The Politics of Archaeology

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by Neil Godfrey

We laugh now at the idea that the Soviets and Nazis used scientific research to buttress their ideologies but archaeology is still being used to support nationalist ideologies and justify illegal occupations today. From Ynetnews:

Culture Minister Miri Regev has ordered the Israel Antiquities Authority to put plans in motion to undertake far-reaching archeological restoration of many historical Jerusalem sites, in a bid to strengthen Jewish bonds to the ancient city. . . .

“The immense importance of the archeological digs taking place in Jerusalem cannot be questioned. The digs are uncovering the deep roots we have in our land,” Israel Antiquities Authority Chairman Israel Hasson in a letter to Regev.

“The digs’ results provided the appropriate response to anyone wishing to dispute our right to Jerusalem, alongside the fact the sites are a tourist attraction of the highest order and research being conducted there is foremost in the world,” Hasson added.

Regev herself told Yedioth Ahronoth that the desire to strengthen Jewish bonds to the city was at the heart of the initiative. “Even if (Palestinian Authority President) Mahmoud Abbas made an effort to dig hundreds of meters into the ground he will not find a Palestinian coin from 2,000 or 3,000 years ago,” she explained.

H/T PaleoJudaica.com

I thought the Palestinians were in large part the descendants of the people of the Palestine of 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. See Keith Whitelam’s Rhythms of Time.


The God El (statue here is from Megiddo) was worshiped by Palestinians prior to the rise of the kingdom of Judah and was subsequently adopted by the priests of that Palestinian kingdom.
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22 thoughts on “The Politics of Archaeology”

  1. Yep, the people the immigrants are supplanting appear to be the same people. Just because Palestinians changed religions in the past couple thousand years they apparently lost their right to live in their homes.

  2. The God worshiped is not in question, that is not as important to the question of who the land belongs to. The land belongs to the Jews living in the land and the other ten tribes that are still in the diaspora. But will soon return back to their home land given to them by GOD. Why because that is what our oldest records say. Another reason, they (Israel) took it in conquest so it now belongs to them. If they have to give it back, then The United States government should give back all the land they took(stole) from Grandpa Louie and his people.

    1. I don’t think you really mean that there are only two options: either 1) dispossess, kill, drive out, steal, on the one hand, or 2) leave, return everything, go back to European countries and ask to be resettled where their ancestors were “originally”, on the other hand.

      How about 3), accepting the fact that there are now two people there and for the one with the power to guarantee justice and equal rights to the one without the power? Justice and equal rights, some would say, are the foundations of a stable society.

      Is not that third option the best? Have a read of Whitelam’s Rhythms of Time that I linked in the post.

      1. Neil, I did read the linked article and would agree that there is a “rhythm of time” but the writer seems to not understand that rhythm and whom is the one behind it. Therefore, his hermenutic is incorrect, thus any conclusion he draws will not be completely accurate. There are only two options as I see it. The Arab people regardless of what label is placed on them have to accept that the land belongs to the state of Israel. One could argue from a biblical / religious position based on the text of the Hebrew bible or one could argue from the position that the ruling power that wins the war gets the land. It happened 3000 years ago, and was repeated in 1948 and 1967. (By the way the same principle applied in 1776.) It will happen again. Israel will take more land! It’s only a matter of time. We could use recent American history as an example of the way the world works.

        I would suggest the Arabs submit to the Government in charge. Israel for the most part treats Arabs much better then they are treated by the Arabs. Maybe, what Israel should have done is used the playbook of the American government and treat the Arabs like the South was treated after the war of 1865 and starve those that lost the war into submission. It worked really well on both the Southerns and the American Indians. One hundred and 150 years later they still are afraid to raised their heads and come off the reservation. Does anyone, living in America today, really think the US Government will treat Arabs /Muslims as well as Israel has for the last 50 years, if they try the same S.O.P. here. I was in Israel in the mid 90’s and wonder if the next person who stepped on the bus was the one on a jihad. I’ve have seen the blood stained walls, when a bus was blown all over them.

