Anthropologists to Boycott Archeology?

Defying logic, a band of anthropologists voted to boycott archeology. On Friday, Nov. 20, at the business meeting of the American Anthropology Association (AAA), they voted to boycott Israeli universities in line with the BDS movement’s goal of punishing Israel for it’s alleged treatment of Palestinians in the so-called “occupied territories”. The text of the resolution is here. (It is not finalized as the vote will have to go to the 10,000-member association in spring.) Should the resolution pass, the full membership vote, the association will not enter into any formal relationships with any Israeli institutions and would bar Israeli institutions from participating in its publications and events.  Israeli institutions, and thereby students (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim) would not have access to AnthroSource, the major anthropological database.

I ask not what these anthropologists think they are doing to Israel by weighing in on the complex challenges in the Middle East with a simplistic and biased resolution which demonizes Israel. Nor why an organization representing scholars chooses to ignore the fact that over 11,000 rockets were launched against Israelis after Israel withdrew every living Jew from Gaza. Neither do I ask why academics, who are committed to the understanding of culture and causes, place full blame on Israel and do not factor in evidence of Palestinian government incitement to the murder of Jews.  I ask what they are doing to the scholarly pursuits of the archeologists who belong to the AAA.

Boycotting Israel for archeological research is akin to boycotting the Pacific Ocean for a study of the seas. They just voted to deny themselves a wealth of the world’s leading research, scholars, and digs. One can hardly walk down a street in Israel without tripping over an archeological treasure.

On November 25, 2015, an eight-year-old stumbled upon a 3,000-year-old statuette dating back to the Judean Kingdom in the 8th century BCE.  

In March, 2015, cavers spelunking in Israel came across a hidden stash of ancient coins and jewelry from the era of Alexander the Great, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Israeli archeologists​,​ who inspected the cave found even more ancient objects inside, some 6,000 years old.

In the same month as the outrageous decision by the AAA committee, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of an ancient Maccabean-era fortress under a parking lot in Jerusalem. The Maccabees, whose story is celebrated during Hanukkah,​  stood up against the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes during his siege of Jerusalem in 168 B.C.

While working on a new preschool in Jerusalem, construction crews discovered a mikveh, or ritual bathhouse, dating back to the first century C.E. Mysterious inscriptions in cursive Hebrew script and the Aramaic language covered the walls.

Archeology is a serious academic and cultural concern in Israel, with world-class institutions and leading researchers the field. One such institution is Hebrew University, which researches some of the most important biblical and classical excavations projects, many of which are carried out in collaboration with academic institutions world-wide.

Here are a few examples of archeological discoveries by Hebrew Universities the AAA business meeting members have voted to deny themselves:

  • Beth Shean, mentioned several times in the Bible, contains 15 cities jumbled on top of each other and traces history from the Bronze Age.
  • Tel Rehov, 5 kilometers to the south, is an excavation rich in objects of Canaanite, Philistine and Israelite make. There are ample remains of buildings, which date to the times of David and Solomon and the kings of the Divided Monarchy after them, Omri and Ahab (11th-10th Centuries BCE).
  • The Neolithic village of Sha`ar Hagolan (ca. 8000-7500 years ago) is the largest and most important prehistoric art center in Israel. Over 150 art objects were collected from its surface over the course of many years.
  • Ruins of a Roman temple from the second century CE have recently been unearthed in the Zippori National Park. Above the temple are foundations of a church from the Byzantine period. The story of Zippori is a lesson in more than archeology.  Zippori, the Jewish capital of the Galilee during the Roman period, had a significant pagan population and later a Christian population. The Zippori excavations led by of Prof. Zeev Weiss, Hebrew University, shed light on the multicultural society of the ancient city. Weiss’ findings demonstrate that this was a city in which Jews, pagans and later Christians lived together.

There are hundreds more examples of important discoveries by Hebrew University, Tel Aviv​ University, the Weizman Institute, and dozens of other Israeli institutions of higher learning.

One wonders why “academics” voted to deprive themselves of the very substance of their life’s work in order to send a message of hate to Israel. Is it merely cutting off their noses to spite their faces, or is it something more sinister? Of all people in the world who should understand the indigenous claims of the Jews to the land of Israel, it is archeologists. You cannot stick a shovel in the ground in Israel without coming up with a Jewish artifact. Maybe they are putting down their shovels for fear that facts will conflict with their prejudices against modern day Israel.