Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gaza and World Heritage


Philip 2 of Macedon and I, Thessaloniki

Is nationalism good or bad for archaeology? I can't say I'm entirely certain. There is much hand-wringing about it in and around Israeli archaeology, though the Israelis are hardly alone in the wider Mediterranean world in that they look for themselves in the remains of Antiquity. I've recently returned from Thessaloniki in "Greek Macedonia." I had an incredible archaeological tourist experience there, both in the regional hub's sophisticated and luxurious National Museum, and in the countryside, where sites that seldom receive visitors are displayed beautifully. All this because of a tepid struggle with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over who "owns" the legacy of Philip II and Alexander the Great -- the very name "Macedonia" -- and a vague sense on the Greek side of latent Bulgarian dreams of a Mediterranean port and the question of an unrecognized "Slavic" population in northern Greece. Now, I certainly wouldn't in all cases apply to the objects displayed in these places the interpretations one finds there on their museum placards, but I was thrilled to see them at all, and in any case, much of the material is displayed with little regard for nationalistic sentiment.

The UK newspaper the Independent ran this profile on Saturday of Jawdat Khoudary, a Gaza construction magnate with a keen interest in archaeology. This man is pouring money into an archaeology museum to house Gaza's prolific ancient heritage, but fears locals won't support his efforts. I take it that he means they won't visit the museum, and that looting will continue unabated (as apparently it did in the aftermath of the '67 war, no doubt with Moshe Dayan's approval and participation). What's the solution here? Khoudary, who seems to recognize that transnational cooperation is also crucial, hopes to pique the pride of his countrymen. It's common sense: get people to take ownership of heritage, and they'll protect, promote it, etc. Call that the "Macedonian model." But will that work in Gaza? In East Jerusalem? Unfortunately, the archaeology of these places is often at cross-purposes with a number of political, military, and economic objectives. That's why in certain cases, I'm sympathetic to a different model, that of "world heritage." This, loosely, is one of the major lines of defense mounted by former colonial powers' against repatriation of ancient artifacts. The Elgin Marbles in the British Museum belong to everyone, so the argument goes, not just the Greek state -- though of course nationalist excitement of a different kind helped bring the stuff to London in the first place. James Cuno, former curator at the Art Institute of Chicago and at Harvard, has just written a book called Who Owns Antiquity: Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage, in which he argues that the interests of world heritage should always trump national interests in archaeology or in the management of heritage. I fear that we won't be able to purify archaeology as Cuno might like. In fact, if Macedonia and Gaza are any indication, maybe we shouldn't.

11 comments:

Nobody said...

You look very cool in all this armor. You should have kept Philip away and pose alone. Otherwise great photo.

zionism is racism said...

The Zionists have been digging in Palestine for decades and have only proven that this land belongs to the Palestinians, the descendants of the Canaanites, the first people on this land and the ones who never left. It has proven that the Biblical fairy tales are not history and that the few Hebrew tribes who strolled in and out of Palestine briefly were the the people who spent the least amount of time in this land. In any case, the Hebrew history is not the history of the modern Zionist state. You all need to pack up move back to Europe where you came from. Palestine is not yours and you cannot hold on to it no matter how many nuclear weapons you have.

Pack your bags or dig your graves.

Shiva said...

zionism is racism:

You're digging your cause its grave with talk like that.

zionism is racism said...

Shiva,

My cause is winning and Zionism is doomed to collapse. Israel won't live to a 100. Gaza has been liberated, and you couldn't take Southern Lebanon and you were only fighting less than 5000 freedom fighters in Lebanon. Remember you wanted the land from the Nile to the Euphrates (as your flag indicates), but now your desperately trying to hold onto 78% of Palestine, and even that isn't possible. The numbers in Palestine are now even. In a few years you will be a minority even inside the green line. And the refugees you ethnically cleansed from Palestine have not fergotten or given up as you hopes and they are less than 50 miles from their homes. Its just a matter of time.

Amos said...

Huh? What does Israel's flag indicate? Have you looked at it?

Nobody said...

Don't play an idiot, Amos. You know very well what our flag indicates. The bottom tip one of its triangles points to the south and what's is there? The Nile river. Another two are looking to the right. Euphrates.

And if you forgot what they taught us in school, the MD also points to the North - Finland and to the left, the US. One day all of it will be ours

Amos said...

:)

just checked out your blog and saw that I've been missing out on some interesting Russia posts.

Nobody said...

;)

I have more if you are interested...

Anonymous said...

Correct. It refers to the "land of Israel...That god promised to Abraham's seed (defined as Jews)" which stretches from the Nile to the Euphrates. It's also on your coins so don't insult our intelligence and please don't try to say it refers to the River Jordan and the Mediteranean. It's also in your school books and maps. It's also an assertion that Zionists never denied and proudly proclaimed. Your days are numbered and every Palestinian you killed has a name and we remember them all. Palestine will be liberated, the refugees will return, you will be put on trial.

Nobody said...

Sorry man if we insulted your intelligence (not that there is so much to insult :D :D), but I am just curious as to what we have got in our school books and maps. The Nile river ??!! Euphrates ??!!

Never mind that I spent the last half an hour examining a five agorot coin and what I see there is only Indonesia and Finland. I think you should know that our territorial ambitions lie absolutely elsewhere. We have no interest in the Nile river or Euphrates.

Nobody said...

I have another "Russian" post if you are interested...