Neve Gordon: Decries politicization of archaeology in East Jerusalem dig





"Archaeology has become a weapon of dispossession," Yonathan Mizrachi, an Israeli archaeologist, said in a recent telephone interview with us. He was referring to the way archaeology is being used in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in the oldest part of Jerusalem, where, we believe, archaeological digs are being carried out as part of a concerted campaign to expel Palestinians from their ancestral home.

That effort is orchestrated by an Israeli settler organization called Elad, a name formed from Hebrew letters that stand for "to the City of David." For several years, Elad has used a variety of means to evict East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers. Today Silwan is dotted with about a dozen such outposts. Moreover, practically all the green areas in the densely populated neighborhood have been transformed into new archaeological sites, which have then been fenced and posted with armed guards. On two of these new archaeological sites, Jewish homes have already been built.

Although the balance of power is clearly in the settlers' favor, Silwan's residents have begun a campaign, "Citizens for Silwan," to stop the excavations. They are joined by a number of noted international scholars and a handful of Israeli academics, who are trying to help them remain in their homes. Among those involved are David A. Bell, dean of faculty and professor of the humanities at the Johns Hopkins University; Judith Butler, professor of rhetoric and comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley; Lorraine Daston, director of Berlin's Max Planck Institute for the History of Science; Natalie Zemon Davis, professor of history emerita at Princeton University; Rashid Khalidi, professor of Arab studies at Columbia University; Thomas W. Laqueur, professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley; Sheldon Pollock, professor of Sanskrit and Indian studies at Columbia University; Marshall Sahlins, professor of anthropology and social sciences emeritus at the University of Chicago; and Robert A. Schneider, professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington and editor of The American Historical Review. We joined David Shulman, professor of South Asian studies, and Yaron Ezrahi, professor of political science, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as Israeli signatories. Notably absent from the list are prominent Israeli archaeologists, many of whom depend on funds from the Israel Antiquities Authority....

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