JCSER: Israeli Department of Antiquities hides outcome of archaeological excavations

Rockefeller Museum

The Jerusalem Center for Social & Economic Rights (JCSER) calls on the Israeli Department of Antiquities to reveal the outcome of archaeological excavations currently taking place under its supervision. These excavations are being carried out in Jerusalem’s old City; inside the Palestinian Museum, also known as the Rockefeller Museum in Occupied Jerusalem; and in Shu’fat, along the main Jerusalem-Ramallah road.

The Center warns that the Israeli Department of Antiquities appears to have something to hide, given that the Center has learned through other sources about important finds that the Department has not yet publicly announced.

JCSER fears that the reason for the news blackout is to hide archaeological discoveries that are unsuitable for the Department to supervise, and may indicate an intent to take control of discoveries in the area.   Five years ago, in the area of Street no. (1) near the Al-Musrarah Quarter, north of the Old City, excavations led to the discovery of Byzantine antiquities and remains of what is known as the ‘Third Wall of Jerusalem’. At that time, these newly discovered antiquities were obliterated.

A year ago, the Center issued a press release about the transfer of historical items from the Palestinian Museum to the Israel Museum in West Jerusalem - events attested to by local residents who made statements confirming that they had witnessed trucks transferring historical items from the Museum to an unknown place. At the time, the Israeli Department of Antiquities denied the removal of historical items from the Palestinian Museum. However, it later acknowledged the removal and justified it by stating that restoration work in the Museum had required the Department to move some of the items to another location.

The Center’s Director General, Ziad Al-Hammouri, describes the ongoing Israeli excavations in the Old City, inside the Palestinian Museum and in Shu’fat as continuing evidence of efforts to “Judaize” the city of Jerusalem, by methods which include selectively destroying findings concerning some of the history of Jerusalem and its early civilization. ‘Israelis have obliterated excavations carried out in the area surrounding the Haram Al-Sharif and beneath the Old City, and concealed important facts which refute their numerous claims in this regard,’ said Mr. Al-Hammouri.

The Center calls on international organizations, particularly UNESCO, to intervene in order to put a mechanism in place in order to monitor archaeological excavations carried out by the Israeli Department of Antiquities and to fully reveal the outcomes of these excavations.