More on “Southern Exposure”

Readers of Gershom’s last post may be interested in an article I published in Nature last year on Elad’s role in running the site of the City of David excavations.

As I reported in the same journal earlier this month, a group of Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists recently unveiled a draft agreement about how archaeological sites and artifacts would be treated under a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

As Gershom notes, every historical or archaeological site can provide the basis for a variety of different stories. True, archaeological artifacts and sites provide hard facts that limit the kinds of stories you can tell. A Palestinian scholar who proclaimed that City of David structures dating from the eighth or ninth century BCE were actually from the early Islamic period would have a hard time getting anyone to take his case seriously because we know from other sites that buildings built in those periods have distinct styles and methods of construction. An Israeli who tried to argue that Arabs never ruled Jerusalem would run up against all those layers of Muslim and Arab remains that excavators have found all around the city.

But the facts are ambiguous enough to allow competing interpretations. An archaeological site open to the public should present vistors with the interpetations that are under serious academic debate. So if there are official tours of the City of David, they should summarize for visitors the current debate over the dating of key finds from the early Iron Age (the reigns of Kings David and Solomon, in biblical terms). They should also make note of the full range of the site’s history–Israelite, Islamic, Crusader, modern.

This does not mean that Israelis and Jews need be embarrassed to stress that the City of David and other such sites are of unique importance to our national history and culture. It’s only natural for Israeli visitors to the site to be interested primarily in what the site has to say about their own nation and identity. It’s right and proper for Jews to feel an intense bond to places and historical events recorded in their people’s literature and to be excited when archaeologists unearth finds that jive with and enrich the biblical account. But this pride need not and should not be exclusive. It is strongest when it does not seek to affirm our own identities by denying those of others.

If we and the Palestinians sign a peace agreement and then proceed to denigrate, or worse destroy, each other’s archaeological heritage, the peace will not last long. Neither will it last long if one or both nation feels it must give up its own stories. The strongest, most durable peace will be between two nations that are proud of their heritage, intent on maintaining it, yet open to listening to and acknowledging the stories from the other side.



10 thoughts on “More on “Southern Exposure””

  1. Arafat refused to sign a peace agreement that would have handed him total control of the Har HaBayit in return for him signing a scrap of paper saying that the Jews also view it as a holy site. I believe it was over this matter that Arafat told Clinton he would have been assassinated if he agreed to it. So your pious hope that “each side acknowledge the story of the other side” is merely wishful thinking, at least on the part of the Arabs. The Arabs refuse to recognize ANY Jewish rights in Eretz Israel and claim that the Biblical history of the Jewish people in Eretz Israel is a fraud. Any Arab who goes against this will be viewed as a traitor to his people. Tzippi Livni, in an interview in the New York Times, when confronted with this question said “the Palestinians have their ‘narrative’, and we have ours, but I don’t want to talk about it….instead lets talk about the future. In other words, she, like most of the political Establishment in Israel, is embarrassed to talk about Jewish rights (in fact, a new book by an Israeli historian confirms that the Arabs are right, Jewish history and the Bible are a gigantic fraud and that the Palestinians are the real “Hebrews” of the Bible), so the Arab can claim that in denying any rights to the Jewish people, he is simply demanding “justice”. How can our deJudaized leaders stand up against a claim like that if they don’t believe in their own side’s justice?

  2. Y.Ben David seems to have some aggression problems that support his “home-grown Arab intolerance”.Get a life instead of exhibiting your bigotry.Palestinians are Palestinians ,Saudis ,the closest thing to Arabs in the truesense, are Arabs ,Syrians aren’t Arabs ,Iranians aren’t Arabs and so on.The only thing that can really be called Arab is the language of the Koran. Your rantings against Arabs remind me of my Southern Anglo-Saxon brothers who refer to all folks darker than they as”niggers”.Mr. Y.Ben David you would fit right in with the “Jim Crow” bigots if blacks were what ever his definition of Arabs is.

  3. The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly recognized Israel, Y, what do you want? Do you think the Arabs should all become Zionists?

  4. Mr Burns,

    The Palestinian Authority has never “recognized” Israel. What they said was they “recognize” the fact that the State of Israel exists, and they signed a partial, temporary cease-fire with Israel. Arafat said this explicitly at the time of the signing of the Oslo Agreements in speeches in Johannesburg and Stockholm. Also, just recently, PA Chief Abbas himself said the current opposition to “armed resistance” of his FATAH faction is due to it being ineffective under present conditions but it remains an option for the future. Don’t forget that all Palestinian factions said they will never agree to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” or the “Homeland of the Jewish people”. No Arab leader in the Middle East has ever said that the Jews have a legitimate claim to a state, nor will they ever under current conditions. Israeli and other Jewish “progressives” will say “there are two people living in this land, and it is only right to divide it”. The Arabs do NOT recognize any such thing and deny the rights of the Jews to a state. I challenge you to name one Arab leader who does, including those who have signed “peace agreements” with Israel. Signing a cease-fire agreement is NOT the same as agreeing to real peace.

