Saturday, December 3, 2016

PCG's Condemnation of UNESCO Resolution on Jerusalem

Recently PCG published an article condemning a recent UNESCO resolution concerning East Jerusalem. While discussing it the UNESCO resolution is condemned as a threat to PCG's excavations in East Jerusalem. (Brent Nagtegaal, UNESCO Wants to Stop Archaeology in Ancient Jerusalem, November 1, 2016.)

Nagtegaal starts with the following anecdote.
Often while working just below the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount over the past few years, I’d look up from the dirt and notice a camera crew setting up. They did not seem to be Jews, but rather reporters from Palestinian news crews. Unlike most others who walked past the dig site, these journalists would rarely ask questions about what we were finding or what we were doing digging there. Instead, they would simply set up their cameras in a particular location. There, with one simple pan upward, they could tape the excavation site along with the black dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the background. After a few more minutes and a few more shots, they’d pack their gear and head back up the street. There wasn’t any need to ask questions or to investigate further; they already had their story: The Jews are trying to undermine Al-Aqsa.
I do not question the author's sincerity. But it must certainly be noted that he did not seem to have solid evidence to back up his conjecture. Maybe they were filming background footage of such world famous grounds? This anecdote does not seem to be very convincing. Even if he was right he has not here presented evidence to back it up.
Thus the myth of Israeli atrocities against an Islamic site was further perpetuated. For most people who are at all familiar with the situation, the thought of the Israeli government directly supporting the destruction of Islamic history in Jerusalem seems a little far-fetched.
To use the word "atrocities" in this instance seems somewhat unusual.

As for Nagtegaal's dismissal of this fear as far fetched perhaps he should take a look at the square in front of the Wailing Wall. Until 1967 it contained the houses of the Moroccan quarter in which Palestinian families had lived and worked for centuries. It even contained a mosque established by a son of Saladin, centuries older than the modern nation states of the United States of America or Nagtegaal's homeland, Australia. But once the State of Israel gained control of that territory in 1967 the Moroccan Quarter was demolished. One unfortunate woman even died in the demolition.
On Saturday evening, 10 June 1967, three days after the Israeli army had captured the Old City of Jerusalem, on the last day of the Six Day War, 650 residents of the Moroccan Quarter were told to vacate their homes on short notice. Workers guarded by soldiers first demolished a public lavatory, and then the remaining buildings, which included 135 houses and the Bou Medyan zaouia. Some of the residents refused to leave until their homes were collapsing. An elderly woman discovered in the rubble died soon after. 
The Sheikh Eid Mosque, one of the few mosques that remained from the time of Saladin, was also destroyed. 
The demolition was approved by the Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, who wrote about it in his 1978 autobiography. (Wikipedia, Moroccan Quarter.)
One Haaretz article from 2012 describes one man who used various evidences including photos from a German Zeppeln to determine the location of the mosque. The Haaretz article also mentions one reason why Palestinians would be fearful of excavations.
As a result of this case, Kedar has been leading efforts to make the antiquities authority more aware of remains from the Islamic period, which are often destroyed while earlier remains are being sought. "It was done innocently, but somebody needs to understand that if there's a tomb in the heart of the city, it means something," Kedar said. ... 
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which manages the nearby Western Wall Tunnel, responded: "Excavations in the area of the Western Wall are intended to reach the earliest levels possible. Clearly this cannot be done without destroying later periods, whatever they may be. The Israel Antiquities Authority has decided what remains are to be documented and preserved." (Rare Photograph Reveals Ancient Jerusalem Mosque Destroyed in 1967, Haaretz, June 15, 2012.)
No wonder Palestinians do not like the excavations in East Jerusalem. They are fearful that trying to find ancient artifacts from Biblical times will put artifacts from more recent times at risk.

Let us continue with Nagtegaal's article.
In the past two weeks, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has approved two shocking resolutions that condemn Israel (identified not-so-subtly as “the occupying Power”) for egregious violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the al-Haram al-Sharif.
Nagtegaal seems to absurdly imagines this description of Israel as "the occupying power" is merely hostile invective. If so he is wrong.

