Op-Ed via Middle East Eye

Bulldozing history: How Israel uses archaeology to entrench occupation

Having managed to conquer the west of Jerusalem in 1948, Israel occupied the rest of the city less than two decades later in the 1967 war. Since then, it has been creating "realities on the ground" through annexation and settlements building to cement its claim over the entire city.

Indeed, Israel, in its foundational essence as a settler-colonial project, is both aggressively expansionist and exclusionary. The recently postponed "Greater Jerusalem Bill" which seeks to expand Jerusalem's municipal boundaries to include more illegal settlements and exclude Palestinian neighbourhoods is testament to this expansionism.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump's declaration on the US embassy's move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem not only breaks with international law, it also provides support and backing for Israel's continued colonisation of the city.

Aggressive campaign

Yet annexation and settlement building are not the only way in which Israel is exercising its absolute control over the city. Accelerating with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel has been conducting an aggressive campaign to appropriate or destroy Palestinian heritage sites in order to support its narrative of exclusive ownership.

This narrative is heavily based on a biblical discourse which purposefully aims to make religion as the key point of contention. This is acutely visible in the Old City of Jerusalem which - under international law - is considered unequivocally as Palestinian land.

Indeed, just days after it was occupied, Israel began altering the physical landscape of Jerusalem by destroying one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city.

Harat al Magharibeh (the Moroccan quarter), which lay in front of the Western Wall in the old city, was promptly bulldozed just a few days after the Israeli occupation of the city. Israeli authorities' justification for the move was that it was done in order to make room for Jewish worshippers.

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