Science or Politics? Where is the Oldest Archaeological Journal, PEQ, Headed?

If the PEF chair wants to change the mission of the journal from a scientific to political one, sooner or later he must realize he does injustice to both.

By Rami Arav
University of Nebraska at Omaha
July 2017

In an editorial published recently in the Palestine Exploration Quarterly (PEQ 149:1, 1-2), Professor Philip Davies, chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), attempted to explain why the Anglo-German conference mutually planned and scheduled by the PEF and the Deutscher Palästina-Verein (DPV) to take place in Jerusalem in April/May 2017 was canceled. Davies explained:

…because it proved impossible or unwise to proceed as neutrality demanded. The eastern part of Jerusalem, including the City, is not, according to international law and international opinion, part of Israel, and any excavation there contravenes the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970). Along with most other museums of major standing, the PEF therefore refuses to deal with the results of such activity.

Despite its mission statement that “PEQ is the peer-reviewed journal of the PEF, established in 1865 as the first scholarly society dedicated to the scientific study of what was then generally known as the Holy Land,” Davies decided to deviate from this scientific tradition and become political: “Neutrality, especially in contemporary Palestine, is hardly possible.”

For Davies, Israel has a regime that violates “Cultural Property.” Moreover, for the sake of discriminating Israelis, Davies divided excavations into two kinds: “Jewish excavations” and all others. While his “Jewish excavations” should be banned from PEQ for being “illegal,” all the others are Kosher.

When I queried with him his use of the objectionable term “Jewish excavations” in his editorial, Davies stated in a written reply: “In my defense, I understand that the excavations in question are conducted by Jews and funded by Jews and have a Jewish purpose, so that you might perhaps be gracious enough to allow that I was factually correct.”

That one defensive statement not only defined “Jewish excavations” but seems to imply that the Jews have some sinister “purpose” behind their “Jewish excavations.”

This is absurd. The PEF chair willingly wished to collaborate with the German DPV. This organization sponsored a dig in the Lutheran Church of Jerusalem, had Lutheran archaeologists, and was licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority. If we deduce from his editorial that “Jewish excavations” indicate archaeological projects that have distinctly religious or ethnic affiliations, as Davies insinuates, the DPV excavation should be branded “a Lutheran excavation.”

Davies has a major problem understanding what archaeology is all about. Apparently, he does not know the difference between artefacts and interpretations. He doesn’t seem to understand that an “excavation” includes finds, artefacts, buildings, strata. They are mute; they have no religion, race, or biases. Archaeology is not a branch in the service of theology or any ideology. It strives to reveal ancient realities and analyze the evidence retrieved scientifically.

I have ascertained through correspondence that at least three Israeli scholars were initially rejected out of hand from the conference because their submissions were considered to be “Jewish excavations” in Jerusalem, which Davies considered to be “illegal”, and not on the basis of their scientific merit. One presentation that fully complied with the guidelines and focused on the archives of PEF in London was at first rejected solely because the presenter was Israeli. If he had written under a name like “John Smith,” the conference would have accepted his paper.

Davies justified his disqualifications on UNESCO determinations. His rejection of an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) submission concerning a salvage excavation in the Old City of Jerusalem had major flaws. The 1924 British Mandate of Palestine created the IAA, the former Department of Antiquities, to protect antiquities not to trade them. It does not “import, export and transfer the ownership of cultural property.” In the case of that submission, which was rejected because Davies did not like the fact that it related to an excavation by the “occupier” in an “occupied territory”, he did not seem to comprehend that the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict actually enjoins such salvage excavations as an obligation.

When the rejected group of Israelis turned to the Germans for explanation, they, too, were surprised. Apparently, the board of the DPV realized that that the rejection letters were sent without their approval being sought in each case, although they went out in the joint names of Davies and the editor of ZDPV . The German board was evidently angered by the actions of Davies and promptly pulled out of the conference leaving the PEF chairman no option but to follow suit.

So a golden opportunity to illuminate important chapters in the history of Levantine archaeology was missed thanks to the strident anti-Israeli bias of the PEF chairman.

In archaeology, as in life, there is one important rule: If you are in a hole, stop digging! The entire shameful episode could have been long forgotten, but the PEF chairman continued to dig a deeper hole for himself. He published his distorted version of the events and implicitly blamed the Israelis for the cancellation of the conference. In this objectionable editorial, he went on to argue that the PEF should abandon its unwritten rule not to deal with historical topics post 1917, in other words, to allow current political issues to seep into the activities of the PEF.

Since the time of Galileo, science and politics have not been compatible. If Philip Davies wants to change the mission of the journal from strictly scientific to one that indulges in political issues, sooner or later he must realize he does injustice to both. As a scientific journal, PEQ will be widely regarded as fatally compromised by its political dimension.

Moreover, if PEQ does become tainted with politics, the harm to archaeology will be twofold:

1) The journal will lose submission of good quality articles and therefore lose subscribers and its time-honored reputation for scientific scholarship.

2) The abandonment of PEQ to political discourse will only make it harder for archaeologists to publish their findings in the remaining quality archaeological journals.

