Salvage excavations in the West Bank- (almost entirely) for the benefit of the settlers


A new report by Emek Shaveh reveals that almost all Civil Administration development work in 2007—2014 in the West Bank was done to benefit the settlers. The report based on Freedom of Information Requests regarding excavation permits issued by the Staff Officer for Archaeology during that period shows that 90% of salvage excavations were undertaken for the benefit of the settlements. The information on the excavations 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 constitutes 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 ancient sites. 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 the 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 later date.


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,, we do 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.


There is much to be learned from this data about the Staff Officer for Archaeology’s allocation of resources and the priorities of the Civil Administration, whose function is to attend to the needs of the entire population in an occupied territory. Monitoring of archaeological excavations in the West Bank shows that the CA barely engages in improving Palestinian infrastructure or permits Palestinian construction, yet at the same time works tirelessly to build and develop for the benefit of the Israeli population.


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