Wednesday 13 March 2013

[New Title] Archaeology, My Foot!

The original title of this article was
"Biblical Archaeology is Just a Cover For the Forces Trying to Take Over the World!"
Please allow me to rescind that one, in the interest of one showing at least a modicum of sensitivity.

Believe it or don't, my intent was to draw attention to a fictive 'force' of Christian Fundamentalists, Christian Supremacists, and Christianists in general, who seem bent on turning the United States into a Christian Theocracy along the lines of the Islamic Theocracies with which we're all familiar. As far as the article discussed below is concerned, these groups of oftentimes pseudo-archaeologists seem to be able to get permission to dig on the West Bank with little else than a hope to find something that would give evidence of the Bible's historicity.

As an atheist, I can hardly favour one or another group of zealots. So ...

I apologize to everyone whose feelings are bruised in the following. Obviously, what I hoped would be a title to hook a large audience turned out, instead, to get imbedded in my own cheek.

So, as the Overture to the Bugs Bunny Show used to say, "On with the show, this is it."

The Biblical Pseudo-Archeologists Pillaging the West Bank
The February 28, 2013.

I dunno who's more to blame for the wholesale desecration of "The Holy Land." It might be the Israeli authorities, the Israeli Defense Force, the Christianists, or all of the above. [What a confection that would make!]

Qumran, near Jerusalem. Wikipedia.
Riddle: Which biblical archaeologist can excavate on the Israeli occupied West Bank but not in Israel? Answer: the people who've botched up their legal excavations within Israel's pre-1967 borders, that's who! 

And who has the authority to issue permission to biblical archaeologists wishing to excavate within the Israeli occupied West Bank? The Israeli government? Nope. The Palestinian Authority? Nope. The Israeli Defense Force? Yes and No. It's complicated. 

Since 1967 the Israeli Defense Force has excavated more than 6,000 [yep] sites on the Occupied West Bank. All [and they mean all] of the booty spoils of war items collected are stored in warehouses within the bounds of pre-1967 Israel. Now, get this, one guy's in charge of it all. The guy's name is Himzi. Here's the gist of the situation, as it appears in The

For those allowed to dig, however, strict guidelines exist to facilitate the transfer of any artifacts discovered to Israeli military control. According to Ziad al-Khatib, Bethlehem regional commander for the Palestinian Antiquities Police, "The Civil Administration works within the borders of the West Bank and moves items into the Israeli areas," he said. "They decide which items to be kept, which to move out of the country."
Al-Khatib describes this system as "legal theft." Though the Hague Convention disallows moving artifacts out of occupied territory, the Civil Administration transfers huge numbers of them to storage units in disputed Israeli settlement blocs, and others to universities and museums inside Israel. The officer behind these operations works in tandem with foreign archaeologists ... in a system that discreetly siphons thousands of artifacts out of the Palestinian territories.
The entrance to the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration (ADCA) is an unassuming steel gate tucked between rows of flowering hedges. The compound consists of three flat-topped units arranged in a "C", their walls painted a blinding shade of white with thick blue lines along the top. In the middle, a rock and flower garden is arranged inside a lawn of dusty synthetic turf.
The ADCA is a notoriously secretive organization whose leader, the Staff Officer for Archaeology (SOA)---an elusive man named Hananya Hizmi---enjoys a staggering amount of power within his jurisdiction. He is immune from oversight, exempt from excavation licenses for his own digs, enjoys a lifetime term, and is not required to publish his finds, the majority of which reside in storage facilities under his sole control. The West Bank is, in effect, his personal sandbox, and he is loath to divulge information about his operations.

Shown below is a screen capture I made of the interactive map published in the same Atlantic article, by which you can learn only the most minimal information on the more than 6,000 sites overseen or excavated by the aforementioned IDF, under Hizmi's control---and only his control [so far as the authors were able to determine]. O' course, if you want anything more than the minimal information provided by this map, I wish you good luck. According to the authors, you're not gonna find it.

From The Atlantic 
So as not to keep you in suspense 'til you make it to the article in question, here's an example of the quality [using the term loosely] of information this interactive map thingy supplies. Keep in mind this is all that anyone is allowed to know. I clicked on one at random, at the southwestern extreme of the Occupied West Bank. Et, voilà!

Although the Atlantic article focusses on the whack-os who profess to be scientific and say they're looking for evidence of literal biblical history, it's really an open question as to whether or not such endeavors are anything more than fishing expeditions hoping to retrieve whatever they can to use as Medieval-style relics to take home to show the soon-to-be-fleeced Christianist flocks. On the other hand, maybe they're loafing expeditions. ... ... ...

*crickets chirping*

[You know! Loaves and fishes? The New Testament? Seriously. You don't get it? Well, no matter. I think I just explained it. BTdub, I apologize for my sometimes errant self-professed humour. However, I take no responsibility for the presence (or absence) of cultural sensitivity on behalf of my (occasionally) funny bone.]

It's been fun. We'll chat later.

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  1. If you're going to try and pass yourself off as an authority on the subject, you could at least stay within the boundaries of International Law. According to that Law, all the land from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea is the legal property of the Jewish people. Muslim militias and armies tried to prevent Israel's establishment and were almost successful. When they tried to finish us off in 1967 they suffered a humiliating defeat and we took back control of land that should've been ours without anybody questioning it or trying to murder us. Compare the vast areas of land ceded to Muslims in the period following WWI. Tell me why this tiny tract of land is so important to you that you're willing to facilitate our destruction?

  2. Sorry if I touched a nerve. As an anthropologist, I'm aware that history is written by the victors. So, with all due respect, I must ask, "Whose 'international law' are we talking about here?" Babylonian? Assyrian? Greek? Egyptian? Hasmonian? Herodian? Roman? The Caliphate? Byzantine? Ottoman? The 1921 League of Nations British Mandate? The 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II)? The 1948 World Zionist Organization's unilateral declaration of independence? The 1949 Armistice agreements? The spoils of the 1967 Six-Day War? Those of the 1973 Yom Kippur War?
    I'm afraid I'll need some clarity on this before I can reasonably respond to your grossly false accusation that I'm in any way facilitating, condoning or otherwise conscioning the destruction of Israel.

  3. Dangerous ground, Rob. Brave and basically right, but you must expect that nerves will be touched. The bad guys are super vigilant on this one.

    Always good to keep reminding ourselves of the Balfour Declaration without which this whole sorry mess might not have happened.

    His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.


  4. @Anonymous
    It's been pointed out to me that the original title of the post on which you commented involved a hastily written, unreflexive, and truly unfortunate allusion to other times and places in the tragic history of Judaism. So, I've changed the title and included an apology at the beginning. I hope it's accepted in the manner in which it's offered.


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