“Neutrality, especially in contemporary Palestine, is hardly possible”, according to Davies. Is it indeed? The American Institute of Archaeology and the American Schools of Oriental Research do an excellent job, as does the DPV, without meddling in unnecessary political agendas. Why can’t the PEF continue to heed the warning of its founders to stick to inductive inquiry and steer well clear of religious and political controversy?

Comments (33)

We are all familiar with Philip Davies anti-Israeli attitude. This is not new at all. His behavior is ridiculous and bizarre. I will suggest banning PEQ till Mr Davis will be replaced.

#1 - Robert Deutsch - 07/13/2017 - 18:00

I suppose that an archaeological investigation conducted by people who have the strongest or even the strangest political convictions might be conducted with the utmost objectivity and might produce important scientific results, never mind politics. But I don't think that this possibility is enough to overcome the fact that it is wrong to conduct scientific, even the most genuinely scientific, research in a fashion contrary to Unesco rules. There needs to be an institution like Unesco to set some rules for these matters. There's a limit to what one can say without access to Davies' article. I suppose I should admit, having said that, to a slight acquaintance with Professor Davies and to the conviction that he is a man of honour.

#2 - Martin Hughes - 07/13/2017 - 19:35

Dr. Arav thank you for your clear vision not contaminated by any theology or politics. A breath of fresh air.
Mr. Hughes might want to actually research UNESCO to find they are anti Israel, have no legal binding authority, and were created by non academic haters.

#3 - Michelle Byrnes - 07/13/2017 - 22:00

Thank you Rami for bringing it to us all and for standing firm against such an outrage mainly due to the fact that the PEQ is a well familiar journal in our field.
I was rather shocked to read the half-trues by Prof. Davies if to believe my colleagues and the official respond by the IAA. In many ways it is for the better that the real face was exposed and not hidden anymore behind curtains of politically correctness. It seems to me like a good old colonial statement.
"Jewish excavations"? Where do these take place? Being a bit familiar with the excavation policies in Israel and the preference of so many new foreign delegations to work In Israel under a their own permit issued by the IAA, I must say things are rather the opposite as being portraited by Davies.
Perhaps odd to mention that in December 2015 our Institute at Haifa sponsored a conference dedicated to the PEF and their early pioneer work in the Land of Israel.
Now, I must go back to my Jewish small dig.

#4 - Michael Eisenberg - 07/14/2017 - 20:11

Dr. Arav has outlined some very important issues.

He accurately explained why politicizing archaeology makes no sense. Even more absurd: international organizations like the UN denying the Jewish heritage of historical area. Take, for example the recent biased UN Security Council resolution that, in effect, declared "non-existent" the Jewish heritage of the Kotel (The Western Wall at the base of the Temple Mount).

More recently, UNESCO claimed the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron to be a “Palestinian historical site.” The anti-Semitic edict overlooked the lengthy Jewish history at that location. For over 2,000 years, believers have traveled to the declared home of the Jewish Tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah and prayed at the site.

These UN efforts are outrageous; furthermore, the Davies essay discredits the study of archaeology, itself. In effect, these actions turn History upside down.

This politicization has got to stop?

#5 - Gary Javitch - 07/15/2017 - 17:26

I still think that the principles of a) having an international authority setting rules for 'human heritage' matters b) sticking to those rules c) accepting that one must be patient about making scientific discoveries in circumstances where there is dispute as to ownership of something vital to the enquiry are all good principles. It is like other disputes as to constitutional government: it is better, if the rules are wrong, to argue for a change in the rules, arguing for as long as it takes against whatever consensus supports them, rather than to defy them here and now. I
don't think that the question should
be widened to include other Unesco
decisions. I think that the principles I mention would command very wide consent in most circumstances.

#6 - Martin Hughes - 07/16/2017 - 11:33

In recent years UNESCO has proven to be a complete farce, a political tool of the OIC and supporting members of the Non Aligned Countries. Those that cite UNESCO are either shockingly naive and unaware or massive disingenuous hypocrites. As far as "East Jerusalem," the name Jordan suddenly gave to the thousands year old historic part of Jerusalem when it illegally seized that part of the city, its interesting that those supporting Davies consider it alright for Jordan to cleanse the long majority Jewish inhabitants of that part of the Jewish established city (and Jewish capital), and it's alright for Jordan to destroy several dozens of synagogues and tens of thousands of historic gravestones (that they used to build latrines), but when Israel conducts any excavations they are accused of changing the makeup of this portion of Jerusalem. Additionally, these same people said nothing when Jordan destroyed many many tons of ancient artifacts in digs that were intended to erase historical artifacts and evidence of the First Temple.

#7 - David Berkson - 07/18/2017 - 10:39

I beg to disagree Mr Hughes. UNESCO has totally and completely discredited itself by passing anti-Jewish resolutions thereby denying 1000's of years undisputed history. There is no merit in your suggestion that despite having no credibility we should abide by their rules and guidelines. On the other hand the IAA has proved itself to be a honest and trustworthy authority that treats all historical sites with equal respect and care, regardless if Jewish, Christian, Arab or of any other people or religion. Their policies are transparent and correct and they work closely with all and any international scientific or archaeological research body and should be allowed to continue regulating all research that is undertaken in Israel.

