The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinia

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:41 am

Part 1 of 3



The protracted search for, and location of, ancient Israel in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition provides only one of the defining moments in the history of Palestine. The creation of an Israelite state, which the biblical traditions associated first with Saul and then particularly David and Solomon, is for biblical scholarship the defining moment in the region's history. It takes on an importance which derives from but ultimately overshadows the period of so-called emergence during the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. The creation of a state not only signals the realization of the ultimate in political development but also demarcates Israel as an autonomous and sovereign nation state independent of imperial control. The labours of biblical scholarship in pursuit of the Davidic monarchy are not merely of antiquarian interest given that the modern state of Israel traces its historic and natural claim to existence back to this Iron Age state. The Proclamation of Independence of the State of Israel issued by the Provisional State Council in Tel Aviv on 14 May 1948 refers to 'the re-establishment of the Jewish State' (Laqueur and Rubin 1984: 126). Any attempts by biblical scholars to divorce themselves from the implications of their research, to claim a disinterested objectivity in the past divorced from the realities and struggles of contemporary politics, are exposed in the opening sections of the Proclamation:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance. Here they wrote and gave the Bible to the world.

Exiled from the Land of Israel the Jewish people remained faithful to it in all the countries of their dispersion, never ceasing to pray and hope for their return and the restoration of their national freedom.

Impelled by this historic association, Jews strove throughout the centuries to go back to the land of their fathers and regain their statehood. In recent decades they returned in their masses. They reclaimed the wilderness, revived their language, built cities and villages, and established a vigorous and ever-growing community, with its own economic and cultural life. They sought peace, yet they prepared to defend themselves. They brought the blessings of progress to all inhabitants of the country and looked forward to sovereign independence.

-- Laqueur and Rubin 1984: 125

The right to the land is advanced on the basis of historic precedent of the existence in the area of an ancient sovereign and independent Israelite state. It is this state, above all, which has the right to the land since this is the ultimate expression of political development and supersedes any other forms of political organization in the region -- developments that are inevitably seen as inferior. Explicit in the claim is that in the modern period Jewish settlers had 'brought the blessings of progress to all the inhabitants' prior to the formation of a national state. These very same implicit and explicit assumptions underlie many of the constructions of the imagined past of Israelite emergence in Palestine, as we have seen. The explicit claim to the land, or reclaiming of the land, on the basis of this historic precedent is a widely held view that has long informed political and popular perceptions of modern Israel and its right to the land. A memorandum produced by Lord Balfour two years after his famous Declaration of 1917 which committed the British government to favouring a 'national home in Palestine for the Jewish people' contained the following statement:

The four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

-- Khalidi 1971: 208

It is a claim, of course, that is embodied in the frequent modern-day references to 'historic Eretz Israel'. It finds expression in the 1948 Proclamation of Independence with the claim to 'the reestablishment of the Jewish State'. This is a significant rephrasing of Balfour's Declaration thirty-one years earlier which talked of 'the establishment of a national home in Palestine for the Jewish people'. Weizmann's concern to rephrase Balfour's terminology (Said 1992: 86) finds its fulfilment in the Proclamation which makes explicit the right to a Jewish State, no longer simply a national home, on the basis of historic precedent; it is the 're-establishment' of what was once there.

The context of claim and counter-claim over the possession or dispossession of land means that biblical scholarship, in its construction of an ancient Israelite state, is implicated in contemporary struggles for the land. The Zionist struggle for the realization of a sovereign and independent state has dominated the history of the region throughout this century. What has not been sufficiently appreciated is just how far this contemporary contest for Palestine has influenced the way in which the ancient past has been imagined. Even though the Zionist struggle was not realized until 1948 with the founding of the modern state of Israel, events earlier in the century have made an indelible mark upon the conscious and largely unconscious assumptions of biblical scholars as they have imagined the Davidic past as a golden age of Israelite history. [1] If nations are narrations, in the words of Homi Bhabha, then narrations of the past are intricately linked to the realities of the present excluding other possible representations or creations of the past. Biblical specialists and archaeologists have searched for and constructed a large, powerful, sovereign and autonomous Iron Age state attributed to its founder David. It is this 'fact' which has dominated the discourse of biblical studies throughout this century, providing a location for the development of many of the biblical traditions at the royal court -- 'a fact', more than any other, which has silenced Palestinian history and obstructed alternative claims to the past.

It is, of course, not new to say that Palestine has been subject to outside control for the vast majority of its history; it is accepted as a given in most historical accounts. However, the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition is considered by most 'biblical historians' to be an exception to this rule. It is this period which sees the collapse of the Mycenaean, Egyptian, and Hittite empires and the so-called 'emergence of Israel'; 1200 BCE is viewed as a watershed in the history of the region, marking the dramatic decline and then conspicuous absence of imperial control. [2] More significantly, it is presented, as we have seen, as an important watershed, as the period in which the autonomous entity Israel emerges on the scene of Palestinian history, crossing the threshold to statehood in a remarkably short time. It is this entity, rather than the imperial powers of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome, which, in our standard 'biblical histories', comes to dominate the history of the region. The period of 'emergence', which, as we have seen, defines the essential nature of Israel, is followed by the rise of an Israelite state under David and Solomon which, it is argued, takes advantage of the international power vacuum to become the defining entity in terms of the geographical extent of Israel. Although the later Hasmonean period is seen as a brief interlude of autonomous control which manages to throw off the otherwise constant of imperial domination, it is the Davidic monarchy which becomes the dominant feature of the history of the region.

John Bright's (1972) classic treatment of the rise of the Israelite state, the 'united monarchy' of David and Solomon, provides a useful illustration of the way in which it comes to dominate and obliterate Palestinian history for the early Iron Age:

The crisis that brought the Israelite tribal league to an end came in the latter part of the eleventh century. It set in motion a chain of events which within less than a century transformed Israel totally and made her one of the ranking powers of the contemporary world. This rather brief period must occupy our attention at some length, for it is one of the most significant in Israel's entire history.

-- Bright 1972: 179

The claim as to the status of the Davidic and Solomonic state as 'one of the ranking powers of the contemporary world', a phrase that could just as easily be used of the modern state, shows just how remarkable this entity is thought to have been. It would appear from Bright's narration that the inhabitants of small, rural, materially poor villages in the highlands of Palestine had outstripped the great riverine civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia to claim a place as a world-class power. This is a claim which will need to be examined later in the chapter. For the moment, it is the claim that this period, one of an absence of imperial interest in the region, is 'one of the most significant in Israel's entire history' which, though related, is of primary concern. It is of such overwhelming concern that, once the Philistine threat has been dealt with by David, the Davidic state becomes the history of Palestine for the period. The reason for this implicit assumption is not hard to find since Bright (1972: 197) presents the period as one of consolidation of the dynastic state and the building of an 'empire': 'But in the end David was the master of a considerable empire.' Here was an 'empire' that included Ammon and Syria in the north, Edom and Moab in the east, such that Bright (1972: 200) is able to conclude that 'with dramatic suddenness David's conquests had transformed Israel into the foremost power of Palestine and Syria. In fact, she was for the moment probably as strong as any power in the contemporary world.' Here was an 'empire' whose borders stretched from the Gulf of Aqabah to the Mediterranean, from the Wadi el-' Arish in the south to the Lebanon range and Kadesh on the Orontes in the north. In effect, according to Bright's account, David had managed to inherit the Asiatic empire of New Kingdom Egypt. [3] The borders of this 'Davidic empire', maintained more or less successfully by Solomon (Bright 1972: 207-10), meant that the history of the Israelite state becomes the history of Palestine.

What Bright has constructed is a biblically inspired view of 'Greater Israel' which coincides with and helps to enhance the vision and aspirations of many of Israel's modern leaders. Ben-Gurion expressed the view that the borders of Israel ought to include southern Lebanon, southern Syria, Jordan, all Cisjordan, and the Sinai. Chomsky notes Ben-Gurion's view that:

The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan; one does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today, but the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will limit them.

-- cited by Chomsky 1983: 180

Ben-Gurion even referred to the founding of 'the Third Kingdom of Israel' following the 1956 capture of the Sinai (cited by Chomsky 1983: 163 from Nar-Zohar 1978: 91-2; 166; 186-7; 249-50). Any scholarly construction of the Israelite past, particularly the construction of the Israelite monarchy and its boundaries, has to be read in this contemporary context since it is both informed by and informs contemporary claims and aspirations. The implications of biblical scholarship for the world of politics, whether the scholar acknowledges this or not, are brought out in Begin's statement following the establishment of the state in 1948:

The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will be forever our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.

-- cited by Chomsky 1983: 161

The biblically inspired political vision and claims of the modern world are confirmed, for the most part, by the construction of an imagined past of the ancient Israelite state within the discourse of biblical studies. Furthermore, here ironically is an imperial control, constructed by the Hebrew Bible and modern 'biblical historians', which mirrors the dominant theme of empire in the history of the region to such an extent that Palestinian history no longer exists: all we have is a history of an imagined imperial Israel. [4]

Confirmation of the importance which the discourse of biblical studies has always placed upon this period can be found in Soggin's assessment of the inauguration of an Israelite monarchy:

With the formation of a united kingdom under David, the history of Israel leaves the realm of pre-history, of cultic and popular tradition, and enters the arena of history proper. The kingdom under David and Solomon constitutes a datum point from which the investigation of Israel's history can be safely begun.

-- Soggin 1977: 332

Soggin's view is noteworthy for several reasons since he had argued against the possibility of using the biblical traditions to construct early pre-monarchic Israel, the essential Israel of biblical scholarship discussed in the previous chapter. His History of Israel was one of the first to take seriously the growing objections to standard assumptions about the historicity of the biblical traditions. For Soggin, the search for Israel in the Late Bronze Age had to be abandoned since the source material was not available. Instead the real starting point for a history of Israel was, for him, the foundation of a monarchy. However, it is clear that he is working with the common assumption in biblical studies that 'history proper' can only be written on the basis of written documents. Without such documents we are condemned to 'pre-history' which somehow does not carry the same weight, is not real somehow, and so these periods and their peoples are silenced. This is the principle of Western historiography of the nineteenth century as it developed in the context of the nation state. It is now reinforced in the construction of Israelite history by the fact that it is only with the Israelite state (nation state) that we enter the realm of 'history proper'. History, in effect Palestinian history, before this time cannot be 'proper'. For most other scholars, who have been content to date parts of the biblical tradition much earlier or argue that late traditions still accurately reflect a much earlier historical reality, the 'emergence' of Israel, as we have seen, is the other defining moment in the history of Palestine.

It is not simply the assumption that the rise of an Israelite state, and in particular the Davidic monarchy, brings us to history proper but that this is the defining moment of Israelite history and so of the region as a whole. The assertion of Bright (1972: 179) that Israel under the monarchy became 'one of the ranking powers of the contemporary world' and that this is 'one of the most significant in Israel's entire history' is representative of a common view in biblical studies. The emphasis on the crucial nature of this period is found throughout our standard histories and reference works. It is necessary to trace the discourse of biblical studies in relation to the invention of an Israelite state or 'empire' in the context of the Zionist agitation for and eventual realization of a modern state of Israel. [5] The two processes are intricately linked in that the scholarly discourse has been conducted in the context of the struggle for a state in the first part of this century and then dominated by the existence of that state ever since. If 'politics is everywhere', as Said (1994b: 16) claims, then the discourse of biblical studies has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that the construction of the past is a political act. Biblical scholars and archaeologists have sought to escape to the haven of objectivity effectively ignoring, or even denying, the context in which they work and the contexts in which their work is received and read. The cumulative effect of frequently circulated ideas and values both shapes and is shaped by their findings. This is particularly true of any history of ancient Israel and particularly one which deals with the creation of a state. The attachment to place, the claim of 'historic right' to the land, excludes any counter-claims. Biblical studies in imagining a past dominated by an Israelite state, elevated to the rank of a world power, simply adds to the legitimacy of the claim of 'historic right' by excluding any other possible construction of the past.

Furthermore, as we saw with the discussion of the so-called emergence of Israel, there are a number of domain assumptions which have permeated considerations of the inauguration of an ancient Israelite state. The presentation, invariably, has been in terms of objective scholarship divorced from the sordid realities of the world of politics. It has not been seen as a matter worthy of comment that biblical scholarship's discussion of an Israelite state in the past has no bearing upon or implications for claims in the present for the land of Palestine. It is simply assumed that biblical studies has no part in contemporary struggles for identity and land, when in fact the very silence, the fact that the 'problem' of Palestine and the existence of a Palestinian past remains unspoken in the discourse of biblical studies, has only served to legitimate Israel's claims to the past and the exclusion of any alternative competing Palestinian claims. The discourse of biblical studies has imagined an ancient Israelite state that is remarkably similar in many aspects to the modern state. What is striking are the recurrent themes, images, and phrases which appear throughout this discourse from the 1920s onwards to the present day: the Davidic monarchy as the defining moment in the history of the region, the existence of a Davidic empire to rival other imperial powers in the ancient world, the defensive nature of David's state, the paradox of the alien nature of the monarchy to Israel, and Israel as a nation set apart from surrounding nations.


Just as with the study of Israel's emergence, Alt's seminal work (1966) on the Israelite monarchy, originally published in 1930, represents the classic formulation of the formation of an Israelite state in Palestine which sets and continues to set the agenda for the study of the history of the period. The underlying presupposition that the history of the region must be understood in terms of national entities is set out in the opening sentences of his study. He states that the time during which the tribes of Israel were migrating from 'the southern wastelands in the mountain regions of Palestine' (1966: 173) coincided with the arrival in the lowlands of Aegean groups including the Philistines. He claims that it is not possible to 'understand the history of Palestine during the following centuries without first grasping the difference in the way of life and in the achievements of the two nations after they had settled in Palestine' (1966: 173). The claim that subsequent Palestinian history can only be understood from this vantage-point emphasizes that this is the defining moment in the history of the region. Furthermore, it is a struggle between the expression of Israelite national consciousness and the Philistines. Yet the Philistines are not responsible for this defining moment. This is a claim that must be reserved for Israel. The Philistines' failing is that they are identified with indigenous political structures. They more or less adopted the existent form of political organization: 'we are justified in seeing in the little states of the Philistines and the other Aegean peoples in the plains of Palestine the heirs and successors to the early Canaanite system of city-states' (1966: 174). Although he admits that they developed a distinctive form of political organization which could not be attributed to the Canaanites, ultimately they failed because they were contaminated by indigenous political structures. As we have been told repeatedly, indigenous political structures could not compare with external forms of organization. Indigenous 'states' were always small. The defining moment in the history of the region was dependent upon a political system of a completely different order, the formation of an Israelite state. His explanation of this development and the ultimate failure of the Philistines is very revealing:

During their wars of migration, the collective nature of their every undertaking had been of vital importance, and even when they annexed Palestine they were to owe a great deal of their success to their strong cohesive unity. Naturally the other Aegean tribes had entered into the alliance during the nomadic period, or had individually founded similar organizations; after their occupation of Palestine, however, they seem to have rapidly fallen victim to the disunity effected by the system of tiny city-states which they adopted, so that in the Israelite tradition they are never again called by their tribal names and the only reference is to their cities. The Philistines, on the other hand, were able to preserve their combined organization for some time, and because of it were in a position to develop a political and military strength with a wide influence beyond the immediate area of their settlements. This would inevitably lead them to a position of political domination in Palestine, where the old Egyptian regime was now practically without influence. To this extent, they can actually be described as being the successors to the Pharaohs; even though their power was always confined to a far smaller area than had been that of the Egyptians previously, it was as a result much more effective.

-- Alt 1966: 174-5 [6]

Interestingly, the indigenous peoples cannot be considered to be a nation in contrast to Israel. He then goes so far as to say that the Philistines had the opportunity to create 'an empire of the first rank' (1966: 175). [7] This is to be contrasted with the slow, mostly peaceful, immigration of Israelite tribes into the hill country of Palestine in which they were separated by chains of non-Israelite tribes, as we have seen in chapter 3. He stresses their nomadic origin, lacking the military superiority of the Aegean groups. Yet it is Israel who is able to create an 'empire', not the Philistines. Israel of the imagined past, as of Alt's own present, claims to take possession of an empty and unpromising land:

Already the difference between them and the Aegeans was as great as it could be; these, as we saw, moved immediately into the older civilized regions, and took possession of its riches; on the other hand, the Israelite settlement in Palestine was really in undeveloped territory which was at first necessarily isolated from civilization. Immediately after the occupation it held the Israelites apart from the native Canaanite system, giving them time to develop their own civilization more vigorously in its new homeland, whereas the Aegean culture very quickly degenerated into that of the occupied country.

-- Alt 1966: 176

It is not just that they take possession of this empty land but because they remained isolated they do not suffer the same fate as the Philistines who are dragged down by the indigenous Canaanite system.

Alt was writing, of course, well before the realization of a modern state of Israel. But the context in which he worked is not an insignificant factor in determining his conception of the past, as we have seen (Sasson 1981). His guiding principle is that it is the nation state which defines history: thus the struggle for national self-determination and self-consciousness is the key element in Israel's imagined past. This articulates well with Alt's own training in German historiography, itself a product of the struggle for German unification, and is reinforced by the contemporary struggle in Palestine, at the time he was writing, of the Zionist struggle for a 'national homeland'. The themes of national awareness and self-determination inform his work throughout.

Alt (1966: 177) goes on to stress that Israel's nomadic past contained 'some rudimentary functions of a national nature' -- we are not told what these are -- but that their settlement in a 'civilized country' made the development of 'national functions' almost inevitable. This provides an interesting contrast with more recent studies of state formation which stress that crossing the threshold to statehood is by no means inevitable. [8] Yet we find that Israel's move to statehood is 'almost inevitable'. For Albright and much of subsequent American biblical scholarship, this inevitability is explained in terms of evolutionary development in the context of a divine providential plan. Alt offers no explanation for the inevitability of Israel's move to statehood beyond the assertion of its inevitability. However, he stresses the Philistine threat as the crucial factor which pushed Israel towards state formation but in so doing emphasizes just how far this is the defining moment in the region and in terms of world history:

As regards the Israelites themselves, however, it involved them directly in a completely different manner and to a far greater degree in the course of the history of their country and the world than at the time of their emigration, imposing on them a new and unavoidable intercourse and participation in the life of the surrounding culture, from which they were unable to withdraw again by their own power.

-- Alt 1966: 182

The language here suggests that this 'unavoidable intercourse' with surrounding cultures was distasteful, an unavoidable contact which threatened the very existence and distinctiveness of Israel just as it had corrupted the Philistines. The crucial difference here is that Israel, unlike the Philistines with their military superiority, was not dragged down by the indigenous circumstances but managed to transform the region and the world. Here is a triumph against all the odds. Israel was able to defeat the 'oppressive rule' (1966: 183) of the Philistines and establish a state despite the contaminating influence of the corrupt Palestinian setting.

The other striking feature of Alt's construction, which has continued in biblical scholarship, is his stress on the foundation of an Israelite 'national-state' (1966: 185). Notice he refers to it a few pages later as the 'first unified national state' (1966: 187) and a 'nation state' (1966: 191). The claim of 'historic right' to the land is reinforced, of course, by the claim of priority and exclusivity to statehood in the region. An equally influential idea has been his view that the Israelite state was founded for defensive purposes only, an attempt to deal with the Philistine military threat: 'it was a kingship for the sole purpose of defence against the Philistines, and the idea of establishing a dominion over non-Israelite areas was far removed from it' (1966: 196). This notion of the defensive nature of Israel is a theme that runs throughout the discourse of biblical studies on the Israelite state and which articulates closely with Zionist claims and later apologetics following the foundation of the modern state of Israel. The modern state is frequently described as being defensive in nature: a view that is expressed in the Proclamation of Independence: 'They sought peace, but they prepared to defend themselves.' [9]

It is 'scarcely conceivable' (1966: 197) for Alt that Israel could have been influenced by Canaanite states. Instead it was influenced much more by what Alt describes as the 'national foundations' (1966: 200) of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Aram:

The kingdom of Israel came on the scene as one of the last of this series of closely similar political structures, and so played its own part in the sweeping change in the political map of Palestine which came to its conclusion in the tenth century B.C. From the purely chronological point of view, one might consider the much later development of the Israelite state as a mere imitation of the long-established nation-states east of the Jordan. But it is intrinsically improbable that the connection can be explained in such a mechanical way. In both cases we are dealing with related peoples, who were led from their common desert home by a similar route into the various parts of the civilized region of Palestine. If, as far as we can see, all these nations show in the formulation of the state traces of the same creative principles in operation, and if this is in fact a principle which was unknown to the previous inhabitants of the territory in which their new states were set up, then we should be able to recognize with greater confidence the consequences of a tendency which was common to all the new intruders, and which sooner or later, and according to individual circumstance, brought into being the same type of national structure, without one nation first having to learn from the others.

-- 1966: 200-1

All of this is simply a working out of the major assumptions which inform Alt's understanding of the emergence of ancient Israel, the expression of the essential Israel. The real civilizing influence in the region was therefore external. The indigenous cultures were simply incapable of structuring themselves in such a way. The other striking feature of this construction is just how close it is to the modern period with the creation of nation states by the European imperial powers. The boundaries of the region were fixed, however artificially, by Europe: the indigenous peoples were unable to organize themselves in such a 'civilizing' manner. The indigenous peoples were devoid of this so-called 'creative' principle, a creative principle which amounts to little more than the ability to organize and cooperate. For Alt, the nation state is the pinnacle of civilization; it is unknown to the region until introduced by outsiders of which Europe is the heir.

Israel is seen as a special case because of its greater isolation in an area 'influenced by the ancient and completely dissimilar city-states of Palestine' (1966: 201). The form of the state might have been similar to its Jordanian neighbours at first but it developed independently. The critical stage is seen as the reigns of David and Solomon who are credited with extending their control 'further than any native power of earlier times known to us, even the Philistines' (1966: 225). The 'great men' view of history is encapsulated in Alt's influential conclusion that 'the whole of Palestine was incorporated into a very complicated system of dependencies, the only focal-point of which was the person of David and Solomon' (1966: 226). Alt's conclusion at the end of his article illustrates many important points about the assumptions of biblical scholarship. David and Solomon are seen as departing from the founding principle of Saul's kingdom based upon national organization to that of a supra-national power based upon personal allegiance. The recently formed 'national states' remained in existence but were incorporated into this wider structure. However, the national principle reasserted itself against the personal union:

History here has something very significant to say; it shows the empire created by David and Solomon with such amazing speed to be a swing of the political pendulum, which went too far, beyond the prevailing inclinations and capabilities of the people of Palestine at the time, to make possible for it to stay longer, let alone permanently, in this position, and it makes it apparent that actually only the principle of the nation-state, which was a very early, if not the earliest, type of political organization in the country, fulfilled the requirements of the peoples concerned and enabled some sort of balance to be set up between them.

-- Alt 1966: 237

The notion of the nation state dominates Alt's construction to such an extent that it is to be seen as the essential principle underlying the political organization of the region. But it is a principle which has had to be introduced from outside. Even more amazingly, he claims that this was an early, 'if not the earliest', type of political organization in the country. This suggests that the indigenous peoples of Palestine were incapable of any form of political organization until the introduction of the nation state by nomads infiltrating from outside!

These and other important trends in biblical scholarship were continued and perpetuated by Alt's most distinguished pupil Martin Noth. His construction of the period of the formation of an Israelite state followed closely the outlines of the biblical traditions. He articulated a problem which has exercised the minds of many biblical scholars relying for their constructions of the period on traditions contained within the Hebrew Bible: namely that the inauguration of the monarchy denies the essential theocratic nature of Israel. Furthermore, Israel's uniqueness, its claim to priority in the formation of a state in the region, is compromised by the acknowledgement that it had adopted this political structure from surrounding cultures:

But the very fact that the monarchy in Israel was based on a model that had proved its worth in other peoples inevitably made it a problem for Israel. Was it right for Israel to try to be a nation like other nations and to install a king on the model of foreign monarchies and, in spite of its distress, to embark on the road to political power? Modest though the first steps which it took in this direction were, it was a fundamentally new departure for Israel.

-- Noth 1960: 172

Traditional constructions, based upon the biblical text, have failed to resolve this paradox: it is seen to be alien to Israel and a rejection of its essential theocratic nature while becoming the defining moment in Israelite history which determined its national boundaries and autonomy. [10]

Noth portrays Saul's reign in typically biblical terms as a failure, 'a mere episode': the Philistines established sovereignty in Palestine and the result of Saul's reign was 'as hopeless for Israel as it could be' (1960: 178). The nature of the defining moment is expressed by Noth as the reign of David in which 'Israel's progress to political power entered a completely new and decisive phase' (1960: 179). He also states that the newness of the situation is confirmed by the introduction of a 'new historical tradition' in the Old Testament, a 'historical record, a work of scholarship'. The connection between the rise of modern historiography and the nation state with an emphasis upon the uniqueness of great statesmen and the importance of state archives is confirmed in Noth's representation of this imagined past. The connection between past and present is also assured by the contemporary scholar's study of this ancient 'work of scholarship'. It is, of course, a guarantee of objectivity as well as a product of disinterested scholarship. He states that the development of political power and the active participation in historical events was the precondition for the beginning of historical writing. This is to assume, of course, that his proposed twelve-tribe amphictyonic structure or the reign of Saul were not 'political'! Interestingly, it seems, only states are political and only states provide the foundation for historical records. Yet at the same time biblical scholarship can deny or ignore the political context and implications of its research.

One of the major historical puzzles about the biblical accounts and constructions based upon them is that the Philistines who are presented as such a potent threat to the very existence of Israel under Saul are not just defeated by David but virtually disappear from the historical record. [11] Thus Noth is able to say that:

The Philistines made no further attempt. They were forced to surrender their supremacy in the land. The period of their predominance had come to a rapid end. Henceforth they were limited to their old possessions in the southern part of the maritime plain and formed one of the small neighbouring states which gave trouble to Judah and Israel as occasion offered but were no longer able to make any decisive historical interventions. David's decisive victories over the Philistines were the fundamental and the most lasting successes of a life that was rich in success. They gave him freedom to develop and elaborate his political system along his own lines.

-- Noth 1960: 189

The Philistines are, interestingly, confined to 'the southern part of the maritime plain', the modern Gaza strip. They are no longer able to participate in historical events whereas the region is defined in terms of the Davidic monarchy. Indeed, what we see here is the elevation of Israel to the point where it silences Palestinian (Philistine) history. The choice of Jerusalem as the capital of what Noth terms 'the greater kingdom Israel' (1960: 189), the combination of Israel and Judah, was crucial. The allusion to 'Greater Israel' is particularly significant, as we have seen, in considering the subtle influence of the present on the imagined past. The phrase has been of crucial significance in the period since 1948 (see Chomsky 1983). It is a phrase that we see used by Alt, now Noth, and which becomes common parlance in the discourse of biblical studies. The capture of Jerusalem also helps to define the crucial moment in the history of the region:

It was near the main north to south road over the hills, which followed the watershed, but lacked good communications with the east and the west. It was in no sense the obvious centre of the land and the natural features of its position did not mark it out as the capital. What it became under David, and what it has meant in history right up to our own day, it owes not to nature but to the will and insight of a man who, disregarding the natural conditions, made a decision that was right in a particular historical situation.

-- Noth 1960: 190

The guiding principle, once again, is that it is great men who write history. Yet the view expressed does not correspond to any known historical reality in terms of the size and importance of Jerusalem at the time of the supposed reign of David. [12] Yet its meaning is carried through to the present day. For Noth (1960: 7), as for most biblical scholars and certainly for the Zionist movement, there is a direct continuum between the Davidic and modern states. The claim of Israel's inviolable right to Jerusalem as its capital, espoused most vociferously by Menachem Begin and many other Likud leaders, has its roots in this imagined Davidic golden age. The opening sentence of Avigad's popular report (1980) on the archaeological excavations in Jerusalem from 1969 to 1981 shows the political context in which such work needs to be understood: 'The reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 was not only a great historical event ... but was as well an event that will long be remembered as a turning point in the archaeological exploration of the city' (1980: 13). The significance is then said to be the fact that this allowed Israeli archaeologists access to locations previously inaccessible. Yet the fact that he describes the result of the 1967 war as 'a great historical event' shows that the archaeological enterprise is not just an academic exercise. Jerusalem is described as 'a symbol of deep emotional significance for the Jewish people and for much of mankind' (1980: 13). Avigad completes his study with the observation that the excavators were able to witness a further historical process in accord with the patterns of the past: the restoration of the Jewish quarter. It is clear that Avigad sees a direct continuum between the past and present of Israel which centres on the political and religious significance of Jerusalem for the Jewish community. [13] The direct continuum between past and present which is invoked, or implicitly assumed, in biblical scholarship and in the realm of politics means that the two spheres are intricately related.
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:43 am

Part 2 of 3

The mirage of the Israelite monarchy as some all-consuming entity, claiming the past and thereby legitimizing the present, which defined and dominated Palestinian history, is further emphasized by Noth's contention (1960: 193) that David 'created a great empire extending far beyond the confines of the Israelite tribes, and well rounded-off on all sides, including a greater part of Palestine and Syria'. [14] This recurrent theme of 'empire', the image of 'Greater Israel' shows a complete misunderstanding of the nature of empire or the potential of Palestine itself in relation to surrounding areas. Noth even refers to the Aramean territory of the northern land east of the Jordan as far as Damascus as a 'province of the empire of David'.

The whole realm had become an extremely complicated political structure and had grown far beyond the confines of a purely Israelite state. It had become a Palestinian-Syrian empire united in the person of the king and embracing numerous different peoples. David's political organization was the first great independent power structure on Palestinian-Syrian soil of which we have knowledge, embracing directly or indirectly most of Palestine and Syria: a tremendous phenomenon from the point of view of world history and basically the achievement of one intelligent and uncommonly successful man. The general historical situation in the Orient had been in his favour. In Egypt and Mesopotamia there was at that time no greater power which might have encroached on Palestine and Syria and enforced a claim to rule over it.

-- Noth 1960: 195

The imperial power vacuum in the area had allowed David's 'empire' to develop in Syria-Palestine just as the Zionists were able to exploit the power vacuum create by the British resignation of UN mandatory powers. This is the defining moment not just in Palestinian history but in world history. The 'historic' claim of Israel to the past and the present, advanced through the notion of priority, is confirmed in Noth's vision of a Davidic empire: 'the first great independent power structure on Palestinian-Syrian soil of which we have knowledge.'

The cult of personality, the reflex of German historiography that it is the great men who shape history, so evident in Alt's work, finds further expression in Noth's view that 'the existence of David's empire was so dependent on the strong personality of its founder that its survival beyond his death only seemed assured provided a successor of more or less equal stature could be found' (1960: 199). This is reinforced with his final statement on the reign of David that any successor was faced with an 'extraordinarily difficult' task in holding together this' complicated empire' (1960: 199).

Noth's understanding of the Israelite state under David and Solomon is clearly a reflection of the ideals of the European nation state:

The historical events which took place in the reigns of David and Solomon occasioned extremely great changes in the Israelites' conditions of life. A strong monarchy had relieved them of concern for self-preservation in their particular historical setting and they enjoyed the advantages of living in a state that was not merely powerful but also well governed.

-- Noth 1960: 216-17

Noth is able to state that it is well governed even though he admits (1960: 217) that 'we are told almost nothing of the administrative measures of David's reign, and even for Solomon's we are merely told a few things connected with his buildings and the royal household'. No evidence is offered. The statement could easily have been made of the modern state as the haven for European Jews, represented as the ideal of democracy, strong and well governed. While the state is the defining factor of this imagined past, it is a particular form of state, not one like the monarchies round about. It is this notion of the ideal of democracy embodied within the Israelite state which provides a solution to the paradox of the monarchy as a denial of the essential theocratic nature of Israel. In terms of the region, Israel is to be distinguished from its neighbours:

These great descriptions of episodes from the history of David have also a special significance in so far as they have established once and for all the fact that the monarchy represented an institution on the soil of Israel which had emerged in history long after the Israelite tribes had settled in Palestine and consolidated their position, and that, after the episode of Saul, David was the first to establish and bequeath to his son the monarchies over Judah and Israel which continued to exist in the history of the people. It was therefore difficult for the idea to emerge in Israel that the institution of the monarchy as such and the actual monarchies in Judah and Israel were elements of the unalterable and everlasting world order. If it is also borne in mind that the problematical nature of the monarchy in general was also felt among the Israelite tribes possibly from the very beginning and with ever-increasing force as time went on ... it will be realized that the monarchy was bound to appear in very different light than was the case in the rest of the ancient Orient and, above all, in the ancient oriental empires where monarchy was regarded as an essential element in an everlasting, divine order of things.

-- Noth 1960: 223

Israel of the past as well as the present was a nation set apart, particularly set apart from its own social and political world. Thus Noth continues:

In Israel the monarchy was bound always to be regarded as an institution that had evolved in the process of history and it was precisely under the influence of the historical emergence of the monarchy that the form of historical writing arose in Israel to which there is no counterpart in the world of the ancient Orient. It was the result of Israel's unique historical consciousness which was based on the special nature of its experience of God. It is therefore wrong to apply without question to the monarchy in Israel the ancient oriental ideas of a sacral divine monarchy, with the attendant religious observances.

-- Noth 1960: 223

It is remarkable how closely this is echoed in the perceptions of the modern state of Israel as a nation set apart from its political and cultural context, a civilizing influence in the region. It is the result of 'Israel's unique historical consciousness' which is divinely inspired. [15]

The formulation of a 'Solomonic Enlightenment' by von Rad represents the culmination of the view of the Israelite monarchy as a golden age which defined all subsequent moments in the history of the region. This became the setting and stimulus for the development of Israelite historiography and other wisdom traditions which were to form a major part of the Hebrew Bible:

Thus the golden age of the Hebrew monarchy produced genuine historical works. No other civilization of the ancient Near East was able to do so. Even the Greeks achieved it only at the height of their development in the fifth century, and then as quickly fell away again. Here, on the contrary, we are dealing with a nation which had only just become civilized. The factors which were conducive to this, including the easily learned script, came to them as to the Greeks from the former occupants of their land; but this only makes their achievement the more astonishing. Here, as in all historical situations, we have the insoluble problems of innate ability. By virtue of their achievement in historical writing, realized independently and fully grown from the start, the civilization of Israel must be ranged alongside that which was achieved on the soil of Greece to a richer and fuller degree some centuries later.

