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Book: Community Archaeology in Israel/Palestine

Chapter: A Socialist Critique of Archaeology in Israel: Community and Antiquities as Social Value

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44987


This paper discusses community archaeology, or archaeology on behalf of local communities, in Israel and the Palestinian Authority from a socialist viewpoint. It critiques the utilization of archaeology by the Israeli establishment and considers what represents a local community in this area of conflict and to whom cultural heritage belongs. Archaeology in Israel is used as confirmation of the right to own the land. Some Palestinians try to connect to the Canaanites by utilizing archaeology as a as nationalistic evidence. However, there is no symmetry with Israel’s use of archaeology in relation to national aspirations.

We also discuss the negative influence of the capitalist sector, which while seeking profit, causes destruction of antiquities for “development”. The Israel leadership is part of this process, since they have forged a common interest with big capital over culture. In the Palestinian territories this process happens too, but to a lesser degree. Archaeology has regional/local expressions, but its content is international: it belongs to society as a whole. We suggest a common ground for an independent and radical archaeology. Real communal archaeology should be based in the progressive forces of society, for a common future of Jews and Palestinians and the defence of everyone’s heritage. It should liberate people from social inequality and oppression, and utilize our shared heritage as a vehicle for freedom of all peoples in the Middle East.

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