#8 - Alan Mevaker - 07/18/2017 - 14:19

Unfortunately, UNESCO has been so politicized by the Arab block as to render it both ridiculous and useless. There is a thing called history: certain things actually happened. After that, all in interpretation, often subject to small and non-objective minds.

#9 - Michael Mulcahy - 07/18/2017 - 14:42

Richard Davies categorizes the Balfour Declaration as “the most momentous event in the history of 20th century Palestine.” As the Balfour Declaration is entirely meaningless as a legal document, its issuance can hardly be considered momentous at all. Furthermore, modern Zionism as a political force was established approximately twenty years prior to the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, so its issuance, while a success of Zionism, had nothing to do with the creation or continuance of modern political Zionism, and therefore again, the Balfour Declaration was not “momentous.”

What was momentous, at least from the standpoint of international law, was the San Remo Resolution of April 1920. In that resolution, made by the Principal Allied Powers, the victors of WW I and therefore the ones who had the lawful right to determine the status of the lands they had won in WWI, the rights of the Jewish people in international law to reconstitute their homeland were established. The Mandate for Palestine put into practical effect the San Remo Resolution by establishing a trusteeship under the supervision of Great Britain to implement the Jewish homeland undertaking established in international law by the San Remo Resolution, such Resolution being reaffirmed unanimously by the League of Nations upon granting the Mandate to Great Britain.

Contrary to an ocean of misinformation (or outright lies) the right of the Jews to reconstitute their homeland, as established in the San Remo Resolution and as put into practical administrative form in the Mandate for Palestine remains fully in effect today. The borders of the area for the Jewish homeland as roughly established in the Mandate encompass today what is Jordan, Israel and the territories Israel captured in June 1967. In an amendment to the Mandate made a few months after its signing, the Jewish homeland provisions in the Mandate were postponed or withheld regarding the area now know as Jordan.

Since the Mandate was an undertaking of the League of Nations, which ceased operating in 1946, and since Great Britain resigned as Mandatory in May 1948, a question arises, were the terms of the Mandate still international law when Israel declared its independence effective the day after Great Britain resigned as Mandatory. The answer on both accounts is yes. The Charter of the United Nations in its Article 80 explicitly continues the Mandatories or trusts established by the League of Nations as obligations of the United Nations. The resignation of Great Britain is entirely irrelevant, a trust survives the resignation of the trustee.

The Jewish Homeland provisions of the San Remo Resolution continue today unabated in international law. Leaving aside the question of Jordan, the Jewish Homeland provisions fully apply to all lands west of the Jordan River. The fact that Jordan and Egypt illegally seized some of this land in Israel’s War of Independence, does not alter their legal status as part of the Jewish homeland. In 1948/1949 Israel, as successor to the Jewish Agency, the Jewish component of the Mandate’s mechanism to establish a Jewish homeland, realized the Jewish home provisions of the Mandate in all areas west of the Jordan River except for Gaza, the Golan, Jerusalem and the heartland of historical Israel, the administrative areas called from Biblical times to the 20th century Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron.) In 1967 Israel succeeded in establishing control over these areas. In doing so Israel’s actions were to realize international law, as these areas were designated to be part of the Jewish home since the San Remo Resolution.

#10 - Michael Chenkin - 07/18/2017 - 15:09

What might Mr Davies and Mr Hughes think of the Waqf's completely non-Jewish excavation of the Temple Mount where they used construction equipment to move tons of earth without any concern for the destruction they caused?

#11 - j klein - 07/18/2017 - 17:01

I object to Rami Arav’s attack on Philip Davies’ editorial in the recent issue of the PEQ. Already in his title, Arav defines the readers’ choices: “Science or Politics?”, with the implied assertion that Philip’s concerns about the PEF’s policy of political neutrality, within the increasingly conflicted context of the history of Palestine since the Mandate Period, not only undermines the PEF’s scholarly integrity, but, through a deceptive manipulation, is, in fact, to be understood as, itself, a politicization of scholarship! The politics of “Neutrality” deceptively is transformed to the scholarly objectivity, which marks the height of scholarly integrity.
However, Philip’s editorial, as I read it with Philip’s title—“The PEF and the Perils of Neutrality”—addresses its question to the complex difficulties, which the PEF’s policy of political neutrality, brings! That is, Philip has written his editorial in order to discuss the political policy of the PEF’s neutrality in regard to the horrific history of post-mandate Palestine, involving massive destruction of its indigenous population. In a time, in which we are becoming more aware of the last 70 years of Palestine’s ethnic cleansing and the current “incremental genocide” of Israel’s current policies, regarding the control of Gaza, we are becoming more aware of the cost of academic scholarships’ all too willing political policies of neutrality!
Philip, as I read his essay, is suggesting, in a very modest and balanced way, that we reconsider our past policies of political neutrality and begin to orient our scholarship in such a way as to take consideration of the damage such a policy of neutrality brings with it. We need to reject such a politically bankrupt policy and begin to deal with Palestine from within the brutal context of Palestine, which exists today. We do not need neutrality, but rather truthfulness and scholarly objectivity in our history: elements of archaeological and historical scholarship, which are often absent because of our politically motivated neutrality.
Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