-- von Rad 1965: 285-6

The reader is presented with the astounding claim that it is through 'innate ability' that Israel is able to produce historical works 'fully formed' even though it had only just become civilized or learned the alphabet. Noticeably, the mark of civilization is statehood. This is indeed a unique culture with which other ancient Near East civilizations do not bear comparison. These other civilizations, it should be remembered, include the great riverine civilizations of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia with their magnificent monuments, graphic art, and extensive literary remains. [16]

John Bright's A History of Israel, a paradigm of 'biblical history', takes the world context of the region possibly more seriously than any other work of this genre. The incursions of the ever-changing imperial powers are carefully catalogued and interwoven into the narrative of the history of Israel. It forms an important backdrop to understanding the discrete history of Israel. However, the interconnections between the rise and fall of empires and Palestine's place in this dynamic of world power need to be explored further. Imperial control is a constant in the kaleidoscopic history of Palestine but it is usually treated in discrete terms, as part of the unique, unrepeatable events of traditional history, Braudel's 'l'histoire evenementielle'. Yet the concentration on the incursions and battles of various Pharaohs, Assyrian or Babylonian kings, or Persian and Roman generals reveals only a part of the story of this recurrent theme of the region's history. The history of Palestine reveals quite clearly that from the Late Bronze Age to the Roman period, one could say through to the present day, there has been a shifting dynamic of world power which has seen economic and military superiority fluctuate from region to region. The imperial episodes in Palestinian history need to be treated from a comparative perspective in order to reveal their similarities and dissimilarities. The apocalyptic literature of the region often adopts a rigid schema of the succession of empires, a schema mirrored in the reconstructions of our modern 'biblical histories' which then posit a Davidic empire in the power vacuum of the early Iron Age. The failure to appreciate the dynamics of world power and its effect upon the history of the region lies behind the assertion of many biblical scholars and archaeologists of the existence of a Davidic empire. This failure will be explored briefly later in the chapter.

For the present, it is enough to acknowledge, as we have seen above, that Bright's (1972: 179) classic treatment of the rise of the Israelite state, the so-called 'united monarchy' of David and Solomon, which eradicates all other narrations of Palestinian history for the early Iron Age repeats the recurrent themes found in the works of Alt and Noth. Bright (1972: 224) presents the paradox of an Israelite monarchy in even starker terms than Noth. What is fascinating is that although Noth and Bright are represented as protagonists in the discourse of biblical studies in respect of their constructions of the emergence of Israel in Palestine, they share remarkably similar views when it comes to a consideration of the inauguration of an Israelite state. Their disagreements over the use of archaeology disappear since there is little archaeological evidence pertaining to the so-called periods of David and Solomon. Strikingly, they both accept that the biblical texts are basically historically trustworthy and use them as the major source for their constructions which amount to little more than the precis of the narratives of the books of Samuel and Kings. The model of the nation state, the locus of state archives which are the basis of history writing, becomes so dominant that their constructions of the imagined past of Israel coincide.

Herrmann's history (1975), which stands in the tradition of the scholarship of Alt and Noth, is interesting because he states explicitly that Israel in the pre-monarchic period did not 'as yet form a "state" in any way' (1975: 131). He detects the beginnings of the 'equally modern conception of a united "people'" but again states that the stimuli for the movement to statehood were external. We are not told how Herrmann is able to detect such things. Again we find the paradox of the essentially alien nature of monarchy to Israel but also the claim that this change in organization brought with it 'a new degree of mutual awareness' (1975: 132). Again no justification is offered for such a claim. He then follows the standard practice of paraphrasing and expanding the biblical text in his construction of the reign of Saul. The vexed question of the extent of Saul's kingdom is revealing of some underlying assumptions:

When he became king, he did not take over a clearly defined territory; he was merely acclaimed by a group of tribes about whom unfortunately we know no further details. Saul's 'kingdom' was a national state in the original sense of the word, a hegemony over clans and tribes of the same origin; it was not at the same time a territorial state with fixed boundaries and an independent administration.

-- Herrmann 1975: 140

Here is the conception of Israel as a nation seeking out a territory which has pervaded so much of biblical scholarship. [17] It becomes transformed and confirmed with David: 'He ruled over a "national" group which was in one sense limited, but whose territory and purpose was far more closely defined than Saul's complex "empire'" (1975: 152). David, on this account, is the founder of a nation state. Herrmann (1975: 156) cites Alt's view that with David's capture of Jerusalem 'almost overnight the stunted city-state becomes the centre of a kingdom which embraces the whole of Palestine'. He moves from this to argue that David is the creator of the nation state:

We may conclude from this that David succeeded where Saul failed in taking the step from a national to a territorial state, to a 'kingdom' with more or less fixed boundaries, to a territory and not just a tribal alliance, under the authority of the king.

-- Herrmann 1975: 157

Revealingly, we are told that this state had to incorporate other 'ethnic groups': 'The result was that the so-called "Canaanite problem" became not only an acute domestic political difficulty but also above all a religious danger' (1975: 157). This has been the critical problem for the modern state following the wars of 1967 and 1973, both of which preceded the publication of Herrmann's history. His choice of phraseology is intriguing: he refers to the 'Canaanite problem' faced by the Israelite state. It parallels the 'Palestinian problem' confronting the modern state of Israel which was apparent for all to see in the early 1970s, and earlier, but which remained unspoken in the discourse of biblical studies. Significantly, for Herrmann, the problem is not one of the rights of the 'Canaanites' but the danger which they pose from inside to the unity and security of the Israelite nation state.

For Herrmann, also, the period of the Davidic-Solomonic monarchy becomes the defining moment in the region's history. He refers to 'the ideal extension of the empire of Israel and Judah' (1975: 159) as represented in 1 Kings 5: 1, the text which informs Ben-Gurion's vision of 'Greater Israel', but argues that this never corresponded to the reality of David's power. Nevertheless, 'David's historical achievements certainly do not pale in the light of so ambitious an ideal' (1975: 159) since his control over a variety of territories meant that it is appropriate to refer to a Davidic 'empire'. [18] Herrmann stands firmly in the tradition of 'biblical histories' which imagine a Davidic 'empire' founded upon the cult of personality, the result of 'the personal achievement of the king'. He even goes so far as to talk in terms of an 'imperial ideology' (1975: 162). He sees it as highly probable that the conception of an 'all Israel' stems from the period of David. It is clearly the defining moment in the history of the region:

But the ordering of the traditions and the formation of them into a consistent idea of a 'people' with ethnic and national contours, with its own national awareness, could only be developed to the full under the impact of the formation of the Davidic state.

-- Herrmann 1975: 163; emphasis added

The indigenous culture, it seems, was incapable of such national awareness or the formation of written traditions. The paradox of trying to represent the Davidic monarchy as both unique and a part of mundane history is brought out clearly in his discussion: 'The Davidic empire was a unique creation, but a product of history, subjected to conflicting trends from within and threatened by dangers from without' (Herrmann 1975: 167). Israel was set apart. Its national state was unique but still a product of history. The only evidence for this uniqueness is derived from a paraphrase of the biblical traditions which are conceived to be the product of the Davidic court. Herrmann's evidence for his assertions of the existence of a Davidic empire and its territorial boundaries are procured, therefore, from a self-serving narrative of the Davidic bureaucracy. Herrmann, like other biblical historians, offers no corroborative evidence to support such a construction of the past.

Soggin (1984: 41) also refers to an 'empire' and follows Alt's thesis that it was held together by 'personal union'. He follows the standard pattern of presentation claiming that 'the region was unified for the first and last time in its history, though only for a short while, under a single sceptre, instead of being divided into dozens of autonomous entities' (1984: 42). The uniqueness of the Davidic monarchy is therefore that it unites the region for 'the first and last time in its history'. Again this confirms -- unwittingly, it seems -- the claim to the 'historic right' to the land on the principle of priority. He is more cautious about the extent of this entity than others, acknowledging that the existence of an empire is not confirmed by outside sources but that it is 'quite probable' given the decline of Egyptian power and the absence of Assyrian influence. [19] Why this imperial vacuum does not allow for the possibility of an Ammonite or Moabite empire but permits 'the possibility of an Israelite empire' is a question which is not addressed. He then concludes that the Davidic monarchy exploited the political vacuum to create an empire in Palestine and Syria for approximately seventy years at the beginning of the tenth century BCE before succumbing to the reappearance of the 'great empires' (1984: 44). What had been at first a possibility, with no external evidence to confirm it, has become a reality which survived for three-quarters of a century. It is an imagined past which corresponds to the biblically inspired modern concept of 'Greater Israel' in control of the West Bank, Gaza, and southern Lebanon. Biblical scholarship cannot divorce itself from the realities of the present which inform and are informed by such powerful imagined pasts.

Just how powerfully the present imposes itself upon the imagined past, whether consciously or unconsciously, is made apparent in Meyers's study (1987) of the Davidic-Solomonic periods. Meyers (1987: 181) follows in the long tradition stemming from Alt in presenting the Davidic-Solomonic periods as 'the Israelite empire', a brief period in the history of the region when Palestine had a unified government. [20] Here is the presentation of history as the result of the actions of 'great men' par excellence. The period is presented as being exceptional in 'the pre-modern Levant'. Notice how it is implied that the modern period, the creation of the modern state of Israel, is the only parallel to this exceptional unification of the region. She goes even further in arguing that the biblical sources in their concern for the emergence and dissolution of the 'United Kingdom' 'tends to obscure the fact that (sic) kingdom was not a simple self-contained national state but rather was the seat of an empire' (1987: 181). Although it might have been modest in comparison with Egypt or Mesopotamia, it was an empire nevertheless: 'Yet Israel during the time of David and Solomon, during the Golden Age of the United Monarchy, was nonetheless a minor imperial power' (1987: 181). Surprisingly, in light of the above, she claims that this has not been appreciated by biblical scholarship. She is concerned with reassessing the role of Solomon, who is usually portrayed as of secondary importance to David. In doing this, she describes David as 'the first Israelite "emperor", a brilliant initiator who unified the region' and Solomon as the second and last Israelite 'emperor' 'who held the disparate territorial components together for an unprecedented period of stability, who created a glorious cosmopolitan capital and built up a series of royal cities throughout the land' (1987: 182). This is described as a 'brief and uncharacteristic Levantine political configuration' (1987: 182). Clearly other indigenous powers were incapable of such an uncharacteristic achievement. She argues that social scientific studies of empires show that 'we must place the Davidic state within the category of a pre-modern empire, that is, a supranational state with a centralized bureaucracy ruled by a monarch with claims to traditional-sacred legitimacy' (1987: 184).

Meyers takes one of Alt's influential themes, the notion of the Israelite state as defensive, and develops it to an extreme not witnessed elsewhere, as far as I know, in the discourse of biblical studies. The novel aspect of her presentation is an attempt to deny that this 'Israelite empire' was aggressive or that it could be described as 'imperialistic'. She argues (1987: 184) that the most difficult problem in defining an empire is that of describing the motivation for its establishment. The key factor, it seems, is whether or not it was motivated by an ideology of superiority which results in pure aggression and which could then be designated as 'imperialistic'. But if the motivation was economic, self-interested but not superior, it would still surely be described as an empire. This she terms as 'accidental imperialism' and cites Rome, surprisingly, as a case in point:

The Davidic expansion clearly can be classified among the empires arising from the defensive or accidental sort of empire-building. It should thus escape some of the opprobrium that attaches to imperialistic states.

-- 1987: 184

Her definition seems to confuse the definition of empire and the use of the term 'imperialistic' to describe aggression and exploitation. This parallels various descriptions of the modern state of Israel as involved only in defensive wars and not as an occupying power whether in the West Bank and Gaza or in southern Lebanon (see Chomsky 1983). Here we have a description of the Davidic monarchy which is a mirror image of the kind of apologetic offered to justify the modern state's occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the southern Lebanon.

Meyers presents the period of Solomon's succession and rule as that of a period of consolidation of David's territorial gains by diplomacy and ideology, the result of which was that:

Jerusalem became, not simply the capital of a nation state, but rather the 'center' of an empire and the locus of activities and structures that impinged upon the 'periphery', upon territories removed from the Israelite state in which Jerusalem was located.

-- Meyers 1987: 189

She then argues that the Solomonic temple was critical in providing the ideological justification for the right to dominate foreign territories. Even though, as she acknowledges, there is no archaeological evidence for this important symbol of power, the comparison of the biblical description (1 Kings 6-8) with sanctuaries from Syria and Palestine shows it to be 'the largest and grandest' of its kind. This leads her to the conclusion (1987: 190) that 'this striking fact is fully in accord with the Solomonic empire's unique position as the most extensive polity to have existed in ancient Syria-Palestine'. Her view of history, as presented in this article, as the result of the actions of great men is reinforced with her pronouncement on the achievements of David and Solomon (1987: 195): 'If it took the charisma and genius of a David to create an empire, against major economic, political, and historical odds, the maintenance of that empire for another regal span rested upon Solomon's unique gifts of wisdom and of successful diplomacy.'

What is remarkable about Meyers's imagined past, and those pasts of other major scholars reviewed above, is the way it accords with the realities of the present of a modern state of Israel which from its very existence has claimed to be involved only in defensive wars, a claim that has been maintained, officially at least, despite the invasion of Lebanon and eventually Beirut in 1982. The various works which have been cited above and commented upon are but an influential and representative sample of the discourse of biblical studies on the creation of an Israelite state in the Iron Age. They need to be read in the context of the contemporary struggle for land and identity which involves a struggle for the past. This representative sample of biblical scholarship shows that it has endorsed one particular creation of the past -- what can only be described as an imagined past, in the light of available evidence -- which has silenced or blocked any Palestinian claim to that past. The influences are subtle, not easy to substantiate, but the accumulation of recurrent themes and phrases which become assertions of fact, often on the flimsiest of evidence or in the absence of any evidence at all, helps to confirm common claims to the land advanced in the political realm. Biblical scholars and archaeologists are participants, however unwittingly, in the claims and counterclaims between Israel and the Palestinians: they are part, at the very least, of what Said (1994a: xxvi) terms a 'passive collaboration' which has silenced Palestinian history. The weight of biblical scholarship presents a past which conforms to and confirms the claims of the modern state. This silencing of Palestinian history arises out of the social and political context in which the work has been done, for it has arisen out of European historiography and imposed a model of the European nation state upon the ancient Middle East which has been confirmed by Europe and the West's sponsorship of the modern state. It forms an important part of that 'massed history' which has presented the public with a remarkably uniform view of the past. Palestinian history has no claim upon the past because it does not exist. It has been excluded by the discourse of biblical studies.

It might be argued that Ahlstrom's The History of Ancient Palestine (1993) invalidates any such claim. Surely here we have a voice for Palestinian history in contrast to the domination of the Davidic empire? This is a work that explicitly questions the historicity of the biblical traditions proposing to present a history of the peoples of Palestine rather than of Israel and Judah alone. He questions the historicity of the texts which deal with the monarchy, arguing that they were edited from a Davidic perspective and are often late. Nevertheless, he stands broadly within the tradition of the historical critical movement in excavating the texts for historical information. His discussion of this period contains many elements found in standard 'biblical histories'. He discusses the period in terms of great men: Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon. The only distinguishing feature of his presentation is a much more positive appraisal of Saul than standard histories of Israel which are more closely wedded to the presentation of the biblical narratives. He argues (1993: 434) that, although it had been difficult for chiefdoms in the hill country to develop into military powers that were able to oppose Philistine military power, 'one man succeeded, however, and freed for some time the hill population from Philistine rule: Saul'. [21] Although Ahlstrom provides this more positive appraisal of Saul, his interpretation of the period as providing a defining moment in the history of the region is broadly in line with more traditional treatments: 'Saul had created a territorial state that the greater Palestinian region had never seen before. Saul can therefore be regarded as the first state-builder in Palestine' (1993: 449). [22]

Ahlstrom goes so far as to say that Saul ruled over most of Palestine and Transjordan. In effect, he attributes (1993: 449) many of the achievements in bringing about this defining moment in the history of the region to Saul whereas, as we have seen, this is usually reserved for David. Similarly, Saul took advantage of the power vacuum created by the decline of the traditional powers in the region. Ahlstrom (1993: 454) recognizes that this is an unusual state of affairs which reverses the normal course of events in Palestine but, nevertheless, sees this as a period in which the history of the region was transformed by an indigenous power. In his view (1993: 454), three tried -- Hadadezar of Aram-Zobah, Nahash of Aram, and Saul of Israel -- but only Saul succeeded for a short time though ultimately he failed in the face of the Philistine threat. But he does not depart radically from standard treatments and eventually presents David as the key figure in this defining moment:

From the wing of the political stage a fourth man soon entered, one who managed to become the master of Palestine and parts of Syria: David. For a few generations the peoples of Syria-Palestine would be part of an artificial political unit.

-- Ahlstrom 1993: 454

The fact that he recognizes the artificiality of such an indigenous power points all the more to its uniqueness and the outstanding nature of its achievement. Although he refers to 'a great kingdom' (1993: 470) rather than an 'empire', his analysis is little different from that of the works he opposes. [23] His description of David's achievement is broadly similar to those of standard 'biblical histories':

As mentioned before, Palestine was not a country that encouraged the creation of larger political units. Historically, the political and cultural centers were in Anatolia-Mesopotamia in the north, and in Egypt in the south. Geographically Palestine was a connecting link and as such was always a point of contention among the great world powers. David's kingdom represents an exception, a parenthesis on the history of the ancient Near East. The achievements of David were possible because there was a power vacuum at this time.

-- Ahlstrom 1993: 487

He acknowledges that it was short-lived but unique as 'an exception' in the region. Its importance, however, stretches far beyond this:

But even if it was shortlived, it was never forgotten by the Jerusalemite writers and some Judahite prophets. David and his kingdom became for them the ideal that in some way distorted the historical reality, as well as creating wishful dreams about the future.

-- Ahlstrom 1993: 488

He might have added that it has also affected the ways in which the history of the region has been understood and presented: the kingdom or empire of David has become the dominant element in the history of the region, excluding any discussion of Palestinian history. For the Solomonic period, he argues (1993: 501) that because of the lack of extrabiblical materials it can 'only be presented by use of the subjective opinion of the biblical writers combined with archaeological remains. The latter are impressive compared with the preceding period: Although there is some typical royal hyperbole, he believes (1993: 539) that a king would not have been built up to such an extent unless there was some basis for it, a remarkable statement given the history of hyperbole and propaganda in the ancient and modern worlds in service of 'great men'. He describes Solomon (1993: 538) as 'a king the likes of whom was produced neither before or after by that little country'. In short, it is difficult to distinguish Ahlstrom's narration from that of standard 'biblical histories' despite his claim to represent the history of ancient Palestine. As with our standard histories of Israel and Judah, the history of Palestine is little more than the history of Israel as presented in the biblical traditions.


Although the recent volume by Miller and Hayes (1986) represents the pinnacle of modern 'biblical histories', it is interesting to note that their construction of this period is much more guarded than the presentations considered above. They accept that their attempts to understand the reign of Saul are highly speculative. They provide a much more critical attitude to the biblical text, questioning the historicity of the David narratives (1986: 152) to a much greater extent than Soggin or any of the standard 'biblical histories' and particularly Meyers, for instance. [24] Thus they provide an interesting contrast with the broad scholarly tradition that sees this as a critical period in the history of the region:

David founded a dynasty that was to rule from Jerusalem for over four centuries. Even after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E., which ended the long line of Davidic kings, many of the people of Jerusalem and Judah (including many scattered abroad at the time) continued to hope for a restoration of the days of old when the house of David was secure on the throne. Thus it is not surprising that David received so much attention in the biblical materials or that there was such an obvious effort on the part of the ancient Judaean compilers of these materials to present him in a favorable light.

-- Miller and Hayes 1986: 149

They do, however, question the notion that the reign of Solomon was a 'golden age' (1986: 189). Although they note that archaeological evidence at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer indicates Solomon's building activity, they qualify this by describing these achievements as 'rather modest' when compared to Mesopotamia and Egypt but also when compared with the Omrides (1986: 189-90). They provide a much more sober assessment of the reign of Solomon:

Solomon was probably an unusually wealthy and powerful ruler by the standards of Early Iron Age Palestine. Yet viewed in the broader context of the ancient Middle East, he is to be regarded more as a local ruler over an expanded city-state than as a world class emperor.

-- Miller and Hayes 1986: 199 [25]

They describe Solomon's kingdom as having consisted of the bulk of western Palestine and a large part of northern Transjordan but excluding the bulk of the Mediterranean coast which would have been in the hands of the Philistines and Phoenicians (1986: 214). Although they still place an important emphasis upon the reigns of David and Solomon, they are much more tempered than many of the extravagant claims which we have seen above. They do not articulate an alternative history of Palestine, it is not part of their aim, but they do at least recognize that the Israel of David was not the sole entity in the region. The recognition of the possibility of alternative claims to the past, the Philistine and Phoenician possession of the 'bulk of the Mediterranean coast', is at least implied. The fact that their work has been hailed as the pinnacle of 'biblical histories' and that they perceive it to stand in the tradition of Alt-Noth-Albright-Bright indicates the extent to which the changed perceptions of and approaches to the biblical texts have begun to erode the confidence of the dominant discourse of biblical studies. [26] The implications of this challenge will need to be considered later in the chapter. For the present, it is enough to concentrate upon a series of recent works which appear at first sight to offer a challenge to the dominant discourse but which in effect only serve to emphasize the silencing of Palestinian history.

One of the most distinctive treatments of the Israelite monarchy, as with the study of Israelite origins, has been supplied by Mendenhall. Once again in a seminal article (1975), he articulated a series of ideas which appear to challenge conventional understandings of the Israelite monarchy. He argues that the development of the Israelite monarchy followed the model of 'a typical Syro-Hittite state' introducing 'a paganization into the political and social history of Israel with fateful and lasting consequences' (Mendenhall 1975: 155). In effect, he pushes the notion of the paradox of the Israelite monarchy as both alien but peculiarly Israelite to its logical conclusion by drawing a sharp distinction between the essential Israel of the 'biblical revolution' and the reintroduction of Canaanite paganism through the monarchy of David and Solomon. Mendenhall suggests that the Davidic monarchy was a complex merging of 'Canaanite, North Syrian, Anatolian and East Syrian cultural traditions of the Bronze Age' with a few features derived from Egypt. This corrupt 'Canaanite paganism', it should be noticed, is internal and has to be contrasted with the purity of the biblical revolution of pre-monarchic Israel. He goes so far as to claim that 'this new insight is not only revolutionary so far as biblical studies and theology are concerned, it is potentially of crucial importance to the survival of modern civilization and its dense population' (Mendenhall 1975: 155). He argues that there is 'abundant evidence for a systematic reversion to Bronze Age paganism with the rapid evolution of the Jerusalem kingship, and that reversion took place in less than two generations' (Mendenhall 1975: 157). He sees this as a denial and reversal of the religious ethic of the Mosaic period to a system of the political monopoly of force which was subjected to critique by the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. The royal bureaucracy and its specialists, including religious specialists, were taken over from Canaanite states.

It is noticeable, however, that for Mendenhall such a bureaucracy was 'essential to a large political state and empire like that of David' (Mendenhall 1975: 160). Whatever its origins, it is still conceived of as an 'empire': it is the structure that dominates the history of Palestine, even though for Mendenhall it is judged negatively. In fact, he concludes that 'the biblical narratives tell us that most of the old Palestinian power-centres (or what was left of them) were incorporated by military power into the kingdom of David' (Mendenhall 1975: 160). Notice that the kingdom of David supersedes and incorporates Palestinian history. The bureaucracy that David inherited did not have its 'roots in the soil of ancient Israel, but rather in the impoverished regimes of Bronze Age Canaan' (Mendenhall 1975: 161). Yet it is important to make clear in what ways they could be considered to be impoverished. They provide the intellectual and literate elite to run David's kingdom, the Palestinian urban centres produced fine pottery and well-crafted artifacts, whereas the Israelites, according to most biblical specialists and archaeologists, lived in small rural sites with a poor, pragmatic material culture. The impoverishment can only be in terms of the religious system and values which for Mendenhall are paramount. Interestingly, for him, the Israelite monarchy is corrupted by the indigenous culture just as for Alt the Philistines had failed to dominate the history of the region but for different reasons. The contrast here, however, is between the essential Israel and a paganization of the Davidic monarchy which denies this essential nature.

Mendenhall's condemnation of the politicization of religion, and implicitly, I suspect, a work such as this which argues that the political aspects of scholarship have to be recognized clearly for their influence upon results, is stark:

The Old Testament Constantine, King David, represents a thoroughgoing reassimilation to Late Bronze Age religious ideas and structures. These readapted the authentic traditions of Israel just as radically as the later Achemenids readapted New Testament Christianity. All three cases are entirely analogous, illustrating (to put it as provocatively as possible) the dissolution of religion into politics.

-- Mendenhall 1973: 16

All except the truth claims of his own religious tradition are denounced as paganism. All indigenous religious developments are therefore inferior and to be replaced by this higher revelation which reaches its pinnacle in the Sermon on the Mount. Although Mendenhall provides a radically different appraisal of the reigns of David and Solomon from much of biblical scholarship, it is still the case that their reigns dominate the history of the region. They still remain the defining moment in the history of the region and of humankind, but for very different reasons from those traditionally advanced.

A series of works appeared in the 1980s which attempted to reevaluate the inauguration of the Israelite state. Most of these works appealed to social scientific studies of state formation (Cohen and Service 1978; Claessen and Skalnik 1978; 1981; Haas 1982) attempting to apply these findings to the fragmentary data available for understanding the move to statehood in ancient Israel. In particular, they questioned the historical reliability of the biblical traditions, the view that the monarchy was alien to Israel or inevitable, and the view that the Philistine threat was a sufficient cause to explain this move to statehood. Hauer (1986), Coote and Whitelam (1987), and Whitelam (1986) all appealed to Carneiro's (1970) theory of environmental and social circumscription in order to understand the processes at work in the move to Israelite statehood. The Philistine threat is seen as no more than a catalyst to state formation (Coote and Whitelam 1987: 142; Frick 1985: 25-6). According to Coote and Whitelam (1987), Hauer (1986), and Frick (1985), it was the social and environmental factors of the hill-country settlements which led to a build-up of pressures which counteracted the natural tendencies of smaller polities to fission and led to increasing centralization and ultimately the development of an Israelite state. They argue for a complex feed-back process involving all forms of economic, social, political, and religious organization in contrast to standard interpretations which saw the Philistine threat as primary cause in the move to statehood (Frick 1985: 32; Coote and Whitelam 1987: 145). Whitelam (1986: 61) summarizes this as the social and geographical circumscription of the Palestinian highlands which places significant restraints upon the limits for expansion, increasing the competition for available land. The mechanisms which eventually led to the formation of the state were triggered once the dispersed rural settlements began to expand or multiply. In particular, the nature of farming strategies, devoted to terracing and commercial tree crops, required residential stability. This restriction on adaptability to increasing environmental and social pressures must have been an important factor in the move to centralization. They offered alternative explanations for the rise of the Israelite monarchy which challenged conventional understandings, stressing the combination of internal and external factors (Coote and Whitelam 1987: 142), questioning the oft-repeated notion that the monarchy is alien. Coote and Whitelam are able to conclude that:

The standard interpretations of the rise of the monarchy, regardless of the position adopted on the origins of Israel, fail to pose or answer the major question of why it is this particular area which centralized and introduced an effective Israelite monarchy. Why is it the population of the highlands which succeeded in subduing and incorporating into its own political structure the surrounding, especially lowland, areas despite the seeming military and economic advantages of urban Canaan or the Philistine pentapolis? The monarchy, far from representing some alien cancer in the Israelite body politic, was fundamentally determined by the nature of the origins of Israel in the hill country and was the result of internal stimuli in response to social and environmental circumscription.

-- Coote and Whitelam 1987: 147-8

Their conclusion reveals how far they were distracted by the search for ancient Israel. The processes of historical change for studying Palestinian history are appropriate but the concern is with the search for and location of ancient Israel. It is assumed, on the basis of the discourse of biblical studies, that Israel is to be identified with the highland settlements of the early Iron Age and that the development of an Israelite state can be traced from there. The power of the discourse of biblical studies is illustrated in Frick's conclusion that 'the emergent Israelite society in the highlands was ... a revolutionary development when viewed over against the Late Bronze Age Canaanite city-state system which had prevailed in the plains' (1985: 196). The appeal to social scientific data and theories has not freed these studies from Alt's domain assumption that Israel's political development represents a radical break with and replacement of (inferior) indigenous political structures. Furthermore, all these studies assume, however minimally, the broad outline of the biblical traditions for their constructions of the past, [27] Although they might be said to have contributed to the general climate which has led to a more radical questioning of this dominant discourse and its assumptions about Israel's claim to the past, they have failed to escape the stranglehold which that discourse has exerted over our understanding of this past. Coote and Whitelam (1987: 164) do provide a proviso in trying to see the creation of an Israelite state as part of the study of Palestinian history: 'The emergence of Israel and the inauguration of the monarchy must be seen as part of the long-term trends and processes if progress is to be made towards a more realistic appraisal of this phase of Palestinian history.' However, it is a Palestinian history dominated by Israel, it is a Palestinian history in name only: in reality it is no more that the study of Israelite history, admittedly seen at least as part of wider Palestinian history, but no nearer the realization or articulation of such a history. [28] Yet even these modest proposals which raised the possibility of a challenge to the dominant construction of the past and which questioned the dominant role of Israel could not be allowed to go unchallenged.

Finkelstein (1989: 43-74) offers a response to these reappraisals of the emergence of the monarchy in Israel in which the dominant discourse reasserts itself. The opening paragraph of the article indicates that, despite an appeal to new archaeological data, his understanding of the significance of the development of an Israelite state stands firmly within the discourse of biblical studies since the time of Alt:

The emergence of the Israelite monarchy at the end of the eleventh century BCE was one of the most crucial events in the history of Palestine. The political unification of the hill country under Saul, followed by David's conquests and the creation of one powerful state throughout most of the country, virtually changed the historical development of the entire region. For the first time a local independent political entity was established in Palestine -- a national ethnic state with a distinctive ideological and religious identity.

-- Finkelstein 1989: 43

Here is a picture of the European nation state transposed to Palestine. We are told, without need for justification, that 'for the first time' the region reached the pinnacle of political evolution, the pinnacle of civilization, a national ethnic state with a 'distinctive ideological and religious identity'. Presumably, all other political entities in the region prior to this event were not distinctive. The claim to the land on the basis of 'historic right' is reinforced with the notion that this is the first 'powerful state' and 'local independent entity' in the region. The underlying assumptions, drawn from the biblical traditions and the dominant discourse of biblical studies, have been reached before he begins his re-examination of biblical scholarship in light of 'the most important archaeological dimension for tracing processes of this kind -- the study of settlement patterns' (1989: 43).

Again he is reliant upon 'the Land of Ephraim' survey to provide the archaeological data which had not been available to previous scholars. He contrasts the distribution of settlement at the beginning of Iron I (twelfth and eleventh centuries BCE) with that during the eleventh century BCE, and with the Iron II settlement pattern. The problems inherent in his attempt to define 'Israelite settlement' on the basis of archaeological evidence alone will be reserved for chapter 5. Clearly Finkelstein is heavily dependent upon his reading of the Hebrew Bible for this conclusion: a fact that places his work firmly within the mainstream of the discourse of biblical studies. He concludes that over 75 per cent of early Iron I sites were located in the eastern half of what he terms 'the Ephraim territory' (1989: 57). The settlement process in the western half intensified during Iron I with 62 per cent of the sites established in the latter phase of the period situated on the slopes and foothills; 76 per cent of the population lived in the eastern units (63 per cent of the population of all Iron I sites) at the beginning of Iron I with 46 per cent of the inhabitants of sites established in late Iron I living in western units. In comparison, 'for the first time in the demographic history of the land of Ephraim' (1989: 58), the western units (51 per cent) outnumbered eastern units. This shows an increase of 95-100 per cent in the number of western sites with 54 per cent of the large villages and 53 per cent of the population. He concludes that the western expansion 'meant a struggle with the harsh topography' (1989: 58) of the western part of the area. He notes that Zertal detected a similar process in his survey of 'Manasseh' and Kochavi's survey of 'Judah and Benjamin'; again the terminology is important. Thus it appears from his data, assuming that his chronological conclusions are correct, that 'Israelite settlement' initially took place in the desert fringes and in the central range between Jerusalem and the Jezreel Valley. Settlement increased in the western areas only in the latter stages of the eleventh century with the intensification reaching its height in Iron II: 'However, the ultimate "conquest", that of the ecological frontier of the central hill country -- the western slopes of Samaria and the Judaean hills -- took place only in Iron II' (1989: 59). As with his study of the 'emergence of Israel', he is reliant upon his reading of the biblical traditions in order to determine that this settlement shift represents 'Israelite settlement'. Noticeably, the area of demographic expansion which he is interested in is located on the 'western slopes of Samaria and the Judaean hills', the West Bank. He is then able to conclude that the 'Israelite population' in the early Iron I sites west of the Jordan was in the region of 20,000, excluding non-sedentary groups, 'while the settled Israelite population at the end of the eleventh century BCE is estimated at c. 55,000' (1989: 59). His appeal to his earlier study (1988: 27-33) for an understanding of the term 'Israelite' means that his work suffers from the same weaknesses. He has assumed that this settlement shift is Israelite and related to the internal and external conditions which contributed to the emergence of an Israelite monarchy. This is Israel's past alone.

The catalogue of statistical information he puts forward is very impressive. Yet the crucial point is that his assumption that these data relate to Israelite settlement immediately asserts a claim to the land and to the past -- an impressive claim at that given the nature of the statistics. But what if this settlement shift is referred to as 'Palestinian' and not 'Israelite', what if we see it as a continuation of the transformation and realignment of Late Bronze Age Palestinian society? Immediately, the change of terminology and the change of perspective offer an alternative construction and claim on the past. The data he puts forward are essential to the examination of crucial processes in the continuing transformation and realignment of Palestinian society in the early Iron Age. He notes, for example, that the switch to a more specialized agriculture in the horticultural regions encouraged the villages of the desert fringe, eastern central range and parts of the foothills to specialize in grain growing and animal husbandry, and to intensify efforts to produce greater surpluses (1989: 60). Such an economic system, he reasons, 'necessitated a certain level of organization, which served as the springboard for public administration' (1989: 60). The production of surpluses led to stratification and the emergence of central sites resulting in a 'crucial shift of the Israelite population from a rural society of small isolated groups to the beginning of organization into larger socio-political systems' (1989: 60). It may be possible to infer from the archaeological evidence that such sociopolitical developments took place at this time but it moves way beyond the evidence to conclude that this is 'Israelite settlement' or the emergence of an Israelite state in the terms it is described in the Samuel traditions in the Hebrew Bible. His focus is solely upon an imagined Israelite past which helps to underpin claims to the land, 'historic Samaria and Judaea', the modern West Bank, which is crucial to modern conceptions of identity and a claim to the land on the basis of 'historic right'. Finkelstein's construction of the period, following his presentation of the data, is a reassertion of the domain assumptions of the discourse throughout this century: he is able to conclude that 'at this point, part of the "classic" reconstruction of the monarchy's incipience should be accepted' (1989: 62-3).

His construction of the imagined past stands firmly in the mainstream of the discourse of biblical studies. This is confirmed with his assertion that:

In this context one can claim that the actions of one strong personality were responsible for the emergence of the monarchy (Samuel or Saul) -- what is known as the theory of the 'Great Man' in human evolution.

-- Finkelstein 1989: 63

He tries to temper this with the qualification that such a 'Great Man' can only arise under suitable socio-historical circumstances. Yet there is nothing in his presentation of the archaeological data for settlement shift and development in the Palestinian hill country and desert fringes which allows for an identification with Saul or Samuel. This is assumed, at no point argued, on the basis of his correlation of the biblical traditions and the archaeological data. He is able, then, to go on to confirm that it was only with David that 'the national state of Saul became a strong and large territorial state' (1989: 63). All this is predicated on the inference that the expanding villages need to produce larger surpluses, thereby increasing stratification and eventually moving towards centralization. Yet we suddenly move from this inference to find that what is really being discussed is a 'national state' which is carved out by Saul and completed by David. Then we find that 'the expansion of the monarchy into the coastal plain, the fertile northern valleys and Galilee united most of the country for the first time in its history under one local rule' (1989: 63; emphasis added). Finkelstein's presentation of new archaeological data is little more than a reiteration of the series of domain assumptions from the time of Alt which has invented an imagined Israelite past, the defining moment in the history of the region. The processes discussed in the settlement shift are crucial to any pursuit of Palestinian history for this period. However, such a history has been silenced by the continuing search for ancient Israel in the Iron Age. This is true of all the apparent re-evaluations of the emergence of an Israelite state which have appeared in recent years. Although they have challenged particular aspects of the dominant construction, they remain located firmly within a discourse which has effectively excluded Palestinian history from the academic sphere.
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Wed Nov 21, 2018 3:44 am

Part 3 of 3


The consensus presentation of the Davidic monarchy, although still dominant within the discourse of biblical studies, has gradually begun to fracture in recent years. Some of the reassessments of the formation of the monarchy, referred to above, have helped to contribute to a critical climate, but have fallen short of a sustained critique of the dominant discourse. The dominant construction of the past has begun to fracture as a result of the same convergence of factors which led to the reassessment of the 'emergence' of Israel; the implications of these earlier studies on the' emergence' of Israel have been applied only slowly to the study of an Israelite monarchy in the early Iron Age. The guarded discussion of Miller and Hayes indicates that by the mid-1980s the convergence of factors which had challenged the dominant constructions of the origins of Israel had begun to produce cracks in the projection of an Israelite empire that dominated Palestine in the Iron Age. The overwhelming factor has been the sea-change in literary approaches to the Hebrew Bible which at first undermined standard historical-critical assumptions pertaining to the period of Israel's emergence and to a lesser extent the re-evaluation of archaeological data. The shift in approaches to the emergence of Israel was brought about by the convergence of these newer literary approaches and new archaeological data which raised serious questions about previous constructions of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. What is interesting about the creation of an Israelite state in the Iron Age is that there is very little unambiguous archaeological evidence which pertains to the so-called period of the Israelite monarchy. Thus the discourse of biblical studies has created this entity solely on the basis of a reading of the biblical traditions, supplemented by extra-biblical documentary evidence.

One of the most sceptical assessments of the biblical traditions along with the notion of some glorious age of Israelite empire is Garbini's (1988: 1-20) sharp critique of modern 'biblical histories' as little more than paraphrases of the biblical text stemming from theological motivations. His critical perspective is taken from a philological stance within Assyriology, attacking what he sees as a remarkably uncritical attitude of modern biblical historians to the text of the Hebrew Bible. He also provides a sharp critique of the standard presentations of the reigns of David and Solomon as that of an empire and golden age (1988: 21-32). He finds it remarkable that biblical scholarship has failed to recognize that 'the historical framework gives the impression of being nearer to the mythical vision of an original golden age than to a convincing reconstruction of human actions' (1988: 21). Although he raises important questions about the nature of the text which throw doubt on its historical veracity and usefulness for construction, sounding a suitably sceptical and critical note, he is not always well informed as to the debates within biblical scholarship on these issues.

It is the work of Gunn (1978; 1980), Alter (1982), Fokkelmann (1981; 1986), Eslinger (1985; 1989), and Polzin (1980; 1989), among others, which has opened new vistas on appreciating the literary qualities of the Hebrew Bible in general and the text of Samuel in particular, which has helped to fracture the dominant discourse. Most of these studies are not explicitly concerned with questions of historical reconstruction: some are unashamedly ahistorical, while others are interested solely in the artful construction of narrative. Whether implicitly or explicitly, they have served to undermine the confidence in standard reconstructions of the history of Israel and the early monarchic period, in particular by questioning domain assumptions which have underpinned the historiographic enterprise throughout this century. The circularity of source-critical approaches from the time of Wellhausen which identified pro- and anti-monarchic sources within Samuel have been exposed to questions of different voices in the text and reader-response criticism which have helped to undermine notions of text and the relationship between the text and history.

Leach has produced an equally trenchant criticism of the historical use of these narratives from a structural anthropological perspective. A dominant theme in his work is that the Hebrew Bible as a sacred text does not provide a historical source nor does it necessarily reflect past reality. For Leach, it represents a justification of the past which reveals more of the world of the story-tellers than of any past reality. He asks very important questions which raise misgivings about standard presentations of the reigns of David and Solomon questioning the historicity of this crucial period as presented in the biblical traditions:

Personally I find this most implausible. There is no archaeological evidence for the existence of these heroes or for the occurrence of any of the events with which they were associated. If it were not for the sacredness of these stories their historicity would certainly be rejected.

-- Leach 1983: 10

Underlying his approach is the belief that the traditional historical-critical approach has misunderstood the nature and purpose of the Hebrew Bible (Leach 1983: 10). He is more interested in the social setting of texts, particularly in contrast with many recent ahistorical approaches to the Hebrew Bible, concluding that the concerns of later communities responsible for the production of the Hebrew Bible are enshrined in the traditions rather than the product of some monarchic bureaucracy in the early Iron Age. This increasing interest in the social production of the biblical traditions in the second Temple community and the way in which conflicting traditions might reflect competing factions and their concerns rather than being reflections of some historical reality of the early Iron Age has helped to fracture the history of the period as it has been presented traditionally. Garbini and Leach have remained marginal voices within the discourse of biblical studies precisely because they have challenged the construction of an imagined ancient Israel which has been invented in terms of a model of the present, the European nation state, and tied to the struggle for the realization of a modern state of Israel. The discourse has been powerful and persuasive precisely because it is tied so closely to the question of social and political identity. The implications of these shifts towards the text of the Hebrew Bible and the questioning of the dominant construction of the past have not, however, led to a recognition of the shaping of this past in terms of the present of the modern state of Israel. It is instructive to consider the 'evidence' which has sustained the construction of the past in terms of the creation of an Israelite state which dominated and defined Palestinian history.

The most striking feature of the discourse is the overwhelming silence of the archaeological record concerning this defining moment in the history of the region. It is a silence which has contributed in the main to the strong consensus in the projection of this imagined past precisely because it has confirmed the prejudice of biblical historians that the writing of history is dependent upon written sources. But once again, as Garbini, Leach, and Flanagan have intimated, it is this silence of the archaeological record which raises the most serious questions about the presentation of an Israelite empire as an expression of a glorious renaissance culture and which suggests that we are dealing with an invented past. Any meaningful notion of a Davidic empire, the realization of 'Greater Israel', continually presented as an exception in the history of the Levant which is said to change the course of history, could reasonably be expected to have found corroboration in the bureaucratic output of surrounding cultures or ought to have left a significant impact on the material remains of the region. [29] It is often pointed out that although Solomon is reported in the biblical text as having married the daughter of the Pharaoh, a remarkable achievement given that this was denied to Hittite kings, there is no mention of this noteworthy event in any extant Egyptian records. Ahlstrom (1993: 488) attributes the lack of references to David's and Solomon's kingdoms in other ancient Near East texts to the political weakness of Egypt and Assyria which meant that they did not come into contact with the indigenous power in Palestine. However, even if this was the case, it is more difficult to explain the overwhelming silence of the archaeological record since such a large state, let alone an empire, would require significant changes in social and political organization which ought to have left some trace in the archaeological record. Yet Ahlstrom (1993: 541) believes that despite the lack of corroborative evidence, and even allowing for the exaggeration by the biblical writers, 'the historicity of the Davidic-Solomonic kingdom should not be doubted'. His final assessment does not differ from the standard presentations: 'Nevertheless, the period of the united monarchy was something exceptional within the history of Canaan, something that never happened before nor happened since' (1993: 541). [30] Here is an 'exception' in the history of the region for which, despite the investment of vast resources in the archaeological investigation of the Iron Age, little material evidence has been discovered to corroborate confident pronouncements such as Ahlstrom's, which are typical of biblical studies, as we have seen.

The power of the discourse to shape the interpretation of the past is shown by the history of the search for the location of Saul's capital at Gibeah. Albright was able to declare triumphantly after his excavations at Tell el-Ful in 1922-3 that he had located the 'Citadel of Saul'; his excavations had revealed what he took to be an Iron I tower in the south-west corner of a fortress which he dated to the time of Saul. This conclusion was undermined by Lapp's later exploration of the site (1965) after which he concluded that the fortress was little more than conjecture. Nevertheless, he went on to conclude that Tell el-Ful was to be identified with the fortress of Saul. The rush to interpret supposedly objective, extrabiblical data on the basis of assumptions drawn from the biblical text is typical of the history of the search for ancient Israel. A much more sober assessment of the evidence has been provided by Arnold (1990: 52) who concludes on the basis of the archaeological reports that Iron I Tell el-Ful 'possessed a typical Palestinian watchtower with a few outlying buildings'. [31] This is remarkably different from the claims of most of our 'biblical histories' and the confident pronouncements as to the existence of an early state ruled by Saul. [32] Similarly, the so-called 'empire' of David, as Noth and others have presented it, has left little or no archaeological trace that has been unearthed and identified by professional archaeologists. Even one of the recent conservative handbooks has noted that despite the biblical description of a forty-year reign for David 'ironically enough, we have very few archaeological remains from the Davidic period. There are no monuments that can positively be identified as Davidic' (Mazar 1984: 43). Mazar assumes that most of the Hebrew Bible was written during the period of the monarchy and asks the question whether or not Israel was as creative in the material realm as the spiritual. [33] He acknowledges that in comparison with surrounding cultures -- the Aramean and NeoHittite kingdoms of Syria, the Phoenicians in Cyprus and in their various colonies overseas, and especially Assyria and Babylonia -- the extant material remains 'in the Land of Israel are very poor'. He notes the lack of monumental reliefs and statues in the monarchic period along with magnificent palaces, delicately carved ivories, jewellery, crafted metal objects, or vessels of local manufacture. He points out that the vast majority of art objects were imported. Similarly Kenyon is able to state that:

The united kingdom of Israel has a life span of only three-quarters of a century. It was the only time in which the Jews were an important political power in western Asia. Its glories are triumphantly recorded in the Bible, and the recollection of this profoundly affected Jewish thought and aspirations. Yet the archaeological evidence for the period is meagre in the extreme.

-- Kenyon 1979: 233

This is typical of the discourse of biblical studies which has chosen to ignore the lack of archaeological evidence in making extravagant claims about this imagined past. Wightman (1990) provides an interesting critique of attempts to identify 'Solomonic archaeology' on the basis of the biblical traditions. He argues that this notion developed from an idea which was predicated on a reading of the archaeological data under the influence of assumptions drawn from the biblical traditions about Solomon. This notion rapidly became represented as fact in dating and identifying 'Solomonic' structures such as the gate-complexes at Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer. Wightman exposes the circular reasoning often used in discussing this period and archaeological data, a circular reasoning which has become part of the general discourse and protected from further critical evaluation. The need for a critical evaluation of the whole period has been added to by the recent work of Jamieson-Drake (1991) which helps to expose the mirage of the Davidic-Solomonic 'empire'. Although his work is ostensibly a study of scribal schools in Judah, his investigation of the archaeological remains of the period has demonstrated quite forcibly that there was very little evidence of even basic state structures in the tenth or ninth centuries. He finds little evidence that Judah functioned as a state prior to the eighth century BCE increase in population, building, production, centralization, and specialization (1991: 138-9). [34] Even then, the archaeological evidence only points to a remarkably small state structure. Thompson, following Jamieson-Drake, believes that the evidence, or lack of evidence, now suggests that Jerusalem did not become a regional state capital until the seventh century BCE (1992a: 410) and was expanded to the capital of the nation state only in the Persian period. He questions the existence of the biblical 'united monarchy' on the grounds that Judah did not have a sedentary population, 'but also because there was no transregional political or economic base of power in Palestine prior to the expansion of Assyrian imperial influence into the southern Levant' (Thompson 1992a: 412). The discourse of biblical studies has ignored the silence of the archaeological record in constructing an Israelite empire which has defined and dominated the history of the region.

The recent discovery of part of a stele in Aramaic on Tel Dan has been greeted by many as confirmation and justification of the standard construction of this glorious past. [35] It has been proclaimed, by some, as a final rebuttal to the revisionist histories which have questioned the historicity of the biblical traditions (Rainey 1994; Lemaire 1994). The mention of the 'house of David' in line 9 of the inscription is seen as not only proving the existence of the historical David but of vindicating the biblical accounts of King David. This is in contrast to the more measured approach of the excavators in their original publication of the fragment:

The nature of the biblical sources on the one hand and the fragmentary state of the Dan inscription on the other, do not allow us to draw a definite conclusion. There may be other possible scenarios, and only the recovery of additional pieces of the stele may provide an answer to the problems raised by the discovery of our fragment.

-- Biran and Naveh 1993: 98

Subsequent claims have been much more exaggerated and concerned less with the interpretation of the inscription than the politics of scholarship. It has been heralded as dispelling the cynicisms of the 'Biblical minimizers' (Shanks 1994). Even if it is accepted that this is a reference to the Davidic dynasty and not a place name, as some argue, it is similar to the Merneptah stele in revealing very little in terms of usable historical information which we did not already possess. It is a further instance of the way in which the political and religious assumptions which have shaped and dominated the discourse of biblical studies can be brought to the surface. An isolated reference in such a stele may confirm the existence of a dynasty which is traced back to a founder named David but it cannot confirm the biblical traditions in Samuel about this founder. Attempts to disparage alternative constructions of the past by the use of pejorative labels or by questioning the integrity of scholars reveal that what is at stake are perceptions of the past which are closely tied to social and political identity in the present. It is part of the long-standing discourse of biblical studies to claim the past for Israel. The existence of a Davidic state as portrayed in the biblical traditions is vital to this enterprise, hence the virulence with which any questioning of this master narrative is attacked. The 'objectivity of scholarship', in defence of empire, is represented by Rainey's attack upon Davies:

Davies represents what he and a circle of colleagues call the 'deconstructionist' approach to Biblical traditions. The present instance can serve as a useful example of why Davies and his 'deconstructionists' can safely be ignored by everyone seriously interested in Biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies.

-- Rainey 1994: 47

Rainey's ostensible disagreement is with Davies' objections to the reading of the phrase 'house of David' as a reference to the Davidic dynasty and his claim that the lack of a word divider suggests that this might be a place name. It is used instead as an attack upon the shifts in historical studies which threaten Israel's control of the past. The rhetorical use of a phrase such as 'everyone seriously interested' is designed to signal that Davies or anyone linked with him cannot be 'serious' and can 'safely be ignored'. It is the emphasis on 'safely' which signals to the reader that it would be dangerous even to contemplate questioning the representation of the past presented in the biblical traditions and championed by Rainey. The reader is then given further severe warnings of the dangers of this route:

Davies's objections are those of an amateur standing on the sidelines of epigraphic scholarship. Naveh and Biran cannot be blamed for assuming a modicum of basic knowledge on the part of their readers. They are not used to dealing with the dilettantism of the 'deconstructionist' school. Competent scholars will doubtless take issue with some of Naveh and Biran's interpretations, but Davies can safely be ignored.

-- Rainey 1994: 47

Here the full weight of the discourse of biblical studies is brought to bear in an effort to silence alternative claims to the past. It is now a question of competence and integrity, not of Davies's reading of the inscription, but of any questioning of the biblically inspired construction of the past. The final vitriolic attack confirms that it is these wider issues which are at stake. The reader is informed that lay persons and teachers of the Bible want to know what the inscription 'really signifies': its real significance can only be determined by an 'authority' such as Rainey:

On the other hand, as someone who studies ancient inscriptions in the original, I have a responsibility to warn the lay audience that the new fad, the 'deconstructionist school', represented by Philip R. Davies and his ilk, is merely a circle of dilettantes. Their view that nothing in Biblical tradition is earlier than the Persian period, especially their denial of a United Monarchy, is a figment of their imagination. The name 'House of David' in the Tel Dan and Mesha inscriptions sounds the death knoll to their specious conceit. Biblical scholarship and instruction should completely ignore the 'deconstructionist school'. They have nothing to teach us.

-- Rainey 1994: 47

The reader is never informed as to the identity of these dilettantes apart from a reference to Thompson. This personal and vitriolic attack upon Davies is used as an opportunity to disparage the shifts in historical studies which have been taking place in the discipline. This movement, however, can be 'safely ignored' because not to ignore it would undermine the construction of the past promoted in the discourse of biblical studies which has sustained Israel's claim to the past and its success in excluding Palestinian history. The stele might confirm the existence of a Judaean kingdom in the ninth or eighth centuries but what it does not do is confirm the construction of the extent of that kingdom or the belief that the monarchy under David represented a first-rank 'empire'. The kingdoms of Judah and Israel still need to be understood as part of Palestinian history rather than the only elements in that broader regional history.

It is clear that biblical scholars and archaeologists have been aware of the lack of archaeological evidence for a long time but have persisted in constructing the massive edifice of a Davidic empire as one of the major powers in the ancient world. [36] Thompson's (1992a: 412) point about the lack of a transregional political or economic power base in Palestine has been blithely ignored by the discourse of biblical studies in its blind pursuit of the Israelite state in the early Iron Age. A study of the wider aspects of imperialism ought to have led to a more cautious approach which should have tempered the extravagant claims that the Davidic state was one of the foremost powers in the ancient world. The monarchy of David and Solomon is seen as escaping the outside imperial control which has been a constant feature of the history of Palestine from the Bronze Age to the present day, that wider reality of imperial power and domination which has sought to control and define Palestine throughout its history. Yet the proponents of an imagined past of a Davidic empire have failed to take into account the structural features of empire. This is not to suggest that all empires are structurally identical; there are clear differences between such organizations both in the past and in the present. However, we can see similarities and make comparisons between different periods of imperial control. The discourse of biblical studies has failed to ask a series of important questions. Why has Palestine been the subject of constant imperial control? How has this affected its economy, settlement patterns, and demography? Are there common features that accompany the rise or decline of empire in relation to the region? How are periods of an imperial power-vacuum, if they exist, to be explained? It has been noted that Palestine can hardly be defined as a unity: the geographical and climatic differences have meant that we are forced to talk of the many diverse Pales tines that go to make up the singular entity Palestine. The consideration of a major state power in Palestine cannot be understood in isolation from a consideration of these wider structural features and questions.

The important study of the rise and fall of great powers by Kennedy (1988) reveals a very important correlation between economy and power which challenges the perpetuation of an imagined past of a Davidic super-power in the ancient world. The kinds of questions raised by Kennedy are an area of study which has been neglected in the consideration of the involvement of imperial powers in Palestine in antiquity. Kennedy (1988: xxiv-xxvii) outlines a number of important principles in the study of world empires, or what he terms 'the Great Powers'. Although his study is concerned with the modern period, the sixteenth century to the present, his findings are also germane to any consideration of power shifts in the ancient world. Most importantly, he detects a causal relationship between shifts in the general economic and productive balances and the position of individual powers in the international system. In particular, he highlights the move in trade from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic and north-west Europe from the sixteenth century onwards, and the redistribution in the shares of world manufacturing output away from Western Europe in the decades after 1890. These economic shifts were followed by the rise of new great powers which altered the military and territorial order. The historical record shows a very clear connection in the long run between an individual great power's economic rise and fall and its growth and decline as an important military power (or world empire). The correlation is reasonably straightforward in that economic resources are necessary to support large-scale military establishments. However, a further important principle, which again is not surprising in itself, is that wealth and power are always relative. Kennedy found that a nation's relative economic and military power did not rise and fall in parallel. Very often there was a noticeable time-lag between the trajectory of a state's relative economic strength and the trajectory of its military and territorial influence. A power with an expanding economy might well decide to become richer rather than invest significantly in military power. But priorities change over time and Kennedy suggests that a half-century or so later the burden of overseas obligations brought about by the economic expansion, the necessity of and dependence on foreign markets and raw materials, bases and colonies, means that the power has to invest in armaments to protect its markets, trade routes, and raw materials against other competing and expanding powers. He concludes that in conflicts between great powers victory invariably goes to the power with the more flourishing productive base. A good example is that of the decline of Spain in the seventeenth century. Spanish agriculture suffered from extortionate rents, the actions of the Mesta, and military service, which were exacerbated by a series of plagues that depopulated the countryside around the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was at such a point that American silver was brought back to Spain and caused price inflation which severely damaged the Spanish economy. 'The flood of precious metals from the Indies, it was said, was to Spain as water on a roof -- it poured on and then was drained away' (Kennedy 1988: 70). The result of all this was the eventual decline of Spanish military power, which did not manifest itself until the 1640s, but whose causes Kennedy (1988: 70) has identified as existing decades before.

The conclusions which Kennedy draws from his magisterial analysis of the last five centuries of the modern era are instructive for any study of the shifts in power in the ancient world and worth quoting at length:

The argument in this book has been that there exists a dynamic for change, driven chiefly by economic and technological developments, which then impact upon social structures, political systems, military power, and the position of individual states and empires. The speed of this global economic change has not been a uniform one, simply because the pace of technological innovation and economic growth is itself irregular, conditioned by the circumstance of the individual inventor and entrepreneur as well as by climate, disease, wars, geography, the social framework, and so on. In the same way, different regions and societies across the globe have experienced a faster or slower rate of growth, depending not only upon the shifting patterns of technology, production, and trade, but also upon their receptivity to the new modes of increasing output and wealth. As some areas of the world have risen, others have fallen behind -- relatively (or sometimes) absolutely. None of this is surprising. Because of man's innate drive to improve his condition, the world has never stood still. And the intellectual breakthroughs from the time of the Renaissance onward, boosted by the coming of the 'exact sciences' during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, simply meant that the dynamics of change would be increasingly more powerful and self-sustaining than before.

-- Kennedy 1988: 566

It is important in the light of this study to consider the impact of economic and technological developments upon the relative shifts in power in the ancient world and the ways in which these affect Palestine in relation to 'world economies'. It will help to explain why Palestine has been rarely, if ever, a regional power in its own right and certainly calls into question the standard assertion that the Davidic-Solomonic state was a leading world power in the Iron Age.

Furthermore, the second major conclusion of Kennedy's (1988: 566) study that the relative military power and strategical position of states is dependent upon the uneven pace of economic growth is also important for our consideration of ancient empires. It might seem obvious that military power, the ability to finance and equip an effective army, is dependent upon 'a flourishing productive base' and technological development. Yet many of the standard treatments of the reign of David and Solomon and other periods of Israelite history seem to ignore the obvious. It is the case that

all of the major shifts in the world's military-power balances have followed alterations in the productive balances; and further, that the rising and falling of the various empires and states in the international system has been confirmed by the outcomes of the major Great Power wars, where victory has always gone to the side with the greatest material resources.

-- Kennedy 1988: 567

Kennedy's study confirms the dynamics of world power from 1500 CE to the present day. The technological advances of antiquity or the shifts in productive base may not have happened with the rapidity and frequency of the modern period, but none the less the history of Palestine and the rise and fall of 'world empires' from the Late Bronze Age to the Roman period illustrates that it is a dynamic that was just as important in the ancient world. A consideration of some of the factors highlighted by Kennedy in relation to Palestine's position in the geopolitics of the ancient world will help to explain why it was part of a succession of empires: a dynamic of world power in which a number of regions fell behind in absolute terms to such an extent that they could no longer retain their position in this nexus of power.

The three essential characteristics of empire are control, land, and profit. We are not here concerned with the theological, that is, ideological justification of empire but with its practical effects upon the region. These three factors, control, land, and profit, coincided in the case of Palestine in order to explain why empire has been such an enduring reality throughout its history. In order to understand this constant factor of imperial presence it would be necessary to examine some of the key elements in the dynamics of world power identified by Kennedy: productive base, geography, economics, and technology. Coote and Whitelam (1987: 64) stress that the infrastructural inferiority of Palestine in comparison with its neighbouring riverine civilizations has been a constant factor in its dominance by outside powers. Agricultural production was always labour intensive in ancient agrarian economies, a situation that continued into the present in many regions. This has meant that regions with the greatest local agricultural resource and largest labour pool had the greatest production and possessed a vital natural advantage. Palestine simply could not compete with the far superior riverine agrarian economies and demographic base of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Later it would be the natural advantages of the Anatolian and Persian plateaux, and eventually Europe, in the form of the Greek and Roman powers, which would come to dominate Palestine. A region with the infrastructural inferiority of Palestine could not compete with contemporary military powers while agricultural production and demography remained such key factors in the dynamics of world power. The imagined past of a Davidic empire needs to be examined in light of this fundamental reality.

Our demographic data are so imprecise and limited that it is impossible to provide precise population figures. However, it is the order of magnitude that is important when comparing the demographic and production base of Palestine with that of its imperial neighbours. McEvedy and Jones (1978: 226) have estimated that the population of Egypt during the New Kingdom period was approximately 3 million compared with no more than 250,000 in Palestine. A demographic peak of roughly 5 million was achieved in the first millennium BCE which was not to be surpassed until the modern period. [37] Furthermore, even on their lowest estimate (1978: 149), the area of modern-day Iraq during the second millennium BCE possessed a demographic base that was three to four times greater than Palestine at around 750,000 and 1 million with an increase to 1 million- 1.25 million. The Assyrian Empire witnessed a significant increase in population rising to around 2 million in the seventh century BCE. Similarly, they estimate (1978: 152) that the area of modern-day Iran had a population of 2 million by the Late Bronze Age (c. 1000 BCE). It is interesting to note that this rose to 2.5 million-4 million during the Persian period. Recent archaeological survey data from both Palestine and elsewhere in the ancient Near East would allow a slightly more accurate picture to be produced. The important point, however, is the order of magnitude in comparing the size of population of one region with another. It is an issue that has been ignored by most biblical historians when discussing regional power in Palestine vis-a-vis its ancient context. Palestine lacked the demographic and economic base to compete with the major powers of the ancient world. [38]


The convergence of a variety of factors -- changes in approaches to the text of the Hebrew Bible, the lack of archaeological evidence, and the infrastructural inferiority of Palestine in comparison with the great riverine civilizations and other powers of the ancient world -- undermines the claim of biblical studies to have discovered a Davidic empire which was a major power in the Iron Age. The recognition of the mirage of the Davidic empire, an Israelite state which has dominated the Palestinian past, means that Palestinian history is freed from the control of an imagined past which has been claimed for Israel alone.

The situation described above illustrates the power of such a discourse to obstruct alternative claims on the past despite the lack of unambiguous evidence to confirm the dominant construction. Yet biblical scholarship has remained strangely reticent in its attempts to account for the silence of the archaeological record on this glorious empire, seeking instead to exploit the silence by projecting a construction of the past predicated upon biblical traditions. It might be countered that the challenge to the dominant construction is simply a convenient argument from silence. But the silence is overwhelming! The irony is that we are presented with the paradox of an imperial control and definition of the past: an imagined Israelite state or empire which has successfully subdued any alternative understanding of the past. 'Imperialism', in the words of Said (1993: 271), 'after all is an act of geographical violence through which virtually every space in the world is explored, charted, and finally brought under control.' Biblical studies has participated in this act of imperialism by contributing to a construction of the past which has denied any alternative claims. This understanding of the past has had profound political implications by confirming and supporting modern Israel's claims to the land against Palestinian claims to the past or the land. The dominant discourse of biblical studies has been involved in this act of dispossession through its continued reiteration of a series of claims which tie the past to the present: the claim to the land through 'historic right' on the basis of prior state formation and possession of the land, the stress on the corruption or incompetence and failure of indigenous political structures to reach the pinnacle of (Western) civilization, the need for external influx in order to realize the potential of the land, the notion of a 'defensive' empire, and the notion of 'Greater Israel'. The insistence on the continuum between past and present has been couched only in terms of a continuum between Davidic Israel and the modern state of Israel. There is no corresponding notion of any continuum between the indigenous Palestinian population of the past and the present. Once the mirage of the Davidic empire is admitted, then this raises the question of how we are to investigate and conceive of the history of Iron Age Palestine. Any alternative construction of the past would need to be part of the continuum with the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition: it would need to examine the growing archaeological data and surveys, freed from the assumptions of 'Israelite' settlement, in trying to account for the settlement and demographic shifts in the region in the context of the shifts in imperial power in the ancient world. It would form part of the investigation of the transformation and realignment of Palestine society, of which Israel is a part but not the dominant part, which excludes all other voices. The discussion will then turn to the question of the processes at work in settlement shift and the extension of settlement in Iron I, as with the discussion of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition, rather than relying upon an agenda which is set by and dominated by the Hebrew Bible. It will need to give greater emphasis to the regional variation and the wider political and social realities than has been customary in our standard 'biblical histories'.
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Thu Nov 22, 2018 2:18 am

Part 1 of 3



The mid- to late 1980s witnessed the development of what we might term the 'new search' for ancient Israel. This new search is represented by a series of publications (Lemche 1985; Ahlstrom 1986; Coote and Whitelam 1987; Finkelstein 1988) which have been understood as a major challenge to the dominant constructions considered in chapter 3, contributing to a significant shift in perceptions as to the nature or existence of early Israel in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. These are the revisionist, or 'deconstructionist', histories which Rainey believes can safely be ignored by all those seriously interested in the history of Israel. In effect, these works, independently of one another, focused upon the failure of the three earlier models associated with Albright-Bright, Alt-Noth, and Mendenhall-Gottwald to deal with the growing body of archaeological data from the region and the shifts in literary approaches to the Hebrew Bible. The work of Finkelstein is distinctive and important for the direction of future discussions, being the publication and analysis of new and vital survey data by a professional archaeologist. The three works which preceded this were all by biblical specialists who had become dissatisfied with the standard histories of ancient Israel and were trying to respond to the significant changes which were taking place in the discipline. They have been followed by a 'new' history of Israel (Lemche 1988), a synthesis of recent research on early Israel (Coote 1990), a detailed study of Israelite and Judaean history (Thompson 1992a), and the posthumous study of Palestinian history by Ahlstrom (1993), along with numerous articles in specialist journals. [1] Davies (1992) has attempted to draw together the implications of the shifts in the discipline and various points made by Ahlstrom, Lemche, Coote and Whitelam, Finkelstein, and Thompson, among others, about the study of the history of early Israel.

These works, and the debate generated by them, have contributed to a reassessment of the early periods of Israelite history. The most profound challenge has been to the long-held, and continuing, assumption that the biblical traditions provide the best or the only source for the history of the period. The significance of the challenge can be seen in the shape of the volume by Miller and Hayes (1986) on Israelite and Judaean history which provides a very guarded treatment of the pre-state periods concentrating upon the difficulties of construction in light of the nature of the biblical sources. Most of the recent works cited above question the usefulness of the biblical traditions for understanding the emergence or origins of Israel, emphasizing that these traditions in their current forms are late and are more applicable to understanding the monarchic and second Temple periods than Israel of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. The other distinctive feature is that they build upon the critiques of Mendenhall and Gottwald in emphasizing the indigenous nature of Israel in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. They reject the notion of a peasant revolt but accept that current archaeological evidence points to early Israel as indigenous to ancient Palestine. A number, notably Ahlstrom (1993), Thompson (1992a; 1992b) and Whitelam (1991; 1994; 1995b), have also argued, more explicitly, for the study of ancient Palestinian history.

Their challenge to the dominant discourse of biblical studies, the questioning of fundamental presuppositions and consensus positions about the emergence of Israel, has contributed to a climate of confusion in the discipline leading to claims of a major paradigm shift in biblical studies (Davies 1992: 12-16; Thompson 1992a; Whitelam 1994: 58; Lemche 1994: 167). [2] However, the effects of the debate, despite the professed intentions by some to pursue Palestinian history, have been to reinforce the continued search for ancient Israel thereby obscuring the claim to a Palestinian past which is worthy of study. Coote's (1990: viii) claim that recent research on early Israel has led to 'a new understanding', 'a new horizon', stressing the set of shared assumptions rather than the differences between the different positions, is only pan of the story. It is questionable what this new horizon really represents and how far it has managed to escape from the discourse which has dominated historical research throughout this century. Fundamental to these 'shared assumptions' of Coote's new horizon is the continued identification of Israel with the settlement shift which took place in the Palestinian hill country during the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. Thompson (1992a) has pointed out that virtually all research since Alt and Albright has taken this correlation for granted. Although these new studies argue that the Israel of this Late Bronze-Iron Age transition settlement shift is indigenous rather than external, they remain constrained by the dominant discourse of biblical studies. The conclusion that Israel was indigenous to Palestine rests upon the interpretation of the material culture of the rural sites in the central hill country and margins. But the prior conclusion that the inhabitants of these sites are 'Israelite' is not determined from a reading of the archaeological evidence but from a controlling assumption drawn from the Hebrew Bible that Israel during this period inhabited particular areas of Palestine, namely the central hill country.

It is the discourse of biblical studies that has determined that these settlements are to be identified with Israel and Israel alone. It is the power of this discourse which continues to define the 'horizon' and what might be found once the horizon is reached. The controlling nature of this 'shared assumption' is evident in the titles of these monographs -- Early Israel: Anthropological and Historical Studies in the Israelite Society before the Monarchy, Who Were the Israelites, The Emergence of Early Israel in Historical Perspective, and The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement. The titles reveal that it is Israel which is the focus of attention, the object of the 'new' search. They are locked into the dominant discourse, bound by a powerful circular argument which continues to shape research strategies and findings. All of these works, despite their appearance of radical critique, have continued the search for ancient Israel. Rather than representing a 'new horizon', they represent the end point of the classic search for ancient Israel, a search which only now, at least in some quarters, is being seen as having failed. Only after the biblically inspired assumption, which identifies the settlement shift of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition with Israel, has been removed can the discussion proceed to explore the possibilities of giving voice to alternative, Palestinian claims to the past. Before the task of pursuing the study of the history of the region can be defined outwith the confines of the traditional biblically inspired approach, it remains to consider why the new search has failed.

The critiques by Ahlstrom, Lemche, Coote and Whitelam, and Thompson, all biblical specialists rather than archaeologists, are dependent upon interpretations of growing archaeological data from the region. It is necessary to consider the archaeology of ancient Israel in order to understand the effect of the constraints inherent in their works which has effectively blocked the realization of Palestinian history. The English publication of Finkelstein's (1988) study of Israelite settlement, containing important new survey and excavation data, is usually seen as advancing the study of Israelite origins by providing data which are important for the assessment of the hypotheses of Ahlstrom, Lemche, and Coote and Whitelam. However, his monograph is equally bound by the discourse of biblical studies perpetuating fundamental assumptions of the archaeology of Israel which have determined the search. The archaeological search, an essential component of the biblical search since the work of Albright, brings together a powerful set of shared theological and political assumptions. The theological quest, embodied most noticeably in the Biblical Theology movement, relied upon the archaeological quest for physical confirmation of the actions of the deity in history. This has been complemented and extended by the Zionist search for Israel in the past, intensified since the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, in order to confirm current claims to the land. Evangelical and conservative Christianity has been allied with political and religious Zionism in the quest for the physical reality of ancient Israel. A consideration of the archaeology of ancient Israel, or at least some representative examples of the assumptions embodied in recent work, will help to explain why the critiques of Ahlstrom, Lemche, Coote and Whitelam, and Thompson have failed to break free from the discourse which has determined the research strategies and results of the study of the history of the region for the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. It is a discourse in which the search for ancient Israel has been paramount and in which the concern for Palestinian history has been marginalized and effectively silenced.


It is not an exaggeration to say that the prospect of the study of Palestinian history for these periods, as a subject in its own right, has been made possible, however unwittingly, by a marked shift in the nature of archaeological investigations in the region in recent years. It has been made possible by the switch of focus by archaeologists from an almost exclusive interest in urban tells at the beginnings of archaeological research in the region to a more balanced interest in regional surveys in conjunction with the excavation of larger urban and smaller, often single-period rural sites. The reasons for an earlier preoccupation with urban tells has been well documented elsewhere and is entirely understandable in the context of the need for spectacular results in order to continue funding for these expensive projects. However, such an approach also coincided with the interests of 'biblical archaeology' which sought to illuminate the biblical traditions by tying it to the material realities of the past. The biblical texts often mention major urban centres, their conquest and destruction, therefore it was only natural that 'biblical archaeologists' should concentrate on such tells in order to confirm the events of the past and reveal the realities of ancient Israel and the Bible. Furthermore, since ancient Israel was conceived of as a nation state, or incipient nation state, it was natural to look for confirmatory evidence at the major urban centres -- the obvious markers, it was believed, for such a state.

However, the vital switch from single-site excavation to regional surveys has begun to provide settlement data which allow the observation of the patterns and rhythms of Palestinian life over centuries. [3] Such an approach allows the historian to try to account for the differences and similarities in these rhythms over time. As Renfrew and Wagstaff (1982: 1) remind us, 'the spatial and temporal patterns of human culture are never stationary, particularly when viewed in a long-term perspective. Changes may be discovered: cultures emerge, flourish and decay.' The slow, often imperceptible, patterns and changes of settlement when viewed over a few decades might suggest a static society. However, the rhythms of change often only become apparent when viewed over centuries. On other occasions, of course, there are dramatic bursts of activity with sudden declines or expansions or changes in regional settlement. The historian needs to be aware of the different levels of time in settlement history and needs to analyse, compare, and contrast the different phases of settlement in order to try to understand the forces and processes at work in the history of the region. [4] Snodgrass's expression of the importance of archaeological surveys to Greek archaeology could equally be applied to Palestinian history:

It enables them to contribute substantially to a different branch of historical study from the traditional, event-oriented political one, and to do this on the scale not of a simple, restricted locality, the site, but of a region. It explores the rural sector of ancient Greek life on which our ancient Greek sources are most defective, and corrects the urban bias of the past century and more of excavation in Greece. It generates relatively little in the way of preserved finds, but an almost endlessly exploitable store of new knowledge.

- Snodgrass 1987: 99

Yet once again, although survey and excavation data are fundamental for the study of Palestinian settlement, unfortunately but inevitably we are faced with a series of partial texts. They are partial partly because not all subregions have been surveyed to the same level of intensity and partly because the new data generated by this switch in strategies from tell-centred archaeology is only just beginning to be exploited in historical syntheses and the generation of new hypotheses. More importantly, however, the partiality is governed by political and theological assumptions which determine the design or interpretation of such projects. Even so, this trend is the most promising development for the historian desperate to understand the settlement, organization, and economy of ancient Palestinian society. The body of data is growing at a considerable rate; but it remains the case, of course, that the historian will always be faced with partial data, however extensive the archaeological work might be.

Snodgrass (1987: 102-3) raises the important question of the differences in survey techniques: intensive and extensive surveys. Intensive survey is obviously more labour intensive and expensive in proportion to the size of area that can be surveyed. He opted for the former on the basis of the discovery that intensive surveys in Greece had revealed a density of sites that was significantly higher, by a factor of fifty times or more, than extensive surveys. As he notes, this raises the serious question that a great deal of information is likely to be missed by extensive surveys. This is a serious hindrance to the study of settlement patterns and changes in Palestinian history since the historian is forced to work with data that can only allow large generalizations about demographic, economic, or settlement trends in a region. Even though we are dealing with an expanding database, it is none the less the case that practical and financial difficulties will severely hinder the completion of intensive surveys for the whole region. The best that can be hoped for is a mixture of intensive and extensive surveys so that the data can be compared and modified where necessary.

Snodgrass points to another important limitation:

in the task of understanding and explaining the classical past, survey offers an entirely fresh and potentially valuable dimension. It is a dimension that brings out very clearly another relationship, emphasized in some recent nonclassical work, but previously much neglected: I mean the relationship of the archaeological record to the present day. 'The archaeological record,' writes Lewis Binford, 'is here with us in the present ... and the observations we make about it are in the here and now'; they are 'not "historical" statements.' The truth of this observation is perhaps more apparent to the surveyor, painfully conscious of the vulnerability of his raw data to the effects of seasonal, even ephemeral, modern activity, than it is to the excavator; for we all share to some degree the illusion that a progress downwards into the earth is a journey backwards into the past. It is not: the stratified deposits uncovered by the excavator all began their existence as surface deposits, for however fleeting a period, and were thus subject to some of the processes of degradation, displacement, and dispersal for which the data of surface survey are often criticized; not to mention the multifarious effects of 'post-depositional' factors once these deposits disappeared from sight.

-- Snodgrass 1987: 130-1

Yet there is a more important connection with the present day which Snodgrass does not go on to develop. In the case of Greek archaeology and history, although it has been subject to the same Eurocentric representation, it has not suffered from the search for 'ancient Israel'. The utilization of the new store of knowledge pertaining to the ancient Palestinian past has been dictated and hindered by the powerful political and theological assumptions which have guided the search for ancient Israel. The irony of the situation is that the new possibilities for the study and development of Palestinian history, which have been opened up by these surveys, have been masked by the all-consuming search for ancient Israel. The new store of knowledge has been exploited by the very same research strategies which have invented and located Israel in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and early Iron Age.

The theological and political assumptions inherent in the search for ancient Israel, in defining research strategies, have determined the nature and utilization of the results. This is not an objective search that provides objective data for the historian simply to arrange into a narrative which reflects a trustworthy account of the past. The historian is faced with partial texts in every sense of the term. Again, it is the fascination with Israel which has dominated biblical archaeology so that the focus has often been upon those sites, subregions, or periods which are thought to illuminate the emergence and development of Israel. The obsession with the 'emergence of Israel' has meant that vast scholarly resources have been focused upon the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and Iron I in terms of survey and excavation where it is believed that Israel is to be located. It is noticeable that the most intensive survey work has been carried out in the central hill country of Palestine because it was assumed from the time of Alt and Albright onwards that this was the location of 'Israelite' settlements. The Land of Israel Survey has continued to carry out vital work in different areas, adding to the valuable data, while regional surveys in Jordan have begun to provide vital information about areas that until recently were archaeologically little known. Yet the coastal area of Palestine, so vital in the history of the region, has not been surveyed to the same extent. Therefore it is simply not possible to make comparisons between some, often very important, subregions. Israel Finkelstein, who has contributed so much to providing the new body of survey and archaeological data, states that 'Canaanite' urban centres had nothing to tell us of the processes of 'Israelite settlement' (1988: 22-3). [5] Similarly, Finkelstein (1985a: 123) defined the goals of the Shiloh excavation as 'elucidation of the history of the site prior to Iron Age I and the circumstances of its development into an important Israelite religious, economic and political centre; determination of its character during Iron Age I and its position in the overall settlement pattern and social system of the period; a better understanding of the material culture of the central hill country in the Middle Bronze, Late Bronze and Iron Age I periods'. Once again it is Israel which dominates the agenda and forms the assumptions of archaeological and historical investigation. The initial investment of precious resources in excavations and regional surveys has been heavily influenced by biblical scholarship and the all-consuming search for 'ancient Israel'. [6]

This partiality is manifested in the regions where extensive surveys have been carried out, since in a number of cases, where results have been published, the focus has been upon the Iron Age, the period of the essential Israel. The principal interest in the results has been to quantify and qualify Israelite settlement or the development of the monarchy. Earlier and later periods are less well served, either in terms of the publication of results or the detailed analysis of the data. [7] The patterns and rhythms of settlement need to be studied, compared and contrasted, in the long term. It is vital to try to understand how anyone period fits into the settlement history by comparing it with earlier and later periods from the Stone Age to the present. Such a task will not be possible until all regions are surveyed with an equal intensity and, equally importantly, the data for all periods, not just those thought to be of interest to biblical archaeologists and historians whose special interest is the emergence and development of Israel, are published. The task of the latter is not well served by the partial surveys or the partial publication of data since it denies important comparisons over la longue duree.

Finkelstein has described the developments in archaeology since Albright'S excavations at Tell el-Ful as a 'a veritable revolution' in research on 'Israelite Settlement' (1988: 20). He has made a major contribution to research through the timely publication of data from his own Land of Israel Survey and his excavations at 'Izbet Sartah and Shiloh. Yet his revolution, like Coote's new horizon, is more apparent than real. It is a term that might be used to qualify the rapid increase in the quality and quantity of data since the heyday of Albright's work in the field. However, the essential assumptions which underlie the archaeological investigation of the region for the period of the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages have not changed significantly. If anything, the political search for the reality of ancient Israel has grown stronger since 1948, supplementing and strengthening the theological motivations which informed Albright and a host of other biblical archaeologists. This so-called revolution suffers from the very same distractions of the search for and invention of ancient Israel, the problems of trying to free historical research of the region from the constraints imposed by the Hebrew Bible and the discourse of biblical studies, which historical research has encountered throughout the century. The switch from site excavation to regional survey, or a combination of these, has succeeded in intensifying rather than diminishing the search for ancient Israel. The way data, which are vital to the realization of Palestinian history in its own right, are utilized to continue the search for Israel and to silence Palestinian history is illustrated in the opening pages of Finkelstein's monograph. His assumptions, shaped by the dominant discourse, mean that the past belongs to Israel, effectively silencing any alternative construction:

The Settlement of the Israelites in the 12th and 11th centuries BCE, and their transformation from a society of isolated tribes into an organized kingdom, is one of the most exciting, inspiring, and at the same time controversial chapters in the history of the Land of Israel.

-- Finkelstein 1988: 15

The terminology, partly explained in a footnote (1988: 15 n. 1), is significant. He uses 'Settlement' to refer to Israelite settlement, while the same term in lower case, 'settlement', 'is used with its regular meaning'. This suggests from the very outset that there is something special about Israelite settlement whereas the settlement of other groups is not particularly noteworthy or at least is not to be demarcated in any special way. Furthermore, this is the 'Land of Israel'. The denial of any Palestinian claim to this space is completed by the manipulation of time: 'The historical concept "'Settlement period" or "'period of the Settlement and Judges" is synonymous with the term "'Early Israelite period" and the archaeological definitions "'Iron I" and "Early Iron Age'" (Finkelstein 1988: 15 n. 1). He then adds that this is equivalent to the period from the end of the Late Bronze Age to the beginning of the Israelite monarchy, 'whatever the label'. The last comment suggests a matter-of-fact reporting which assures the reader that there is nothing contentious here. But, as we have seen, the label is crucial. The terms are not neutral: they imply claims to the land and the past denying other competing claims. The reference to the 'period of Settlement and Judges' already indicates the influence of the periodization of the Hebrew Bible, and alerts the reader to the possibility that the biblical traditions have played a much greater role in the interpretation of the archaeological data than is at first apparent. The aside that 'Iron I' and 'early Iron Age' are synonymous with the 'early Israelite period' drives home the notion that this is Israel's past. However, before turning to this issue, the way in which recent surveys have determined the conceptualization and control of the ancient past needs to be considered.

The surveys which have been carried out embody a paradox: they are vital to the pursuit of Palestinian history but they are also an expression of a claim to the land by the mapping and conceptualization of that land. Thus Israeli scholars have recently conducted surveys in Manasseh (Zertal), Ephraim (Finkelstein), Judah (Ofer), Western Galilee (Frankel) and Lower Galilee (Gal). Again the terminology is significant since the claim that these are surveys of 'tribal areas', embodied in the names Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah, reinforces both the search for ancient Israel and the belief that this is the land of Israel. The concentration of effort on the occupied West Bank underlines the search for Israel as conceived in the biblical traditions. It is an expression of a claim to the land by naming and mapping that land. One of the early surveys conducted by Kochavi in the central hill country and the Golan was entitled Judaea, Samaria, and the Golan: Archaeological Survey 1967-1968. This is the 'Judaea and Samaria' of Begin, which in modern political parlance embodies the claim through historic right to inhabit the land of 'biblical Israel'. The discovery of 'Israelite' sites in this politically sensitive region is bound to have considerable political consequences for the present. Significantly, those areas which are thought to have been 'Canaanite', particularly in the coastal lowlands, have not been subjected to such intensive research. Finkelstein (1988: 22-3) acknowledges the selective use of archaeological data in his analysis: 'We have already expressed the opinion that however much the evidence for the large Canaanite mounds may contribute to the understanding of various phenomena at the end of the Late Bronze period, it can do little to advance the study of the process of Israelite Settlement.' It is the occupation of the land of Israel which is important; other occupants of the land or their claims to the land are not of significance. They are not designated by capitalization (Settlement) nor are they relevant for understanding Israelite settlement. The partiality of archaeological research is determined by which sites are excavated or which areas are surveyed: what is searched for determines to a large extent what is found. It is a process which confers legitimacy on some aspects of the past and not on others: a process which is concerned with the location of ancient Israel and not with the explication of Palestinian history in general.

The identification of 'Israelite' sites and 'Israelite' material culture is a fundamental part, whether consciously or otherwise, of the politics of archaeology. This search for and location of the material realities of the past in many parts of the globe, as we have seen, is a crucial factor in the construction and confirmation of social identity. The discovery of the past provides a cohesive factor which helps to confirm the present (cf. Rowlands 1994: 130; Elon 1994). As Rowlands (1994: 133) has noted, 'nations without pasts are contradictions in terms and archaeology has been one of the principle suppliers of the raw material for constructing pasts in modern struggles for nationhood'. Elon (1994: 14) points out, for example, that virtually all the major Israeli national symbols, the State seal, medals, coins, and postage stamps, are derived from archaeology. It is not just the sense of identity which the construction of the archaeology reinforces and confirms but the material presence and right to the land. This has been an important aspect of the invention of ancient Israel from the inception of biblical archaeology but has become of even more vital concern since the growth of Zionist immigration in the 1920s and particularly the foundation of the modern state in 1948. Elon (1994: 14) relates the story of the discovery of a synagogue mosaic at Beit-Alpha in 1928 during the construction of an irrigation system. The inhabitants of the commune, members of the socialist Hashomer Hatzair (the Young Guard), debated whether or not to cover it up as an irrelevant religious symbol. It was eventually decided to preserve it as a political, Zionist monument revealing the Jewish presence in the land and confirming 'the legitimacy of the Zionist claim'. 8 In the 1950s and 1960s archaeology became more than an amateur pastime, it was a national obsession (Elon 1994: 16; Silberman 1989: 87-136). But it was an obsession with the search for ancient Israel which cemented their claim to the land and helped to forge a sense of shared identity among a disparate population. The archaeological investigation of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and Iron I in recent years is in reality a narrative about possessing the past. It has been couched in terms of objectivity and scientific investigation which mask the power of representation (see, for example, Bond and Gilliam 1994). The theologically motivated search of Western biblical studies, the search for confirmation of divine action within history, has articulated well with and been enhanced by the politically motivated search of the modern state of Israel. The development of archaeology in the service of the present has probably been more advanced in Israel than any other area of the modern world. It reflects the need of the nation state to legitimize its possession of the present by discovering itself in the past.

The search for ancient Israel has been given reality through the very materiality of the archaeological process. Thus the real irony of the claim is that it is the switch to survey work which has provided the prospect of progress in the realization and articulation of Palestinian history, whereas the practical effect has been to establish the presence of ancient Israel in the past, thereby creating a real presence in terms of its 'historic right' to the land. The recent intensive surveys have added an impressive catalogue of sites which has reinforced the 'reality' of Israel. How could it be dismissed as an imagined past when the material reality of presence and possession is so evident in the surveys of Finkelstein, Gal, Zertal, Frankel, and Ofer? The cataloguing of hundreds of Iron I sites and their identification as Israelite, particularly in the hill country, modern Israeli 'Judaea and Samaria', have only emphasized Israel's claim to the land both past and present. The archaeology of ancient Israel has effectively confirmed, for most scholars, that the past belongs to Israel.

It is only with the recognition of the essential circularity of reasoning that it becomes clear that the interpretation of excavation and survey data has resulted in an imagined past. This can be illustrated from the first major survey of southern Upper Galilee conducted by Aharoni in the 1950s. He discovered a number of small sites in close proximity and assigned them to the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition on the basis of the pottery assemblage at Khirbet el-Tuleil (Horvat Harashim). He was then able to conclude that 'this wave of settlement from the beginning of the Iron Age is Israelite' (1957: 149). Notice that he refers to a wave of settlement echoing the domain assumption, common at the time, that social change was the result of waves of Semitic nomads coming from outside. However, the crucial point here is that this conclusion, drawn from a reading of the biblical traditions rather than the archaeological evidence alone, follows in the tradition of Alt and Albright that such early Iron Age sites must be Israelite. It contains an essentially circular form of reasoning in order to sustain the notion of identity and land: the definition of Israelite culture and sites has been determined archaeologically; the Hebrew Bible indicates which areas were Israelite during the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages; those sites which fall within these areas are Israelite; Israelite material culture is defined as the material culture at the sites in areas designated by the Hebrew Bible to be Israelite; the discovery of these Israelite sites confirms the essential historicity of the biblical narratives. The debate in archaeology has not concerned the identity of the inhabitants; this was taken for granted as self-evident until recently. The concern has focused on the dating of particular sites and the direction of settlement. [9] It is only once the circularity of argument is admitted that the full implications of recent archaeological data become apparent. Yet it is the power of the discourse of biblical studies which has helped to mask the circularity.

The numerous reports on site excavations and surveys of Iron I settlements have stressed, with varying degrees of emphasis, the continuity between Late Bronze Age material culture, particularly ceramic assemblages, and finds at these sites. Any alternative constructions which might try to make sense of all relevant data, particularly the anomalies which do not fit with dominant constructions, have remained unthinkable or marginalized within the discipline. It has taken a long time for significant numbers of scholars to come to the conclusion that the evidence points to indigenous development. The discourse of biblical studies, the network of associations and assumptions that have grown up reinforced by religious and political beliefs, is so strong that the prevailing belief has been that these sites are to be identified with Israel. The heat of the debate over the various 'models' of Israelite origins and the initial hostile reception to the suggestion of indigenous origins in the form of a peasant revolt only succeeded in masking the more crucial issue of the far-reaching implications of recently published archaeological data.

The grip of the discourse of biblical studies in controlling the interpretation, in preventing scholars escaping from dominant models and domain assumptions, is evident in a wide variety of archaeological publications. It is instructive to begin with Finkelstein's major publication (1988) of the results of his Land of Israel Survey and accompanying excavations at Izbet Sartah and Shiloh. This is now generally recognized as the most complete review and interpretation of archaeological evidence pertaining to the emergence of Israel which will be fundamental to future research in this area. He appears at first sight to escape the methodological bind of the Hebrew Bible which has coloured previous scholarship. He rejects the failures of 'traditional biblical archaeology' to reconstruct 'the process of Israelite Settlement'. Although he acknowledges the importance of the Hebrew Bible for the study of the history of Israel, he believes that the book of Joshua, 'the primary biblical source', redacted centuries later, presents an understanding of Israelite settlement at the end of the period of the monarchy rather than as a contemporary record of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition (1988: 22; see also 1991: 56). Thus he appears to give methodological priority to the interpretation of archaeological data: the implications of this data for an understanding of the biblical narratives can only follow as a secondary step in the research strategy.

The real test of this strategy is provided in his discussion of 'Israelite identity' and the precise meaning of the term 'Israel' in archaeological terms. Finkelstein (1988: 27) believes the formation of Israelite identity to have been 'a long, intricate and complex process' which was not completed until the beginning of the monarchy. Yet his definition of Israelite identity precedes his review and analysis of excavation and survey data from all regions of the country. The professed research strategy is effectively reversed and undermined:

An important intermediate phase of this crystallization is connected with the establishment of supratribal sacral centers during the period of the Judges. The most important of these centers was the one at Shiloh, whose special role at the time is elucidated in 1 Samuel -- a historical work, as all agree.

-- Finkelstein 1988: 27; emphasis added

The archaeological evidence, presented in his preliminary report on the excavations at Shiloh (1988: 205-34), does not support his bold conclusion that Shiloh was a 'supratribal sacral center' or that this site, therefore, played a crucial role in the crystallization of Israelite identity. His evidence for a sanctuary is the terraced structures in area C which he believes 'hint at the physical character of the sanctuary itself' (1988: 234; cf. also 1985a: 168-70). He thinks that these structures are 'no ordinary houses' and represent the only public buildings found at an 'Israelite' settlement site. Dever (1991: 82) rejects this claim as 'nothing but wishful thinking, hardly worthy of the hard-headed realism Finkelstein exhibits elsewhere'. The attempt to discover the archaeological remains of a sanctuary at Shiloh is governed by his acceptance of its status in the Samuel traditions. Yet the archaeological evidence is extremely flimsy, as Dever points out. Finkelstein, none the less, believes that this is not just a sanctuary but a 'supratribal sacred center'. What is it in the archaeological record which would point to such a conclusion or what evidence would an excavator have to find in order to justify such an assertion? It is clear the biblical traditions have methodological priority in his research strategy. Finkelstein, in accepting the status given to Shiloh in the books of Samuel, is predisposed to see the terraced structures in area C as the remains of this sanctuary. Furthermore, his acceptance that Israel is a tribal organization is shaped by the biblical traditions rather than the archaeological data. This claim clearly embodies an explicit assumption that 'Israel' was some form of tribal organization and religious unity. His assertion that 'all agree' that 1 Samuel is a 'historical work' hardly reflects the newer literary approaches to this text over the last decade and a half. [10] The stranglehold of the discourse of biblical studies is clearly evident in this series of assumptions which control, have methodological priority over, his interpretation of the archaeological data. It is evident in his use of the biblically derived chronological periodization, 'the period of the Judges'. To label the period in such a way is to assert Israel's claims to the past: it prevents an examination of the archaeological data for understanding the processes at work in the settlement shifts taking place in Palestinian society of the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages.
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Thu Nov 22, 2018 2:18 am

Part 2 of 3

The interpretation of Gal's preliminary findings from the Land of Israel Survey are also bound by the network of assumptions embodied in the discourse of biblical studies. He refers to the settlement of Issachar, thereby immediately tying his interpretation of the archaeological data to a reading of the biblical traditions: the naming of the land in terms of a biblically derived tribal designation is an expression of Israel's claim to the past. His final report, which includes survey data for the Chalco lithic through the Persian periods, still focuses upon the settlement in those areas 'relating to the tribes to whom Galilee is allotted' (Gal 1992: viii). Since it is not made explicit it can only be assumed that this is an assertion of Israel's right to the land on appeal to divine fiat. Gal opens the earlier preliminary report with a brief review of the biblical material, mentioning Issachar in the context of his survey of 'the region of Ramoth Issachar, covering the area from the Harod Valley in the south to the Jabneel Valley in the north, from the Jezreel Valley in the west to the Jordan Valley in the east' (1982: 80). Already the biblical traditions and their claims are pre-eminent. Gal reports that there were 'no sites here that could be dated to the settlement period - nor even to the Late Bronze Age'. The term' settlement' does not need capitalization, as in Finkelstein's work, since the controlling assumption is that any settlement in this period must be 'Israelite settlement'. [11] The absence of settlement is a problem for Gal: his expectation, that because this is the land of Issachar, Israel's possession ought to be manifest in the material remains of the past, is not confirmed. He is then forced to try to make sense of the biblical traditions in the light of this silence:

The absence of Israelite sites of the settlement period in the basalt heights is undoubtedly linked to the fate of the cities in the valleys below. Presumably, if these cities had come under Israelite control in the 12th or early 11th century, Ramoth Issachar would have become Israelite territory as well. Since our survey proves that Israelites had not yet settled the heights at this time, it would be logical to assume that they had not yet settled in the valleys either.

-- Gal 1982: 80

However, his reasoning is not logical. It is driven by the domain assumption, derived from the biblical traditions, that any settlement at this time, in this region, would have to be Israelite. He presumes that if the Israelites had been in control of the cities they would have settled in the highlands above the cities. His reasoning illustrates clearly the way in which Palestinian history is effectively silenced: he never asks the question as to why the non-Israelite Palestinian inhabitants of the cities do not expand into the highlands. It is a question which can be posed only about Israel. The latter situation is not a puzzle for Gal: Palestinian history is not allowed any voice.

Gal tries to justify his conclusions with a brief review of the sites in the valleys, which stresses that they were not occupied by Israelites. The consistency and logic of his interpretation of the evidence is interesting. In the case of Megiddo, he concludes that despite the discovery of collared-rim ware in Stratum VI this is not 'sufficient to determine that this stratum represents an Israelite village, particularly when other features attest to the continuity of the Canaanite tradition' (Gal 1982: 80). However, the 'conspicuous' absence of collared-rim ware in Stratum IlIA at Affulleh, along with a pottery repertoire 'typical to that prevailing at the end of the Canaanite period' confirms that it cannot be Israelite (Gal 1982: 81). The absence of collared-rim ware at one site confirms that it is not Israelite but its presence at another is not enough to confirm that it is Israelite. How much collared-rim ware needs to be present in order to confirm the presence of Israelites? In the case of other sites in the valley such as Tel Kedesh, Tel Qiri, Tel Qishion, and Tel Menorah, the controlling factor in determining the ethnicity of the inhabitants is the continuity of pottery repertoires with the Late Bronze Age. Gal then tries to correlate the findings from his survey with a reexamination of the biblical traditions about Issachar. Thus the failure to mention Issachar in the story of Gideon's pursuit of the Midianites or the battle of Deborah (Judges 4) is seen as confirming that Issachar was absent from the land assigned to it. He does not puzzle over why a territory named after the tribe is empty of that tribe. Instead, references to Issachar's tenuous connection with the Samarian hills (1 Chronicles 7: 1; 1 Kings. 15: 27) results in the claim that 'in the light of this archaeological and biblical evidence, we may conclude that Issachar settled together with Manasseh within the latter's territory in the northern Samarian hills' (Gal 1982: 83). Only after the destruction of the Canaanite cities at the beginning of the tenth century BCE did some of the clans of Issachar move to the basalt heights of eastern Lower Galilee (Gal 1982: 83) -- seemingly, moving to a territory which according to Gal was already named after them! It is his understanding of the biblical traditions and not the archaeological evidence which governs his assumptions about the location of Israel or particular tribes. There is nothing in the archaeological data which would allow particular sites to be identified with Issachar or Israel for that matter: the presence or absence of particular pottery types seems to have no effect upon the decision. The findings of the survey, in particular the absence of early Iron I sites in this region, ought to lead to questions about the process of settlement and the factors which affect it. Are the sites indigenous, do they show clear signs of material continuity, and, if so, why did sites appear here in the early Iron Age? But instead the concern is with trying to correlate this with the biblical traditions. Despite all the problems inherent in interpretation of the archaeological data, no thought is given to the possible relevance of this material for the pursuit of Palestinian history.

The circularity of reasoning which stems from the central problem of the discourse of biblical studies in the quest for this imagined past of ancient Israel is evident in a number of other influential and representative reports and monographs on the archaeology of early Israelite settlement. The excavation and publication of the small rural site of Giloh on a high ridge to the south-west of Jerusalem with Bethlehem on the south-east provides a case in point (Mazar 1981: 1-36; 1982: 167-78). Mazar asserts that 'it is the only site in the northern part of Judah which can be related with much certainty to the earliest Israelite settlers in this area' (Mazar 1981: 2; emphasis added). The certainty is dependent, however, on an understanding of the material finds at the site read in conjunction with the traditions of the Hebrew Bible. Thus, he points to sites 'which can be attributed to the early Israelite settlers' (1981: 4), such as Tell el-Ful, Khirbet Raddanah, and Khirbet Umm et-Tala which are located in similarly remote places.12 But this is all part of the circular argument as is demonstrated by his explanation of the material culture and identification of the inhabitants of this site. He notes that the four-room house type, found at Giloh, is known in 'non-Israelite regions of the country' (1981: 10), as at Tel Qasile, Tel Sera, and Megiddo Stratum VIB, but still insists that because it is also found at Khirbet Raddanah, Izbet Sartah, and Tel Masos 'it has become clear that this plan was common in Israelite sites of the Iron Age I' (1981: 10). The recognition that this architectural form is 'widely distributed in all parts of Palestine' (1981: 11) does not lead him to question the identity of the inhabitants of Giloh. [13] Similarly, his publication of the pottery assemblage from Giloh stresses the continuity in ceramic forms with the Late Bronze Age. He notes the problems of accepting collaredrim ware as a marker of Israelite settlement given that it is found at Sahab in Jordan, sites such as Tel Megiddo and Tell Keisan, and is absent from sites in the northern Negev. Yet he still concludes that 'the fact remains, however, that in the central mountain sites which can be related with confidence to the Israelite settlers, these pithoi were not only popular, but indeed the most common pottery type' (1981: 30; emphasis added). His confidence is not drawn from the archaeological data, however, since these sites can only be regarded as Israelite if one accepts the picture presented in the biblical traditions. Mazar (1981: 30) notes the socio-economic importance of collared-rim pithoi for storage at such sites but fails to expand upon this observation because the search for ancient Israel, rather than an explanation of the archaeological data, is all-consuming.

Giloh is described as a 'fortified herdsmen's village' (1981: 32) which adds to our understanding of 'the complex process of Israelite conquest and settlement' (1981: 36). What is interesting about his presentation is that, despite a number of guarded comments about the problems of interpretation or the significance of the data, he is able to present the archaeological evidence as though it is this that points to the conclusion that ancient Israel has been revealed. This is exacerbated in his more popular presentation of his findings (1982: 167-78) where he refers to the house form as reminiscent of the houses which became common during the 'period of the Judges' (1982: 169). The problematic distribution of ceramic or architectural types is overcome when the reader is informed that 'the identification of the settlers with the earliest families of Judah who settled in this region suggests itself naturally' (1982: 170). But why is it such a natural conclusion? Suddenly we move from qualified statements concerning material features used to identify particular groups to the reality of ancient Israel in control of the land: 'The architecture of the excavated private house, apparently an early example of typical Israelite private architecture, reinforces this conclusion; the site at Giloh effectively illustrates the process of Israelite settlement in the central hill country' (1982: 170). Yet the ambiguous archaeological data cannot confirm any such conclusion. Such an assertion is dependent upon factors external to the archaeological data, namely the biblically inspired idea that Israel is to be found in the Palestinian hill country.

