The Fate of Gaza’s Antiquities

Thanks to Hamas’s policy of deliberately embedding its military infrastructure amid and beneath civilian areas, the current war has taken a serious toll on the Gaza Strip’s many archaeological sites. The Times of Israel reports:

While Israel has an army of archaeologists who have unearthed an impressive number of ancient treasures, Gaza remains relatively untouched by the trowel despite a rich past stretching back thousands of years. The only sheltered natural harbor between the Sinai and Lebanon, Gaza has been a crossroads of civilizations for centuries. A pivot point between Africa and Asia and a hub of the incense trade, it was coveted by the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans.

There are a few Gazan archaeologists, among them Fadel al-Otol; a Gazan businessman named Jawdat Khoudary has also made extensive efforts to collect and preserve artifacts.

The 13th-century al-Basha palace in Gaza City’s old town “has been completely destroyed. There was bombing and (then) it was bulldozed. . . . It held hundreds of ancient objects and magnificent sarcophagi,” Otol [said], sharing recent photos of the ruins.

Napoleon is said to have based himself in the ochre stone edifice at the disastrous end of his Egyptian campaign in 1799. The room where the French emperor supposedly slept was full of Byzantine artifacts.

But thanks to a few twists of fate, an impressive collection of over 250 artifacts from the Strip has been kept at a Geneva museum since 2006, and thus out of harm’s way.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict