Tel Aviv University administrators on Monday received a petition signed by dozens of senior academics from Israel and abroad calling on the university to withdraw its participation in archaeological excavations in East Jerusalem’s City of David. The national park is indirectly financed by the right-wing NGO Elad, which administers the national park.
Last week, the university’s Institute of Archaeology started digging in the City of David national park, but it was temporarily halted due to the rain and is expected to resume within the next few days.
“Digging in the area is carried out under heavy guard by the Border Patrol and a private security company, a fact that only adds to the friction with village residents,” the petition states. “Under discussion here is a partnership with an extreme political organization and thus a de facto stance on a very contentious issue, both politically and morally. The university is thereby giving the NGO the professional recognition it desires, which academic institutions in Israel and abroad have so far refused to grant.”
The petition’s organizers expressed their concern that the dig would strengthen those who support a boycott against Israeli academics. “Tel Aviv University would be causing immeasurable damage to academia in general and to our desperate efforts to steer clear of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in particular,” said Prof. Sidra Ezrahi. “We’re already getting cancellations of conference participation and this is playing straight into the hands of the BDS movement.”
Tel Aviv University responded that the “area designated for the excavation is located far from the houses of Silwan. The dig will be carried out using modern scientific methods, at the highest professional standards, with particular attention paid to professional ethics. In the dig, a great deal of attention will be paid to the needs of those living nearby and the dig will be open to visits by local residents and tourists.
I suppose it all boils down to whether or not people can trust Tel Aviv to conduct the dig properly, regardless of who funds it. I can scarcely imagine that the University will be persuaded to report its findings in a biased manner (as others funded by Elad have done) or that Tel Aviv will take advantage of the inhabitants of the area. Furthermore, I think it’s a bit of an overstatement to claim that
“Tel Aviv University would be causing immeasurable damage to academia in general and to our desperate efforts to steer clear of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in particular”
No, I can’t honestly imagine that happening. Not among those who know the reputation of the school and its scholars. The petitioners seem, in this case, to be over-reacting. That’s my view anyway. I trust Tel Aviv to do right. And I will continue to trust Tel Aviv to do right until they give me just cause to change my views.