The 161 nation states that recognize the State of Israel legally view East Jerusalem as occupied territory because it was acquired by military force in 1967. Nation states want to protect their borders and therefore are very reluctant to recognize a changed border lest it should set a precedent for their own borders to be forcibly changed. This is the reason the American, British and Australian embassies are in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

He then complains that UNESCO is trying to stop excavations in East Jerusalem including PCG's excavations.
UNESCO and its Arab sponsors are resolved to shut down all archaeological excavations in and around the Old City of Jerusalem. 
This is critical. Because just outside the walls of the Old City, south of the Temple Mount in an area that is technically part of East Jerusalem, some of the most important archaeological digs in the world are underway. Especially for those interested in biblical history, these excavations could not be more significant.
But what can UNESCO do if the State of Israel chooses not to adhere to such a resolution? His fear that UNESCO will stop PCG's excavations in East Jerusalem seems rather remote.

Leaving aside legal issues morally it seems strange that people who seem to view Palestinians in such an antagonistic manner should excavate on land right next to where many Palestinians live. Whatever happened to "love thy neighbor" in regards to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem? It would be good if PCG stopped excavating there and to have such work left to others.

He then mentions various artifacts that have been excavated in East Jerusalem. He condemns an excavation of earth in the Temple Mount by Jordanians in the 1990s. He talks about various Jewish artifacts that have been uncovered as though the historical Jewish presence is somehow under dispute.
Even so, the years of sifting that discarded Temple Mount earth has produced a wealth of artifacts that would have been otherwise lost. Muslim artifacts have been found, such as an 18th-century seal of the prominent Muslim Qadi (Judge) Sheick ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Tamimi, who was also the grand mufti of Jerusalem. But Jewish artifacts have also been discovered—dating to 2½ millennia earlier. Artifacts have been dated to the lifetime of King Solomon onward: thousands of pottery fragments, the seventh-century B.C. Hebrew seal of “Immer” (potentially the same personality found in Jeremiah 20:1), many half-shekel coins from the Second Temple period, a potsherd from 2,000 years ago bearing an engraving of a menorah, and a multitude of other items. All of these overwhelmingly confirm a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount—and prior to the Muslim periods.
Regardless of what artifacts are under the earth in East Jerusalem they do not change the international community's view of East Jerusalem as occupied territory. And because the international community view East Jerusalem as occupied territory that is not recognized as part of the State of Israel the international community view various international laws as applying to East Jerusalem regardless of the Israeli government's view of East Jerusalem as being a part of the State of Israel.

Nagtegaal then states that the archaeological excavations make it harder for the Palestinians to make East Jerusalem become the capital of a Palestinian nation state.
The Palestinians have long coveted their own capital in East Jerusalem. Archaeological digs proving a prior Jewish claim to the area only make that harder to achieve. And so, they have marshaled UNESCO to push the claim of Israeli destruction of Muslim sites in an effort to shut down these excavations.
One reason why Palestinians want East Jerusalem as their capital is because the international community, including the 161 nation states that recognize the State of Israel, do not view East Jerusalem as belonging to the State of Israel but instead as occupied territory. This is why the American, British and Australian embassies are in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. What happened in eras past does not alter that legal view. This dream is lambasted as coveting without explaining why such an outcome is desired by them.

And so we see that this article simply pushes PCG's previously held, simplistic views regarding the tragic situation in the Holy Land safely treading familiar narratives and not looking at things that contradict PCG's views about the situation.


  1. American groups should not be allowed to influence the Jewish state or the Palestinians. Allowing them to do so may result in another Denis Micheal Rohan.

  2. The PCG is up to mischief and want to find a way to 'prove' their kook ideas.

    With any luck at all, the Israelis will find them undesirable and kick them out permanently with no option to ever return, in a way similar to Chuck Hoover [David-Ben(t) Ariel].