We find similar problems in the interpretation of a small Iron I site on a ridge in the northern part of the central hill country. Mazar (1982: 27) describes this site, in the opening paragraph of his report, as 'an open cult place situated on a hill in the Land of Manasseh and dated to the period of the Judges'. Palestinian history is silenced before it can have a chance to speak: the labels used emphasize that this time and this space belong to Israel. He concentrates on the bronze figurine found at the site, which despite its obvious connections with indigenous Palestinian religious iconography and imagery is thought to be in the possession of Israelites:

The use of a sophisticated bronze figurine by Israelite settlers of the 12th century B.C. ... can be explained in the light of our knowledge of the continuation of Canaanite metallurgy during the Iron I, as evidenced from the finds at Megiddo, Beth-shan, and Tell es-Saidiyeh.

-- Mazar 1982: 32

It seems they either obtained this by trade or, less plausibly, through manufacture by an Israelite craftsman inspired by Canaanite traditions. Again the pottery finds are said to show continuity with the Late Bronze Age. Whereas for Gal such a continuity confirmed that sites in 'the land of Issachar' were not Israelite, it does not seem to deter Mazar from seeing this site as Israelite. However, we rapidly move from this to discover the reality of ancient Israel. The site is said to be located in the midst of a cluster of Iron I sites which should 'probably be related to the settlement process of the Israelite tribes in the area' (1982: 37). [14] The so-called bull site is then considered to be 'a central ritual place for the group of settlements' (1982: 37-8), a conclusion which then leads to a further conclusion that 'Israelites, probably of the tribe of Manasseh, were builders of our site' (1982: 38). Thus a chain of 'probabilities', based on assumptions drawn from the biblical traditions, concludes with the discovery of Israel. Here is Israel located in the land, located in the past. This imagined past, however, has blocked any attempt, however tentative, to explore alternative constructions of the past based upon the archaeological evidence freed from the straitjacket of the Hebrew Bible.

Mazar's (1990) recent general review of the archaeology of 'the land of the Bible' shows a growing awareness of the problems of interpretation which have governed this search. He makes a conscious attempt to use the term 'Palestine' rather than 'land of Israel' or 'Eretz Israel' to refer to the region. However, the qualification of the term 'Palestine' with the phrase 'the land of the Bible' (1990: 33 n. 1) indicates that the region has little intrinsic value on its own except as the backdrop for understanding the Bible. The volume is designed 'to illuminate the realia of the biblical narrative' (1990: xv) which means that it is Israelite rather than Palestinian history in general which is bound to be the focus of attention. Mazar is still able to refer to the 'Israelite Conquest' despite the fact that most commentators have accepted that the growing body of new archaeological data from the region has fatally undermined Albright's proposals. He adds that 'in examining the archaeological aspect of the conquest of Canaan, we shall concentrate on the factual content at the various sites which are related to the conquest by biblical tradition' (1990: 329; emphasis added). He urges due caution in trying to distinguish different ethnic groups at various sites but once again is able to conclude that the newer surveys and excavations enable a better understanding of 'the settlement process of the Israelite tribes' (1990: 329). Thus he uses the rhetorical device, which we have met on several occasions, whereby the reader is alerted to difficulties and problems of interpretation, before advancing to a much more certain conclusion. The device serves to convince the reader that due objectivity is observed but at the end of the process of cross-examination a trustworthy verdict can be announced:

Consequently, defining a distinctively "Israelite" material culture is a difficult venture. Our departure point in this issue should be sites which according to biblical traditions are Israelite during the period of the Judges, such as Shiloh, Mizpah, Dan, and Beersheba; settlements with similar material culture in the same region can be defined as Israelite.

-- Mazar 1990: 353

The problem of ethnic identification is overcome once again by appeal to the biblical traditions. It is the biblical text which has methodological priority rather than the archaeological evidence; for, as Mazar admits, there is nothing in the archaeological record alone which would allow the attribution of particular sites in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition to different ethnic groups. He is still able to refer to Israel during this period as 'a new national entity' (1990: 334) while his conscious attempt to use the term 'Palestine' is forgotten in favour of references to 'the tribal territories of Manasseh and Ephraim in the central hill country of Palestine' (1990: 335). The continuing power of the discourse of biblical studies is able to hold together this interlocking network of ideas despite the profound challenges to its central assumption that Israel is to be located in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. The pursuit of Palestinian history is hindered by the failure to accept that the term 'Israelite' has no archaeological meaning but is imposed upon the evidence by the claims of the biblical text.

The most noteworthy attempt to deal with the problem of ethnicity and 'Israelite identity' has come from Finkelstein who believes distinctions between ethnic groups at that time were 'apparently still vague' (1988: 27). The reader is not informed as to the nature of the evidence which forms the basis for his understanding of the self-definition of various groups. In an apparent disagreement with Mazar, he states that it is doubtful whether a twelfth century BCE inhabitant of Giloh would have described herself or himself as an 'Israelite'. Finkelstein employs the rhetorical device of measured caution before moving to a much firmer conclusion: 'Nonetheless, we refer to this site and its material culture as "Israelite'" (1988: 27). It does not matter if the inhabitants' own self-identity is different since the search for and location of ancient Israel is all-important. Israel is able to claim possession of the land in retrospect:

an Israelite during the Iron I period was anyone whose descendants -- as early as the days of Shiloh (first half of the 11th century BCE) or as late as the beginning of the Monarchy - described themselves as Israelites.

-- Finkelstein 1988: 27

This is a stronger, more encompassing definition of 'Israelite' identity than we have encountered elsewhere. It is a label which is used to claim the past of the inhabitants of sites which are to be located in the biblically defined territory of the Israelite monarchy. They are 'Israelites', regardless of their own self-understanding, because this is the land of Israel; their territory and their past belongs to Israel. Once again the controlling factor in all this, as we have already noted, is an acceptance of the essential historicity of the narratives in 1 Samuel (see Miller 1991a: 97-9).

The conceptualization and control of the past inherent in Finkelstein's definition is drawn into sharp relief by the problem of Galilee, as he is aware (1988: 28). Here is a region of Palestine which is not considered to be part of the territorial jurisdiction of the early monarchy. It does not therefore qualify as Israelite under the terms of his definition. Furthermore, he argues, against Aharoni, that Iron I settlement in the area was later than previously thought, belonging to a later or secondary phase rather than as part of the first phase of settlement (1988: 323-30). As is well known, these settlements are not characterized by the collared-rim ware common in the central hill country and other areas of Palestine. Yet none of these seemingly fatal objections prevents him from insisting that it is 'Israelite'. It then becomes part of his definition of what it is to be 'Israelite':

Israelites in the Iron I are those people who were in a process of sedentarization in those parts of the country that were part of Saul's monarchy, and in Galilee. The term 'Israelite' is used therefore in this book, when discussing the Iron I period, as no more than a terminus technicus for 'hill country people in the process of settling down'.

-- Finkelstein 1988: 28

The definition is so wide that it encompasses all inhabitants of those areas which have been designated as Israelite.1S The definition is not dependent upon archaeological evidence but stems from a reading of the Samuel narrative in the Hebrew Bible. Finkelstein has realized the inherent problems of such a definition by his admission that he would consider omitting the term 'Israelite' from the discussion of Iron I settlement and refer instead to 'hill country settlers' until the period of the monarchy (1991: 52). The concession is significant since it confirms the growing recognition that the archaeological evidence from recent surveys and excavations cannot be used to differentiate Israelite and indigenous material culture. The reluctance of Finkelstein or Mazar, for instance, to accept the full implications of this conclusion illustrates the difficulties of overcoming and breaking away from a dominant discourse. Finkelstein might be willing to omit the term Israelite and substitute a circumlocution, 'hill country settlers', but is unable to talk of indigenous Palestinian settlement. In fact, these caveats have little practical effect upon his subsequent discussion since he continues to talk of 'Israelite Settlement'. The concession is important, however, because once the label 'Israelite' is removed the debate is freed from the control of the Hebrew Bible and its conceptualization and control of the past. Instead it can become a discussion of the processes involved in and the factors affecting Palestinian settlement during the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and later. It allows a comparison, or encourages strategies designed to elucidate a comparison, of regional variations in settlement throughout Palestine and neighbouring regions. This requires intensive survey of all areas of Palestine, not just those deemed by the discourse of biblical studies to be Israelite.

Yet it is not a set of shared assumptions that is likely to be overturned easily. The unease which is engendered as the implications of this change slowly seep through is expressed in the plaintive cry of Shanks:

The settlement of the central hill-country of Canaan in the Iron Age I is of special interest because these settlements are thought to be Israelite. People want to know what happened here and what it meant to be Israelite. If these people were not Israelites, they have as much interest to us as Early Bronze Age IV people. That does not mean we are uninterested, but it does mean considerably less interest than if they were Israelites. In short, we want to know what all this evidence -- and there is a great deal of it -- can plausibly tell us about early Israel. Caution certainly is in order, but isn't there something affirmative to say, even within the limits imposed by caution?

-- Shanks 1991: 66 [16]

Thus we discover that these settlements are of 'special interest' because they are thought to be Israelite. Interestingly the inhabitants of settlements which are not Israelite or from other archaeological periods, said to be of 'interest', remain anonymous. They are 'Early Bronze Age IV people' not Palestinians. Despite the profession of interest, it is clear that Palestinian history is of no concern at all. It is the search for ancient Israel which is important: Shanks's message is that scholars should concern themselves with this even though it is only 'thought', not demonstrated, that these are Israelite settlements. Where does this thought come from? It can only come from an acceptance that the biblical claims in Joshua and Judges are to be accepted as historically viable. Yet it is a thought that is fundamental to the theological and political assumptions which have helped to shape and sustain the discourse of biblical studies.

What we have seen with the sample of discussions above, and this could easily have been expanded considerably, is that the existence or lack of existence of particular material features is used differently in order to locate Israel in the central hill country, Galilee, and Negev. At some sites, we are told that particular features of the material culture, principally collared-rim ware or the four-room house, are important indicators of Israelite presence but that at other sites their absence is not significant. At all these sites it is acknowledged that features of the material culture have continuity with the Late Bronze Age, but the explanation for this seems to be that Israelites have borrowed techniques and styles from the indigenous population, usually a population they are at war with or from which they are isolated. It is clear in these comparisons that it is the biblical text and not the archaeological data which determines the definition. The reader is often left wondering how much collared-rim ware needs to be present or absent in order to confirm or deny the presence of Israelites. Finkelstein has tried to address some of these issues by concentrating upon geographical location, site size, settlement pattern, architecture, and site layout (1988: 29-33) in order to sharpen his discussion. However, in each of these cases the principal value of the evidence is in helping to determine the socio-economic and environmental factors affecting regional settlement in Palestine. The implication of this observation is continually inhibited by his search for ancient Israel as conceived through his reading of the biblical traditions:

we again note that the historical biblical text, being the only available source, provides the basis for identifying the principal regions of Israelite Settlement, and at the Iron I sites in these regions, researchers have discovered a material culture with distinctive features, some of which are appropriate for a poor isolated society in the incipient phase of sedentarization and organization.

-- Finkelstein 1988: 29-30

However, there is no logical connection between the two parts of this sentence. It is clear that it is not the archaeological features of these sites which are determinative of the label 'Israelite Settlement'. This just continues the circularity of the discourse of biblical studies as illustrated in his assertion that 'Israelite cultural traits must therefore be deduced from the Iron I sites in the central hill country, especially the southern sector, where the identity of the population is not disputed' (1988: 28; emphasis added). Yet, like so many other archaeologists, he notes that all these material features have precedents or connections with features at 'non-Israelite' sites or previous periods and that they are probably determined by topographic and economic considerations. The last point is vital to the pursuit of Palestinian history but its implications are denied by the search for ancient Israel. This is evident in his subsequent presentation of survey and site information of which the discussion of the 'territory of Benjamin' is typical:

The accumulated archaeological data for Benjamin, combined with the biblical descriptions of the days of Samuel and Saul, indicate that the main Israelite activity in Benjamin in Iron I was concentrated in the eastern part of the ridge and the desert fringe .... The territory of Benjamin was thus divided along ethnic lines. The Hivites settled in the west and the Israelites in the east. In any case, we are unable to single out differences in material culture between these two ethnic entities living in the territory of Benjamin at the beginning of Iron I.

-- Finkelstein 1988: 65; emphasis added

It is abundantly clear that despite the sophisticated use of percentage counts of pottery types or the comparison of other material features, there is nothing in the archaeological record which allows one site to be labelled 'Israelite' or another 'Hivite'. Finkelstein does not even attempt to discuss Hivite identity: it is a label which is taken over from the Hebrew Bible. He admits that he does not know how the Hivites came to be in the region or how the cities came to be Israelite. This ethnic differentiation is drawn on the basis of the biblical traditions despite the fact that there is nothing to confirm this in the archaeological data.

As we have seen throughout, the puzzle for archaeologists is that they have assumed that ancient Israel inhabited particular areas of the country and therefore it ought to be possible to distinguish Israelite occupation. Even after it became clear that particular ceramic and architectural forms were found in diverse parts of Palestine or in areas which the Bible does not reckon to be Israelite, the drive to find Israel continued. It is the discourse of biblical studies which has encouraged this blinkered pursuit of an imagined past -- a situation which has been reinforced by the political needs of the modern state of Israel to find itself in the past. Despite the fact that the increasing body of archaeological data and the undermining of historical-critical approaches to the biblical texts have effectively shattered the dominant paradigm, it has such a hold on the conceptions and consciousness of Western and Israeli scholars that it has clung on tenaciously in the face of such overwhelming dissonance. This is one of the best illustrations of the power of the discourse of biblical studies to silence Palestinian history and obstruct any alternative construction or claim to the past.

The politics of archaeology, evident in so many different regions of the world, has been raised to a fine art in biblical studies. Anderson (1991: 183) notes that archaeology is such a profoundly political enterprise that the personnel of a colonial state are unlikely to be aware of the fact. This deeply political shaping of archaeology has rarely been acknowledged in the discourse of biblical studies. It is not as if this is a matter that has not been recognized by political commentators such as Elon:

In the political culture of Israel, the symbolic role of archaeology is immediately evident. Israeli archaeologists, professionals and amateurs, are not merely digging for knowledge and objects, but for the reassurance of roots, which they find in the ancient Israelite remains scattered throughout the country.

-- Elon 1983: 280

He also refers to the treatment of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls as assuming 'a hallowed air', considered by many to be 'almost titles of real estate, like deeds of possession to a contested country' (1983: 285). Yet the discourse of biblical studies has tried to present the search for these roots, the excavation and mapping of various sites, as the objective search for knowledge. The critical issue which Elon identifies, the implications of archaeology or the constructions of the past for contemporary struggles over a contested land, is ignored or denied in the discourse of biblical studies. The stranglehold of this discourse, its ability to disguise the political shaping of the past, is revealed ironically and unexpectedly in Silberman's (1992) review of recent scholarship. Silberman remains strangely silent on the politics of this new archaeology of Israel. In reporting the results of Finkelstein's survey, he refers without comment to 'Israelite settlements' and says:

Thus the founding fathers of the Israelite nation can now be seen as scattered groups of pastoralists living in small family groups and grazing their flocks on hilltops and isolated valleys in the hill country, reacting in their own way to the far-reaching social and economic changes that swept over the entire eastern Mediterranean world.

-- Silberman 1992: 30

The archaeology of Israel, with all its hidden assumptions, has exerted a subtle influence on the new search for ancient Israel.


The switch in research strategies to a greater emphasis on intensive regional survey, at a time when biblical studies has been exposed to various movements in the humanities and social sciences which have undermined its notions of text, has helped to undermine some of the classic constructions of Israel's imagined past. However, the search for ancient Israel has continued unabated. The critiques of aspects of the dominant discourse emanating from Ahlstrom, Lemche, Coote and Whitelam, Davies, Thompson, and others, have added to the fracturing of these models. However, they also embody an inherent confusion. While their critiques focus upon the temporal location of ancient Israel, whether it is to be found in the early or later Iron Age, the Persian or Hellenistic periods, the tentative attempts to articulate the need to divorce the historical study of the region from biblical studies have not been clearly worked out. It is a confusion which has contributed to the silencing of Palestinian history. [17] They have been involved in a 'new' search for ancient Israel. It is only with the failure of the search that the implications for the study of the history of the region, the need to reformulate and rethink the task, have become clearer. The debate has centred around three important and closely related areas: the date of the biblical traditions and their relevance for historical construction, the significance of the Merneptah stele, and the interpretation of newer archaeological evidence in the search for ancient Israel or the pursuit of Palestinian history.

There is a widespread perception that one of the major shared assumptions of the recent search for ancient Israel, part of Coote's 'new horizon', is the rejection of the biblical traditions for historical construction of the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages. There are clearly underlying connections but by no means unanimity on the understanding and dating of the relevant biblical materials. Ahlstrom's view that the biblical text is a product of faith which was not meant to report on or preserve historical facts (1986: 2) would meet with general agreement, whereas his ideological explanation of the Exodus traditions (1986: 45-55) would not. Furthermore, while he claims that the book of Judges is of little use for historical construction (1986: 75), his understanding of the monarchy, and his construction of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition, is tied to the biblical traditions. Ahlstrom's methodology is one where he appears able to pick out relevant and trustworthy historical data, although the reader is not supplied with clear criteria which explain these choices (1986: 57-83). Thus, although the primary aim of the biblical text, for Ahlstrom, was not to preserve historical data, his approach to the texts is not radically different from many standard histories of ancient Israel. For example, he claims that 'any reconstruction of the central hill country for the period between Merneptah's mention of Israel and the emergence of the Israelite kingdom under Saul' (1986: 74) must take into account the biblical traditions. It has to be analysed carefully 'to sort historical data from theological fiction'. He acknowledges that the Hebrew Bible as the product of faith 'represents theological reflections of later periods about earlier events' (1986: 74), yet he is able to distinguish reliable historical data which pertain to the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. This means that, in effect, Ahlstrom has been locked into the search for ancient Israel, despite the production of his massive volume on the history of ancient Palestine. It is Israel, or the search for this entity, which dominates his narrative of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and early Iron Ages. It is a focus of attention which obscures and hinders his own attempts to formulate a strategy for the pursuit of Palestinian history. Palestinian history becomes, in effect, confined to those periods or areas where Israel is not located rather than the overarching object of study.

One of the most striking aspects of the recent search for ancient Israel, reflecting a growing trend in the discipline as a whole, is the attempt to push the date of the biblical traditions ever later. Whitelam, for instance, has argued that the biblical traditions regarding the pre-monarchic period, as conceived by biblical writers, were not reflections of historical reality but rather reflections of perceptions of the past by the later writers. The social production of the biblical traditions, particularly as products of the second Temple communities, has become of increasing concern over recent years. [18] The traditions of Israel's origins as external to Palestine, as presented in the Deuteronomistic History, are in conflict with traditions contained in the books of Chronicles which present Israel as indigenous to the land (Whitelam 1989). Whitelam interprets this as a reflection of competing factional disputes over the land between those returning from exile in Babylonia and the indigenous population around Jerusalem and its environs. Lemche, Thompson, and Davies have been among the most vociferous in arguing for a late dating of the biblical traditions in the Persian or Hellenistic periods. Most of those involved in the new search would accept Lemche's underlying principle that 'the gap between written fixation and the "underlying events" is too great to permit us to accept the tradition as a primary source for our reconstruction of the past' (1985: 377-8; his emphasis). [19] He concludes that the preconditions for the concept of Israel as a unity did not arise before the monarchy and that a 'pan-Israelite' historical writing could not be any earlier than the Exile (Lemche 1985: 384).

This would appear to free the study of Palestinian history for the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and early Iron Age from the stranglehold of the biblical traditions. Yet the discussion has been concerned with the possibilities of writing a history of ancient Israel effectively overshadowing any concern with Palestinian history. The attacks upon text-based approaches to the history of ancient Israel, the challenge to source-critical analyses in the light of newer literary approaches, helped to undermine the confident production of a whole series of volumes on Israelite history in the 1970s and 1980s. This at least gave pause for thought as to the nature of the enterprise.  [20] However, attempts to redefine the nature of the historiographic task by appealing to the growing body of archaeological data for the region were still locked into the search for ancient Israel (Whitelam 1989; Thompson 1987: 13-40). Davies (1985: 169-70) had urged that if there were no reliable written sources for the period, then it was not possible to write a history. The debates focused upon the type of history which was possible, a move from the eventcentred, personality-dominated narratives of traditional biblical histories to a Braudelian-inspired concern with social history in its broadest terms (Coote and Whitelam 1987; Whitelam 1989). But, at the point when some were arguing that the study of the Late BronzeIron Age transition and early Iron Age had been freed from the constraints of the periodization and characterization of the biblical traditions, the new search remained in the grip of the powerful assumptions of the discourse of biblical studies. It remained a search for ancient Israel rather than a pursuit of Palestinian history. [21]
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Thu Nov 22, 2018 2:19 am

Part 3 of 3

The central confusion between the relationship of Israelite to Palestinian history remained the stumbling block to a realization of the far-reaching implications of the shifts which were taking place in biblical studies and related disciplines. Thompson's vision of an 'independent history' is couched in terms of the history of Israel rather than of Palestine. The independence sought is from the control of the biblical text to define the nature of Israelite history, its periodization, and major concerns, as has been the case with standard 'biblical histories'. But it has struggled to break free from a series of domain assumptions informing the discourse of biblical studies which has shaped the search for Israel for over a century. Although Thompson talks of a 'new historiographical paradigm' (1992b: 2), the full implications of the series of shifts he identifies under this label remain obscured by Israel's control of the past. The talk is still of researching 'Israel's origins' (1992a: 107) as 'methodologically apart from the late Judaean historiography about its past' (1992a: 108). The effect of the concern with the late, ideological construction of the past has been to push the starting point of the history of Israel to later periods, producing essentially a history of the gaps. For Soggin and Miller and Hayes the starting point has to be delayed until the period of the Davidic monarchy, whereas for Lemche, Thompson, and Davies the focus of attention switches to the Persian and Hellenistic periods. The effect is that as preceding periods become devoid of history the focus on Israel and its past is so all-consuming that the gaps become of little intrinsic interest as the gaze follows the temporal movement of ancient Israel. Lemche, Ahlstrom, Coote, Thompson, and Whitelam refer to the desire to pursue a wider regional history of Palestine but it is rarely clearly demarcated from the search for ancient Israel. Thompson, for instance, can state that 'the issue of whether a history of Israel can be written at all must take central stage in all future discussions' (1992a: 110). Yet the logic of his argument, as with others involved in the new search, is not prosecuted with sufficient vigour in order to articulate the priority of the study of the history of ancient Palestine divorced from the concerns and control of biblical studies. The recent search has shown how difficult it is to escape from the limits of a particular discourse which shapes academic research in ways of which the participants are often unaware. The full implications of the increasing location of biblical traditions in the Persian and Hellenistic periods or their relationship to historical reality have not been worked out in freeing the past from the control of Israel or of the biblical traditions. The challenge to the dominant discourse, the attempts to offer alternative constructions of the past, have remained bound by other of the domain assumptions which have shaped historical research in biblical studies helping to marginalize and silence the study of the history of ancient Palestine.

The Merneptah stele, first discovered in 1896, containing the first mention of Israel in an extrabiblical text, has begun to assume an importance in recent discussions similar to that of the Tel Dan inscription in the defence of the biblical traditions of David. The well-known, yet tantalizing reference to Israel's defeat at the hands of Pharaoh Merneptah, 'Israel is laid waste, his seed is not', which appears on the obverse of a victory hymn over the Libyans has become a centre of focus in defence of 'biblical Israel' against the revisionism of the new search. Bimson (1991) provides a spirited defence of the biblically inspired imagined past of Israel based on his interpretation of the stele. He is adamant that 'there is no reason at all to doubt that the Israel of the stela is biblical Israel of the premonarchic period' (1991: 14), arguing that 'it is quite unreasonable' to deny this correlation. The appeal to what is reasonable is part of the rhetoric of objectivity in order to support the dominant construction of Israel's past within the discourse of biblical studies. Any opposing views are by definition unreasonable and to be rejected. However, the reasonableness of Bimson's conclusion is not immediately apparent. He does not elaborate on the nature of 'biblical Israel' in terms of whether or not it is a picture drawn from the Pentateuch, the Deuteronomistic History, Joshua, Judges, Chronicles, or an amalgam of all these and other biblical materials. He acknowledge that the stele does not provide information on the social organization of this entity Israel but he remains 'reasonably sure that Merneptah's Israel was a tribal confederation, such as we find reflected in the Song of Deborah' (1991: 14). It is difficult to see what is reasonable about this conclusion. The notion that Israel was a tribal organization is drawn from his understanding of biblical traditions. [22] It is only reasonable if one accepts his reading of the traditions and the assumption that these traditions in some way reflect the historical reality of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. It still remains to make a clear and unequivocal connection between the entity mentioned in the stele and Bimson's biblical Israel. [23] The only clear information provided by the inscription is that some entity called Israel was encountered in the region by the Pharaoh's troops towards the end of the thirteenth century BCE: it does not confirm or deny whether this was a tribal organization or 'geographically extensive'.

The stele has also played a central role for some of those involved in the new search. Ahlstrom's distinctive contribution to the discussion has been to insist that the term 'Israel' was originally a territorial designation for the central hill country of Palestine. He asserts this on the basis of his proposal that the final lines of the stele have a distinctive ring structure which equates different elements. Thus Hurru is composed of Canaan and Israel where Canaan refers to the more densely populated coastal lowlands and Israel designates the hill country. He traces the development of the use of the term Israel from a territorial term, to a political term designating the state in the central hill country established by Saul, to its later restriction to the northern kingdom until 722 BCE. It later became a religious term to designate the people of Yahweh, was then restricted to the returnees under Ezra's law, before eventually becoming an ideological term for Judaism (Ahlstrom 1986: 118). On the basis of his understanding of its origins as a geographical term, he goes on to argue that 'it was with the emergence of Saul's kingdom that the name Israel came to signify a political entity' (Ahlstrom 1986: 40). Ahlstrom was one of the first scholars to question the common application of ethnic labels to Iron I sites supposedly on the basis of the archaeological evidence. He was also a pioneer in articulating the need for the study of Palestinian history, a long-term project which was seemingly realized with his posthumous volume (1993). Paradoxically, however, he has perpetuated the search for ancient Israel and its claim to the past. His focus is clearly upon Israel and Israelite self-definition marginalizing any Palestinian perspective. The territorial label of the central hill country as Israel, the modern occupied West Bank, reinforces, however unwittingly, the claim of Israel to its possession through historic right.

The Merneptah stele has also figured prominently in Coote's exploration of the 'new horizon' which he perceives as resulting from the new search. His description of Israel as 'a Palestinian tribe or tribal confederation' is based upon a reading of the Merneptah stele and anthropological studies of tribal societies (1990: 71-93). The discussion of tribal organization, social relations, and settlement provide a valuable basis for the study of Palestinian history in general. However, like Bimson, he draws a series of far-reaching conclusions which can hardly be supported by an appeal to the ambiguous reference provided by Merneptah's scribes. Israel, for Coote, was a political entity, in his words 'a name for a structure of power' (Coote 1991: 40), a tribal organization, which imperial Egypt was forced to confront and then sustain in order to bolster its empire against the Sea Peoples and the Hittites to the north (see also 1991: 45). His valuable discussion of political and social relations in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages is undermined by the distraction of his search for ancient Israel. His appeal to anthropological parallels in understanding the nature of tribal society -- Israel was not 'a single religious group, family, nation, race, nor ethnic group' (1990: 71) -- is governed by a concern to find Israel. Palestinian history remains muted and marginalized. Coote is able to assert that 'the origin of Israel, while indeterminate, is not, in my view, a mystery' (1990: viii). While recognizing that the entity referred to as Israel by Merneptah's scribes pre-dates the shift to highland settlement (1990: 72), he still makes a direct link between this entity and the inhabitants of the settlements, continuing the assumption which has dominated the discourse of biblical studies and shaped the archaeology of ancient Israel: 'In the twelfth and eleventh centuries, people named Israel inhabited recently founded villages in the highland' (1990: 72). The appeal to social anthropology and historical parallels has failed to free the study of the history of ancient Palestine from Israel's dominance of the past. This dominance is so complete that Coote is able to state that 'the political integrity of much of Palestine depended upon Israel's viability' (1990: 75).

The Merneptah stele is very similar to the Tel Dan inscription in that it offers very little unambiguous evidence about the nature and location of ancient Israel or its connection with the picture presented in different parts of the Hebrew Bible. The problem turns on the significance and meaning of the determinative which has been applied by the Egyptian scribes to Israel compared with other entities or locations mentioned in the same context. Israel appears to be distinguished from the place names Ashkelon, Gezer, and Yano'am by a determinative which is used elsewhere to designate 'people' or 'foreign people'. This fact has been used to support the imagined pasts of Albright and Alt that Israel was external to Palestine, indicating a nomadic group possibly in the process of sedentarization, as well as the recent constructions by Ahlstrom and Coote proposing that Israel was indigenous. There clearly appears to be some differentiation intended, but the wide-ranging, often competing conclusions which have been proposed on the basis of this tantalizing reference move way beyond the available evidence. The most that the inscription reveals is that Israel was in existence in the region at this time and that it may have been of relative significance. It can hardly be used to support the elaborate theories and extravagant claims that have been made on its behalf. This is, after all, a royal inscription and subject to all the caveats that accompany royal propaganda: the Egyptian scribes in mentioning victory over these entities are hardly likely to claim the defeat of non-entities. The stele represents a particular perception of the past embodying important ideological and political claims on behalf of the Egyptian Pharaoh.

Many of the constructions of this past have focused upon a supposed geographical arrangement of this section of the stele. This supposed south-north arrangement has been used to support a northern location for Israel and, as we have seen, underlies Coote's claim that Israel was a Palestinian tribal organization used by the Pharaoh as a buffer against the Hittite threat from the north. [24] Yet this is hardly conclusive since this perceived arrangement is dependent upon the mention of two or three towns and a further unidentified site. The location of Yano'am is unknown and disputed, which means that attempts to draw wide-ranging conclusions about the geographical arrangement of the text and the location of Israel move way beyond the evidence. [25] The ring structure of the text is equally questionable since it appears to be restricted to this short section at the end of the inscription immediately preceding the usual list of Pharaonic titles. Even if there is a formal literary structure, as Ahlstrom, Edelman, and Bimson suggest, it is difficult to be sure that this then reflects a geographical arrangement given the small number of sites mentioned. It certainly provides no information on the social organization or geographical extent of the entity Israel. Yet the reading of the Merneptah stele comes to form part of the interlocking network of assumptions which inform the archaeology of ancient Israel: Israel is to be connected with the settlement shift to the highlands of Palestine in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition, therefore Merneptah's Israel must be located in the hill country. The circularity is self-confirming since the reference in the stele is then appealed to, as we have seen with Bimson, to confirm the archaeological connection which then has been used to justify the picture of 'biblical Israel' in Joshua and Judges. The entity Israel, one of a number of different entities which the Pharaoh claims to have defeated, is no longer an aspect or participant in Palestinian history; it dominates the whole of Palestinian history preventing the construction of any alternative claim to the past.

The other characteristic feature of the new search has been a self-conscious attempt to question the biblically inspired constructions of the past in the light of social anthropology and the interpretation of archaeological data from the region. Lemche's massive tome on early Israel began as a critique of Mendenhall and Gottwald, incorporating a wealth of anthropological detail on the nature of social relationships in ancient Palestine. He acknowledges that the discussion of current anthropological work takes up a disproportionate amount of space (1985: xiv). Yet he provides one of the most comprehensive treatments of anthropological theory and data as part of a critique of what he terms 'the revolution hypothesis' and the earlier constructions of the past by Alt-Noth and Albright-Bright. Similarly, Coote and Whitelam (1987), Coote (1991), and Thompson (1992a) rely heavily upon social anthropology in trying to understand the nature of social relations in Palestine in the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages. Yet throughout these works it is the distraction of the label Israel, the distraction of the search for ancient Israel and the power of Israel's imagined past presented by the biblical writers, which continues to hinder and confuse the pursuit of Palestinian history.

Ahlstrom (1986) is less explicit in his use of anthropological parallels but was one of the first to question the veracity of ethnic labels used to differentiate Iron I sites. He was well aware that archaeology alone reveals nothing about the origins of Israel but provides information on the settlement patterns and cultural traits of the population of Palestine 'during the period in which Israel .appeared in history' (1986: 2; 1991a: 19). He notes that the interpretation of archaeological data has been guided by a pan-Israelite ideology (1991a: 24). [26] This increase in settlements in the sparsely populated hills in the thirteenth to twelfth centuries BCE is understood by Ahlstrom as motivated by a desire to escape from the wars and upheavals of the period (see also Callaway, Coote and Whitelam). He appeals to the Amarna letters to show that it is possible to deduce that social unrest and discontent were primary forces which prompted the movement of population groups from all directions (Ahlstrom 1986: 18-19). However, the material evidence for the central hill country of the fourteenth to thirteenth centuries BCE was Canaanite, as was the material culture of the Negev for the period c. 1200 BCE: this is evident in the house types and the pottery (1986: 27-8). [27] His summary (1986: 83) of the period as showing a material and religious cultural continuum from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron I period is echoed in the works of Lemche (1985), Coote and Whitelam (1987), Coote (1991), and Thompson (1992a).

All this would appear to point to a clear articulation of the broad features of Palestinian history in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. Ahlstrom makes clear that the settlement shift is indigenous to Palestine and explainable in terms of social and political processes at work throughout the region. However, this construction of the past, the further probing of Palestinian history from this perspective, is hindered because of his continued fascination with the search for ancient Israel. Thus he describes his study as principally an attempt 'to situate the Israelites in history' (1986: 1). Despite his questioning of many domain assumptions of standard reconstructions of the period, he is bound by biblically based reconstructions of the premonarchic and monarchic periods of Israelite history. Thus he argues that the increase in cultivation in the highlands led to bigger clans and villages and eventually to centralization and to 'the formation of an extensive political unit, the territorial state' (Ahlstrom 1986: 20). Israel again emerges to dominate and effectively silence the Palestinian past. [28]

Lemche complains of the circularity of interpretation common within biblical studies, pointing out that the period around 1200 BCE is hardly ever described as an archaeological phase rather than a historical period:

The reason for this seems to be the fact that some archaeologists appear to find it more fascinating to hunt for 'proof' of the presence of Israel, since even the most minute changes in architecture, pottery, town lay-out, and so forth, have been taken to show the presence of new (foreign) elements among the existing population at this time.

