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Thursday, August 13, 2009
[With letter] The Israel Antiquities Authority to the World Archaeological Congress "Instead of Archaeology, You are Talking Politics"

August 11, 2009

Dr. Claire Smith
The President
World Archaeological Congress

Dear Dr. Smith,

We are writing to you to express our strong protest at the fashion in which
the WAC Inter-Congress, presently being conducted in Ramallah, has been
organized and our indignation regarding its content as expressed in the
abstracts.

The congress relates specifically to the conduct of Israeli archaeology but,
to our knowledge, Israeli archaeologists were not invited nor were they
informed about the congress prior to your mail to Dr. Uzi Dahari this week.
We remind you that this is a conference organized by the World
Archaeological Congress and not a Palestinian archaeological organization.
This requires you to make it universal. The omission to include or invite
Israeli speakers to address issues that directly affect their daily work
shows that this conference is certainly not that. We need not remind you
that one of the principles governing the WAC is the promotion of dialogue
between archaeologists, but this conference is a monologue that fails to
live up to the basic ideals expressed in the introductory paragraph for this
conference. We expect the WAC to be a facilitator to build bridges of a
'shared cultural heritage' (your words from the introductory paragraph) but
one-sided, biased discussions achieve quite the opposite.

The organizers state that "The world is a complex place and due to Israeli
government regulations it appears that some Israeli archaeologists who may
have wished to attend WAC Ramallah may be unable to do so. We regret the
situation." This statement is manifestly untrue. Israeli archaeologists did
visit Ramallah in past years and any archaeologist wishing to attend the
congress, could - had they been invited - obtain a permit to travel to
Ramallah, as many Israeli journalists indeed do routinely. The inclusion of
this statement in the Congress documents, and the expression of regret with
which it concludes, casts a dubious light on the organizers' professional
and civic integrity.

The conference programme is full of abstracts condemning Israeli archaeology
and its practices concerning the management of the cultural heritage. We
obviously do not contest the legitimacy of individual contributors to their
views, but the huge numbers of inaccuracies and the type of insidious
'past-mastering', for which Israel stands accused, makes this conference
little more than a political demonstration. We find it very sad that the WAC
has uncritically given its name to this.

We note that the conference will also be touring in Jerusalem on Wednesday
to visit archaeological sites. May we remind you that the cultural heritage
of Jerusalem is under the auspices of the Israeli authorities, a de-facto
situation for which Israel is responsible by international law. We find it
unacceptable that the WAC will be touring in an area of our responsibility
without any coordination with us. Furthermore it is blatantly unethical to
visit active archaeological sites without informing the archaeologists
charged with the excavation. We can imagine how you would view a conference
visiting the area of your fieldwork in Barunga-Wugularr without your
knowledge and without giving you an opportunity to express your ideas. We
see also that the tour is to be led by an archaeologist opposed to the
excavation in Silwan/City of David, but without the participation of the
archaeologists working on the site. Consequently, congress participants will
be exposed only to the view that negates the work undertaken there, without
hearing the views of those who conduct the excavations and the reasons that
led to their initiation. This is both unprofessional and unethical. We ask
you to cancel the tour in its present format and reorganize it as
professionally required, that is, by asking Israeli archaeologists to tell
their side of the story regarding the situation on the Temple Mount/al-Haram
al-Sharif, and by inviting the archaeologists working in Silwan/City of
David to present their work.

Had we an inkling that such a congress is to take place, we would have
expressed our reservations much earlier; but since the first undersigned has
learned about it only through your e-mail of yesterday, 10 August 2009, we
hurry to do so now.

We would be very grateful if you were to distribute this letter to the
participants of the Ramallah congress.

Yours sincerely

Dr. Uzi Dahari
Vice-Director, for Archaeology
Israel Antiquities Authority

Prof. Ephraim Stern
Chair,
Archaeological Council of Israel

Jon Seligman
Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist
Israel Antiquities Authority

Cc:
Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar - Member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and
Humanities; Chair, Israel Antiquities Authority
Shuka Dorfman - Director, Israel Antiquities Authority
Prof. Anna Belfor-Cohen - Head of the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew
University of Jerusalem
Prof. Ze'ev Herzog - Head of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv
University
Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz - Head of Archaeology Department, Tel Aviv
University
Prof. Arthur Segal - Head of the Institute of Archaeology, Haifa University
Prof. Michal Artzi - Head of Institute of Maritime Studies, Haifa University
Prof. Avi Faust - Head of the Institute of Archaeology, Bar Ilan University
Prof. Isaac Gilead - Head of the Institute of Archaeology, Ben Gurion
University
Prof. Dr. Muawiyah Ibrahim - Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan
Dr. Zeidan Kafafi - Yarmouk University, Irbid, Jordan
Dr. Hans J. Nissen - Free University, Berlin, Germany
Mr. Ahmed Rjoub - Department of Antiquities, Ramallah, Palestinian Authority
Dr. Moin Sadeq - University of Chicago, U.S.A.
Dr. Issa Sari' - al-Quds University, East Jerusalem
Dr. Hamdan Taha - Director, Department of Antiquities, Palestinian Authority

============

Press Release
August 13, 2009

The Israel Antiquities Authority dispatched a letter of denunciation to the
World Archaeological Congress:

"Instead of Archaeology, You are Talking Politics"

The congress, which is currently meeting in Ramallah, is discussing, among
other things, the excavations in Jerusalem but no Israeli representatives
were asked to participate

The World Archaeological Congress (wac) is presently convening
archaeologists from all over the world in a conference entitled "Overcoming
Structural Violence". The congress, which is taking place in Ramallah, did
not invite the Israel Antiquities Authority despite the fact that some of
the topics being discussed at the conference deal with regions in Jerusalem
where an archaeological excavation is being conducted exclusively by the
IAA. In this way the organization is introducing the conflict into the
professional side of archaeology.

The IAA operates with complete transparency, according to the guidelines of
Israeli law and meticulously maintains the highest professional standards in
accordance with the most stringent rules and without bias. There can be no
doubt that the organizers of the conference set out with the goal in mind of
inserting political issues into the professional archaeological experience.

According to Dr. Uzi Dahari, Deputy Director of the Israel Antiquities
Authority, "An international archaeological congress does not act this way.
The congress came to a region where there is a conflict and chooses to
present one side of the story. It is forbidden that such a thing should
happen. For example, it is professionally unethical that an international
archaeological forum will tour sites without the knowledge of the
archaeologists who are excavating them. In addition, the congress uses the
names of sites as they are referred to by one side only (e.g. the congress
refers to the Temple Mount in English as Haram al Sharif). It would be best
if the World Archaeological Congress would focus on archaeology and not on
politics".

Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority Spokesperson -
E-mail - dovrut@israntique.org.il /972-52-5991888

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