    Mr Hilborn,

    It was Nasser himself who defined an Arab as someone one speaks Arabic and identifies himself with Arabic culture (Islam is a major factor in this for the large majority of Arabs, but there is a dwindling minority of Christian Arabs who have a lot of identity problems as a result). Thus Syrians are “Arabs”, and indeed, they did join the so-called “United Arab Republic” along with Egypt for a few years. There is an “Arab League” with over 20 member states. They don’t view Arab as a racial category as you do.
    Your calling me a racist simply confirms your lack of ability to counter what I wrote.

  5. Y,

    Please point to one official Israeli statement acknowledging the right of Palestinian Arabs to a state. As for the “right to exist as a Jewish state” it is a ridiculous claim–what other state in the world demands that other states formally recognize its “right to exist” or the the dominance of its dominant ethnic group?

  6. As for the political heirs of David Ben Gurion and George Washington demanding that the Palestinians formally renounce violence as a tool in their political struggle, it is an unfunny joke.

  7. Nasser wasn’t an Arab Mr.Ben David as such . When Israel was in Egypt before the Exodus , where does it say they lived among the Arabs.I find your support exclamations are intellectually dishonest.The Nazis tried to support their racial bigotry by twisting the facts ,history,and social anthropology. Why don’t you admit it your are biased against a whole people because some of their leaders have the audacity to make the same claims certain Zionists do.As I see it Sharon’s goal to make the map of Israel all Jewish has almost been achieved. Looking at the country as I did last month with my eyes and ears is different than Americans who come with preconceived opinions. I am not faulting the leadership for doing what they had to do militarlly to acheive their goals only their lack of humanity towards a defeated people.

  8. Y. Ben-David, practically all countries on earth recognise each other(‘s existence), yet AFAIK Israel is the only one to also insist on a “right to exist”. Human beings have an unconditional right to exist, political constructs such as countries do not. The various Jewish factions can’t even agree on who is a Jew. And when Israel even refuses to define its own borders – arguably one of the most basic elements of a state – its supposed “right to exist” downright begs to be translated to “right to do whatever it wants”, its neighbours be damned. Asking Palestinians in particular to recognise this right means asking them to recognise and agree to their own disposession, in the past as well as in the future. No doubt Nazi Germany existed, but would you say it had a “right to exist”?

    Iran terms itself “Islamic Republic”, but that qualification is not and can not be part of its diplomatic recognition by others, it’s an entirely internal Iranian affair. How Israel defines itself, Jewish, secular, democratic, ethnocratic, whatever, is likewise an internal Israeli affair and not subject to diplomatic relations with other countries. Israel has no more right to demand explicit recognition as “Jewish” than Iran as “Islamic”, the USA as “Christian”, or formerly South Africa as “white”.

  9. Mr, Ben David: Fiurther the General Conference of the United Methodist Church begins today. We are the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States and the second largest Protestant denomination over all,( translation :we have alot of social and monetary clout ) Part of the conference will concern proposals based on long held Methodist principles on morally responsible investment and divestment to be applied to companies profiting from the Israeli occupation .Caterpillar Corporation , an Illinois manufacturer, who you all know makes bulldozers that doze down Palestinian homes is on the”hot seat ” now with the Investment/ Divestment committment. Their dozer killed a Methodist missionary protesting the”dozing”of a Palestinian home. Illinois has a large Methodist membership including two conferences As Tip O’Neil said “all politics is local”. General Dynamics and Lockheed/Northrup are next but a harder project.The Abrams tank is made in Lima,Ohio a state having more Methodists than any other is in the offing.
    On the ground the number of “flying checkpoints'” has increased in the last month;authorization for housing permits for increased construction in East Jerusalem .There has been a spread of settlement outposts .

    The use of “flechette” shells from US made Abrams tanks into civilians in Gaza is being noted just like the “bomblets” in Lebanon which little kids thought were toys only to explode and kill or maim them.The coming summer large scale military invasion into Gaza is no secret.Big Deal you get to beat a”no rate” Hamas militia into poop and increase the hate level so hundreds of women and children will have to die so Israelis,the government says will feel safer. You won’t be in the long run. The number of Arabs under Israeli control will soon be greater than the number of Jews;thus the minority will be ruling the majority . Sure sounds like old South Africa doesn’t it.
    Our brother Jimmy Carter has been vilified by you, the government of Herr Bush,Condi Rubber Stamp and the two egomaniacs running for President. But to many of us he represents what a good Christian should be,looking after our brothers within the human race, seeing to their needs and above all taking on the role of the blessed peacemaker.And blessed be Aliza Olmert and her daughter Dana for their efforts which do not go unnoticed by the peace movements in this country

  10. Looking at the mind-numbingly ridiculous comments from the Arabic and Hebrew illiterate Arabists — sanctimonious creeps who habitually hurl the epithet “racist” at anyone who disagrees with them and brain-dead anti-imperialism of idiocy bandwagoneers who flock to your site Haim, maybe you should consider getting your own blog and leave Gershon alone with his coterie of Walt & Mearsheimerite and Bush=Hitler groupies.

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