-- Lemche 1985: 386

He calls for a description of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition in Palestine from an 'international perspective' along similar lines to the archaeologically based historical surveys of the Mediterranean, particularly for Greece. [29] He points out that merely to note settlement change, like Alt, does not confirm that this is the result of external immigration. What is needed is a clear understanding as to the continuity, or discontinuity, of material culture, which accompanies such settlement shifts. This, he notes, was not possible for Alt since his conclusions were based on available textual material, and he did not have access to current archaeological information. This led to an important conclusion which has resonance with others involved in the new search:

Our conclusion is therefore unambiguous: archaeology and text may not be subsumed under a single formula. Thus it was correct to dismiss the importance of the Settlement traditions in the OT and to see them instead as expressions of a very late view of the nation's origins which arose in the last part of the monarchical period and particularly in the period after the loss of national independence. The consequences of this fact ought to be taken seriously. It is no longer legitimate to attempt to 'save the appearances' of certain portions of the Settlement narratives. Rather, it is the very idea of Settlement, as it appears in the OT, which must be done away with, for historical reasons. In one's reconstruction of the course of events towards the close of the second millennium one ought at least in the first instance to ignore completely the OT traditions, and instead attempt to reconstruct the archaeological history of the period without considering whether it was Israelites or Canaanites who were active at one site or another. If an archaeological description of the culture of Iron Age Palestine shows that there was continuity between this period and the culture of the Late Bronze Age, then we ought simply to avoid speaking of any concentrated Israelite immigration into the country in the 13th-12th centuries. By 'concentrated' I mean the idea of a collected Israelite invasion as well as the notion of an uncoordinated mass immigration of Israelite nomads into the country.

-- Lemche 1985: 391

This appears to free the discussion from the constraints of the Hebrew Bible and from the search for ancient Israel. Here is an expression, although he does not make this explicit, of the need to investigate the history of the region devoid of the constraining ethnic labels which have thus far dominated and misdirected the discussions. Again his conclusions on settlement patterns and social change illustrate the set of shared assumptions which Coote identified as part of his 'new horizon': the materially poorer culture following the destruction of various urban centres during the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition is not 'synonymous with a new culture but a result of the far less favourable conditions which characterized the Iron Age societies' (Lemche 1985: 400). The dramatic events in the region are not connected with Israelite immigration. There is nothing in the archaeological record alone which indicates anything about an entity called Israel since the evaluation of Israel as a political phenomenon depends upon the use of the biblical traditions. Interestingly he states that 'our most important duty is to acknowledge our ignorance (Lemche 1985: 414; his emphasis). These are important observations which are broadly shared by an increasing number of scholars. It appears to signal the end of the search for ancient Israel in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition in contrast to the positive statements and constructions of imagined pasts of those who deplore the negativity of the new search. Lemche rightly points out that

The result has invariably been an account of the premonarchical history of Israel which has continually had to be modified as soon as new archaeological data or new sociological insights have arrived on the scene. In practice this has entailed the creation of a picture of Israel's earliest history from which scholars have gradually retreated after lengthy debates which have showed the picture in question to be based on positions which could not be sustained in the light of new information.

-- Lemche 1985: 414-15

What Lemche is proposing is an investigation of the social, economic, cultural, and political history of Palestine. But the problem, as with all these discussions, is that it proves impossible to escape from the confines of Israel's past. This becomes clear in Lemche's response (1991) to the others involved in the new search where his focus on the origins or emergence of Israel obscures the need to pursue these proposals further. The concern for Palestinian history becomes lost in the continuing search for ancient Israel in whatever period it is to be located.

The joint volume by Coote and Whitelam (1987) provides a further illustration of the problem of extricating the pursuit of Palestinian history from the dominant discourse and its overriding concern with Israel's imagined past. Their discussion of the emergence of early Israel is set in the context of an understanding of a broad regional history of Palestine covering settlement patterns from the Early Bronze Age to the present, along with social relations and geography in the history of the region. Again, like Lemche, they articulate a concern with the demographic, economic, social, and political history of ancient Palestine. However, the impulse remains to discover 'how the emergence of Israel in the early Iron Age fits into the march of time' (Coote and Whitelam 1987: 8). After a consideration of historiographical principles and a treatment of Palestinian history from the perspective of Braudel's la longue duree, the focus is firmly on 'The Emergence of Israel: Iron I Transformation in Palestine' and 'The Formation of the Davidic State'. The authors' purpose is defined as 'an attempt to provide a new synthesis of the history of early Israel by bringing together insights drawn from many disciplines as well as recent biblical studies ... we seek to advocate a particular reconstruction of the emergence of Israel and to indicate how that reconstruction bears on the ways in which later ideas of Israel developed and functioned in the communities of faith' (Coote and White lam 1987: 16). The discussion may be set in the context of the 'kaleidoscopic history of Palestine' but its focus upon 'the emergence of Israel' means that it remains firmly in the context of the search for ancient Israel as conducted by the discourse of biblical studies.

The history of Palestine in reality forms little more than a backdrop to Israel's past. It is Israel which claims this landscape and this past. At the heart of this and the monographs of Ahlstrom and Lemche is an essential difficulty as to the task at hand. They have been struggling to articulate a conception of the history of Palestine as a subject in its own right while all the time constrained by the power of a discourse which has insisted on Israel's claim to the past. It has been unthinkable that little or nothing could be known of Israel in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition or Late Bronze Age or that it should play a secondary role to a consideration of trying to investigate and articulate a history of Palestine. Thus Coote and Whitelam are able to say in the opening chapter that 'we are interested in describing less the cause of the emergence of Israel -- though that is not in itself an invalid subject -- than the set of conditions and circumstances within which Israel emerged' (Coote and Whitelam 1987: 24). The confusion remains that, although they investigate the processes which led to the settlement shift during the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and compare these with settlement shifts throughout Palestinian history, they have made the fundamental assumption that this shift concerns Israel and Israel alone. Thus the confusion helps to contribute to the silencing of Palestinian history. They have produced an attempt to analyse 'the patterns and processes of Palestinian history' (1987: 27) both in terms of social relations and settlement patterns. But this is overshadowed, almost silenced, by their assumption that 'the most commonly agreed datum to mark the emergence of Israel is the extension of village and agricultural settlement in the central highlands of Palestine from the thirteenth to the eleventh centuries BCE' (1987: 27-8). Their examination of the material culture of published sites for this period is in line with many other scholars in arguing that all the indications are for a continuity in material culture from the Late Bronze Age through the Iron I period. They question the use of the ethnic label 'Israelite' to describe the inhabitants of many of these sites but still claim to be dealing with the emergence of Israel. They develop an explanation for this settlement shift in terms of the economic disruption of the whole of the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age which is an important facet of understanding the processes affecting Palestinian settlement shifts during this and subsequent periods. However, they have clouded the issue by claiming that 'the settlement into villages in the hinterland was given political and incipient ethnic form in the loosely federated people calling themselves Israel' (Coote and Whitelam 1987: 136). The power of the discourse of biblical studies, the search for ancient Israel, has hindered a clear understanding of the implications of the essential points of their research. It has proven impossible to escape from the accepted rhetoric of the discourse of biblical studies even where that discourse has seemingly been fundamentally challenged. They discuss (1987: 167-77) the reasons why biblical scholarship from the early nineteenth century onwards has perpetuated the biblical picture of the origins and unity of early Israel without realizing that they have contributed to that perpetuation.

The understanding of Israel as indigenous is a common thread running through all these works; at the time it was considered radical, building on and challenging the work of Mendenhall and Gottwald. Yet its very radicality obscured a much more important conclusion which was hinted at throughout; namely, the attempt to articulate the study of Palestinian history in its own right, to offer an alternative construction of the past which challenged the dominant understanding of the present in which both past and present belonged to Israel. Coote and Whitelam (1987: 167) hint at the problem but are never able to articulate it clearly: 'Our assumption, shared by many historians and archaeologists, that the emergence of numerous rural sites in the highlands and margins of Palestine during the transition from the Late Bronze to the early Iron Age is to be identified with a single people, "Israel", itself begs the question.' They ask why the traditions obscure the nature of the emergence of Israel but do not ask about the much greater act of obscuration, the silencing of Palestinian history. Similarly, in a footnote to the introduction (Coote and Whitelam 1987: 179 n. 3), they claim that 'we do not assume that by referring to the early Iron Age highland settlement as "Israel" that we have said anything qualitative about "early Israel". We focus our history of "Israel" on this highland settlement because it is the clearest archaeological datum that precedes the eventual emergence of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.' The use of quotation marks betrays an unease with the term Israel but it has little practical effect in freeing the discussion of the history of the region from the domination of biblical studies. [30]

It is now becoming clear that once the label 'Israel' is removed from the discussions, these authors are describing or trying to account for the political and social factors which affect the transformation and realignment of Palestinian society. Coote's (1990) later attempt to articulate his understanding of the common trends in the new search is a case in point. The title of the work, Early Israel: A New Horizon, makes it clear where the focus and concern really lies. He notes that the Merneptah stele and the spread of settlement have been known for a long time and insists that 'these new settlements housed much of the population called Israel in early scriptural texts'. The controlling assumption in reading the Merneptah stele and the archaeological evidence is his understanding of the production of many of the biblical materials at the court of David. It is part of the stranglehold of the discourse of biblical studies which has imagined a past from which biblical scholars and archaeologists have struggled but failed to free themselves. This is illustrated in Coote's elaboration of the new horizon which, while recognizing that the inhabitants of the settlements are largely indigenous, claims that 'Israel was a strong tribal confederacy developed by Egypt and Palestinian chiefs' (1990: 5) or that 'The population of these new settlements enlarged the tribes of Israel, whose chiefs were increasingly regarded by Western Palestinians as the legitimate alternative to European and Anatolian rule' (1990: 5). He recognizes that Israel and the highland settlement are not coterminous and tries to explain this:

Nevertheless, the spread of settlement and the origin of Israel were not the same thing. The extent of the settlement was not coterminous with Israel, Israel was a tribal force before the reversal of settlement trends, and settlement spread in many areas other than those that became Israelite. Before the spread of villages in the highlands, Israelites had contacts there, but most Israelites were located elsewhere, in the northern lowlands and the outlying settlements. Moreover, there was nothing unique about the spread of settlement that produced highland Israel. Like its people, highland Israelite society was an extension of Palestinian Israel in the thirteenth century. The highland settlement had everything to do with the age-long survival of the name Israel, but nothing to do with its origin.

-- Coote 1990: 115; re-emphasized in 1991: 45

The problem here remains the distraction of the label 'Israel' and claims to knowledge about the nature and social organization of this entity on the basis of the Merneptah stele and the biblical traditions. No evidence is offered to support the claim that Israel had contacts in the highlands before the settlement shift. The previous assumption that the settlement shift was to be equated with the emergence of Israel has been replaced by an assumption that this was an extension of tribal Israel. Thus Israel remains the focal and dominating point of all Palestinian history. He moves away from the conclusion of Coote and Whitelam, that the settlement shift was related to the economic disruption of the eastern Mediterranean, to stress that it was due to a change in political circumstances in which 'tribal Israel was the political entity in the best position to oversee the spread of settlement and agriculture in the areas that later became highland Israel, the political change must have involved them' (Coote 1990: 116; 1991: 44). This, he concludes, led to a shift from a tribal confederation in the nonhern lowland and frontier Palestine which was tied to Egypt, to a tribal confederation located mainly in the central highlands at first tied to Egypt and then freed from it after the decline of the New Kingdom. It was this latter entity which was involved in a struggle for supremacy with the lowland Philistine power. Many aspects of his synthesis point to the kinds of issue, the processes of settlement shift, economic and political organization which ought to be the focus of a regional Palestinian history of the period. However, once again, Palestinian history has been effectively silenced by the failure to escape from the all-pervading search for ancient Israel which comes to dominate the past by blocking and obscuring alternative constructions of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. What he terms 'the basics of the revolution' (1990: 7) are not a revolution in our understanding of early Israel except as an illustration of Lemche's plea for an acknowledgement of ignorance. The significance of Coote's discussion of tribal society, minus the label 'Israel', lies less in the search for early Israel than in the pursuit of Palestinian history freed from the domination of this imagined past constructed by biblical studies from its understanding of the European nation state and the emergence of Zionism in the nineteenth century.

The continued confusion and failure to escape the search for ancient Israel, to step outside the discourse of biblical studies, is illustrated by T.L. Thompson's (1992a) The Early History of the Israelite People: From the Written and Archaeological Sources. This is an extensive critique of biblical historiography which has many points of contact, as well as very significant differences, with the works of Ahlstrom, Coote, Lemche, and Whitelam. [31] In trying to describe what he terms 'the search for a new paradigm for the history of Israel' (1992a: 105), Thompson refers to the 'historiographical crisis created by the rapid deconstruction of "biblical history'" from the 1970s onward. Yet, like most other works, it is bound by the distraction and confusion of the search for ancient Israel as the title suggests. Thus he describes the current situation in the following terms:

These recent studies, since the mid-1980s, take a new direction which today seems most promising and takes us away from an historiography based on the fragile syntheses of biblical and archaeological research that had been overly dependent on issues of historicity and a biblical perspective, in the direction of an independently conceived history of Israel's origins.

-- Thompson 1992a: 107

In commending Finkelstein's study, within a larger critique, he concludes that 'his book establishes a firm foundation for all of us to begin building an accurate, detailed, and methodologically sound history of Israel' (1992a: 161). But how can it, if the label 'Israelite' is removed from the interpretation of the data, if it is agreed that there is no distinction between this and other forms of material culture indigenous to Palestine from the Late Bronze through the early Iron Age? It establishes no such foundation. It provides instead important data for studying the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition in Palestine as part of a history of the region freed from the discourse of biblical studies and the search for ancient Israel. Thompson actually outlines such an enterprise, or at least one version of such an enterprise, a few pages later (1992a: 162-4) but the force of his argument is lost because it forms a subtheme to his concern for an 'independent history of Israel and Judah'. The concern for Palestinian history becomes even more muted in light of the claim that 'recent publications show clearly that a history of Israel's origins can now be written, in a relatively objective, descriptive manner, once issues relating to the historicity and relevance of later biblical tradition are bracketed' (Thompson 1992a: 168-9). But history writing should not be merely descriptive nor is it objective, as we have seen. The implications of the vast archaeological data which he reviews bear testimony to the fact that we know nothing of the origins of Israel. Nevertheless, Thompson believes that recent scholarship has been 'building a foundation for a new history of Israel' (Thompson 1992a: 169). He recognizes that Israelite history, of whatever period, forms part of the history of Palestine. Thus he observes that 'the focus of this book has been on the implications of interdisciplinary historical research in Palestine in the hope of developing an understanding of the history of "Israel" within the context of a comprehensive regional and historical geography of Palestine' (1992a: 402; his emphasis). Yet the problem inherent in this and other works associated with the new search is that such sentiments have little practical effect upon the realization of a history of ancient Palestine. They are all limited by their failure to break free from the inherent confusion involved in their attempts to construct alternative pasts. This failure to escape from the constraints of the dominant discourse ensures Israel's control and domination of the past.


The history of ancient Palestine has been dominated by a single entity, 'ancient Israel'. Possibly the most remarkable aspect of this domination is that it has not been achieved by a powerful political or geographically extensive entity. Palestinian history has been silenced by an entity which in literary terms is extremely small. The sections of the various works associated with the new search from the mid -1980s onward which offer positive constructions of Israel in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition are strikingly brief (see Coote 1991: 42). In Lemche's case, of a work which is nearly five hundred pages long only twenty-four pages are devoted to his alternative explanation of Israel's origins which he terms 'evolutionary Israel'. This would rise to forty-nine pages if his discussion of the archaeological evidence was included. Similarly, Coote and Whitelam (1987: 117-38) only devote twenty-one pages to the 'emergence of Israel' out of 188. Thompson (1992a) is more difficult to quantify because his proposals are dispersed throughout a wide-ranging review of scholarly discussions and archaeological data, although again it is a tiny percentage of a massive study. The bulk of these works is not given over to the exploration of Palestinian history but to the analysis of anthropological and historical parallels, the results of excavations and surveys, and reviews of previous scholarship. Yet in all this the focus is firmly on the search for ancient Israel while the idea of a Palestinian history remains confined in the background.

The welcome reassessment of the Persian and Hellenistic periods as the temporal locus for the development and crystallization of much of the biblical material has also opened up a consideration of the ideologies which have shaped these narratives. What has been ignored, to a large extent, is the ideological shaping of the history of the region by contemporary political and religious ideologies. The cross-examination of ancient sources to determine their trustworthiness has been unaware of or chosen to ignore the political, economic, and theological factors which have shaped contemporary scholarship. Thompson rightly acknowledges the importance of understanding Israelite and Palestinian history as part of the general cultural heritage, particularly in the context of 'current political developments'. This, I think, encapsulates the problem which has been the central concern of this book: the problem that contemporary struggles for land and national identity between Israel and the Palestinians remain unspoken in biblical studies, or at the most, as in Thompson's concluding statement, raised in muted tones. These 'current political developments' remain unspecified. Biblical scholarship has refused to acknowledge or face the problem of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. The question of the modern state of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians has been too delicate an issue to be raised in the discourse of biblical studies. It threatens at times to surface but each time it is successfully prevented. The enterprise which has been begun in the last few years to revise understandings of the history of ancient Israel and to develop Palestinian history as a subject in its own right freed from biblical studies will not be achieved unless this crucial issue of the political nature of the past and the Orientalist nature of the discourse of biblical studies is addressed explicitly.

Davies, however, is attuned to some of the ideological aspects of the construction of the past and their implications:

Exporting a literary construct and dumping it into Iron Age Palestine has succeeded in creating a 'history of ancient Israel'. But it has also interfered with the real history of Palestine, which now has a cuckoo in the nest. For of course, as I remarked earlier, there was a population of Iron Age Palestine, including a kingdom called Israel, and real people lived there, real kings ruled, real wars took place and real transportations, in and out, were practised by conquering armies and sovereigns. These are the people and societies whose relics archaeologists discover when they dig for 'ancient Israel'. If it is clear that biblical scholars are not writing their history, who will write it? Who will write the history of a people whose real character has been obliterated by a literary construct? If what I am saying is right, biblical scholarship is guilty of retrojective imperialism, which displaces an otherwise unknown and uncared-for population in the interests of an ideological construct.

-- Davies 1992: 31

Biblical scholarship is not just involved in 'retrojective imperialism', it has collaborated in an act of dispossession, or at the very least, to use Said's phrase, 'passive collaboration' in that act of dispossession. The construction of the literary entity 'ancient Israel', to which Davies refers, has silenced the history of the indigenous peoples of Palestine in the early Iron Age. He points out how biblical scholars have long assumed that there is no difference between 'ancient Israel' and the population of Iron Age central Palestine: 'Certainly, no biblical scholar has ever explicated that distinction' (1992: 32). It is the explication of that distinction which needs to be undertaken if the idea of a history of ancient Palestine is to be achieved. But it cannot be undertaken until the ideological influences which are inherent in all historical narratives are acknowledged and confronted. The failure to make this distinction clear, the failure to acknowledge that the constructions of the past which have dominated the discourse of biblical studies for the past century or more are shaped by political and social locations, has ensured the silencing of Palestinian history.
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

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The right to represent the history of ancient Palestine for the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages, along with many other periods, has been claimed by Theology and Religion through the discourse of biblical studies. It is the continuation of a right claimed by European travellers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For the last two centuries, Palestinian history has become one of the many 'excluded' histories as a result of the stranglehold on the study of Palestine and the ancient Near East which biblical specialists, historians, and archaeologists, have exerted (see Bowerstock 1988: 164). The consequence of this has been that Palestinian history has been denied a place in Western academic discourse. Europe's strategic concern with Palestine coincided with its quest for the roots of its own civilization as identified with ancient Israel and the Bible. Biblical scholars accepting, in broad outline, the construction of the past offered by biblical traditions began the search for Israel's physical presence among the monuments and ruins of the land. What they found, or were predisposed to find, was an Israel which resembled their own nation states: Israel was presented as an incipient nation state in search of a national homeland in which to express its national consciousness. Throughout the present century, this projection of ancient Israel has come to dominate and control the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. It is a representation of the past which was given added urgency and authority with the rise of the Zionist movement, an essentially European enterprise, whose own history was seen to mirror ancient Israel's conquest of the land followed by the founding of a nation state which soon dominated the region. Here in broad outline is a master narrative whose essential outline, part of the 'assured results' of biblical studies, remained unchallenged until the 1970s, despite the reformulation of various details. There might be questions as to the nature of ancient Israel, the manner in which it acquired the land, but for the discourse of biblical studies there was no question that this was Israel's past and Israel's land. The right of the indigenous population to the land or its own history was not a meaningful question in the context.

The presentation of this past, through its constant repetition by the major figures in the field and in academic and popular handbooks, assumed a reality that was difficult to question. This reality was manifested for countless undergraduate and graduate students, professional academics, and interested lay readers in the 'massed histories', to adapt Said's phrase (1994b: 26), which culminated in the publishing frenzy of the 1970s and 1980s. Most of these 'biblical histories' of ancient Israel repeated or paraphrased the accounts in the Hebrew Bible. They were in the words of Davies (1991: 14) 'an essentially midrashic historiography, in which rationalistic glosses are introduced into a paraphrase of the biblical story'. Yet the growing unease with the viability of such projects, represented in the criticisms of Davies, coincided with this publishing boom in new and revised histories. The fracturing of the contexts in which these narratives had been constructed (Sasson 1981), along with other shifts taking place in the discipline, helped to expose the extent to which this imagined past had been constructed on the basis of models of contemporary experience. The break-up of the Soviet Union, the debates on the future and unity of Europe, and, particularly, the Palestinian intifada have all contributed to the continued fracturing of perspectives which had been influential in the construction of this dominant narrative.

The growth of post-colonialist histories, however, has had remarkably little effect upon the historiographic enterprise of biblical studies. The stranglehold on the past achieved by European scholarship has been maintained by American and Israeli scholarship in the latter part of the century in projecting this as the period of Israel's emergence and dominance as a major state in the region. Said (1992: xvi) has pointed out the extent to which modern Israel, since its founding in 1948, has enjoyed an astonishing dominance in scholarship, as well as many other areas. The investment of vast resources, intellectual and financial, in the search for ancient Israel has no counterpart in the pursuit of Palestinian history for the same or any subsequent periods. The theological and political motivations behind the search in the West and in Israel have combined to deny the claims of the indigenous population to representation in history. The history of ancient Palestine is a subject that has been excluded by Theology and ignored by History. The pursuit of post-colonialist history, the attempt to give voice to the many histories that have been deemed not to be part of officially sanctioned narratives, is not just a case of 'kicking the dead dragon of colonialism', as Gellner (1992: 47) claims. Colonialism is not dead while the assumptions of superiority and the right of force which inspired it are inscribed in the rhetoric of the discourse of biblical studies, a rhetoric which has been taken up and reinforced in Israeli scholarship after 1948. It is this rhetoric which has been allowed to shape the imagined past of Late Bronze-Iron Age Palestine. It has produced and continues to defend a construction of the past which devalues indigenous cultures and histories. The rhetoric of biblical studies, just like the rhetoric of modern Zionism, refuses to acknowledge the inherent value of indigenous culture and its right to its own history.

The struggle for 'the permission to narrate' (Said 1994a: 247-68) a modern Palestinian narrative, a struggle carried on by Antonius, Muslih, Tibawi, Khalidi, Abu-Lughod, and Said, among many others, has failed to retrieve the ancient past from the stranglehold of the West and Israel. This is epitomized in Bowerstock's (1988: 184) assessment that the Roman and Byzantine periods have enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the region in an attempt to restore part of this excluded history. He characterizes this as the era from the end of the 'Biblical period' to the coming of Mohammed. Noticeably the Palestinian past of the 'biblical period', the period prior to the Roman and Byzantine era, has been abandoned to Israel and the West. The invented Israel of the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages has cast its shadow of influence backwards to claim previous periods as its 'prehistory'. It is part of the elaborate evolutionary scheme, whether temporal, political, or religious, which has informed and aided the displacement of ancient Palestinian history. Said's complaint about the contemporary situation is equally applicable to the construction and representation of the ancient past:

Thus Israel can make claims for its historical presence based on its timeless attachment to a place, and supports its universalism by absolutely rejecting, with tangible military force, any other historical or temporal (in this case Arab Palestinian) counter-claims.

-- Said 1994a: 17

Biblical studies has formed part of the complex arrangement of scholarly, economic, and military power by which Palestinians have been denied a contemporary presence or history. As we have seen, countless scholars have referred to the area in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages as Palestine, including a 'Palestinian economy', 'Palestinian highlands', or 'Palestinian coastline', but the population have remained anonymous or described by some ethnic label which reinforces the evolutionary assumption that they have been supplanted and surpassed by Israel. Said complains that one of the greatest successes of Zionism has been 'the absence of a major history of Arab Palestine and its people. It is as if the Zionist web of detail and its drama choked off the Palestinians, screening them not only from the world but from themselves as well' (Said 1994a: 35). However, the silence of history is even more profound than Said appears to appreciate. His concern is with the modern history of Palestine as a counter-narrative to Zionist or Zionist-influenced histories dealing with the eighteenth century to the present. But Europe's search for itself, taken up and reinforced by Zionism seeking to legitimize its roots in the past, has removed the Palestinian claim to the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. This removal is so thorough that the idea of a history of ancient Palestine is not even contemplated by contemporary writers concerned with countering Zionist histories of the present. The oppressive weight of silence pervades the whole of biblical studies. Any recognition of the context in which biblical historians and archaeologists work, the contemporary struggle for land and self-determination, is absent. When it does appear it is couched in the form of regret or anguish for this troubled land and a hope for peace for its peoples. Yet it is a recognition of the realities and implications of the political struggle between Israel and the Palestinians which is not allowed to impinge upon the presentation of (objective) academic discourse. The implications of the construction of Israelite history for the contemporary struggle remain largely unarticulated, except for a few notable exceptions. It is epitomized in Silberman's (1989; 1992) recognition of the political implications of Albright's or Yadin's work but his failure to address the same issues in reviewing more recent hypotheses of Israelite origins (Silberman 1992). [1]

The power of the discourse of biblical studies to mask these problems has been illustrated in the failure of recent revisionist scholarship to break free of this control of the past. The paradox inherent in the work of Mendenhall and Gottwald is that it promises to give voice to the Palestinian peasantry only for this to be stifled by insisting that the essential nature of Israel is derived from a revolutionary religion or social organization brought from outside allowing Israel to transcend the failure of indigenous social, political, and religious organization. Similarly, faltering attempts to articulate a history of ancient Palestine by Ahlstrom, Lemche, Coote, Thompson, Weippert, and Whitelam are distracted by their continued search for ancient Israel. It is only slowly and begrudgingly recognized that the 'virtual self-evidence' (Foucault) of the network of ideas and assumptions that have sustained the discourse of biblical studies is the product of self-interest and subjectivity. The problems of trying to escape from a dominant discourse, the problem of trying to adopt a different perspective in order to imagine a counter-narrative have been highlighted by Mannheim:

ruling groups can in their thinking become so intensely interest-bound to a situation that they are simply no longer able to see certain facts which would undermine their sense of domination ... the collective unconscious of certain groups obscure the real conditions of society both to itself and to others.

-- Mannheim 1985: 40

The painfully slow, but perceptible, shift towards a regional history of Palestine has been obstructed by the lack of an appropriate rhetoric with which to represent this alternative past. The only rhetoric available has been that of a biblical studies in search of ancient Israel. The theological paradigm of biblical history has been maintained by the consent of biblical specialists located in faculties of theology and seminaries who have contributed to and accepted its claim to the truth (Davies 1992: 15-16). There has been no rhetoric available by which to articulate and pursue the history of ancient Palestine.

The heated reaction to the revisionism of the late 1980s and early 1990s signals that the consensus is beginning to fracture, the master narrative is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and defend. The trend from the 1980s onwards towards slimmer and slimmer volumes or sections of volumes on the history of ancient Israel and Judah, often prefaced by longer prolegomena, indicates that a critical point in the representation of the history of the region has now been reached. In order to give voice to an alternative Palestinian past, to a post-colonial, contrapuntal reading of the ancient Palestinian past, it is vital to construct a rhetoric of Palestinian history.


The earlier discussion of the new search for ancient Israel revealed that a growing number of scholars were questioning the biblically inspired interpretation of archaeological data from surveys and excavations. The domain assumption, since the time of Alt and Albright, that the growth of Palestinian highland settlements was to be identified with Israel had been qualified by the increasing recognition that the inhabitants of these settlements were indigenous. The term 'Israelite' when applied to these settlements has become meaningless; as Thompson (1992a: 310) suggests, it is 'misleading to speak of the term "Israelite" in an archaeological context of Iron I Palestine'. The archaeological data covering the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition and the early Iron Age provide valuable information on the demography, settlement, economy, and social organization of Palestinian society. They say nothing directly of an entity called Israel, even though the Merneptah stele reveals that some entity by that name was in the region. However, Finkelstein's (1991: 53) concession that he is willing to replace the term 'Israelite' with a broader term such as 'hill country settlers' is little more than a rhetorical device which continues to deny Palestinian history. It is noticeable that he does not label these sites as 'Palestinian'; the inhabitants are now anonymous settlers in the highlands. The lack of an appropriate rhetoric with which to articulate a history of ancient Palestine means that the settlement shift has not been understood as part of a general transformation and realignment of Palestinian society which took place at the end of the Late Bronze Age and had far-reaching effects well into the Iron Age.

The search for ancient Israel predisposed historians and archaeologists to emphasize disruptions in material culture as evidence for cultural and ethnic discontinuity. This articulated well with the view that the cultural and ethnic break which had been brought about first by European colonialism and later through Zionist immigration was mirrored in the ancient past. The representation of the Late Bronze Age as a period of dramatic urban collapse and cultural decline to be replaced by a radically new culture which was to give birth to monotheism and the Hebrew Bible appeared to confirm and mirror what was happening in the early decades of the twentieth century. Yet the significance of continuities in material culture, which had long been known by archaeologists working in the region, were ignored or underplayed. The notion of a dramatic break in culture around 1200 BCE further emphasized the understanding of history as the study of discrete events and clearly demarcated temporal units (d. Bloch, 1954: 183-4). The steadily accumulating weight of evidence illustrating the continuities in material culture between Late Bronze and Early Iron Age sites, coupled with a growing unease over the lack of precision of ceramic dating (Fritz, 1987: 86-9), has revealed that the settlement shift of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition was part of a protracted process which needs to be understood in the context of the complex events and forces affecting the whole of the eastern Mediterranean over a century or more. H. Weippert (1988) has drawn attention to the crucial problems of dating in Palestinian archaeology which undermine the discrete periodization of biblically based constructions of this period. Her insistence that different areas of Palestine probably experienced considerably different rates of development (Weippert 1988: 26-7) has been confirmed by T. Dothan's (1989: 1-14) recent-reassessment of the initial appearance and settlement of the Philistines and other Sea Peoples in Palestine. Her findings suggest that the transition period from Late Bronze-Iron I Age was not uniform or simultaneous throughout the country but was characterized by a complex process in which indigenous, Egyptian, and Philistine cultures overlapped for certain periods.

The realignment and transformation of Late Bronze-Iron I society was clearly a very complex process, as we would expect. Since the eastern Mediterranean was a closely interlocking network of different power groups and spatial entities, any structural alterations on such a widespread scale were bound to influence Palestinian society. The disruption of a vast area throughout the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age was bound to effect all levels of social and political activity in Palestine as well. Palestine has occupied a strategic place in the world trade axis, a complex of trade networks which in antiquity linked the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Indian Ocean, throughout history. [2] Yet its position on the transit routes has meant that it has been particularly sensitive to any disruption or decline. The existence of such a closely integrated world economy, in particular in the eastern Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age, also meant that any disruption to part of the trade network influenced other areas. Palestine invariably played a dependent role in trade, since it provided the land bridge, and hub of the waterways, to the infrastructurally more important economies of the major continents. Palestinian urban centres were therefore sensitive and vulnerable to trade cycles and suffered severely from the disruption of the Mycenaean world, whatever the causes may have been. [3] It is not possible, then, to concentrate attention on settlement shifts in the highlands of Palestine at the beginning of the Iron I period without taking adequate account of the structural alterations brought about by changes in the wider network. The decline of trade and economy, along with the many circumstances that attended it, were integral to the transformation of economic, political, and social relations in Palestine.

The growth of highland settlements is the most evident result of the realignment of Palestinian society but it can hardly be described as unique or the result of the intrusion of a new ethnic group. Similar settlement shifts were experienced elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean (Des borough 1972: 19-20; 29; 41; 82; 88; Snodgrass 1971: 34; 40) and have been part of the centuries-long cycle of growth, stagnation, decline, and regeneration in the history of Palestine (Coote and Whitelam, 1987: 27-8; Braudel1972: 34; 53). A central feature of the study of Palestinian history for the period ought to be the investigation of the socio-environmental and economic features of settlements throughout the region. The appearance and use of pillared buildings, silos, cisterns, terracing, and pottery forms such as collared-rim ware are explicable in terms of the topographical and environmental conditions facing the inhabitants of highland and marginal settlements in the context of the disruption of local and regional economies (see also Dever 1991: 83-4). The technological solutions and expertise displayed in the use of cisterns, terracing, or the construction of pillared buildings militate against the view that the population of these sites were nomads in the process of sedentarization (Coote and Whitelam 1987: 123-4). The evidence put forward by Finkelstein, when stripped of the distractions of putative ethnic labels, provides further support for the view that the settlement shift at the end of the Late Bronze Age and beginning of the Iron I period was a reaction to economic disruption which had an impact on all aspects and levels of Palestinian society rather than being the direct result of social conflict brought about by class struggle or external invasion or infiltration.

