Report: 90% of Salvage Excavations in W. Bank Linked to Settlements

A new report by Emek Shaveh ‒ an Israeli NGO working to defend cultural heritage rights and to protect ancient sites as public assets that belong to members of all communities, faiths and peoples ‒ reveals that almost all archeological salvage excavations initiated by the Civil Administration in the West Bank during the years 2007‒2014 were done within or for the benefit of Israeli settlements. This information, in turn, shows where the Civil Administration initiates development and reflects the government’s priorities in the West Bank.

Archaeological excavations carried out by the Staff Officer for Archaeology in the West Bank constitute a preliminary stage prior to infrastructure or construction work. An excavation represents the last opportunity to document antiquities sites prior to their destruction. In the West Bank there are 6,000 declared antiquities sites, with most all Palestinian villages located atop one or more. Virtually all development work (road, sewage, construction, etc.) requires a salvage excavation.

An analysis of the archaeological excavations carried out by the Staff Officer for Archaeology in the West Bank between 2007 and 2014 demonstrates a clear map of construction and development, showing the allocation of resources by the Civil Administration (CA) to the Palestinian population for whose welfare it is responsible, and to the settlements which came under its auspices at a later date. Based on a Freedom of Information Request about excavation permits issued by the Staff Officer for Archaeology during that period, Emek Shaveh’s report shows that 90% of all salvage excavations for the years examined were undertaken for the benefit of the settlements.

Between 2007 and 2014, the CA granted 165 permit requests for archaeological excavations in the West Bank, 118 of which were for salvage excavations. 106 of these, or 90%, were carried out in the settlements, and only 12 of them in Palestinian communities. The figures show that fewer than two excavations were conducted in Palestinian villages annually! It should be noted that conducting an archaeological dig does not mean construction is automatically approved. For example, archaeological excavations in the village of Fasa’il in the Jordan Valley led the Civil Administration to conclude that it could not permit the expansion of the village. In other words, the excavation, which was carried out as a precondition for development, prevented further construction.  In contrast, Emek Hashaveh does not know of cases in which salvage excavations in the settlements had prevented construction. Although the reasons for preventing construction at the antiquities site may be justified and intended to preserve important sites, the Fasa’il example shows that the few excavations carried out for the benefit of Palestinians in the West Bank did not necessarily result in a permission to build.

Related, the report: “Salvage Excavations” in the West Bank (almost entirely) for Settlers Only