The Jerusalem District Court on Monday refused to reveal the names of archeologists performing digs at antiquities sites in the occupied West Bank, as is the practice of the Israel Antiquities Authority inside the Green Line. The reason: the archeologists’ (and the State’s) fear of academic boycotts, and the difficulties it would pose for ongoing (Israeli) archeological projects in the occupied territories
The decision was issued in response to a petition filed by human rights
organization Yesh Din and archeology NGO Emek Shaveh, against the
Israeli military government in the West Bank (the Civil Administration)
and the staff officer of its Archeology Department, who are responsible
for issuing licenses for archeological excavations in the occupied
territory. The petitioners sought information that the military refused
to provide as part of a freedom of information request, mainly the names
of the archeologists, and where Israeli authorities store antiquities
they uncover in the West Bank.
The State claimed there is also a risk that the archeologists would
be unable to publish in international academic journals, and that
foreign academics would refuse to work with them in future research or
refuse to invite them to conferences, thereby harming their professional
Therefore, the court ruled, the personal risk to the archeologists
and to the future of their research is enough to justify not publishing
their names. Some of the archeologists did agree to their names being
given to the petitioners, and they were.
The court also rejected the petitioners’ request for information about where Israel stores the uncovered antiquities
In response to the decision, Yesh Din said in a statement:
The Israeli authorities’ fear of the boycott against archeologists in
the West Bank and of harm to [the state’s] international relations […]
is an admission that the state knows its hands are not clean, and must
therefore conceal its archeological activities in the West Bank. It is
unfortunate that the court chose to lend its hand to a policy of
concealment and darkness, which denies the public its right to know and
the ability to oversee and criticize.”
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