Historians must await the results of further archaeological research, particularly comprehensive surveys of the lowlands and coastal areas along with comparative excavations of sites of differing sizes in these areas in order to produce a more complete regional picture of the settlement patterns. The lack of comprehensive surveys of all regions of Palestine, and particularly of the lowlands, is a major obstacle in trying to understand the processes at work in the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. London (1989: 42) makes the point that 'until now archaeologists have been comparing rural sites in the hill country with urban sites in the lowlands and then attributing the differences to Israelite versus Canaanite communities. The differences may be more indicative of rural versus urban lifestyles.' [4] The existence of villages on the exposed edge of the highlands, or other villages with or without outer defences, indicates that social conflict was only part of the processes which explain the shift in settlement. Progress in this field is now even more dependent upon the continued publication and judgements of archaeologists, so that historians can interpret the material in a comparative interdisciplinary context. Yet an important part of the investigation must include the exposure of the particularity of the data, the motives and interests which have informed the scholarly enterprise, both its design of research strategies and the subsequent presentation and interpretation of the data.

The same type of investigation also needs to be undertaken for subsequent periods of the Iron Age in order to free the study of the region from the stranglehold of biblical historiography. The so-called period of the united monarchy needs to be fundamentally reassessed. The mirage of the Davidic 'empire', the retrojection of the modern state of Israel into the Iron Age, has completely distorted the representation of the history of the region. The spread of settlement in the Iron Age ought to be viewed as part of a continuum with the transformation and realignment of Palestinian society resulting from the dislocations of the Late Bronze-Iron Age transition. Historians have failed to investigate the processes involved in this settlement shift, with its accompanying destruction, abandonment, or fortification of sites. They have rarely been concerned to investigate what evidence there is to suggest centralization or the existence of a major state in the region. Instead the monopolistic claims of the Hebrew Bible have been allowed to dictate any construction of the past. There has been an indecent haste to correlate archaeological findings with the biblical traditions, to identify a destruction level with some battle mentioned in the Bible, or to associate the fortification of a site with the building programme of some Judaean or Israelite king who is given a few verses in the Deuteronomistic History. Socio-environmental factors, the fluctuations in economic cycles, have been ignored in favour of the seemingly easy option of accepting, or supplementing, the construction of the past offered by writers of the Hebrew Bible.

What is fascinating about the Hebrew Bible is that it appears to contain competing conceptions of the past, particularly in the Deuteronomistic History and Chronicles, which suggest competing presents. Yet, above all, it gives access to the privileged conception of reality of a literate stratum of society revealing little or nothing of what Hobsbawm terms the 'sub-literate culture' or the deep-seated movements of history. As such, its value as a source for the historian is not so much in terms of the past it purports to describe but as an insight into the perception or self-perception of the literate stratum of society, mainly in the Persian and Hellenistic periods. It is important, therefore, as much for what it chooses to leave out as for what it includes. If as historians we choose to accept the testimony of this version of the past, then we participate in helping to silence other past realities. We know, for instance, that the pastoral-nomadic element has been a constant in the social continuum of the region. Yet this element of society does not form part of the self-perception of those responsible for the development of the traditions. While nomads may have been a constant in the history of the region, their part in the past, and so the present, has been silenced by the literate elite of the second Temple period, or whoever is responsible for this construction of this past. Furthermore, these traditions tell us little or nothing of how Israel and Judah or the region in general was linked to the wider economy, whether Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, or Roman. Nor is it informative of demography, settlement patterns, or economic trends, the best indicators of the deep-seated movements of history which provide the wider perspective from which to view the short-term trends that are the inevitable focus of our literary deposits. This will be misunderstood or misrepresented as the denial of Israelite history, as the fierce debate on the Tel Dan stele already indicates. Yet it is not a denial of the existence of Israelite and Judaean monarchies: it is an attempt to redress the balance whereby Israelite and Judaean history has been presented as the history of the region rather than as a part of a history of ancient Palestine.

The same process needs to be applied to later Persian and Hellenistic periods, where, for example, the claims to the past of the tiny province of Yehud have been allowed to silence virtually all other competing claims (Davies 1992: 58). The danger inherent in the reassessment of the Persian and Hellenistic periods is that the methodological mistakes of the past will simply be repeated here. There is a danger that as the starting point of Israelite history is pushed back even further, the Persian period will come to represent one more (temporary) plug to fill the gap. The location of the biblical traditions in the Persian and Hellenistic periods, rather than in the periods of emergence or monarchy, allows the discourse of biblical studies to continue to claim the past for Israel. The insistence of this discourse that written texts form the basis for writing history means that the methodological circularity of the earlier search for Israel is likely to be transferred to the Persian period. The literary construct that is 'ancient Israel', which has obscured the history of ancient Palestine in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages, will be allowed to achieve the same objective for later periods. The tiny province of Yehud (Ahlstrom 1993: 843-4) has been allowed to monopolize and dominate discussions of the period. It is a period desperately in need of reassessment in order to free Palestinian history from the tyranny of the discourse of biblical studies.

A rhetoric of Palestinian history would also provide a much more positive appreciation of the material and cultural achievements of the inhabitants of the region as a whole. The evolutionary scheme which has presupposed the replacement of Canaanite by Israelite culture has detracted from the aesthetic and cultural qualities exhibited in the rich deposits of ceramics, faience, glass, jewellery, etc., evidenced throughout Palestine. The discovery of female figurines and statuettes in the different levels at many Palestinian sites is invariably presented as evidence of a widespread fertility cult. [5] The implication is that the degenerate and immoral indigenous religions have been replaced by a monotheism: a monotheism which is conceived as the basis of Western civilization. In the same way, Israel has replaced the indigenous population, the Canaanites. Little thought is given to the aesthetic qualities of the representation and modelling of the human form or what that might reveal about the values or achievements of the artist or the society of which she or he was a part. The positive elements of indigenous religious systems, the concern for the marginalized and underprivileged or the notion of harmony, are masked by the representation of a static and degenerate culture which must inevitably be replaced. The lack of an appropriate rhetoric to represent indigenous cultural achievements has meant that the only rhetoric available has been adopted: a rhetoric which is designed to denigrate any cultural achievement which is not thought to have been derived from Israelite religion which formed the basis of later Judaism and Christianity.

We have concentrated on the two defining moments for biblical studies because it is these two periods which have represented Israel's control of the past. The 'first moment of true civilization', as Dharwadker (1993: 175) has pointed out, takes on a crucial significance in the history of any people. It is historically and historiographically the key moment which, if understood in its totality, provides the basis for understanding all subsequent history. The periods of the 'emergence' of Israel in Palestine and the development of an Israelite state have been accorded that status in biblical studies. They define the essential nature of Israel, its sense of national identity, which is portrayed as unchanging throughout subsequent periods of history connecting the past with the present. The construction of the past, then, is a struggle over the definition of historical and social identity. If we can alter the perspective from which these are viewed to show that the discourse of biblical studies has invented a past, often mirroring its many presents, then it will be possible to free Palestinian history and progress toward a rhetoric which will allow alternative constructions of the past. It will also free previous and subsequent periods of the region from control by Israel's past.


The production of a 'master story' of ancient Israel has formed part of a theological enterprise conducted mainly in faculties of theology and divinity in the West. Said makes a very telling point about the audience of scholarship: 'None of the Orientalists I write about seems ever to have intended an Oriental as reader. The discourse of Orientalism, its internal consistency and rigorous procedures, were all designed for readers and consumers in the metropolitan West' (Said 1995: 4). This is equally true of the intended and actual audiences of the outpouring of works on the history of ancient Israel, those works reviewed in chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5. They are not addressed to a Palestinian or non-Western, non-Israeli audience. The audience furthermore is principally Christian and Jewish. 'Orientalism was', in the words of Prakash (1990: 384), 'a European enterprise from the very beginning: Biblical studies has been part of, and in many ways an extension of, Orientalist discourse. At no point is the intended reader shown to be Palestinian or any other non-Western reader; they are European, American, and Israeli. These histories are couched in the language of reasonableness, of a profaned detached objectivity. Yet as part of that wider interlocking discourse of Orientalism they are implicated in the politics of representation. The indigenous cultures of Palestine are represented as incapable of unified action, national consciousness, or outright immorality. They are often anonymous, rarely named as Palestinians, the opposite of the sophisticated, rational, objective Westerners who have a clear notion of their own national identity. This has been reinforced during this century in the growth of Israeli scholarship which continues the theme of Israel as set apart from its environment, bringing civilization and progress to the region, and achieving a level of political development of which the indigenous groups were incapable. Biblical studies, as a discipline, has evolved a rhetoric of representation which has been passed down without examination, which has dispossessed Palestinians of a land and a past. It is a discourse of power; seen from a non-Western, and particularly Palestinian, perspective, this discourse has excluded the vast majority of the population of the region in a search for Europe's and, latterly, modern Israel's roots in the past. It is also a discourse which through its location in faculties of Theology and Divinity has been given the full weight and authority of Western universities.

The question remains, however, as to where such a history of ancient Palestine, and with it the histories of Israel and Judah, will be located. If it is no longer to be excluded from the discourse of history, if it is to form part of the contested versions of the past, it has to have a location from which it can be pursued. The location of alternative narratives of the past is crucial, therefore, since it is an acknowledgement of the permission to narrate. If Palestinian history is to be freed from the tyranny of the discourse of biblical studies, it must be freed from the theological constraints which have governed the history of the region. This means that an alternative location, outside the confines of biblical studies, will need to be found. Palestinian history has to be recognized as a subject in its own right, as part of the study of history and 'cultural studies discourse', if it is to be given a voice of its own to challenge the invention of ancient Israel and to contest the past of the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages.

Liberation movements of the twentieth century have given voice to the marginalized and underprivileged of society and history. One of the ironies of Said's Orientalism is that, though it focuses upon the Middle East, its greatest success in terms of reclaiming the past has been achieved by Indian historiography. Yet there is no body of comparable material which offers a critique of the Orientalist assumptions of the discourse of biblical studies or ancient Near Eastern history, for instance, even though Said himself acknowledges that biblical studies is part of the Orientalist enterprise (1985: 17, 18, 51). Whereas the past has become a contested territory in so many other fields of study, in so many other areas of history, this has not been the case in biblical studies. The struggle for the Palestinian past is only just beginning. For it to succeed, it will be necessary to expose the political and religious interests which have motivated the invention of ancient Israel within the discourse of biblical studies. It will also need to create its own space, in order to produce its own contested narrative of the past, thereby helping to restore the voice of an indigenous population which has been silenced by the invention of ancient Israel.

The Subaltern project has been successful in challenging dominant models of Indian historiography, drawn from its colonial past, because it has been able to claim an academic context from which to work and from which to subvert 'official' narratives. It has also created a forum, Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society, to present and develop its research strategies and findings. The scholars involved in this movement have been located, to a large extent, in departments of History. They have been contesting both an ancient and a modern space. By contrast, attempts to articulate a history of ancient Palestine, to challenge the dominant narratives of ancient Israelite history, have come from biblical specialists located in departments of Biblical Studies. If Palestinian history is to be freed from the constraints of biblical studies, which it must if it is to have a voice, it will need to create its own space or contest the current spaces available. It is not clear where this space might reside which will allow the permission to narrate ancient Palestinian history. To begin with, the contest will take place within current academic locations, within departments of Biblical Studies and its cognate subjects, which means by and large within departments and faculties of Theology. The reason for this is because the most immediate task is the need for self-reflection of its practitioners on the development of biblical studies in the context of the colonial enterprise. The task is to demonstrate the politics of biblical scholarship and its construction of the past. It will require an investigation of the archival materials which exist in order to allow a complete reappraisal of the motives and interests which have been masked in the public writings of the discipline.

Only after that task has been undertaken with sufficient rigour will it be possible to prise ancient Palestinian history from the grasp of the vested interests which have helped to silence it for so long. Yet the question of its location remains crucial. There is no forum within the discipline, comparable with Subaltern Studies, which permits the narration of this history. Nor is it granted permission to narrate within departments of History. In order for the idea to be realized, it will be necessary to break free from the confines of biblical studies and try to claim its rightful location within the academic discourse of history which has ignored it as part of the biblically based history of ancient Israel. The principal challenge, however, still remains to (re)discover the rich cultural heritage of ancient Palestine which testifies, through its written texts and traditions (including the Hebrew Bible), ceramics and artifacts, monuments and material remains, to the achievements of its many peoples. It is, surely, an idea worth pursuing.
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Fri Nov 23, 2018 1:09 am

Part 1 of 2



1 Prakash (1990: 401) states that 'rather than seeing these events as important because they were well regarded in the past, it interrogates the past's self-evaluation ... The purpose of such disclosures is to write those histories that history and historiography have excluded.'

2 See Dever (1985; 1992) for the background to the debate and relevant literature. He has claimed of late that 'Syro-Palestinian archaeology' has come of age (Dever 1993).

3 A search of recent titles in International Dissertation Abstracts reveals than an increasing number of Ph.D. theses within biblical studies and cognate areas now contain the word 'Palestine' in their titles compared with Israel or ancient Israel. It is not clear whether this signals a radical shift in approach or not. The use of the terms 'Palestine' or 'Palestinian' is no guarantee that Palestinian history has been given a voice. Chapter 2 will deal with the ways in which these terms have often been emptied of meaning thereby denying the notion of Palestinian history.

4 See Whitelam (1995b) for a consideration of this shift and the ways in which the so-called 'sociological approach' to Israelite history has helped in exposing the need for the pursuit of Palestinian history.

5 Thompson (1992b) sees a strong influence from Chicago and Tubingen. However, he rightly sees this as a convergence of different scholars drawn from biblical studies, archaeology, and semitics rather than a separate approach. For the view that it has emerged particularly in a European context in association with European scholars and those who have close connections with Europe, see Whitelam (1995b).

6 See chapter 1 for the importance of the concept of 'deep time'. Viewed from this perspective, ancient Israel represents but a moment in the larger context of Palestinian history.

7 This is not to privilege 'third world' nationalist traditions but rather to suggest that it is important to have competing formulations of history from all perspectives. Said points out that:

But only recently have Westerners become aware that what they have to say about the history and the cultures of 'subordinate' peoples is challengeable by the people themselves, people who a few years back were simply incorporated, culture, land, history, and all, into the great Western empires, and their disciplinary discourses.

-- Said 1993: 235

Prakash (1990: 399) illustrates that 'national origin is not a necessary requirement for the formulation of a post-Orientalist position' by pointing out that almost all those involved in the Subaltern project are located in India, Britain, and Australia and have had first-world academic training or experience.

8 See the various volumes of Subaltern Studies, edited by Guha, along with selected essays in Guha and Spivak (1988).

9 Said (1992: xii-xiii) notes that 'one of the features of a small non-European people is that it is not wealthy in documents, or in histories, autobiographies, chronicles and the like. This is true of the Palestinians, and it accounts for the lack of a major authoritative text on Palestinian history.' He talks of restoring history to the Palestinians (Said 1988: 17) but still appears to be thinking in terms of modern rather than ancient history. The ancient past also needs to be reclaimed and given voice. It has been obstructed by a scholarship which has constructed a powerful narrative which retains the past for Israel.

10 Claims to write a 'new history' are, of course, relative as references to such enterprises in the 1920s show (see Fogel 1983: 16-17). However, the crucial problem in talking of a new history is not, so much, that of relativism. The question which needs to be answered is that posed by Robert Young (1990: 119): 'But how to write a new history? When, as Cesaire (1972: 54) observed, the only history is white?'

11 Young (1990: 10) points out that Said has criticized world history as practised by Braudel, Wallerstein, Anderson, and Wolf as still derived from the enterprise of Orientalism and its colluding companion anthropology, which has refused to encounter and interrogate its own relationship as a discipline to European imperialism. For Said (1984: 22), the problem is the failure to evaluate the relationship between imperialism and its representation of other cultures resulting in an historicism and 'the universalism and self-validating that has been endemic to it'.


1 Wickham (1990: 4-8) refers to the response of some historians to Aboriginal objections to the Australian bicentennial celebrations as 'a fascist act of intellectual terrorism'. He points out that this illustrates how historical knowledge of Australia is part of the 'History of the Pastness of Australia': this history is untouchable. He argues that such a reaction is in fact hiding behind the past to protect a political objective of a particular 'official' historical knowledge from being contested: this political objective is thelromotion of certain knowledges at the expense of others. Similarly, Sai (1993: 378), in talking about Subaltern Studies, Samuel (1989), and Bernal (1987), makes the point that: 'The idea behind these works is that orthodox, authoritatively national and institutional versions of history tend principally to freeze provisional and highly contestable versions of history into official identities.' Similarly, the standard histories of ancient Israel produced within biblical studies, themselves highly contestable versions of history, have taken on the authority of officially sanctioned constructions of the past.

2 Long (n.d.) made this point in a paper read at the SBL Annual Meeting in San Francisco, November 1992.

3 He goes on to say:

Such attitudes surely underlie Mendenhall's recent and vehement disavowal of connection to Gottwald's magnum opus, which so clearly identified its Marxist orientation and modern social concerns - the issue here is not so much differences of historical interpretation as such (if such an abstraction can ever exist) but rather the polemic in which interpretation is couched and the consequences it bears for religious and political attitudes today.

-- Eden 1989: 291

4 The Gaza-Jericho First accord, recently signed by the PLO and the Israeli government, has led to the setting up of a fledgling Palestinian antiquities authority. However, it will be a considerable time before there can be the substantial financial support for a national archaeology to rival other nation states in the region.

5 Trigger (1984: 368) is undecided as to the most appropriate label for Israeli archaeology since it contains elements of both 'nationalist' and 'colonial' archaeology. He notes that 'Israelis claim substantial historical roots in the land they are occupying'. The implications of this claim for biblical scholarship will be examined in the rest of this study.

6 Silberman describes the importance of Masada in the following terms:

For modern Israelis, deeply concerned with issues of sovereignty and independence, the finds at Masada had long offered a tangible link between the present and the past. The fact that after nearly two thousand years of exile Jews returned to reveal the splendour and the tragedy of an earlier national existence at that remote mountain in the Judaean Desen made Masada a powerful political metaphor.

-- Silberman 1989: 87

Yadin's interpretation of archaeological evidence and his use of Josephus's account have come in for considerable criticism (see, for example, Silberman 1989: 95-9; Cohen 1982).

7 Zerubavel shows how problematic aspects of the account, such as the mass suicide, were ignored or later reinterpreted as a 'patriotic death'. She also notes the development of counter-narratives. See also Schwartz, Zerubavel, and Barnett (1986) on 'the changing nature of the story in Israeli society.

8 Zerubavel (1994: 85) suggests that 'Israeli memory thus reconstructs a coherent temporal continuum between Masada and contemporary Israel: the end of Antiquity symbolically opens up, leading into the beginning of the modern Zionist revival.'

9 He subsequently revised this view (1991: 48-9), recognizing that comprehensive surveys of the lowlands need to be conducted in order to match the work already carried out in the hill country. The dichotomy between 'Israel' and 'Canaan' and the ways in which one supplants the other will be discussed below. This provides an important link between the European appropriation of the Israelite past as the root of its own cultural heritage and Israeli nationalist history. Most 'imperialist archaeology', in Trigger's study (1984: 363-8), emphasizes the primitive and static nature of other cultures in comparison with the rapid development of its own, in this case European, culture. It is Canaanite culture which is presented as static only to be replaced in European and Israeli scholarship by the dynamism of 'ancient Israel'. Trigger notes that the achievements of ancient Near Eastern civilizations were appropriated for Western Europe by claiming that Western Europeans rather than the people who lived in the Near East today were their true spiritual heirs. Israel, as the representative of the European nation state, is presented as replacing the static culture of Canaan in just the same way that European civilization had replaced the static cultures of the Middle East.

10 The literature on the growth of nationalism is immense. See the classic studies by Anderson (1991) and Hobsbawm (1990) for a discussion of the complex issues. Braudel (citing Lestocquoy 1968: 14) says, in the context of his discussion of the development of the unity of France, that:

And yet the modern notion of la patrie, the fatherland, had scarcely appeared in the sixteenth century; the nation took on its first explosive form with the Revolution: and the word nationalism appeared only from the pen of Balzac - when everything was still to be played for.

-- Braudel 1990: 18

11 His observation that there are undoubted historical connections between the new and old Israels is particularly problematic. It is even questionable that there is a direct connection between the entity called Israel in the Merneptah stele at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the monarchic state or later entities in the second Temple period (Whitelam 1994). The widespread belief in a direct continuum between the past of ancient Israel and the modern state is an important rhetorical device which has played a crucial role in silencing Palestinian history.

12 Chakrabarty (1992: 19) asks the intriguing question as to why history is a compulsory part of modern education in all countries including those who did quite comfortably without it until as late as the eighteenth century. He argues that the reason lies in the combination of European imperialism and third-world nationalisms which has resulted in the universalization of the nation state as the most desirable form of political community:

Nation states have the capacity to enforce their truth games, and universities, their critical distance notwithstanding, are part of the battery of institutions compliant in this process. 'Economics' and 'history' are the knowledge forms that correspond to the two major institutions that the rise (and later universalization) of the bourgeois order has given to the world - the capitalist mode of production and the nation state.

-- Chakrabarty 1992: 19

13 Clements (1989: 3; 1983: 122 ff.) and Iggers (1980) also discuss the development of German historiography.

14 We should also remember Ernest Gellner's (1964: 169) well-known dictum that 'nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist'.

15 Thus a history of Palestine must deal with those people, in Said's words (1993: 75), 'on whom the economy and polity sustained by empire depend, but whose reality has not historically and culturally required attention'.

16 Chakrabarty states that a critical historian has to negotiate this knowledge and therefore needs to understand the way in which the state is justified through narrative. He adds that:

Since these themes will always take us back to the universalist propositions of 'modern' (European) political philosophy -- even the 'practical' science of economics that now seems 'natural' to our constructions of world systems is (thus relatively) rooted in the ideas of ethics in eighteenth-century Europe -- a third world historian is condemned to knowing 'Europe' as the original home of the 'modern' whereas the 'European' historian does not share a comparable predicament with regard to the pasts of the majority of humankind.

-- Chakrabarty 1992: 19

17 Davies (1992: 13) points out that attempts to understand the past, usually couched in story form, are never 'an innocent representation of the outside world'. The critical question remains as to why the story is being told.

18 Levinson (1989: 3) remarks that' a reading of the past which is not also and integrally a reflected operation on the present betrays its received historicist premises'. Similarly Davies (1992: 13) emphasizes that historiography, as a branch of literature, is an ideologically motivated form of persuasion which conveys its author.

19 The discussion in the wake of Said's Orientalism has sharpened awareness of the supposed objectivity of Western scholarship. This is a major issue that has not been addressed in biblical studies. Literary critics, who have focused upon the biblical materials, have only addressed questions of subjectivity and authority in the reading of the Bible. However, what remains to be exposed is the role of biblical studies in the colonial enterprise.

Pollock (1993: 85-6) argues that it is the separation of 'fact' from 'value', resulting in the decontextualization and dehistoricization of scholarship, which has allowed 'some of the most deformed scholarship in history to come into existence'. He goes on to make the interesting point about the crisis within Indology which may be relevant to the current crisis in biblical studies:

In other words, if Indological knowledge has historically been coexistent with vanished institutions of coercive power, then the production of such knowledge no longer serves its primary and defining purpose. Our obsession with Orientalism over the past decade might suggest that Indologists, who have begun to realize their historical implication in domination only now that it has ended, no longer know why they are doing what they do.

-- Pollock 1993: 111

This might also help to explain the crisis of confidence in constructing the history of Israel which has emerged in Western biblical scholarship compared with the strong sense of certainty and 'impartiality' in Israeli historical scholarship: Western biblical scholarship has become unsure of its role and function as the West has progressively lost its colonial role compared with Israeli scholarship which is still involved in the colonial experience.

20 It should be noted that Halpern (1988: 3-13) acknowledges that history writing is selective and fictional. The crucial distinction for Halpern is whether or not the author tried to represent the past to the best of his or her ability rather than knowingly trying to deceive the reader about the past. 'History, in sum, is subject to falsification, to argument as to the accuracy of its particulars and the assessment of their interrelation' (1988: 10). The criteria he adduces are as follows: 'But when a stripped-down text does not trade primarily in metaphoric language ... it deserves to be examined as history. Economy, in a political-historical narrative, is one sign of historiographic intentionality' (1988: 13). He believes that although it does not prove what the author intended to write, it does produce evidence of those intentions. Thus he defends Noth's Deuteronomistic Historian as 'a thinker emboldened by honest conviction to impose a meaningful order on his nation's past' (1988: 31) in contrast with van Seters's presentation of 'a rogue and a fraud' (1988: 31).

21 However, note Elton's denial of this analogy with the court of law in his dispute with Fogel on method:

Nor do we examine or cross-examine our evidence as we would deal with a witness, if only because the bulk of our evidence is not provided by people concerned to produce testimony in support of a truth or falsehood: it is produced by people doing things, not observing them or commenting on them. At best, therefore, the legal model covers only a small part of the traditional historian's area of operations, and even at its best it is a poor representation of what actually goes on when an historian evaluates his evidence and seeks to prove his case.

-- Elton 1983: 92

22 Samuel and Thompson (1990: 4), following Tonkin's (1990) analysis, note the 'failure to recognize rationalistic realism as the special myth of Western culture'.

23 I owe this point to Burke Long (n.d.) who made the observation in a paper read to the SBL Annual Meeting in San Francisco, November 1992.

24 It is highly questionable that a few scattered inscriptions and graffiti testify to widespread literacy in ancient Israel, as some have claimed. Harris (1989) focuses on Greek and Roman literacy, raising important questions about general literacy levels in antiquity. As is well known from a variety of studies (Goody 1968; Cipolla 1969; Ong 1982), widespread literacy is dependent upon a complex set of interrelationships backed by very significant centralized or government investment, as in Japan after the Meiji Restoration or in Cuba and Nicaragua (Harris 1989: 11-12). Harris notes that major historiographical works do not emerge in the Greek world until the fifth century BCE. This is to be contrasted with a general assumption in biblical studies that major historiographical works appeared at the court of David in the tenth century BCE. The role of urban centres in the spread of literacy and the development of historiographical works needs to be considered more carefully. The work of Harris (1989) points to the importance of the Persian and Hellenistic periods for exploring the development of biblical historiography as van Seters, Davies, Lemche, and Thompson have been arguing.

25 This was part of a published interview in Woman's Own (October 1987).

26 Gould (1987: 2) discusses the significance of McPhee's (1980) term for geological research.

27 Bohannan (1967: 327-9) points out that the Tiv of Nigeria do not by and large correlate events or a period of time beyond a generation or two. There is no desire to indicate time in the distant past with any greater accuracy than for the future. Pocock (1967: 304) examines the problem when people know that they have changed and continue, nevertheless, to live in a world whose values depend upon immutability: 'Here we have a choice: either we credit these people with an immense capacity for self-deception, an ability to live in permanent contradiction with their experience, or we must re-examine the assumptions in the light of which these facts constitute a problem.' The critical issue, however, is the anthropological use of time. See Fabian (1983) for a critique of the ideological use of time in social anthropology. Chapter 2 will deal with this problem in relation to Palestinian history.

28 Lord (1965: 29) reminds us that 'the picture that emerges is not really one of a conflict between preserver of tradition and creative artist, it is rather one of the preservation of tradition by the constant recreation of it'.

29 As Tonkin (1990: 25) notes: 'Myth is a representation of the past which historians recognize, but generally not as an alternative to proper history. I think we should dissolve this dichotomy.' Myth is often understood as a story about the gods or a story-like representation of the past to illustrate an important if unverifiable truth. See, for instance, Hughes (1990: 3) who complains that many biblical scholars refuse to use the term 'myth' in relation to the Bible because it is commonly defined as stories about gods whereas the Hebrew Bible is presented as non- mythical and monotheistic. He argues that the biblical chronology is essentially mythical in that 'it uses historical fiction to express ideological beliefs'. Anyone who has tried to define the term 'myth' will be aware of the problems involved. Rogerson (1974: 174) emphasizes the 'multidimensional nature' of myth and advises following Levi-Strauss in not offering a formal definition. However, the problem remains the continued use of the term in opposition to history, implying that history is objective and value free by contrast to the ideologically generated myths of ancient societies.

30 They go on to add:

In the same spirit, we can re-examine just how collective myths claim and reshape the past for themselves. We need as historians to consider myth and memory, not only as special clues to the past, but equally as windows on the making and remaking of individual collective consciousness in which both fact and fantasy, past and present, each has its part. They admit us a rare view of these crucial processes, which we have so far neglected: to the possibility of a better understanding of a continuing struggle over the past which goes forward, always with uncertain outcome, into the future.

-- Samuel and Thompson 1990: 21

31 See Whitelam (1989) for a study of the different origin traditions in the Hebrew Bible as representations of factional disputes over the right to the land in the second Temple period.

32 See Whitelam (1995b) for a discussion of the labels 'sociological approach' and 'sociological school' in recent biblical scholarship as misnomers.

33 Garbini (1988: 51) argues that without the use of external documentation it is impossible to identify where the biblical narratives are sound. Thus, without adequate extrabiblical sources, it is impossible to write a history of Israel. However, Garbini does not appear to appreciate the significant difference that recent literary study has made to the discipline and the difficulties of using the texts for historical reconstruction.

34 The phrase ought to be reserved for discussions concerning the historical development of the biblical texts themselves rather than as a label for the discussion of the history of the communities which gave rise to the literature.

35 Chakrabarty (1992: 1) points out the ambivalence in any such exercise:

It is that insofar as the academic discourse of history - that is, 'history' as a discourse produced at the institutional site of the university -- is concerned, 'Europe' remains the sovereign, theoretical subject of all histories, including the ones we call 'Indian', 'Chinese', 'Kenyan'. and so on. There is a peculiar way in which all these other histories tend to become variations on a master narrative that could be called 'the history of Europe'. In this sense, 'Indian' history itself is in a position of subalternity; one can only articulate subaltern subject positions in the name of this history.

-- Chakrabarty 1992: 1


1 Said (1994a: 413-20) provides a critique of the Gaza-Jericho agreement which leaves the Palestinians without sovereignty or freedom.

2 Davies (1992: 23 n. 2) argues for the use of the term 'Palestine' while rejecting the common alternative 'land of Israel' on the basis that the former has been in use since the Assyrian period and the latter is unsuitable because only a small part of the region was occupied for a short time by a state of 'Israel'. He goes on to add that he disclaims 'interest in any political argument in this book'. However, the present work hopes to show that scholarship cannot disclaim such interest since the choice of terminology carries very important political implications.

3 The collection of essays edited by Miller, Hanson, and McBride (1987) indicates the re-evaluation of Israelite religion which is now taking place. Dever (1987) and Coogan (1987) illustrate the crucial links between Israelite and 'Canaanite', i.e. indigenous Palestinian, religion. Lemche (1984; 1988) has emphasized the religion of Israel as an indigenous phenomenon.

4 Inden (1986: 405; 1990: 50) points out how Western Europe saw the Semitic Near East and Aryan Persia as monotheistic and individualistic cultures similar to the West in contrast to the Far East of India, China and Japan. He cites Campbell (1962) as a classic example of the belief that the civilizations of the ancient Near East were culturally continuous with the West. This cultural continuity does not extend, however, to ancient Palestinian culture.

5 This is a frequent representation and justification of the modern state of Israel. Reifenberg (1955) presents a classic example of the view that it is the modern state which restores an ancient civilization following the supposed decline during the Ottoman period. There are numerous critiques of views which have ignored the size and role of the indigenous population in Palestine prior to and after the Zionist movement and subsequent establishment of the modern state of Israel (Khalidi 1984; Abu-Lughob 1987; Said 1992: 7-9). Hutteroth and Abdulfattah (1977) provide a more positive assessment of the Ottoman period.

6 Similarly, Edelman (1991: 3-6) uses the term 'Cisjordan' in an attempt to find neutral terminology to describe the region. As we have seen, however, no terminology which defines space can be said to be neutral.

7 Baly (1984) discusses the relationship 0 geography to history in the Persian period in a volume in the Cambridge History of Judaism series. Although the article was published in 1984, it was completed by 1973. He refers to 'Palestine proper, that is, the area of effective Jewish settlement' (1984: 2) as stretching from Dan to Beersheba and Joppa to Jordan. He contrasts this with the whole 'Palestine area' which ranges from Dan to Ezion-geber and Jaffa to Philadelphia (modern Amman).

8 The use of terminology to define time has profound implications for any understanding of Palestinian history. This will be treated in the following section.

9 The same phrase was also used in the government White Paper of 1939 (Laqueur and Rabin 1981: 68). A similar phrase, a 'natural home in the ancestral land', appears in the Zionist reaction to the White Paper in a statement prepared by the Jewish Agency for Palestine in 1939 (Laqueur and Rabin 1981: 76-7).

10 It is noticeable that the various respondents at the conference chose to ignore the arguments advanced by Dothan, concentrating instead on a presentation by Redford on Egyptian influence on the region. This tends to suggest that this is an issue that is usually seen as too sensitive to address: the problem of the political implications of the discourse of biblical studies for contemporary disputes over the land is a problem that remains unspoken. Seger (1985: 158) was a noticeable exception in rejecting Dothan's terminology on the grounds that 'these changes emphasize ethnic associations which are archaeologically the most difficult to adequately identify and assess'.

11 It should be noted that Baly refers to 'Palestinian communities' (1984: 2) and 'the Palestine population' (1984: 20) in his discussion of the Persian period.

12 This has been cited by Said (1992: 79) and taken from an unpublished dissertation by Miriam Rosen, 'The Last Crusade: British Archaeology in Palestine'. I have been unable to obtain a copy of her work.

13 Golda Meir's famous denial in 1969 of the existence of Palestinians (Said 1992: 4-5) is echoed in Peters's (1984) attempts to remove them from history.