        The Israel government is not perfect but they try to exhibit the morals and values taught in their cultural and religious text. Why do you think the world holds Israel to a different standard then the standard they exhibit? The west has poured so much money into the middle east. If that money had been used correctly(by the Arabs) the middle east would be one of the primer tourist attractions in the world. The wealth and standard of living would be on par or greater then that in the greatest cities of Europe or America. But what do they do, starve the people and spend billion and maybe trillions to fight an ideological battle they can never win. Why? Because everybody wants a little piece of land that God gave to the Descents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob= Israel. If anyone does not believe the previous statement, there’s really no way to have a meaning dialogue with such a person.

        Your 3rd. point is a non-starter. America is the proof of that. What little justice the people of the South and the American Indians get is form the ruling power. Anyone living in America knows that life is good, even for poor people. Why else would rest of the world want to come here. As for justice and equal rights, the Arabs have that if they live in Israel and obey the laws. Could it be better, Yes! Any situation or circumstance can always be improved.

        The world must accept that the creator chose Israel and gave them a piece of land, a place as a base of operation, as the one group that will lead and teach the rest of mankind how to relate with their creator and with their fellowman. The sooner we start listening the sooner we will have true peace and prosperity beyond our imagination.

        1. You say “The world must accept that the creator chose Israel and gave them a piece of land”.
          But what if Yahweh is not the “creator” and the land was given to the Arabs by Allah? After all, it was also taken away before from the self-proclaimed “chosen”.
          And what if neither Yahweh nor Allah created the world and no one “gave” the land to anyone. It was just taken based on some ancient myths. The Arabs and the Jews are really the same people, just call their gods by different names and apply the “shalom” and the “salaam” only to their kin while hating the others as they have always done in Biblical times.

          “What has been will be again,
          what has been done will be done again;
          there is nothing new under the sun.” KOHELETH (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

        2. marty, all of the arguments I see in favour of Israel and opposed to the Arab claims are of one sort: they all speak of some grand narrative, sometimes that includes God as the guider of events, other times it speaks of existential threats to the Jews, geographic areas, the fundamental goodness of the Jews and the fundamental badness of the Arabs, etc.

          The arguments that persuade me are of a different kind. They speak of the daily lives of the Arabs, what particular families experience in the West Bank when they travel to a hospital or go out to harvest their crop, the family possessions they have kept as momentos from an earlier time, the reality of the daily lives of individuals and families in their homes, on their streets.

          Those individual and family stories are the reality of today and they have been there for tens of generations, even right back to ancient times. It is those stories that are lost, or simply denied a voice, in the grand narratives of the powerful.

          1. The concept of democracy cannot assure minorities of any rights unless the majority actually wishes it so. If a minority does not believe that the majority would guarantee their rights, the minority may resort to tyranny. The majority tyrannize the minority by default except when the minority possess objective power to resist it. Only a small part of the population would make sacrifices for the other. The only real way to balance this conflict is to have a plurality of groups rather than two so that no one group outweighs all others.

            This is exactly what is happening in the US right now. The white Christian male feels aware he is becoming a minority and his privileges are waning, so he naturally resorts to tyranny to curtail this loss. In reality white Christians will actually be much better off in a plural society, but they are the only ones who don’t know it and still possess significant power.

            1. I don’t see how this addresses the point I was making. I am talking about the way Zionist Israel is justified by means of grand narratives, geopolitical, racial-historical, biblical, etc. while support for Palestinians is grounded, more often, on the daily experiences of West Bank and Gaza inhabitants.

              1. Because the grand narrative you are referring to only appeals to a powerful minority in Israel. Even though they are a minority, they have the power to oppress the majority, and there is nothing the majority can do about it in spite of superficially purporting to be a democracy.

              2. The grand narrative I am referring to appears by any objective measure to have the overwhelming support of the majority of Israeli citizens — if election results are any guide.

                I am not addressing “democracy” at all. I am addressing public relations, propaganda, mass media, shaping of public opinion, fundamental biases, both collective and personal. I don’t know by what measures you ascertain that only a “minority” of Israeli citizens subscribe to the grand narrative view of their historical identity.

