Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Bomb, boycott: Israel, Turkey

A little over a month ago, seeing on the BBC that "in Jerusalem archaeology is politics", my mum texted me to ask, "so what would you do in Israel? There's something to think about for your PhD. Archaeology is not at all fun." Obviously, the first thing I would do would be nothing at all, as I'm far too ignorant of the communities', the city's, the state's and the region's histories to do anything productive.
The very stones of Jerusalem are political weapons in the age-old struggle for possession of the Holy Land.

And nowhere is more sensitive than the great platform built by King Herod, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to the Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary....

When the Israelis captured the Old City from the Jordanians.... Israel allowed the Muslim religious authority known as the Waqf to administer the whole compound. But the Israelis claimed the right to enter it at will to keep security control. They enforce this claim regularly.

They do so by entering the compound through a small gate known as the Mougrabi or Moors' Gate....
The BBC provides a nice, brief summary of the back-and-forth of archaeological politics in the Holy Land.
The reason for the protest does not really have much to do with archaeology in fact. It is a protest about presence....

In this atmosphere, the arguments of the archaeological academics do not carry much force....

But in Jerusalem, you cannot "just dig". There, every stone counts.
At that time,
'That cursed Israel is trying to destroy al-Aqsa mosque,' Mohamed el-Katatny of [Egyptian] President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) told a heated parliament session held to discuss the Israeli digging.

'Nothing will work with Israel except for a nuclear bomb that wipes it out of existence,' he said.
As Jim Davila noted, "that'll sure keep that mosque safe".

There's a question-and-answer article with Eilat Mazar about the dig(s) and other work(s) near the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in the Jerusalem Post; further, Jim Davila has some posts pulling together events surrounding the Mugrabi Gate excavation, including protests by Iranand Palestinian protestors.

I only think to mention it now, belatedly, because, a little over a week ago, Arab Monitor noted that the "Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities calls for boycott".
In an emergency meeting of the Arab Antiquities Authority, Zahi Hawwas, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities... called for a boycott of archeological teams willing to work with Israel in carrying out the excavations currently going on in East Jerusalem....

Hawwas explained his request to the delegates in Cairo saying that "this is the only way to stop the destruction of Jerusalem’s antiquities".
Sadly, I won't be able to discuss this situation in my work, but I think it's worth watching and thinking about.

Fitting well (unfortunately) with something I won't be able to address properly in my work, a couple of days ago, Sissy Danninger posted "countdown for or against start of Ilisu-dam-project" on KurdishMedia.
These days an Austrian-lead consortium of enterprises in Austria, Germany and Switzerland are anxiously waiting for the "go-ahead" by their governments to embark on the Ilisu-dam-project in South-eastern Turkey/North Kurdistan. It is just the export-guarantees, which are still missing....

The German non-governmental group WEED (World Economy, Ecology and Development), with whom Dr. Latif Rashid, the Iraqi Water Minister, has been in touch, has commissioned an updated legal opinion from three leading experts on international law (see, in English:

This opinion reaffirms that, should the ECAs (Export Credit Agencies) fund the project without Turkey having first notified, consulted and negotiated with Iraq, they would be facilitating a breach of international law.
Hopefully, I will be able to visit south-eastern Turkey relatively soon and get done what little work I can get done there before I return to Cyprus, to inform my work in Cyprus.

A friend asked me if there had been any bombings in Istanbul recently and I flippantly answered, "not that I know of"... Apparently, there were bombings that I didn't know of. On the 5th of March, the Taipei Times recorded that:
Protesters threw firebombs at three buses in Istanbul on Saturday [the 3rd of March 2007], incinerating one of them and injuring a driver, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. The private Dogan news agency said a group of about 50 protesters shouted slogans in favor of the banned Kurdish rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), as the buses burned....

Two of the buses were attacked as they were moving, and the other one was stopped on the road and its passengers forced to exit before it was attacked with Molotov cocktails, the Anatolia news agency said.
[This has been moved from human rights archaeology, where I posted it accidentally.]


  1. Good post. There has never been nearly enough done about politics and archaeology in Israel (Neal Silberman aside) - which I have thought about ever since the summer I was there, where we were digging through the (Muslim) Palestinian village which overlaid the (Christian) Byzantine town with the (Jewish) Iron Age fortified town beneath. See Tel Jezreel for more.

  2. That was a stroke of luck; blogger's gone Turkish. I wouldn't mind, but if there is a link to an option to use it in English, it's written in Turkish... Aha! There it was. Dili değiştir indeed.