#12 - Thomas L. Thompson - 07/18/2017 - 21:43

So Mr. Thompson, If I Understand what you are saying, your answer to "science or politics" is: politics

#13 - Avi Boham - 07/19/2017 - 11:19

Thank you, Prof. Arav for your academic and polite article but, let's face it, Philip Davies seems to have a problem with Jews. His language about "Jewish excavations" that have a "Jewish purpose" is reminiscent of 1930’s Germany. But this is nothing new from Davies. When I interviewed him in 2005, he referred to Orthodox Jews by making hand gestures imitating their payot sidelocks. Also, he has always tried to deny the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. When the "House of David" inscription was found in Tel Dan by Prof. Avraham Biran (1993), Davies suggested that the word "David", in the inscription, should be read "uncle"... a kind of ancient "Man from Uncle" inscription. Then, he even had the gall to suggest that this artifact - which was found in situ - might be a forgery. After all, it was found by Jews. Now, he hides his venom behind UNESCO's rulings. Davies and UNESCO deserve each other. UNESCO also spends its time obsessively trying to deny the connection between the Jewish people and its ancient homeland.

Let's face it, Davies is a man who's made a career out of being a naysayer when it comes to the archaeology of the land of Israel and the Jewish people. We've seen this before Davies and we'll see it again. If he talked like this about any people, other than the Jews, he would be run out of academia. But, take heart, Prof. Arav; when Davies is an archaeological artifact, himself, there will still be Jews in Israel, working with non-Jewish academics of all persuasions, digging up the incredible history of this ancient land.

#14 - Simcha Jacobovici - 07/19/2017 - 21:10

While the Muslim Wakf was willfully destroying Jewish antiquities and others on the Temple Mount, where was Philip Davies and the PEF? Where was their outrage? They only turned their backs and ignored the destruction. As Davies says, it was only "Jewish" artifacts. Fortunately, Gabi Barkai and other prominent Israeli archeologists were able to save some of these artifacts which enrich our culture and help us understand our past.

#15 - Steven Sherman - 07/20/2017 - 11:13

Dear Mr. Avi Bohem,
No, I do not prefer politics to science. I rather suggested that Philip's article is misread and made to say the opposite of what it argues. In Philip's article, problems are raised in regard to the PEF's POLITICAL policy of neutrality. What is important in regard to scholarship, however, is that the readers of read the argument that Philip actually presents in his PEF editorial, rather than the distortions offered to this forum.

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

#16 - Thomas L. Thompson - 07/20/2017 - 11:59

Simcha Jacobovici writes: 'let's face it, Philip Davies seems to have a problem with Jews. His language about "Jewish excavations" that have a "Jewish purpose" is reminiscent of 1930’s Germany.'

This is an outrage and slander! What Philip in fact writes is: "... recent Jewish excavations in Jerusalem were therefore declined", without the least trace of Nazism. Let's get back to issues of the truth and integrity of scholarship, which was Philip's actual topic after all.
Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

#17 - Thomas L. Thompson - 07/20/2017 - 12:21

Dear Prof. Davies, editor of the PEQ,
My name is Christopher Abdullah-Cohen, an archaeologist. My biological father is Moslem and my biological mother is Jewish, therefore I am considered as Moslem by the Moslem law and Jewish by the Jewish law. When I was a child I was adopted by a nice couple, she is vegan and pagan, while he is nudist and Marxist. As for my personal identity, on the even days of the week I feel very Jewish, whereas on the odd days I feel quite non-Jewish, and my aspirations change accordingly.
I am conducting an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem, in what was until 1967 the buffer zone between Israel and Jordan and now is occupied by Israel. I have discovered remains of prehistorical times, that are neither Jewish, nor non-Jewish. I was wondering if you would accept my paper to your conference? And what has UNESCO, the Waqf, pope, chief rabbi, and Ziggi Stardust to say on the matter?
Sincerely (though not honestly)
The confused

#18 - Dr. Adi Erlich, University of haifa - 07/20/2017 - 18:50

What is an “outrage” is Thomas L. Thompson’s lifelong work to turn Jewish history and its roots in the land of Israel into a “myth”. What is “slander” is to declare that “neutrality” is not a proper approach to scholarship in Israel. Rather, we should substitute academic objectivity with a political program that “deal[s] with Palestine from within the brutal context of Palestine.” In other words, academics should conduct archaeology that’s pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. Using “newspeak”, Thompson calls the departure from neutrality towards active pro-Palestinian propagandizing “scholarly objectivity”. But despite the fact that he’s a hit in Ramallah and in BDS circles, we won’t fall for Thomson’s Orwellian agenda, nor for his defense of Philip Davies’ inflammatory language. “Truth and integrity of scholarship” are the opposite of anti-Israel, pseudo-scholarship.

#19 - Simcha Jacobovici - 07/20/2017 - 22:25

In responding to Martin Hughes and Thomas Thompson I would say the following:
Some responses have made it clear that UNESCO is not the appropriate forum to advise sovereign nations how to manage their own Heritage assets. UNESCO has set a poor or non-existent moral example during the civil wars in Syria and Iraq and has repeatedly demonstrated that this organization does not live up to the standards which it proclaims.
Moreover, from the legal point of view UNESCO has no juridical power over states. Their rules and resolutions, apart from demonstrating consistent bias, with a built-in anti-Israel majority, have no legal value. A vivid example was recently published. A short time after ISIS blew up Mosul’s historic mosque and minaret, built by Seljuk Nur a-Din Al Zangi Atabeg in 1172, and turned it to dust, UNESCO ignored that act of cultural vandalism and instead busied itself with a resolution that the ancient monument of Makhpela in Hebron, built by the Jewish king Herod the Great, on the alleged tomb of the Israelites ancestor, is in danger. The nature of the danger was not specified, the proposers of the resolution knowing full well that this monument enjoys much respect and round-the-clock protection.
Legally it is impossible to impose rules or resolutions on states that have not signed a contract to abide by those decisions. This is a fact known by all.
So what counts? Only conventions and agreements endorsed by countries to abide by their provisions, carry weight. Israel, together with most of countries in the world, have signed the Geneva Conventions. Now, reading carefully these conventions will reveal that countries are obliged to conduct salvage excavations in occupied territories, in order to save them from destruction or serious damage. This requirement is meticulously complied with by the State of Israel through its agency the Israel Antiquities Authority. I know it first hand and I can testify that this is the policy of IAA.
Thomas Thompson
I will defend Thomas Thompson’s right to voice his opinion. However, the issue is not whether Thomas Thompson and Philip Davies have the right to express any political opinion no matter how wrong they are. The question is why usurp an archaeological journal for this purpose? There are just a few academic printed journals in which archaeologists can publish the results of their painstaking research. Sometimes articles wait years to be published.
The Board of Trustees of the PEF have the right to change the policy of that learned society but, enjoying the status of a registered UK charity, the PEF cannot be turned into a political platform of any persuasion. As a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of PEQ it is my duty to ensure that it remains true to its existing constitution. I trust that my fellow members of the Board will also exercise the same responsibility.
I am waiting to see whether the Board of Trustees of the PEF, wishes to subvert its stated mission and the editorial policy of the journal to suit the views of Philip Davies and Thomas Thompson, or like ASOR, AIA, DPV and others, remain anchored in the spirit of scientific enquiry, as stipulated by the founding fathers of the PEF, and keep out of politics. Politics and science do not go hand in hand.

#20 - Rami Arav - 07/21/2017 - 07:09

I don't think that anyone has even opposed, let alone refuted, the general points I made. It is plainly better to have an international standard in these things, defined by an international agency, than an unconnected series of national standards and decisions.
This point is not affected by the lack of legal enforceability of the international authority's decision - it is still better that an international authority exist and be respected. The point is not affected by any decision of the victors of WW1, who did not claim and could not have had authority for the future direction of scientific research.
It is clear that scientific information should be pursued within the ethical standards set by (if the matter is of more than local concern) political processes. This is all but universally agreed. It would be rather odd to describe this as the priority of politics
over science. If you insist on those terms this would be a fully justified and generally agreed form of priority.
It follows from the idea of ethical standards for science that there may have to be patience in gathering information in certain circumstances. If authorities were not allowed to make mistakes there would be no authorities in any matter.
I was asked about certain Waqf activities. For what it's worth I thought they were rather a bad idea, though I'm not sure they fell under quite the same argument.
I think that Professor Thompson is quite right to argue, if I understand him aright, that where scientific investigations intervene on an ethical dispute that is a reason for airing rather than concealing the dispute concerned.
I may not be neutral in the relevant dispute but I do think that I am presenting a neutral argument, one not depending on any political point or on saying bad things about anyone.

#21 - Martin Hughes - 07/21/2017 - 19:59

Martin Huges while attempting to present a good faith argument, is in denial or uninformed. UNESCO is in no sense an ethical group and they have no standards except being anti-Israel.
What happened to the Geneva Convention?

#22 - Michelle Byrnes - 07/23/2017 - 03:11

Those really are intemperate remarks, Michelle. However, thanks for suggesting that I might be writing in good faith, Michelle. I think that I am at least offering an argument, leading logically to the conclusion that Davies' decision is right, based on premises that are neutral in our sense and, more importantly, plainly correct and generally acceptable: even now, no one has said that they are false.
I am not arguing for any particular Unesco judgement, except to say that the view that there should sometimes be delay while questions of ownership are sorted out is entirely right. It is at least fully in accord with the normal ethic of scientific research, which does not call for acquiring information as soon as possible and at all costs.
Perhaps there are arguments from exceptional situations. Let me turn to those. I don't think that a false Unesco judgement in another matter constitutes a relevantly exceptional situation: authorities are not to be rejected for a few mismanagements - I neither affirm nor deny that there have been any - as I argued above. Even serious mismanagements should be corrected by constitutional means, rather than by defiance, the situation of there being international standards rather than a series of local or national ones being so obviously precious both ethically and scientifically.
Professor Arav brings in an argument from the Geneva Conventions - if carefully read - offering no quotation or paragraph reference, but raising the question of salvage or urgent necessity. This seems to be a different matter from the priority of
science over politics. An appeal to urgent necessity is really, in normal discourse, an acceptance that normally valid ethical rules are being broken, which I would take as a point favouring what I'm trying to say. I don't believe that it encourages or permits belligerent occupiers to
salvage things in the relevant territory without consultation or in the teeth of the wishes of 'the people of the land', who may think that the specific means of salvage damage their vital interests. That would be contrary to
the Convention's generally eirenic
tone and intention. (If it did this it would have no moral authority.) In general I would consider that a Convention with an eirenic purpose would bolster rather than abolish the rights of international standard setters, such as Unesco, and would seek to restrain those with local power.
On the whole one doesn't expect an argument which ratifies into a thousand further questions to get quickly to a rational result.
Perhaps the matter will next go the Charity Commissioners.

#23 - Martin Hughes - 07/24/2017 - 13:42

In an effort to respond as clearly as I can to Simcha Jacobovici, let me clarify as briefly as I can what I have tried to express in interpreting Philip Davies editorial in the PEQ:

Scholarly objectivity is not to be equated with the PEF's policy of political neutrality in regard to the conflicts and hatred implicit in the current political context of Palestine. The maintenance of this policy has been harmful to our understanding of ancient Israel and of ancient Palestine as a whole. In fact, such political neutrality has left essential aspects of the current realities involved in archaeological and historical research in Palestine out of our scholarly analyses and critiques, at great cost to our integrity.

Philip's editorial needs to be read as it has been seriously distorted and misinterpreted by an outrageously dishonest debate in this forum.

Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

#24 - Thomas L. Thompson - 07/26/2017 - 15:40

Dear Prof. Rami Arav,

I am grateful to you for sharing this alarming information with the academic community as a member of the PEQ Editorial Board.

Personally, I am a long-time supporter of the PEF. In December 2015, I chaired and organized an international conference marking 150 years since the PEF was established.

It was a natural move for me to propose a paper to the above-mentioned PEF-DVP conference in Jerusalem. However, my paper was rejected on a non-academic basis. In his letter to me, Prof. Philip Davies noted that my paper "does indeed address the theme of the conference and in other circumstances we would have been pleased to hear it", but it was rejected because of so-said "deemed illegal excavations". I was completely puzzled. My offered lecture was based on the archival material from the PEF archives. These are Conrad Schick's reports from 19th century. Actually, my research project was partially funded by the PEF (PEF grant award, 2014/5), while the PEF's official blog posted updates on my work (*1). Something seemed odd.

Shortly, I discovered that all the Jewish Israeli scholars who offered papers on Jerusalem, were rejected with the same formulation. Prof. Davies simply copy-pasted the text and sent it to every scholar with a Jewish surname and an affiliation to an Israeli academic institute. In fact, an identical letter (addressed to a different Jewish scholar) was 'left' unintentionally at the bottom part of the message that was sent to me.

After I had raised initial concerns to the German DVP, my paper was accepted. But soon Prof. Davies wrote again that "the conference has now had to be canceled". No explanation was provided. Prof. Arav, I am grateful for finally bringing to my attention the reason for this 'mysterious' cancellation.

In his PEQ editorial, Prof. Philip Davies exposed his agenda of racial discrimination. The term "Jewish excavations" stands exactly for what it meant to stand – the hatred of Jews, in this case of Jewish scholars. I am shocked to read the quote of Prof. Davies that he believes in secret "Jewish purposes". In other words, Jews are conspiring and Jewish archaeologists are exercising the plan.

This state of things is far beyond just an unpleasant situation. In December 2016, the UK Government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism (*2). One of the criteria for an antisemitic speech defined there as:
"Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions".

Thus, the editorial by Prof. Davies constitutes a hate crime.

It as a source of great concern that in 2017, we are facing a situation where a person, who holds an official position in a respected academic institution, endorses racism.

Prof. Davies damaged the credibility of the PEF as a scientific academic institute. I am very concerned about the PEF future. I expect the PEF Executive Committee to issue a clear condemnation of Prof. Davies' statements. The PEF must dissociate itself from dubious policies of racial discrimination.

Dr. David Gurevich
The Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

*1 -
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#25 - David Gurevich - 07/26/2017 - 23:53

Up till now, I have restricted my objections to Philip Davies' editorial in PEQ to members of the PEF Executive Committee and within the confines of the last AGM of the PEF. I felt restrained by a sense of loyalty to the PEF having served on its Executive Committee for well over two decades, in the positions of Treasurer, Honorary Secretary, Chair of Publications, and finally as Editor of PEQ. Over that entire period, I found the PEF a very welcoming organisation and my colleagues on the Executive Committee and Executive Secretaries pleasant, tolerant and thoroughly professional in all matters. I also found Philip Davies personable and we developed a certain camaraderie during our period of overlap on the Committee.
Therefore, I was all the more shaken by Philip’s objectionable editorial. His singling out “Jewish excavations” for opprobrium and exclusion has to be recognised and condemned for what it is, according to the widely accepted IHRA definition, namely an anti-Semitic exhortation. Philip then has the temerity to rub salt into the wound in his written reply to Rami Arav’s complaint about his hapless editorial: “In my defence, I understand that the excavations in question are conducted by Jews and funded by Jews and have a Jewish purpose, so that you might perhaps be gracious enough to allow that I was factually correct.” The fact that Thomas Thompson is prepared to be laid back about Philip’s editorial and oblivious to his sneering comment in his reply to Rami Arav, is hardly surprising in view of his own shrill anti-Israel opinions and apparently worse, which have got about. It is Thompson’s gratuitous feedback in these columns and also what I consider to be an inaccurate statement that has appeared on the PEF homepage of its website that has obliged me to enter this arena.
The inaccurate statement of which I speak states that submissions to the aborted DPV-PEF conference (which, incidentally, I initiated with Achim Lichtenberger) were rejected “on the basis of subject matter”. As readers can plainly see, this was not true of the original rejection of David Gurevich’s paper and of some of the others either. Rami Arav has explained what led to the cancellation of the conference, which is also not made clear on the PEF website.
The throw-away anonymous leaflet inserted in the June 2017 issue of PEQ, set in miniscule font and expressed in a condescending form of words, recognising the offense that may have been caused by the term “Jewish excavations” and offering to replace this by “Israeli excavations” is simply not good enough. The PEF Executive Committee must stir from its silence, come clean and act decisively to limit the damage that has been done to the international reputation of a prestigious institution. The offensive editorial has to be retracted in the pages of the PEQ and at this stage it would also be appropriate for Philip Davies to step down from the chairmanship of the PEF. Recently an MP (member of the British parliament) was suspended for a lesser verbal offence.
David M. Jacobson,
Honorary Research Fellow, UCL

#26 - David Jacobson - 07/27/2017 - 13:53

I searched with the aid of Google for 'serving Jewish/Lutheran purposes' and several similar phrases and came across a series of very innocuous remarks: for instance, G. Bubis on p.310 of 'Jewish Family and Jewish Continuity' (Bayme and Rosen 1994) 'A number of Jewish community organisations outside Israel will have Jewish names and exist under Jewish auspices yet minimise their Jewish purposes and services and increasingly serve non-Jews. Jews attracted to such institutions will most likely come from the most assimilated elements of the population. To offset this trend the institutions which remain or become strongly committed to Jewish purposes to seek each other out...must strengthen each other.' I don't think that the phrase is in itself opprobrious: equally uninsulting references to Lutheran purposes seemed to come up. People are entitled to have purposes connected with ethnicity or religion.

#27 - Martin Hughes - 07/27/2017 - 20:44

Martin Hughes, do you not get it?
It is the context in which expressions are used that determines their potency. As I wrote quite clearly in my last rejoinder, it was the use by Philip Davies of the term “Jewish excavations” to single them out as undesirable, as far as Jerusalem and the West Bank are concerned, and to advocate their blacklisting that is objectionable. Then it follows that “Jewish purposes” assumes a nefarious meaning just as Hitler’s use of the term “Jewish question” is a euphemism for something a whole lot darker, when taken in its intended context. Martin, particularly in the light of the horrendous events of the 20th century, you ought to be a great deal more sensitive to manifestations of anti-Semitism and not be like those who wrote the statement now posted on the home page of the PEQ website, in denial of its occurrence.
What is also at issue here is the application of double standards to the Jews and Israel, on the one hand, and to everyone else on the other. If Philip Davies truly considers Jewish and Israeli excavations in Jerusalem as illegitimate, then he ought to state unequivocally also that all excavations in East Jerusalem carried out between 1949 and 1967 were also illegal. In 1949, the Arab Legion of the Emirate of Transjordan invaded territory that had been earmarked for a Palestinian state by the United Nations as well as East Jerusalem and proceeded to illicitly annex the captured area to create the Kingdom of Jordan, flouting UN resolutions and in the teeth of Arab-Palestinian opposition (to the extent that a Palestinian nationalist murdered King Abdullah I as he left the al-Aqsa Mosque in 1951). That annexation was only recognised by two countries, Great Britain and Pakistan. Thus, according to the criteria of Philip Davies, all excavations in Jerusalem carried out during the Jordanian hegemony over the West Bank and East Jerusalem were illegal by International Law, including those by Kathleen Kenyon, and the PEF ought to be condemned for publishing all that work. No, Philip Davies and Thomas Thompson prefer to selectively castigate the Jews and Israelis, with Martin Hughes attempting to cover for them.
Wouldn’t it be sensible if the PEF steered well clear of these thorny political issues and simply restricted its agenda to scientific-based research of the southern Levant, as advised by its far-sighted founding fathers at the inaugural public meeting of the PEF held in London on 22 June 1865?

#28 - David Jacobson - 07/28/2017 - 06:51

I know nothing about any "shrill anti-Israeli opinions" that David Jacobson suggests have become gossip. However, I must thank him for his reference to the brief explanation published by the PEF, which is less shrill than the criticisms of Philip Davies editorial. I think it is worth citing in full:

"Friends of the PEF have drawn our attention to misinformation circulating online about the collapse of the PEF/ZDP conference 'Anglo-German Exploration of the Holy Land 1865-1915' which characterizes the PEF as a discriminatory organization, an accusation we strongly refute. These facts will be addressed in PEQ 149.3.

In the meantime we wish to state the following:

It was not the PEF’s proposal to cancel the conference, and we have been informed by the IAA that they did not wish it cancelled either.

Papers from Israeli archaeologists were included in the conference programme from the beginning; rejections were on the basis of subject matter, and two of these were resubmitted and accepted.

The PEF has never discriminated against Israeli archaeologists or against the State of Israel. It supports all legal excavation within the Holy Land."


Thomas L. Thompson
Professor emeritus, University of Copenhagen

#29 - Thomas L. Thompson - 07/28/2017 - 10:01

You have rendered a useful service by presenting the ‘important notice’ posted on the homepage of the PEF website to this discussion forum, for which I thank you.
It enables me to better explain the ways in which I and others deem it unsatisfactory. Contentious passages in that notice are shown in quotes.
1. “Misinformation circulating online which characterizes the PEF as a discriminatory organization”:
This is not the charge being levelled against the PEF by correspondents on this discussion forum. Rather, the complaints relate specifically to the editorial by Philip Davies in PEQ 149.1 (2017). On the other hand, this latest notice, like the leaflet insert with PEQ 149.2 (2017), avoids any admission that the editorial contains anti-Semitic comments and, being in denial, does not offer a requisite apology.
2. “It was not the PEF’s proposal to cancel the conference, and we have been informed by the IAA that they did not wish it cancelled either”.
That is not the whole story. Cancellation of the conference was by the DPV in consultation with the PEF following complaints received by the DPV about the selection criteria for submissions made to the conference.
3. “Papers from Israeli archaeologists were included in the conference programme from the beginning; rejections were on the basis of subject matter, and two of these were resubmitted and accepted”.
This assertion is misleading: initial rejections of some papers were NOT on the basis of subject matter, as attested by David Gurevich and others.
4. “The PEF supports all legal excavation within the Holy Land".
Unfortunately, the term “legal” is being wielded politically by the Chairman of the PEF, as we have seen - and there is the rub. To avoid the intrusion of politically-loaded judgements in PEF policy, the word “legal” ought to be replaced here by “scientifically conducted and professionally supervised”.

#30 - David Jacobson - 07/29/2017 - 08:23

As to context and intended context - I don't think that the world of discourse in which Philip operates is anything like that of Hitler in its intellectual atmosphere. The surrounding political situation is hugely different. And I cannot imagine that Philip actually intends to be understood in terms derived from the 1930s.
As to immediate context, no one has cited any other words from him which give his use of 'Jewish' or 'purposes' an opprobrious feel.
As to wider context, I think your generous (especially so in this context) estimation of him in the past is part of the evidence and it links in with his very long record of cooperation with (as far as I know) everyone. That too is objective evidence for the disposition of his mind. I know him much less than you do but I think we both have sensed someone not swayed by vulgar prejudice or strongly negative emotions.
Things may have been done in the past by Jordanians that should not have been done but that is not a licence for anything to be done now.
We come back to the question of research where the means and the sites of research are of disputed ownership. Should the existence of these disputes be ignored and the research just proceed, as perhaps you suggest? I think that they should, in accordance with standard ethics of science, be taken seriously. I think that international standards are of the highest value both ethically and scientifically.

#31 - Martin Hughes - 07/29/2017 - 18:03

If the best source Martin Hughes can come up with is Google, as he stated. The bar is much lower than I even imagined.

#32 - Michelle Byrnes - 08/02/2017 - 03:22

Some crucial errors and issues in the discussion about the Editorial of Philip Davies in PEQ 149 1 (2017), have not been sufficiently addressed thus far.
The first one is an error related to the need to publish this Editorial in first place. The conference was organized, the call of papers was issued, scholars responded, some Israeli scholars were rejected, the German partners stepped out of the venture and the conference was cancelled. This could have been long forgotten, but Philip Davies, who orchestrated the entire failed event, would not let it go.
By opening the issue to the public and because of his lame explanation, a Pandora box was opened. In addition to put the blame on the Israelis, who dared to submit a proposal, his ill-fated term “Jewish excavations” and his hapless attempt to explain to me what that offensive term means, is his dirge to keep PEF in a state of political “neutrality”.
Here is the second problem. Neutrality is a political statement. Thomas Thompson was correct, it is not scientific objectivity. It is not a scientific term at all. It is totally, and thoroughly a political declaration. What does it entail? Switzerland, the home of the League of Nations and international protocols proclaimed its neutrality in WWII, but was quick to hand over Jewish refugees escaping from the Holocaust to Nazi Germany. Most of those Jews perished in the gas chambers. So neutrality is a flexible terminology that needs intricate specifications defining the exact ethics of this neutrality.
In his Editorial, Philip demonstrated very well that his “neutrality” is a road full of pitfalls, prejudices, provisos and cautions. He did not pause for a moment to ask himself why to bother? Why take this precarious road to begin with? Why not simply remain loyal to science and scientific rules? Why to enmesh scientific research and discoveries in unnecessary politics? Why not learn from the past? (Switzerland for example). Why not to take the examples of so many other scientific journals?
This self-serving neutrality has never succeeded and is doomed to fail. You can never navigate this boat through those treacherous waters. Be honest enough to admit your failure and the unquestionable damage done to the reputation of the PEF, resign your chairmanship and hand over the role to a widely respected successor who is committed to science and not to politics.

#33 - Rami Arav - 08/03/2017 - 08:18

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