Archaeology Has Always Been a Political Tool: The ‘Jerusalem Papyrus’ Is Just the Latest Iteration

Archaeology has long been used by the state of Israel as a means of demonstrating modern Jewish rights to an old land. Palestinians, for their part, have often resisted these findings, either rejecting them outright or pointing to other ancient artifacts to support their own national claims. In the Holy Land, historical heritage is one of the few truly abundant resources, and it stands at the center of the latest battle in the decades-old conflict.

Last week, the U.N.’s culture and heritage body, Unesco, passed a resolution referring to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount exclusively by its Arabic name—the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary—and only mentioning its significance to Islam. For Muslims, Jerusalem is the third holiest city, behind Mecca and Medina. For Jews, it is the most sacred: Two Jewish temples stood there in antiquity.

The Unesco resolution outraged Israel. The head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the government body in charge of archaeology and artifacts, likened Unesco to Islamic State in its destruction of cultural heritage. The Palestinian Authority praised the move for preserving the city for the three monotheistic faiths and saw it as a political win, with one official accusing Israel of “using archaeological claims and distortion of facts as a way to legitimize the annexation of occupied east Jerusalem.”

And more, which do read.