Workshop on Cultural Heritage and Conflict


The Birzeit University Department of History and Archaeology and CBRL Kenyon Institute held on January 30, 2014 a workshop on cultural heritage and conflict featuring the findings of local and international researchers.

In his opening address, Faculty of Arts Dean Mahdi Arar said that the ongoing conflict in the world requires a serious stand to prevent the destruction and loss of heritage. Arar emphasized that cultural heritage protection is an international and national responsibility.

Researcher Yuri Stoyanov from London University discussed Bosnia’s and Herzegovina’s experience in issues of heritage conservation. Stoyanov said that there has been a slowdown of international intervention operations in cultural heritage conservation and said that there is a need to form an international federation for heritage protection.

Professor Nazmi Ju'beh from Birzeit University addressed problems facing archaeology including fictionalizing or attempts to coopt the past in part by elevating the cultural value of certain sites and artifacts and marginalizing others. Ju'beh noted that some Israeli violations against archaeological excavations contradict international law, and said that any Israeli archeological work done after 1976 is illegal. The review was done in the context of a Peace agreement framwework suggested by a Palestinian and Isreali group few years ago.

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities official Ahmad Rejoub addressed Israeli violations of Palestinian cultural heritage in the city of Hebron. He linked Israeli archaeological work with the expansion of Israeli settlements, and gave examples of what is currently going on in Tell Rumeida archaeological site, aimed at transforming it into a national Israeli park.

Independent history researcher George Hintilian presented his personal vision on cultural heritage preservation and the Armenian experience. Huntley also overviewed his experience in Palestine, referring to the need to define and develop the Palestinian identity.

Engineer Osama Hamdan from the Mosaic Center of Jericho discussed the effects of conflict on archeological issues, as is the case at Sebastia site in the Nablus region. Hamdan pointed to the Israeli breaches there, including the paving of a street of columns, and the destruction of signs placed on site borders, and stated that the site is also hurt by the lack of Palestinian interest in it.

Researcher Valentina Azarov from Al-Quds University and Bard College gave a presentation on international law and heritage and how to activate the role of UNESCO and international institutions. Azarov explained that there are many Israeli practices that contradict international law, especially its archaeological excavations.

Birzet Students presented two papers in  protecting heritage sites in the importance to protect sites in time of conflict, citing the examples from Syria and Egypt.

At the end, Mindy Turner, Kenyon Institute and Hamed Salem from Birzeit University summarized the workshop in accord with the need to find ways to protect during conflict. It was agreed to conduct a more intensive conference in the subject in coordination with other local and international institutes.