Illustration by Pep Montserrat for The National
Illustration by Pep Montserrat for The National

Rewriting history in Syria and Israel are two sides of a coin



Archaeology has long been used as a weapon to advance political agendas. In a region with such a fascinating past, it is depressing how archaeological practice has become part and parcel of Israel’s continuing military strategy to attain additional Palestinian territory. Now a new exhibition in Dubai is exploring this pressing issue, by subverting it.

Since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, countless artefacts have been unearthed and removed by state-sponsored archaeologists and freelance raiders, often for the wrong reasons.

Among the most serious crimes in the archaeological hall of shame are the exploits of General Moshe Dayan, a stealthy tomb-raider and high-ranking politician who gained notoriety for engaging in uncontrolled robbery digs, often under the guise of military missions.

He and his hired bandits are known to have expropriated a plethora of artefacts; many of his prized collections were stockpiled at his home; some were peddled on the black market to counterpart international dealers. Others were later sold to the Israel Museum, including anthropomorphic coffins from Dir Al Balah in the Gaza Strip and a stone mask from the Neolithic period, now exhibited for public display.

The strategic use of archaeology as a state-building tool was latched onto by the founding prime minister of the state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion. He realised that correlating a particular vision of Jewish genealogy with Biblical accounts would serve to legitimise the grand objective of securing what is seen as the promised land.

The stories of the exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the kingdoms of Saul, David and Solomon were simply fuel for the Zionist claim to Palestine, thus Ben-Gurion hurried the search for archaeological proof.

Archaeological digging that is ideologically driven has proved to be quite instrumental in rewriting the history of Jerusalem in line with expansion plans of right-wing Jewish settler movements. One such movement, Elad, have been exposed for manipulating manufactured narratives to out-trump legal claims of Arab landowners facing eviction in the Palestinian district of Silwan, located just below the ancient City of David.

What’s also problematic, as pointed out by Israeli archaeologist Rafi Greenburg and other critics, is that the religious authorities who control the serpentine Western Wall tunnel located under buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem will only cooperate with excavations that support their historic narrative even if the archaeological evidence suggests something different.

The relationship between fact and fiction is inextricably interlinked. Like many nations (yes, other nations do this too), Israel thrives on the business of nation-building based on narrative grounds, even if it means shoehorning historical narratives to fit mythical notions of nationhood. The surrealism of this current reality is far more bizarre than any author of fantastical fiction could endeavour to imagine. Or is it?

Whilst many of us have become inadvertently desensitised by the dystopian deadlock between Palestine and Israel, recent thought-experiments by the Jerusalem-born artist Larissa Sansour have the potential to shake audiences out of zombie states of paralysis by prompting them to re-examine the status-quo from an alternative parallel dimension.

Sansour’s ethnographic insights have propelled her to become an erudite technician of using science fiction as a distorting mirror to create “philosophical playgrounds” for us to explore.

In Nation Estate (2012), Sansour postulates a vertical solution to Palestine’s diminishing claim to land: future citizens reside in a single colossal skyscraper with each floor embodying a Palestinian city.

No need for illegal apartheid walls here: people can simply hop between cities via a lift. Residents literally experience the high life while dwelling in a sterile environment of cutting-edge technology, roaming in sophisticated attire and dine using the finest porcelain.

This symbolic tableware became the catalyst behind Sansour’s latest film, co-directed with Søren Lind, now being screened as part of a new exhibition at the Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Dubai.

In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain is a timely parody of the politicised archaeology carried out in present day Israel/Palestine.

A futuristic resistance group sets out to embed a historical myth to support future claims to their vanishing lands. Their tactic is to deploy a fleet of bulging spacecraft to bury ornate saucer-shaped porcelain deep into the Earth for subsequent excavation; the archaeologists who subsequently unearth these artefacts will be unwittingly primed to perpetuate the myth that these salvaged relics supposedly belonged to a lost ancient civilisation of high-tech Palestinians.

The future that Lind and Sansour are visualising may seem absurd, yet it has roots in very real political situations that exist in the present day – where counterfeit narratives are being used to mould national identity. For viewers, the intended conclusion is clear: the longer a myth persists, further down the line, someone will inevitably document it as a fact.

There are some disturbing parallels between Israel’s politicisation of archaeology and the divisive tactics being used to advance the agendas of extremist cults.

In the same vein that archaeology is used as a tool for nation-building, a proven formula for nation-breaking is the deliberate destruction of significant archaeological remains. We are seeing ISIL do that in Iraq and Syria, as we see groups like Elad do it to Islamic archaeological sites in Israel. In both cases, it is motivated by a perverted religious zeal.

ISIL is trading stolen antiquities to clandestine professional dealers, while licensed gift shops in Jerusalem are openly selling looted artefacts as memorabilia to pilgrims, tourists and collectors alike. These peculiar microcosms are two sides of the same coin – symptomatic of a much deeper issue that we all have a stake in.

When nations lose access to their universal material cultural heritage, they become unrooted, void and easier to supplant. What makes the loss of archaeological remains a universal catastrophe? When objects are deliberately decontextualised and scattered from their true provenance without proper care or attribution, the interconnecting narrative of our entire civilisation becomes fractured.