14 Ackroyd (1987: 248) has remarked on the misleading and inaccurate uses of such terms as 'Exile' and 'Restoration'. The term 'Exile', as he points out, is tendentious and encourages assumptions based on a dangerously simple reading of the biblical texts. Such terms perpetuate a biblically based view of the region in which the vast majority of the inhabitants are ignored.

15 For the presentation of Indian history as static, see Inden (1986: 423).

16 The Annalistes conception of history as related to the problem of recreating the history of early Israel has been outlined by Whitelam (1986: 45-70). Miller (1987: 57 n. 3) believes that this is an overly optimistic enterprise which sets out an unrealistic agenda.

17 Braudel borrowed this concept from Wolfram Eberhard (1965: 13).

18 Foucault (1984: 87) criticizes the notion of 'total history' as claiming to be able to present the past as a completed development which can be grasped as a whole while standing outside history itself.

19 He does make the important point that much of the independence of the state which existed in the region for roughly ten per cent of the time under review was illusory (1984: 2). The question of an independent Israelite state in ancient Palestine will be examined in chapter 4.

20 Iggers (1979: 10) notes that it has been the ambition of the Annales historians to lay the foundations of a 'globaVtotal' history of a region of larger geographical whole such as the Mediterranean. It is the underlying material forces of the interactions between the population and economic factors which provided the unifying elements of such a study rather than politics or ideology. McNeill (1961: 30; 45; 1982: 75-89) is a proponent of 'world history' which offers a panoramic view by which to discover rhythms and patterns which are not discernible from a detailed study of the different segments of history. However, the criticisms of Said and Foucault need to be borne in mind in order not to divest Palestine of inherent value thereby continuing its exclusion from historical discourse.

21 Davies believes that Miller and Hayes (1986) represents the pinnacle of biblical histories since it is unlikely that this particular kind of history can be written much better. He goes on to add:

The way forward -- if it exists -- would seem to lie with the (combined) methods of the social sciences: sociology, anthropology and archaeology. The results will invert the status of the biblical literature: instead of asking how the history can be explained from the literature, we must ask how the literature can be explained from the history. If literary study is turning its face away from history, concentrating on what is in, not behind, the text, there yet remains a legitimate task for the historian, but this task will be increasingly divorced from literary criticism.

-- Davies 1987: 4

Gunn also believes that the study of history will proceed in a similar manner. He predicts that 'The results will be nothing like a what-happened- next history, its periodization will be broad, and it will depend upon literary criticism (including structuralist criticism) for its appropriation of texts' (Gunn 1987: 67).
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

Postby admin » Fri Nov 23, 2018 1:09 am

Part 2 of 2


Asad (1975: 274; see also Said 1994a: 85) criticizes A. Cohen's study of Arab Border-Villages in Israel for its use of the hamula to emphasize that Arab villages in Israel were only collections of village clans incapable of national identity. Cohen (1965: 149) argues that a number of factors prevented the development of a united Arab political front particularly as 'the Arabs in Israel do not constitute a united, integrated, community'. This representation of contemporary political organization, or lack of it, is mirrored within the discourse of biblical studies.

2 This body of archaeological data and its implications for the realization of a history of ancient Palestine will be considered in the next chapter.

3 The collection of articles in Biblical Archaeologist (1993) provides an overview of the conscious design behind the propagation of Albright's ideas. I have also had access to Burke Long's unpublished research on Albright and the Biblical Colloquium.

4 Alcalay (1993: 35-52) describes how the indigenous Jewish population of Palestine and the Levant was deprived of its cultural heritage after Zionist immigration and dominance in the region. He reveals a rich Arab and Jewish cultural heritage which existed throughout the Levant prior to the modern period.

5 The major reassessment can be found in Running and Freedman (1975), van Beek (1989), and Biblical Archaeologist (1993).

6 Freedman (1989: 33), in his assessment of Albright as a historian, makes it quite clear that he was 'an apologist for a somewhat traditional, even archaic outlook'. His underlying philosophy of history was a Christian synthesis which relied upon Aquinas, Augustine, and Calvin.

7 This influence is extensive, with many of his students dominating American biblical scholarship through their appointment and promotion to senior academic positions. Their publications and the training of subsequent generations of students have meant that Albright's views and scholarship have left an indelible mark on the field. Burke Long has explored the mechanisms of how Albright's views were propagated in some of his, as yet, unpublished work. The creation and maintenance of this network is also a major factor in the problem of where the study of ancient Palestinian history might be located in the future as it breaks free from the control of biblical studies.

8 Running and Freedman (1975: 377-8) provide further information on Albright's political opinions which sheds valuable light on the political views which clearly informed his construction of the past. Professor Aviram is quoted as reporting that Albright advised the audience at a dinner in his honour at the home of the President of Israel in March 1969 not to give up any land captured in the Six Day War. Revealingly, Malamat reports that in 1967 Albright had urged Israel not to return the Sinai to the Russians. Malamat expressed the view that for Albright the Suez canal represented the border between the Western world and the Communist East. Israel, in Albright's understanding, was the buffer between Western civilization and democracy and the undemocratic, uncivilized East. The authors also cite Yadin as complaining that Albright had been 'so free and open in supporting Israel politically, even in public press conferences, that I had to caution him a bit that he should perhaps be more careful on that' (Running and Freedman 1975: 378). He describes Albright as a champion of Israel but one who recognized the problem that the creation of the modern state caused for the Arabs. 'But on balance, as he always used to say, be that if there were two just causes here, the justification for Israel to have a state was the greater one' (Running and Freedman 1975: 380). It is clear from these reported views and the statement in New Palestine that Albright's construction of the past, as a mirror of the present, was informed by his political views.

9 Wright's use of mutation to describe the uniqueness of Israel needs to be contrasted with the standard biological understanding of mutation as a change in the chemical structure of a gene which is rarely beneficial. Mutational changes in genes are random, and a random change in such a delicate mechanism is more likely to be harmful than beneficial (Keeton 1967: 541-2). Wright tries to counter this by arguing, like Albright, that evolution is divinely controlled and so the Israelite mutation is not a matter of chance but part of the divinely guided evolutionary scheme.

10 Elsewhere, he denies the uniqueness of Israelite historical experience. However, interestingly, the comparison is with the history of the USA. Ancient Israel's experience mirrors that of the USA:

Yet other peoples have had events in their background which are not dissimilar. We in the U.S.A. have our founding fathers, our exodus from European oppression, our covenant in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, our conquest of America, and a succession of great men who have been the fathers of our country, beginning obviously with George Washington. In other words, the biblical event as an event of history is not overly impressive as to its uniqueness.

-- Wright 1960: 10-11

The uniqueness comes not in the event itself, but in the event as revelation of the divine plan. It can be seen how the past informs his understanding of the present and vice versa.

11 Bright (1981: 137-43) revised his understanding of the Israelite conquest in later editions by incorporating aspects of Mendenhall's revolt hypothesis.

12 He states explicitly in the foreword to the first edition that it was 'prepared with the particular needs of the undergraduate theological student in mind' (1960: 10). The epilogue to his work is a discussion of the theological implications of the history of Israel or, as he puts it, 'the theological destination of this history' (1960: 447). These are not questions for the historian to answer by the examination of data but for 'each man according to the faith that is in him' (1960: 447). This 'salvation history' (Heilsgeshchichte) points to the future promise of 'the ultimate triumph of God's rule in the world' (1960: 448). Bright proposes that there are two legitimate answers to the question of 'whither the history of Israel?' The first is the Jewish answer that it continues in Judaism; while the second, and more importantly for Bright, is the Christian answer which finds its theological fulfilment in Christ and the gospel:

So, two opposing answers to the same question: Whither Israel's history? It is on this question, fundamentally, that the Christian and his Jewish friend divide. Let us pray that they do so in love and mutual concern, as heirs of the same heritage of faith who worship the same God, who is Father of us all.

-- Bright 1960: 452-3

It is clear from this that the historical enterprise of Bright was motivated primarily by his theological convictions while assuring the reader throughout of the 'objectivity' of scholarship. Israel is the theological root of Bright's conception of his Christian present, and so the origins of Israel, this 'peculiar people', are crucial to his faith. Little wonder, then, that the silencing of Palestinian history is a question that is not raised in this account or others of the Baltimore school.

13 His critique has been extended by Gottwald (1979), Lemche (1985), and Coote (1990), among others, in questioning the conceptualization of nomadic societies and its application in the understanding of ancient Israel. Mendenhall (1973: 165) claims that there is not an adequate or well-documented model for understanding ancient Israelite tribes.

14 See further Mendenhall (1973: 175). However, note his statement (1973: 183) that although studies were still in their infancy 'such an approach demonstrates the usefulness of the new evolutionary study, now several decades old, in anthropology'. Mendenhal~ in appealing to the work of Service, recognized that the move from tribal organization to chiefdom was reversible.

15 His theological premise, underpinning his historical analysis, is stated as 'the rejection of God is the rejection of love and certainly, of life' (1973: 164).

16 Mendenhall's insistence on the social construction of ethnicity provides an important corrective to the usual assumptions in biblical studies:

There was no such thing as an ethnic group of 'Israelites' in this early period. Throughout history, a feeling of ethnic identity has been the product of a very long and complex process of continuity and contiguity. The basis of solidarity changes as the nature of the social organization changed. What was at first a religious and ethical unity created from a very diverse population that did not even speak the same dialect of West Semitic gave way to an uneasy political unity that soon divided into two. Not until the political and religious institutionalism was destroyed did the basis again shift to a concept of ethnic unity, long after the Babylonian Exile, and that was thoroughly rejected and challenged by the reform movement that we now call Christianity.

-- Mendenhall 1973: 27-8

Once again, however, he has drawn a direct connection between Israelite religion and Christianity implying that it is the latter which is the true expression of the biblical revolution.

17 Lemche (1985: 433) pointed out that such a caricature fails to recognize the central importance of social justice, the protection of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the importance of the harmony of society in such religious systems. Instead they are dismissed as concerned only with sexual orgies and social abominations.

18 Gottwald, in answering various objections to the revolt model, particularly the claim that it lacks biblical evidence and retrojects Marxist ideology on to the past, is well aware of the subjective influences on constructing history:

Such an invocation of sociology of knowledge contains an important caution which, of course, applies equally to all theoretical modelling. One must similarly consider whether the conquest model has not been motivated oftentimes by a desire to confirm the truthfulness of the Bible, and it may also be asked if the immigration model has not been stimulated by modish but 'mistaken ways of reconstructing history and social evolution which did not first occur to the critic from reading the biblical data. Moreover, it could easily be retorted that those who cavalierly dismiss the revolt model may be so influenced by their fear of or distaste for contemporary social unrest that they refuse to look at the historical evidence concerning Israel's origins. But to point out the predisposing effects of the interpreter's social and cultural matrix toward one or another outlook on the material is not to settle matters; it is merely to call for more careful controls on these predispositions which will allow for close scrutiny of methods and conclusions. Theoretical adequacy -- namely, the ability to account for the data over the widest range in the most coherent manner -- is the only answer to the suspicion of contaminating presuppositions. While it is true that a current mood may lead to distorting reconstructions of the past, it is also true that a current temper of mind may be just the catalyst needed in order to see analogous tempers and forces at work in other times and other places. Like may indeed fabricate like, but like may also discover like.

-- Gottwald 1979: 218-19

19 He offers (1979: 45-187) an extensive but very traditional source analysis of the biblical traditions which acknowledges the influence of Alt, Noth, and von Rad.

20 This presentation mirrors the conception of Israel as an egalitarian lower-class society central to the left-wing, largely secular ideology of European Zionism and the kibbutz movement.

21 He says this in relation to the incursion of the Philistines and the imposition of a strong military aristocracy on the Canaanite city-states. However, he implies, like Alt, that the Philistines failed to achieve the ultimate move to statehood because they 'fell heir to the old internal Canaanite subdivisions by city-states and incorporated those city-state entities as a mode of their hegemony, just as the Egyptians before them had done' (1979: 411).

22 He draws distinctions between what he terms 'Canaanite feudalism' and 'medieval European feudalism' (1979: 391-4). It is the nature of the analogy which he draws which is important. He also emphasizes the interrelationships between Canaanite feudalism and Egyptian imperialism within the exploitative system as a whole (1979: 391-4). Again it is interesting to note the parallels with the period of Zionist immigration as a period of first Turkish and then European imperialism in the region. Elon (1983: 41-56) describes the brutal conditions of Jews living in Eastern Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century. emphasizing the extreme form of egalitarianism of the shtetl which grew out of it:

In the shtetl, 'life was with people'. Simple human solidarity was the shtetl's source of strength to survive as an island culture surrounded by hostility. A ghost of the shtetl lingers on in modern living institutions in Israel.

-- Elon 1983: 47


Even in the post-First World War period, an influential time in the development of biblical studies, the idea of a continuum between past and present is evident. Sidebotham (1918) refers to the defeat of the Turks in Mesopotamia and the need to secure a defensive frontier in Egypt which may lead to the 're-establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine'. The devaluation of the indigenous population and its culture is spelled out in the strongest terms:

Nor is there any indigenous civilization in Palestine that could take the place of the Turkish empire except that of the Jews, who already numbering one-seventh of the population, have given to Palestine everything that it has ever had of value to the world.

-- cited in Khalidi 1971: 126

2 Weinstein (1981) has demonstrated that Egyptian power was more dogged and lasted in the region much longer than previously thought.

3 Bright (1976) expands on his view of the Israelite empire confirming the shared assumptions with Alt and Noth on the construction of the monarchy.

4 This period is dominant in narrative terms as well. In Bright's account of some 444 pages of text, approximately 123 are devoted to the emergence of Israel (,the period of the Judges') and the formation of an Israelite state culminating in the reigns of David and Solomon: approximately a third of the narrative. By comparison, his account covers the period c. 2000-164 BCE, some 1800 years, of which the emergence of Israel to the death of Solomon (c. 1200-922 BCE) spans roughly two and a half centuries: a mere 13-15 per cent of the time span.

5 See Khalidi (1971: xxi-Ixxxiii) for a discussion of the political manoeuvrings by the British and American governments from the beginning of the century to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

6 This presupposes that the Aegean groups were also a tribal organization. However, it is not clear what evidence he has to support such an assertion.

7 He refers later to the Philistines as commanding an 'extensive empire' (1966: 182).

8 There is a voluminous literature on state formation: see Cohen and Service 1978; Claessen and Skalnik 1978; 1981; Jones and Kautz 1981; Haas 1982.

9 Chomsky (1983: 99-103; 181-328) exposes the reality of the claims of the 'defensive' wars of modern Israel, particularly the 1978 invasion of Lebanon and the 1982 'Operation Peace for Galilee'.

10 1 Samuel 8 and 12, among other traditions, stress a negative assessment of the formation of the monarchy as a rejection of the theocracy of Yahweh. Eslinger (1985), by contrast, offers an alternative literary analysis which examines the different voices in the text.

11 Noth (1960: 238) notes that the Philistines tried to take advantage of the break-up of what he erroneously terms 'the empire of David and Solomon' and even though 'the earlier power of the Philistines had been broken by David once and for all' what ensued were border skirmishes with no far-reaching effects. Mazar (1984: 53) outlines the importance of Philistine settlement in the tenth century BCE. The most comprehensive treatment of Philistine culture is by T. Dothan (1982). For more recent findings and assessments, see M. Dothan (1989), T. Dothan (1989), and M. and T. Dothan (1992).

12 Recent archaeological work, which undermines such constructions, will be considered later in the chapter.

13 The period after the Arab conquest is represented typically as a period of decline: 'Jerusalem simply declined to the status of a provincial town. Its only importance stemmed from its religious significance to Islam, focusing upon the mosque and shrine built in the Temple Enclosure' (1983: 260). The implication here appears to be that Islam is of marginal importance.

14 This is equivalent to Ben-Gurion's 'vision' of the borders of Israel as described on p. 126.

15 Noth tries to distinguish, unsuccessfully, between Oriental ideas of divine kingship and Israelite royal ideology. He claims that the use of the adoption formula in Psalm 2 verse 7 shows that 'whilst the Davidic monarchy made just as great claims in Israel as the monarchy did elsewhere in the ancient Orient, it was different in quality' (1960: 224). His view that the conception of Israel's god acting within history was different to conceptions of the divine nature of kingship in the ancient Near East has been undermined by Albrektson's study (1967) and subsequent work.

16 J. van Seters (1983) offers a radically different understanding of the development of Israelite historiography, while Harris's (1989) study on literacy in Greece and Rome throws serious doubt on the blithe assumption that the production of major historiographical works was developed before the Hellenistic period.

17 Interestingly, Herrmann (1975: 141) refers to 'Saul and his central Palestinian followers'.

18 Herrmann (1975: 171 n. 38) acknowledges that the description is taken from Alt's earlier study 'Das Grossreich Davids'.

19 His justification (1984: 42) for this is that the economic and political information seems so relevant that it is hard to believe that it could have been invented. However, this is an argument for proof based on verisimilitude alone.

20 She does not use the term 'Palestine' but a careful circumlocution to describe the area: 'the narrow strip of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea'. Her careful avoidance of the term 'Palestine' in the context of arguing for the defensive nature of the Israelite empire suggests very strongly that she is aware of the political implications and context of her work but refuses to articulate this.

21 It is interesting to note that Ahlstrom (1993: 438), who rightly criticizes other scholars for interpreting archaeological evidence on the basis of the biblical text, interprets Khirbet ed-Duwwara with the rise of Saul even though there is nothing to point to such an understanding.

22 Ahlstrom (1993: 449 n. 2; 1986: 96) notes that Engnell designated Saul as the first empire-builder.

23 The fact that he uses the term 'empire' in quotation marks in a subheading (1993: 480; 488 n. 1) suggests that he does not accept this general description.

24 These narratives are described as 'folk legends. Certainly they are not to be read as historical record' (1986: 152). They admit that any attempt to reconstruct the 'historical' David will necessarily be 'highly speculative' (1986: 159). But, despite their description of the narratives as folk legends, they believe that they are based 'ultimately on actual historical persons and events' (1986: 159). Miller and Hayes are aware that their presupposition cannot be proved; their construction represents only a 'best guess' (1986: 160).

25 Miller (1991 b) outlines some of the methodological problems involved in trying to assess the historical reliability of the biblical traditions for constructing the reign of Solomon. This is part of an exchange with Millard (1991) who argues for a positive appraisal of the historicity of the biblical traditions. Wightman (1990) questions the network of assumptions which has sustained the idea of 'Solomonic archaeology'. He is extremely critical of Aharoni's (1972: 302) claim that six-chambered gateways constituted a fixed chronological datum point for the archaeology of the tenth century BCE as one of the rare cases where it is possible to date a building exactly without inscriptional evidence. Wightman (1990: 9), by contrast, describes it as 'one of the not-so-rare examples in biblical archaeology where the exact date of a building is determined through circular reasoning'. Miller and Hayes (1986: 210) give a sober appraisal of the major archaeological material relating to the Solomonic period both in terms of the difficulties of interpretation and the 'impressiveness' of the building projects.

26 Miller (1991a: 95) points out that there is no evidence for a Davidic-Solomonic monarchy independent of the biblical traditions. Historians who refer to this entity are presupposing information which is drawn from the Hebrew Bible.

27 This is also true of the collection of essays edited by Gottwald (1986), despite the fact that they challenge many standard assumptions about the formation of an Israelite state. Coote and Whitelam (1987: 113) argue that this process should be studied as part of a continuum in the context of a wider Palestinian history. However, it is noticeable that this is still a history of the region which is dominated by Israel and which in effect is little more than a history of ancient Israel and not ancient Palestine.

28 Flanagan (1988) cites four reasons for the 'lapse of confidence regarding David and the monarchy' (1988: 18); Mendenhall and Gottwald showed the monarchy to be alien; Davidic stories came under attack after half a century of relative certainty contributing to a loss of confidence in biblical history; archaeology failed to yield signs of centralization that could be firmly dated to the tenth century BCE. Flanagan does, however, appreciate the importance of this period in shaping the past and that there are alternative constructions of this past:

The common assumption that Israelite monarchy began with David, or possibly Saul, controlled the way that long- and short-term history were interpreted. If the sources were approached without presupposing a monarchical ethos, many details, I believe, would be interpreted differently, and a substantially different picture would emerge.

-- Flanagan 1988: 21

Flanagan (1988: 75-6) tries to define what he terms 'social world studies' to take into account the many different sources available for exploring the Iron Age. He moves away from a narrow focus on a biblically inspired history of Israel but does not go so far as to refer to Palestinian history.

29 Garbini (1988: 16-19) highlights the startling fact of the lack of Israelite and Judaean epigraphy for the period of the monarchy. Garbini's statement has to be tempered now by the discovery of the Tel Dan inscription (see pp. 166-8), but it does not alter the fact that this so-called glorious empire of David and Solomon has left little or no archaeological trace, particularly in terms of the output of its supposed bureaucracy.

30 He cites (1993: 541 n. 3), seemingly with approval, the words of Herrmann (1984: 268) that David's state 'would not have been possible without David'. This is the history of great men par excellence.

31 Arnold (1990) provides a detailed description and critique of the history of the search for the identification of Gibeah with its manifold textual and archaeological problems.

32 See Noth (1960: 168) or Bright (1972: 186) who says that Saul's 'seat at Gibeah was a fortress rather than a palace'.

33 This would be accepted by many as an uncontroversial statement until very recently. He goes on to argue (1984: 55-6) that the burial and water systems were uniquely Israelite, along with the design of certain fortifications, such as casemate walls and six-chambered gates from the tenth century BCE. But the walls and gates of the ninth century resemble Syrian fortifications.

34 Avi Ofer is conducting the Judaean Highland Project survey. The results of his work, which are as yet unpublished, will need to be compared with Jamieson-Drake's conclusions. The data he has collected and alluded to in conference addresses will, like the data provided by Finkelstein, Zertal, Gal, and others involved in major surveys, provide the basis for future investigations of the history of the region. It still remains to examine the interpretation of this data and the interests and motivations which have determined the design of research strategies.

35 The inscription was originally published by Biran and Naveh (1993). It immediately attracted considerable attention, generating heated debate as to its date and interpretation (Davies 1994; Rainey 1994; Lemaire 1994; Cryer 1994; Shanks 1994). The article attributed to Shanks is said to be based upon Biran and Naveh (1993) supplemented by other material supplied by Biran.

36 It is admitted that there are major difficulties in excavating Jerusalem given the fact that it has been occupied constantly, coupled with religious sensibilities which have often hindered archaeological exploration. Mazar (1984) points to these difficulties and the problems with 'Davidic archaeology'. However, these circumstances should have led to greater caution and not less in terms of the construction of the past.

37 McEvedy and Jones (1978: 228) provide the basis for a broad comparison. The data from regional surveys will form the basis for a more detailed study of the demography of Palestine.

38 The fact that the modern state, as a world ranking power, appears to be an exception to this is to be explained by the massive subsidization of its military economy by the USA. Chomsky (1983) provides detailed figures. The modern period can be compared with the material prosperity of the Roman and Byzantine periods which was the result of massive external investment.


1 H. and M. Weippert (1991) have provided a detailed review of recent literature which can be supplemented by Coote's (1990) extensive bibliography. The collections of essays in Edelman (1991) and in Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament (1991) illustrate the direction of the debate along with the growing differences between the various positions.

2 The impact of newer literary studies has been more extensive and is made more explicit in the work of Davies, Thompson, and Whitelam. It has had far less impact on the studies of Ahlstrom, Lemche, and Coote.

3 Alt (1959), in an article first published in 1944, also refers to the rhythms of Syrian and Palestinian history.

4 See Coote and Whitelam (1987) for a review of the settlement history of Palestine from the Early Bronze Age to the present. Whitelam (1994) sets out proposals for the pursuit of Palestinian history through the study of settlement history (d. Dever 1992).

5 He put forward a similar view in 1985b: 80. However, as noted on p. 241 n.9, he has more recently acknowledged that a survey of the whole region, including the lowlands, for the Middle Bronze II to the Iron II is a pressing problem that needs to be carried out (1991: 48). It should be acknowledged that Finkelstein provides valuable data for other periods and that his reports are invariably a model of clarity allowing the historian to utilize the data in historical reconstruction. However, the point at issue here is the way in which the search for 'ancient Israel' has been a major obstacle in recognizing the potential and importance of the data for a regional Palestinian history.

6 The irony of these surveys is that they illustrate Viceroy Curzon's comment, at the turn of the century, about the British in India: 'It is ... equally our duty to dig and discover, to classify, reproduce and describe, to copy and decipher, to cherish and conserve' (cited by Anderson 1991: 179). Detailed mapping allows the classification and control of the past. The mapping of Iron I sites, presented as Israelite, exposes the roots of modern Israel deep in the past. It is this particular segment of the past which is cherished and preserved. It is designed to provide an 'objective' illustration of the continuity between past and present.

7 The data tend to be scattered in specialist publications and journals. What is needed is a comprehensive synthesis of the latest survey findings organized by period and area in order to allow comparisons to be made.

8 Elon goes on to describe the outbreak of enthusiasm for archaeology as a means of discovering and confirming Zionist claims to the land. He cites the recollections of Eliezer Sukenik, the excavator, which illustrate the motivations at the time:

Suddenly people could see things that had never been so tangible before .... There was a feeling that this piece of ground, for which people had suffered so much, wasn't just any plot of land but a piece of earth where their forefathers had lived fifteen hundred to two thousand years ago. Their work in the present was cast in a different light. Their history was revealed to them and they saw it with their own eyes.

-- Elon 1994: 14

9 See, for example, the debate between Aharoni and Yadin (1979) on the dating of these settlements and their relationship to the destruction of Hazor.

10 Miller (1991a: 97-9) similarly draws attention to Finkelstein's use of biblical traditions, such as the so-called Ark Narrative (1 Samuel 4-6; 2 Samuel 6), for controlling the interpretation of archaeological data (see also Dever 1991: 79).

11 This expectation informs a great deal of archaeological work on the early Iron Age. Gal (1992: 88), for instance, believes 'that the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, whose inheritances were within this subregion, were settled one or two generations after the destruction of these Canaanite cities'. This biblically inspired reasoning is taken to its extreme in Dar's publication of the Survey of Samaria for 800 BCE to 63 CE in which he conjectures that the early Iron Age farmhouse was a 'characteristic model of settlement by kinships (extended families) of the Joseph tribe' (1986: 2). He argues not only that the four-room house was an Israelite invention but also that the rural farmhouse was improved and developed by families of the tribes of Ephraim and Manassah. Similarly, the acceptance of the tribal allotments is evident in the reading of the archaeological data in Garsiel and Finkelstein's (1978) discussion of the Western expansion of the 'house of Joseph'. Surprisingly, it can also be found in Silberman's (1992: 192-8) review of recent scholarship on Israelite origins. Despite his attention to the political aspects of archaeology and biblical studies, he is still able to claim that Zertal's work on the territory of Manassah had been complemented by major new surveys in Galilee and 'the territories of the tribes of Ephraim and Judah'.

12 Callaway (1969; 1970; Callaway and Cooley 1971) is much more circumspect in terms of the identity of the inhabitants of Ai and Raddanah.

13 Shiloh's (1970) belief that the four-room house was an Israelite invention has been undermined by its discovery in a wide variety of locations throughout Palestine.

14 He bases his conclusions on data drawn from the earlier survey undertaken by Kochavi (1972).

15 Skjeggestad (1992: 159-65) has provided a detailed critique of Finkelstein's understanding of ethnicity.

16 This is a response in the Biblical Archaeologist Review to the SBL/ASOR session, the papers of which are contained in Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament (1991).

17 This point is illustrated in reviews of these works by Bimson (1989; 1991) and Miller (1991a) which focus on their use of biblical traditions and their relevance for constructing early Israelite history. They do not pick up on the issue of Palestinian history and its relationship to biblical studies.

18 Carroll (1991) has been very forthright in arguing for the Hebrew Bible as the product of the second Temple period. He is also scathing of attempts to construct history from such texts: 'the gap between texts and the real world remains as unbridgeable as ever' (1991: 124). Coote, by contrast, regards many biblical texts as products of the Davidic bureaucracy in the tenth century BCE (Coote and Coote 1990; Coote and Ord 1991).

19 He reiterated his view of the texts as late and therefore of little value for constructing the early history of Israel at the Chicago symposium (Lemche 1991a: 14), adding that he did not believe that the Old Testament historians wrote history. He has added to this in numerous articles and later publications (1991 b; 1994).

20 The growing unease with attempts to write biblical histories of ancient Israel is encapsulated in the methodological crisis represented by the works of Soggin and Miller and Hayes (d. Davies 1985).

21 Whitelam (1986: 47) was able to state that 'it is important to address and refute claims that the study of the history of Israel cannot or should not be undertaken and to state clearly that it remains a fundamental task of research and teaching' (contra Davies, 1985: 172).

22 Rogerson (1986) and Martin (1989) raise important questions about the standard assumption that Israel was a tribal confederation.

23 See Whitelam (1994) for a discussion of some of the problems in trying to interpret the stele. Shanks (1991: 16) has dismissed as a passing fad the questioning of constructions of Israel in the pre-monarchic period. He asserts, astoundingly, that these 'negative historians' would like to 'send someone to the Cairo Museum to blow up the Merneptah stele' so that 'all their problems in connection with early Israel would be solved' (1991: 16).

24 He bases much of his analysis on Finkelstein's understanding of the chronological development of 'Israelite Settlement'.

25 Emerton (1988) has drawn attention to the inconsistencies and problems involved in trying to identify a ring structure in the inscription.

26 He cites (1991a: 24 n. 14) the final report from Hazor by Yadin et al. (1989: 25, 29) which claims that stratum XII, with its numerous pits but no buildings, was occupied by invading semi-nomadic Israelites. There is nothing in the archaeological record to support such an interpretation. Ahlstrom (1993) argues that it could just as easily have been due to the survivors from Hazor who lacked the tools or skills for rebuilding.

27 Ahlstrom (1991a: 19) claimed that the works of Lemche and Finkelstein supported his proposals. He accepted that the archaeological evidence pointed to some non-Palestinian groups from the north in accordance with the demographic traditions of the country. He questions Mazar's use of the term 'Israelite' to describe the inhabitants of Giloh (1986: 29) and describes the material culture as Canaanite (1986: 35-6).

28 The subtle ways in which the contemporary context, or use of language, can shape perceptions of the past is brought out by his attempt to challenge the use of the ethnic label 'Israelite' to describe the inhabitants of these new settlements:

An accurate label for the new settlers of the hills would be 'pioneers'. The lack of any specific 'Israelite' (meaning non-Canaanite) material culture at the excavated sites in the hills for the 12th century B.C. may be due to the lack of expertise and knowledge of advanced techniques practised by specialists who remained in the urban centres.

-- Ahlstrom 1986: 19

The term 'pioneers', although widespread in terms of settlement in different parts of the world, has particular connotations, of course, in the contemporary contest for land. It is frequently used to describe Zionist settlers in the kibbutzim and agricultural settlements during the early immigrations into the area.

29 He appeals (1985: 387) to Snodgrass's description of post-Mycenaean Greece as an example.

30 Whitelam (1991), in discussing the problems of history and literature, frequently refers to 'Israel', encoded in such a way, and talks of a regional history of Palestine. The power of the discourse is still evident but the development of the current argument is already present:

The growing body of archaeological evidence from the region supports the view that the Iron I highland villages, usually identified as 'Israel', emerged in Palestine as a result of a complex combination of indigenous processes and external pressures, culminating in the realignment of Palestine society. The fact that we are unable to identify, in ethnic terms, the inhabitants of these villages means that we have to resign ourselves to the study of the realignment of Palestinian society and the reasons for the settlement shift rather than an explanation per se of the emergence of Israel.

-- Coote and Whitelam 1987: 62-3

The implications of this are more fully realized in Whitelam (1994).

31 For a response to Thompson's critique of Coote and Whitelam (1987), see Whitelam (1995a).


1 I have been unable to obtain a copy of his new book on the career of Yadin. Clearly from the reviews (for example, Elon 1994), it addresses directly the issue of the politics of Yadin's archaeology.

2 The interconnections throughout the eastern Mediterranean during this and many other periods are well documented in archaeological deposits, although the precise connections, their regulation, and control are not nearly so clearly understood. The exploration of the economy of ancient Palestine is one of the key areas for future research.

3 Coote and Whitelam (1987: 49-71) explore some of the possible factors involved, placing particular emphasis on the effects of fluctuations in trade on the variability of settlement. Thompson (1992a: 180) doubts that the breakdown of international trade at tne end of the Early Bronze and Late Bronze Ages could have had such an effect upon the Palestinian economy as to result in 'wholesale dislocations throughout the region, and especially in so many sub-regions (such as the hill country and the Northern Negev), since such regions were only marginally affected by trade routes. He believes (1992a: 215) that the evidence points to major climatic change resulting in widespread drought and famine from c. 1200-1000 BCE. Climate is obviously an important factor given the marginal nature of the subregions of Palestine where dramatic variations in rainfall over two or more years can have devastating effects. Famine, however, is not always a direct result of periods of drought but is frequently the result of socio-political factors as the tragic events in parts of modern-day Africa all too vividly illustrate (d. Thompson 1992a: 219-20). It is also the case that Palestine has witnessed important shifts in settlement during more modern periods when the climate in the region has remained stable. Thompson (1992a: 261) points out that the Phoenician cities survived the drought without widespread collapse, attributing their political and economic autonomy to their relative geographical isolation. This would suggest that it is socio-political factors which are of greater importance in understanding the settlement shifts rather than climatic change. Geographical isolation is no protection against catastrophic climatic change.

4 Dever (1991: 78) believes that the absence of collared-rim ware at large sites such as Gezer compared with its proliferation at smaller rural sites points to a socio-economic rather than ethnic dichotomy. Finkelstein (1991: 51) points out that Aphek and Qasile, usually described as urban centres, were no larger than 'Izbet Sartah.

5 Mazar's (1990) recent survey of the archaeology of the region is a good case in point of the way in which any female figurine is represented as part of a fertility cult.
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Re: The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palest

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