        3. The world must accept that the creator chose Israel and gave them a piece of land, a place as a base of operation, as the one group that will lead and teach the rest of mankind how to relate with their creator and with their fellowman. The sooner we start listening the sooner we will have true peace and prosperity beyond our imagination.

          Utter hogwash!
          I could well imagine professional archaeologists such as Israel Finkelstein going purple with embarrassment as such a stupid, and erroneous statement that does nothing but incite hatred.

          What the Israeli government needs to do is get together with every religious leader, and finally admit that their religion and their god are simply make-believe and invite Christian and Muslim leaders to enter genuine dialogue.

          1. ”…If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

            “The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

            Mark Twain, Concerning The Jews, Harper’s Magazine, 1899

            1. Wowee!! So the Jews are really God’s angels walking on this earth! We should all bow down at their feet and worship them, yes? Expel or kill anyone who dares lift a finger against God’s chosen?

              Or maybe we can read more sober historical explanations for the prominence of Jews in society: Still Chosen After All These Centuries: Readings on Modern Jewish Experiences

              Of course, the Persians are still in Persia today; the Canaanites (some of whom became identified with the kingdom of Israel or Samaria and others with the kingdom of Judah) are still in the Levant today, including the West Bank and Gaza, the Arabs are still in Arabia, the aboriginal peoples of Australia are still in Australia, the Chinese races are still in China, the Balinese are still in Bali. . . . but these are all invisible when we gaze in awe on the mythical trappings surrounding the race that give meaning to our own religious and cultural heritage!

              1. That’s a bit selective. There are many cultures we know about from ancient writings which don’t exist anymore.

                All cultures which existed before writing existed in their region are lost. Artifacts are not culture.

                Culture changes over time so the claim that Persians today are the same culture as Persians from 2000 years ago is just false. They just keep using the same name, but even the language is only faintly similar. I work with a Persian and we were just talking about how much Persian is actually borrowed from French. French certainly didn’t exist 2000 years ago.

              2. You’re not following the discussion. Read the context and what I was responding to.

                (No one would argue that the Jews today are the same as the “Jews” of the kingdom of the first temple era, either, by the way.)

            2. It occurred to me many years ago that Hebrews invented the concept of the national identity movement as a survival response to the various major empires repeatedly marching through their land on the way to attack other major empires.

              The Romans did pick up the concept of the national identity before or during the formation of Christianity. They wondered the same thing as they tried to suppress the Jews. The provinces of the Roman Empire dissolved into the various nation states of Europe which fought over the leadership of the Holy Roman Empire while being remaining separate national identities.

              Christianity itself actually diversifies the national identity, separating it from the Jews and giving it to the Gentiles. Christianity also invented the concept of brainwashing. The process of becoming a Christian in the Pauline doctrine is a process of cleansing the mind, which was perhaps instrumental in installing national identity. Religiosity and national identity always seem so intertwined.

              But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

              Destroy your self-esteem and install this computer virus.

    2. No “god” or “God” has ever given any land to anyone. Invent a god, call yourself his chosen, and everything you do is all right because “he” says so.

    3. No way. its merely a re-enactment of the Biblical presentation. “In the Biblical presentation of the invasion of Palestine two facts are clearly recognised. These are, firstly, that the Israelites took over a civilisation which others had created –“great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not; and houses full of all the good things; which thou filledst not; and cisterns hewn out, which thou hewedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not.” (Deut 6:10-11). In the second place, it is stated that the native Palestinians would not be driven out “in one year; lest the land become desolate”; but according to the ‘prophecy’, “little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. (Deut 8:7-9).” In the eyes of the invaders, relatively few in numbers and coming from the desert, Palestine, brought by the Canaanites to an advanced stage of development, appeared as an altogether desirable and satisfying land. “ – “Nisi Dominus – A Survey of the Palestine Controversy” by Nevill Barbour (1946)

  3. After the the return by the messiah king Cyrus, the Deuteronomist and Yahwist scribes who first identified El and Yahweh, in turn identified their deity with the king’s Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda and replaced the name with Adonai, the Lord.

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