Since its occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel operates according to an inconsistent and deceptive policy regarding the many archaeological sites located in the West Bank. It is noteworthy that almost all the Palestinian towns in the West Bank are located on or by antiquity sites, and in many cases they are a part of hundreds and even thousands of years of settlement there.
In the absence of a clear and transparent policy, Israel operates to limit the possibilities for developing Palestinian towns and villages and impede Palestinians’ access to their land. Declaring certain areas as archaeological sites or national parks, and transferring their management to Israeli regional councils in the West Bank – and in some cases to private bodies – is an ongoing battle to strengthen the Jewish-Israeli narrative. This is undertaken by blurring any Palestinian claims to these sites and undermining their significance to Palestinian historical and cultural heritage.
Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh collect information and map the archaeological excavations that Israel has undertaken in the West Bank since its occupation. We also chart the impact that declaration of archaeological sites has on Palestinians’ access to these sites and to their adjacent lands. Information collected includes the archeological findings discovered during excavations, the identity of funding bodies, and details on storage location of the findings. This helps assess whether Israel, as an occupying power, is fulfilling its duties under International Humanitarian Law.
Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh also work to support local Palestinian residents and civil society organizations by sharing and making information accessible to the public, providing legal assistance focusing on enabling access to archaeological sites and protecting the possibilities of development for Palestinian towns.
As part of our work to enable Palestinians access to archaeological sites and ensure management of sites does not lead to the eradication of Palestinian history there, Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) in several instances. These petitions have asked the Court to prohibit the physical exclusion of Palestinians – and their narrative – from archaeological sites in the West Bank.
Archaeological sites in which the Israeli government has attempted to marginalize non-Jewish history include: Tel Shiloh (Khirbet Saylun), located north of the Palestinian village of Turmusaya and west of the Israeli settlement of Shilo, and is located inside the settlement’s area of jurisdiction but situated on private Palestinian land; the Biyar Aqueduct, located west of the Israeli settlement of Efrat, and branded by the Gush Etzion Regional Council as “The Land of Israel’s historical path;” and Tel Alamit, located on the land of the Palestinian village of Anata yet included within the area of jurisdiction of the settlement of Israeli Anatot.