Friday, February 22, 2013

Palestinian Oxymorons Threaten Israeli Archaeology? - Where else but the Washington Post

CAMERA Snapshots..
21 February '13..

Several paragraphs of The Washington Post article “In Israel’s Herod exhibit, Palestinians see cultural theft; Museum displays artifacts excavated from West Bank site” (February 14) read like they belong more appropriately in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.

The Post reports that the director-general of something called the Palestinian Authority’s Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage faults the Jewish state of Israel for displaying artifacts from Herodium in the Israel Museum. Herodium was a palace-fortress built 2,000 years ago by Herod the Great, King of Judea. What’s Arabic for chutzpah?

A few paragraphs are missing from this report by The Post’s Joel Greenberg. They would be the ones from archaeologists and historians pointing out that the Arabs who began calling themselves Palestinians only in the 20th century have no historical, religious, ethnic or national connection to the Judean artifacts on exhibit in the Israel Museum.

The article’s lead paragraphs make clear that material in the exhibit was found at Herodium, built by Herod, a Roman-era king of Judea—that is, king of the Jews and their land. Yet it relays with a straight face, without contradictory context, criticism from Palestinian Arabs that Israeli removal of artifacts from Herodium for display in Israel “violates international law and appropriates cultural property that should remain in the West Bank, which the Palestinians seek as part of a future state.”

The Post never mentions that “West Bank” is the term Jordan, during its illegal occupation from 1948 to 1967, applied to the territories widely known previously as Judea and Samaria. Likewise, the article quotes no source to point out the obvious: Even if the West Bank were to become part of a future Palestinian Arab state, the archaeological strata beneath it would not suddenly become “Palestinian.”

That’s because there was no Palestinian Arab antiquity. Prior to 1920, Palestinian Arabs were not a discrete national, religious, ethnic, or linguistic group (see, for example, Daniel Pipes’ “1920: The Year The Arabs Discovered Palestine".)

The layers of archaeologically significant artifacts beneath the West Bank, under Judea and Samaria, include Canaanite, Israelite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Jewish, Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader, and Turkish. But they don’t include Palestinian Arab, any more than pre-World War I layers of Balkan archaeology include Yugoslav. That identity, like Palestinian, was a 20th century political construct.

At some point in an article dealing with the past’s loud echoes in the present, The Post usefully might have reminded readers that today’s Palestinian Arabs have no connection to the ancient Philistines, a Mediterranean Sea people who settled in and around what today is the Gaza Strip. Babylonia defeated Judea, but it destroyed Philistia.

Too much history for one Post article? Yet the paper managed to quote an Israeli archaeologist from a group worried that the Israel Museum’s Herodium exhibit “served efforts by the government and Jewish settlers to appropriate West Bank sites as part of Israel’s national heritage.”

No appropriation is needed. Jewish archaeological sites are by history and by definition part of the national heritage of the Jewish state and the Jewish people, regardless of any future political disposition of the surface above them.


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1 comment:

  1. The criticism in the article of criticism in "Love of the Land" does not go far enough. Pipes dates Palestinian nationalism to 1920 based on what Porath says in his book “The Emergence of the Palestinian Arab National Movement 1918 – 1929. But examination of Porath's book shows it does not support Professor Pipes.

    I show through the reports of Major General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest ranking defector from the Soviet bloc, that the Arabs didn’t discover Palestinian Arab Nationalism. The Soviet “dezinformatzia” or experts on disinformation discovered it for them. I show it was discovered in 1964 when it first appeared in the preamble to the PLO charter, drafted in Moscow along with a claim corroborated only by a contemporaneously formed Palestinian National Council. The year 1964 also marked the creation of the Palestine National Council. Its 422 members, each hand picked by the KGB affirmed the existence of the Palestine Arab People in that preamble and their motivation to obtain political self determination also shown in the preamble.

    Inconsistent with this view is Professor Porath’s book in 1976 entitled “The Emergence of the Palestinian Arab National Movement 1918 – 1929 that suggests such a movement emerged much 1920. I show this as a comment to the blog of Professor Pipes referred to in the criticism.

    Dr. Pipes relies on Professor Porath's book "The Emergence of the Palestinian Arab National Movement 1918-1929" for his conclusion on the early emergence of Nationalism in the Arab population of Palestine.
    Porath's book doesn't document a nationalism movement of the kind that the Basques and Kurds have had for many years. That is the kind motivated by a desire for political self determination limited to a specific ethnic, cultural, or religious group. It documents only the rise of a movement in Palestine of a national anti-Zionist movement. Professor Porath's student, Professor Efraim Karsh, in his most recent book “Palestine Betrayed”, soon to become Director of the Middle East Forum when Dr. Pipes leaves, also says that "there wasn't the commonality in 1948 that I think is needed" for the Basque and Kurd kind of nationalism motivated by a positive movement for political self determination and not solely a negative movement against Zionism See. pp 239-241. And see: his "Misunderstanding Arab Nationalism", Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2001, pp. 59-61.