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February 21, 2013

In Washington Post, Palestinian Oxymorons Threaten Israeli Archaeology


Several paragraphs of The Washington Post article “In Israel’s Herod exhibit, Palestinians see cultural theft; Museum displays artifacts excavated from West Bank site? (February 14) read like they belong more appropriately in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.

The Post reports that the director-general of something called the Palestinian Authority’s Department of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage faults the Jewish state of Israel for displaying artifacts from Herodium in the Israel Museum. Herodium was a palace-fortress built 2,000 years ago by Herod the Great, King of Judea. What’s Arabic for chutzpah?

A few paragraphs are missing from this report by The Post’s Joel Greenberg. They would be the ones from archaeologists and historians pointing out that the Arabs who began calling themselves Palestinians only in the 20th century have no historical, religious, ethnic or national connection to the Judean artifacts on exhibit in the Israel Museum.

The article’s lead paragraphs make clear that material in the exhibit was found at Herodium, built by Herod, a Roman-era king of Judea—that is, king of the Jews and their land. Yet it relays with a straight face, without contradictory context,
criticism from Palestinian Arabs that Israeli removal of artifacts from Herodium for display in Israel “violates international law and appropriates cultural property that should remain in the West Bank, which the Palestinians seek as part of a future state.?

The Post never mentions that “West Bank? is the term Jordan, during its illegal occupation from 1948 to 1967, applied to the territories widely known previously as Judea and Samaria. Likewise, the article quotes no source to point out the obvious: Even if the West Bank were to become part of a future Palestinian Arab state, the archaeological strata beneath it would not suddenly become “Palestinian.?

That’s because there was no Palestinian Arab antiquity. Prior to 1920, Palestinian Arabs were not a discrete national, religious, ethnic, or linguistic group (see, for example, Daniel Pipes’ “1920: The Year The Arabs Discovered Palestine".)

The layers of archaeologically significant artifacts beneath the West Bank, under Judea and Samaria, include Canaanite, Israelite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Jewish, Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader, and Turkish. But they don’t include Palestinian Arab, any more than pre-World War I layers of Balkan archaeology include Yugoslav. That identity, like Palestinian, was a 20th century political construct.

At some point in an article dealing with the past’s loud echoes in the present, The Post usefully might have reminded readers that today’s Palestinian Arabs have no connection to the ancient Philistines, a Mediterranean Sea people who settled in and around what today is the Gaza Strip. Babylonia defeated Judea, but it destroyed Philistia.

Too much history for one Post article? Yet the paper managed to quote an Israeli archaeologist from a group worried that the Israel Museum’s Herodium exhibit “served efforts by the government and Jewish settlers to appropriate West Bank sites as part of Israel’s national heritage.?

No appropriation is needed. Jewish archaeological sites are by history and by definition part of the national heritage of the Jewish state and the Jewish people, regardless of any future political disposition of the surface above them.

Posted by ER at February 21, 2013 05:12 PM


Arab rejectionism of Israel has always included,
by definition, attacking archaeological evidence as lies and thievery. The truth of Jewish presence
predating Muslim Arab presence is too damaging to
their fanatic hatreds and geographic demands to
go unopposed even through the blatent use of
outright falsehoods. No one who has followed the
history of the Arab-Israeli conflict should now
be surprised at this latest outrageous accusation.

Moddin, Israel

Posted by: Yitzchak Ben-Shmuel at February 22, 2013 07:22 AM

The Palestinians have nothing to do with the name Palestine.
The name Palestine is named after the Philistines, not the Palestinians or any Arab group.
The name Palestine was applied by the Romans against the Jews to destroy the name Israel.
It was certainly not directed or bestowed to the Arabs in this area.

The Philistines were from Crete and came to Israel 3000 years ago and were not Arabs or Muslims.
Delilah and Goliath were Philistines. (Philistines died out.) Philistine is the name the Romans renamed Israel as a chagrin against the Jews.

Yassir Arafat was not a Philistine, but an ARAB born in Egypt. Philistine originates from the Hebrew verb Palash, which means to invade. So the Arabs who started to call themselves Palestinians in the late 60's are invaders and they want to create an Invadia state.

Posted by: Ed Frias at February 23, 2013 09:08 AM

Is there any mention in the WaPo article about the wanton destruction by the Palestinians - yes, those Palestinians who are crying foul about Herodion - of vital and priceless artifacts on the Temple Mount?

Those artifacts aren't even being displayed in a foreign museum. They are being deliberately destroyed so as to erase any Jewish connection with Jerusalem and the Temple. But don't expect the WaPo or any other Western newspaper to write about that any time soon.

Posted by: anneinpt at February 24, 2013 01:19 AM

And you can be sure that, if and when the disputed territories come under Arab control, the Palestinians will take very good care of the antiquities. :-)

Posted by: LetsCAction at February 28, 2013 11:31 AM

Maybe someone should point out that the Arabic alphabet has no "P", so no Arab group could call itself "P"alestinian, even if it wanted to. That they use a name that cannot be written in their own script says all one really needs to know to recognize the "P"alestinians are a recent construct rather than something ancient.

Posted by: Yale at March 1, 2013 12:01 PM

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