Archaeology, the City of David, and the Future of Jerusalem

April 15 2019

A few weeks ago, archaeologists announced the discovery in Jerusalem of clay seals from the 6th century BCE that appear to have belonged to one of the courtiers of King Josiah mentioned in the biblical book of Kings. The discoveries were the product of ongoing excavations of an area known as the City of David, thought to be the main part of Jerusalem in First Temple times. Persistently denying all of the facts of Jewish history in the land of Israel, pro-Palestinian activists have condemned the excavations as the work of “settlers” trying to undermine their claims to Jerusalem. Jonathan Tobin writes:

Critics of the City of David Foundation, [which oversees the excavations and the concomitant preservations efforts], are also against its activities because they believe that the area should be part of a future Palestinian state. They say that the development of the site and the digs are part of an effort to prevent a redivision of Jerusalem that would enable the Palestinian Authority to put its capital in the city. . .

[T]he effort to delegitimize the work at the City of David points to a basic problem: . . . if you’re going to deny Jewish rights to the place where King David and his descendants ruled their ancient kingdom, then you can deny them any place in the country. And that is what Palestinians have continued to do. Their effort to treat the City of David or even the Western Wall as linked to Jewish myths rather than to the beginning of Jewish civilization is inextricably linked to their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn.

Nor can it be argued that in a two-state solution, the Palestinians could be trusted to safeguard historical sites such as these. Just this week, evidence surfaced of ancient tombs in the Jericho area—territory that is governed by the Palestinian Authority—being looted by local Arabs. This is a commonplace occurrence throughout the [Palestinian-administered] territories; the region’s ancient Jewish heritage is being systematically destroyed by those out to make a profit or whose main goal is to eradicate the abundant evidence of the ancient Jewish ties to this land.

The only way to protect the heritage of the City of David is to ensure that it and the rest of Jerusalem remain under undivided Israeli authority with the right of Jews to live in their ancient capital undiminished. Any other solution isn’t a path to peace, but something that will only further encourage the history deniers of the Palestinian Authority to keep fighting their war on Jewish history.

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More about: Archaeology, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Jerusalem

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat