Monday, March 07, 2022

What kind of an anthropologist would condone looting of Jewish antiquities? A Palestinian one at Columbia.

Nadia Abu El Haj is a professor of anthropology at Columbia University's Barnard College. 

In 2002, she published "Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society." The book is meant to be a discussion of how Israel uses and misuses archaeology for its own political purposes.

But she asserts, in her own voice, something so shocking that it should disqualify her in her own field, in a section of her book that discusses Palestinian looting of Jewish artifacts at archaeological sites - something that is rampant.

Looting could well be analyzed as a form of resistance to the Israeli state and an archaeological project, understood by many Palestinians, to stand at the very heart of Zionist historical claims to the land. In James Scott's words, looting is perhaps a "weapon of the weak" [1985].
Here we have an anthropologist who is praising Palestinian looting of Jewish heritage - because it is "resistance." 

(James Scott's book, called "Weapons of the Weak," does not talk about looting of archaeological sites, and indeed does not appear to discuss the permanent destruction or loss of any major items. Abu El Haj is twisting his thesis.)

In Palestinian thought, any crime, including murder, is justifiable under the rubric of "resistance," so perhaps this shouldn't be considered too shocking. Yet this is an American-born professor of anthropology at an American university who is openly asserting that destroying Jewish culture is a good thing. (Her father is Palestinian.)

This is today's antisemitism, justified as a "principle."

(As I was researching this, I found an excellent critique of the entire book published here. )

(h/t Alex)

Read all about it here!