For archaeologists working in the distant future it could be like trying to piece together a shattered mosaic of missing fragments.

Archaeology informs our collective memory, which is fundamental in shaping our identity as individuals. If our collective memory continues to be adulterated and stripped away, we all risk losing a sense of ourselves. We will be unable to appreciate who we really are. Not only to properly understand where we came from, but to also get a grip on where we are going.

Yasmin Khan is the producer of Sindbad Sci-Fi. In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain is showing at the Lawrie Shabibi Gallery in Dubai until March 3

On Twitter: @Ya5min_BL

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Supy
Started: 2021
Founders: Dani El-Zein, Yazeed bin Busayyis, Ibrahim Bou Ncoula
Based: Dubai
Industry: Food and beverage, tech, hospitality software, Saas
Funding size: Bootstrapped for six months; pre-seed round of $1.5 million; seed round of $8 million
Investors: Beco Capital, Cotu Ventures, Valia Ventures and Global Ventures

About My Father

Director: Laura Terruso

Stars: Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kim Cattrall

Rating: 2/5

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

T20 World Cup Qualifier, Muscat

UAE FIXTURES

Friday February 18: v Ireland

Saturday February 19: v Germany

Monday February 21: v Philippines

Tuesday February 22: semi-finals

Thursday February 24: final 

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

TOURNAMENT INFO

Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Jul 3- 14, in the Netherlands
The top two teams will qualify to play at the World T20 in the West Indies in November

UAE squad
Humaira Tasneem (captain), Chamani Seneviratne, Subha Srinivasan, Neha Sharma, Kavisha Kumari, Judit Cleetus, Chaya Mughal, Roopa Nagraj, Heena Hotchandani, Namita D’Souza, Ishani Senevirathne, Esha Oza, Nisha Ali, Udeni Kuruppuarachchi

Boulder shooting victims

• Denny Strong, 20
• Neven Stanisic, 23
• Rikki Olds, 25
• Tralona Bartkowiak, 49
• Suzanne Fountain, 59
• Teri Leiker, 51
• Eric Talley, 51
• Kevin Mahoney, 61
• Lynn Murray, 62
• Jody Waters, 65

RESULT

Manchester United 1 Brighton and Hove Albion 0
Man United: Dunk (66' og)

Man of the Match: Shane Duffy (Brighton)

The low down on MPS

What is myofascial pain syndrome?

Myofascial pain syndrome refers to pain and inflammation in the body’s soft tissue. MPS is a chronic condition that affects the fascia (­connective tissue that covers the muscles, which develops knots, also known as trigger points).

What are trigger points?

Trigger points are irritable knots in the soft ­tissue that covers muscle tissue. Through injury or overuse, muscle fibres contract as a reactive and protective measure, creating tension in the form of hard and, palpable nodules. Overuse and ­sustained posture are the main culprits in developing ­trigger points.

What is myofascial or trigger-point release?

Releasing these nodules requires a hands-on technique that involves applying gentle ­sustained pressure to release muscular shortness and tightness. This eliminates restrictions in ­connective tissue in orderto restore motion and alleviate pain. ­Therapy balls have proven effective at causing enough commotion in the tissue, prompting the release of these hard knots.

Tips for job-seekers
  • Do not submit your application through the Easy Apply button on LinkedIn. Employers receive between 600 and 800 replies for each job advert on the platform. If you are the right fit for a job, connect to a relevant person in the company on LinkedIn and send them a direct message.
  • Make sure you are an exact fit for the job advertised. If you are an HR manager with five years’ experience in retail and the job requires a similar candidate with five years’ experience in consumer, you should apply. But if you have no experience in HR, do not apply for the job.

David Mackenzie, founder of recruitment agency Mackenzie Jones Middle East

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

The US Congress, explained

- US Congress is divided into two chambers: the House of Representatives and Senate

- 435 members make up the House, and 100 in the Senate

- A party needs control of 218 seats to have a majority in the House

- In the Senate, a party needs to hold 51 seats for control

- In the event of a 50-50 split, the vice president's party retains power in the Senate

Temple numbers

Expected completion: 2022

Height: 24 meters

Ground floor banquet hall: 370 square metres to accommodate about 750 people

Ground floor multipurpose hall: 92 square metres for up to 200 people

First floor main Prayer Hall: 465 square metres to hold 1,500 people at a time

First floor terrace areas: 2,30 square metres  

Temple will be spread over 6,900 square metres

Structure includes two basements, ground and first floor 

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Ain Issa camp:
  • Established in 2016
  • Houses 13,309 people, 2,092 families, 62 per cent children
  • Of the adult population, 49 per cent men, 51 per cent women (not including foreigners annexe)
  • Most from Deir Ezzor and Raqqa
  • 950 foreigners linked to ISIS and their families
  • NGO Blumont runs camp management for the UN
  • One of the nine official (UN recognised) camps in the region
The specs

Engine: 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo

Transmission: CVT

Power: 170bhp

Torque: 220Nm

Price: Dh98,900


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