East Jerusalemites Concerned by Archaeological Digs

A survey commissioned by NIF grantee Emek Shaveh has found significant gaps in how Palestinian and Jewish residents of Jerusalem view developments in the city. The findings demonstrate how archaeological and construction policies can touch on raw nerves of each segment of the society.

A vast majority – 80% – of Jews said they believed that the objectives of archaeological excavations in the Old City and the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan were purely scientific, while 53% of Palestinians said their aim was to strengthen the Jewish hold on Jerusalem and 57% said the aim was to erase all remnants of Muslim history from the city. Only 14% of Palestinians believed that the aim was scientific.

The study found that Jewish visits to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and archaeological excavations are of great concern to Palestinians in the city, far more than the denial of construction permits and infrastructural problems.

When asked about the issue that concerned them most, Sixty-seven percent of Palestinians in East Jerusalem pointed to Jewish visits to the Temple Mount, 44% said archaeological excavations, 41% said the denial of construction permits, and 30% spoke of the lack of infrastructure.

Emek Shaveh director Yonathan Mizrachi explained: “Contrary to the view that providing a higher standard of living and better housing for East Jerusalem’s residents will resolve the tensions in the city – a position that both rightists and centrists seek to advance – the results of the survey suggest the threat to Palestinian identity and the violation of Jerusalem’s symbolic status are of greater concern … Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem experience the archaeological activities in their neighbourhoods as both an extension of the occupation, as well as a sophisticated method of undermining their national and religious identity.”

The survey was carried out by the Smith Institute, and included 500 individuals representing Israel’s adult population (Jews and Muslims, aged 18 and older).

July 2016