Who ‘Owns’ the Past? Israel & Palestine Battle Over Antiquities.

A few weeks ago, I highlighted an article in Biblical Archaeology Review in my article “Archaeology & the Holy Lands.” In the modern world, nothing embodies the battle of the ownership of the past than the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

As new peace talks are underway, including possible significant negotiations over territory and state lines, the issue of ‘ownership’ and material culture are yet again at the forefront.

Framing such ongoing and explosive disputes are long unresolved questions of borders and who owns cultural heritage. In principle, archaeology and cultural heritage, like other issues, were to be worked out in Israeli-Palestinian final status negotiations. Every round of peace talks failed though, before archaeology was ever seriously discussed. The heritage committee mandated by the Oslo Accords is non-existent; the void has helped maintain intractable Israeli and Palestinian positions and discouraged co-operation.

Antiquities in this region of the world do not only tie in with national and cultural pride, but for many people have a significant religious implications. Archaeologists, primarily in non-governmental institutions, are working behind the scenes to try to find compromises that protect and recognize the importance of the antiquities themselves – albeit unsuccessfully.

The Art Newspaper highlights this conflict in a well written article.

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6 thoughts on “Who ‘Owns’ the Past? Israel & Palestine Battle Over Antiquities.

  1. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt

    It is a very tricky situation really, isn’t it? While I firmly believe there needs to be a State of Israel, I also maintain there needs to be the State of Palestine, for “what they want is what we wanted.” My hope is rational minds will prevail and new borders will be accommodated with peace and an over riding sense of humanity.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      I don’t know if a compromise can be reached until both sides remove the religious element – it has such a faith-based investment that comes out with antiquities.

      Reply
    1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      Very good point. In terms of the material culture, both sides have a vested interest (largely based in religion) of minimizing or all in all eradicating the history of the other – part of the claim that both sides have is that they have a longer ‘claim’ to the land (given to them by God or Allah) at the expense of all others. By debasing the opposition, they reaffirm their own claims. Did you see in the other article (linked above) that both sides will not permit excavations or examination of material from the Dome of the Rock.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

        Using history for political ends is always sad… and dangerous.

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