Israelis banned from world conference

The Israel Antiquities Authority has launched a furious attack on the World Archaeological Congress claiming Israeli archaeologists were excluded from a conference held in Ramallah.

Together with the Archaeological Council of Israel, the IAA claimed WAC officials had “set out with the goal in mind of inserting political issues into the professional archaeological experience” during the Overcoming Structural Violence conference.

In an angry letter to the WAC, the IAA accused the organisation of purposely not inviting Israeli archaeologists, not informing the IAA that the congress was taking place, and using the event to promote anti-Israel propaganda.

Dr Uzi Dahari, IAA deputy director, said his organisation had only learned the trip was taking place on Monday, the day after sessions began in Ramallah.

It is blatantly unethical to visit active archaeological sites without informing the archaeologists charged with the excavation.

Dr Uzi Dahari

In the letter he wrote: “We remind you that this is a conference organi s ed by the World Archaeological Congress and not a Palestinian archaeological organization.

“It is blatantly unethical to visit active archaeological sites without informing the archaeologists charged with the excavation.

“We can imagine how you would view a conference visiting the area of your fieldwork in Barunga-Wugularr [in Australia] without your knowledge and without giving you an opportunity to express your ideas.”

A tour of Jerusalem on Wednesday was not co - ordinated with the IAA, despite the city’s cultural heritage coming under Israeli authority under international law.

Dr Dahari added: “An international archaeological congress does not act this way. The congress came to a region where there is a conflict and chooses to present one side of the story. It is forbidden that such a thing should happen.

“It would be best if the WAC would focus on archaeology and not on politics.”

WAC president Claire Smith said: "It is very unfortunate that Israeli archaeologists did not attend. However, WAC was acting on local information that Israel people would not be allowed to go to Area C [Ramallah], and this was confirmed when we got here.

"Of course, we have found out subsequently that an exception would have been made for archaeologists - and we are delighted by this.

"We look forward to organising another forum that includes both Palestinian and Israeli archaeologists, perhaps on working through a joint vision for what the situation and priorities might be on 'Day One', when there is a peaceful two-state solution."

The conference is due to end today with a visit to Tel Balatah, a village near Nablus.

    Last updated: 8:37am, August 14 2009