HEBRON, Palestine – The Israel Antiquities Authority, with the cooperation of the settlement security apparatus, has expanded the excavations around the Abu Haikal, Al Natsheh, and Al Gobeh families lands in the H2 section of Hebron, near the illegal Jewish settlement of Tel Rumeida.
On Sunday, May 11, 2014, members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, the Ecumenical Accompaniers, and the International Solidarity Movement went to be with the Al Gobeh family as they protested the development of the excavations on their land.
Despite an agreement between the Israel Antiquities Authority and the family to halt work until a civil engineer from the Hebron district could come and accurately disseminate the property lines, the workers waited until the family left, and started to begin to shift the dirt on the Al Gobeh family land.
“This is our land,” said Gobeh. “We didn’t give permission for this. We have witnessed what has happened in the past when we let Israelis work on our land. It turns into a development.”
Gobeh contentions were echoed by the Palestinian Authority.
“The excavations inside of Hebron are required to be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Agreement,” said Dr. Ahmed Rjoob of the State of Palestine’s Ministry and Tourism Department. “There are several issues with the archeological dig.”
Rjoob, argued that the excavations, in addition to be illegal under joint agreements and protocols which Israel and the PA are both signatories, they have in the past been used as instruments for settlement expansion, as in the case of the Tel Rumeida Settlement.
Currently, the Tel Rumeida Settlement has been large source of contention, as large swathes of the settlement, as well as the current excavations are actually built on property owned by the Islamic Waqf.
The expansion of the archeological digs have quarantined off homes and have restricted the movements of several Palestinian homes, in particular the Abu Haikal family. The Abu Haickel family has had their almond tree groves and cherry orchards cut down and up rooted as a result of the excavations. In addition to the loss of their livelihood, the Abu Haikal family as has endured verbal abuse, threats, closure to their property and the prospects of family deportation for resisting the development of the illegal archeological dig.
Rjoob also argues that the very nature of the archeological dig go against the principles of archeological research.
“In archeology, we do excavations to do research – make discovery. This isn’t what is going on here,” said Rjoob. “They came in with a development plan before hand.”
“At the beginning of January 2014, a new archaeological excavation was initiated on the archaeological mound known as Tel Rumeida,” says the Emek Shaveh, an organization of archaeologists and community activists focusing on the role of archaeology in Israeli society and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Emek Shaveh contends that the plan has been in the works for years.
“It appears that the plan for the archaeological park was first conceived at least four years ago – in 2010, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat visited Hebron along with the Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). And yet, the excavation started soon after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent statement that Hebron would remain in Israeli hands in any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The coinciding of these occurrences is a reminder that any archaeological excavation in Hebron will be closely linked to political considerations. Already in the late 1990s, the IAA was involved in an excavation of Tel Rumeida conducted in preparation for the establishment of the settlement on the mound. Many of the archaeological remains discovered in the course of this excavation are now located under settlers’ houses and are features of a guided tour led by settlers in Hebron.”
“We will continue to work to preserve the rights of the families here,” said Rjoob. “These lands belong to the Palestinians under international law.”