Monday, October 18, 2010

Palestinian Cultural Expropriation

Somehow, I missed the Canadian Dead Sea Scroll exhibit controversy when it happened at the beginning of the year, but since I've been doing alot of thinking and reading lately about all the various strands of the Israel Delegitimization Movement (IDM?) I came upon the news stories surrounding the Palestinian and Jordanian complaints to the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel's 'theft' of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their demand that the exhibition, "Words that Changed the World", be cancelled.

Mouth of the cave at Qumran.
Who speaks for the Scrolls?
Because the scrolls were found in Qumran, they claimed that Israel does not have the right to their ownership. The Palestinians made a formal request to the Canadian PM, Stephen Harper, to not allow the exhibition to take place. Hamdan Taha, Director of the Palestinian Antiquities and Cultural Heritage Department, asserted that, "These scrolls are of course Palestinian because they were found in Qumran which is located in the West Bank. They are an integral part of Palestinian heritage, its Jewish heritage. Palestine doesn't represent one layer but a multicultural history, that includes the Roman and other periods," Taha said. "Israel should be pleased that the Palestinians are showing concern for this period of our past."

Call me naive, but on the one hand aren't Palestinian academics and their friends busy challenging Zionist archeologists' evidence of the Jewish past, but on the other hand 'appropriating' and thereby confirming the evidence of the Jewish past? Is this what is meant by having your cake and eating it too? We don't even need to get into the controversy over the Temple Mount and Arafat's famous words about the lack of any evidence that there had ever been a Jewish presence in Jerusalem and, of course the claims that Israel is de-Arabizing/Judaizing Jerusalem.

But we don't have to look to the Palestinians themselves to do the work of decoupling Jewish history from the land. Here is the intro to a paper published by two Cambridge architectural historians on the City of David: "This paper explores Israeli settlers’ ideological and physical uses of heritage sites in the ‘Historical Basin’ of Jerusalem. It focuses on the ‘City of David’ archaeological park, at the foot of the Old City, as a prime example of far right settler associations’ increasing influence over the transformation of Jerusalem’s dense topography of historic sites. It investigates how the settler organisation El-Ad uses a wide array of tourist and heritage practices as ways of extending the infrastructure of expropriation and occupation in East Jerusalem. The ‘City of David’ highlights how the instrumentalisation of varied architectural and visual resources are critical to settler’s exclusivist and antagonistic heritage stewardship."

It seems that there is no difference now between official Israel and 'far-right settlers. In other words the whole enterprise is suspicious; all archeological research in the hands of Zionists is potentially illegitimate.

Elder of Ziyon has a very funny post about the scrolls controversy.


  1. The pathology of coveting Jewish history is much more grotesque and dark.

    Arabs want to abduct the term "antisemitism".

    Palestinians want to be recognized as the real victims of the Holocaust.

    And the Indecent left helps them along in their fantasies of being history's greatest victim, ever.

  2. That Tammy is quite the character. Let's try to keep her profile very, very low. But I agree, there is a bigger story here which I will be exploring regularly. The Münchhausen by Proxy angle is interesting, especially for anti-Zionist Jews.

  3. My own comments on the controversy from here in Canada:

  4. Thanks, Bill. Excellent post!


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