belong to King David's palace. But Rafi Greenberg, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, who was among those excavating the site in the late 1970s, called the work being done under Elad's supervision "bad science". Once his concerns were widely and publicly shared by archaeologists in Israel. In the mid-1990s Elad faced a legal battle over its damaging of ancient relics. In 1997 the Antiquities Authority cautioned against handing the park over to Elad. And in 1998 archaeologists from Hebrew University in Jerusalem petitioned the Supreme Court over Elad's mismanagement of the City of David site.

However, as Elad's control of Silwan has tightened, and the City of David's popularity has grown, the voices of dissent have fallen quiet. The budget-constrained Antiquities Authority needs Elad's funding, and Israeli archaeologists, dependent on the Authority for work, dare not criticise its involvement with Elad openly. When news emerged in June that, in what the Antiquities Authority later admitted was "a serious mishap", dozens of skeletons from the early Islamic period unearthed in Silwan close to the al Aqsa mosque had been discarded without inspection, no archaeologist would speak on the record. Instead, it has been left mainly to international scholars, including renowned historians and archaeologists, to launch a petition demanding that the site be removed from Elad's control.

Mr Mizrachi said despite the City of David site being one of the most studied in Israel, no physical evidence shows that King David ever used the buildings. Little more can be deduced than that the remains date to the Canaanite period 3,000 years ago. "Even if we did find a Hebrew inscription saying 'Welcome to King David's palace', that would not justify Elad's political aims. The residents of Silwan and their ancestors have been living here for hundreds of years and their rights cannot be ignored. Every time a Christian site is found in Israel should the Vatican be given the land and Israelis evicted from their homes?" Such arguments have fallen on deaf ears.

According to a series of reports in the local media, the government, state archaeologists, the Jerusalem municipality and the police have all colluded with Elad and another settler organisation, Ateret Cohanim, in extending the settlers' control of Silwan. A series of court judgments going back more than a decade have found the settlers falsified documents to seize land and property from Palestinian families and that they built in contravention of local planning laws. The judgments have been ignored and the evictions gone unenforced by the police and the municipality. The Israeli government is also continuing to fund the security guards who keep watch over the illegal homes.

Last month, Yossi Havillo, Jerusalem's legal adviser, pointed out that the municipality's refusal to enforce a long-standing eviction order against eight families in a settlement known as Beit Yehonatan was likely to "arouse concern of discrimination and of the municipality's implementation of demolition orders against Arabs, but not against Jews". He was referring in part to a decision in 2005, under pressure from Elad, to order the demolition of 88 Palestinian homes in the Bustan neighbourhood, just below Elad's archaeological site. Uri Sheetrit, the city engineer, justified the demolitions on the grounds that the valley is liable to flooding. The orders were temporarily suspended under international pressure. In contrast, the municipality is still assisting in the expansion of Silwan's settlements. In May, it began approving a plan submitted by Elad for a new housing complex, synagogue, kindergarten, library and underground parking for 100 cars.

Councillors also backed the confiscation of land from nine private Palestinian owners to create a car park for the City of David. In July the courts overruled the decision. In a familiar pattern, said Mr Siyam, the day the court ruling was issued, the police raided the homes of the Palestinians who had filed the petitions and arrested them. Similar arrests occurred earlier in the year when residents petitioned the courts to halt the excavations under their homes.

Meanwhile, Shuka Dorfman, the director of the Antiquities Authority, recently told reporters that he was against "bringing politics into archaeology".

Report at Counterpunch 26 Sept 2008

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

World Archaeological Congress excludes Israelis from Ramallah
13th August 2009

Israel's Antiquity Authority bitterly condemned the World Archaeological Congress for failing to invite Israelis to a conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah.  This follows the departure of the Israeli Journalists from the international boby recently.

The Israeli State normally excludes all Israelis from visiting Ramallah, but consistency has never been a Zionist trait (save for dispossession and theft)

In a letter to WAC President Clair Smith Thursday, the IAA protested the organization of the conference, "which relates specifically to the conduct of Israeli archaeology, but, to our knowledge, Israeli archaeologists were not invited nor were they informed."

Dahari was angry at the use of Palestinian names for the sites such as Haram al-Sharif for the Temple Mount, since Israel is in the middle of a long-term programme of obliterating Palestinian names, history and memory, with the active connivance of the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

"It would be best if the WAC would focus on archeology and not on politics," said Dahari, on behalf of the highly politicised IAA, without a doubt one of the most politicised archaeological associations in the world.

Report from UPI here

See related articles:

Corrupt Israeli archaeology in the service of ethnic cleansing

King David Recruited to Expel Palestinians When Archaeology Becomes a Curse
Le Monde diplomatique: Myths of Zionism shattered, Zionist political 'amnesia' challenged
Israeli archaeological vandalism - artefacts inconvenient to rabid Zionists were 'disappeared'
Challenges mounting to Zionist archaeology that ethnically cleanses the past

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