Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday that the Israeli government would assist in funding a settler-driven archaeological project in occupied East Jerusalem, in response to the UNESCO resolution strongly condemning Israeli policies at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Jews as the “Temple Mount.”
According to Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, the Temple Mount Sifting Project works to “sort through debris” from an excavation undertaken in 1999 by the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) that has managed the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound since the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
The decision to fund the archaeological project was made following a UNESCO resolution that passed this week, and which Israeli leaders have condemned for not using the Jewish term for the site, an instead referring only to the holy site by its Arabic and Muslim names, Al-Aqsa and al-Haram al-Sharif.
BB: Israel's govt to help pay for Temple Mount Sifting Project, which is operated by Ir David (ElAd) organization that focuses on East Jlem https://t.co/klqyhSmpN8
— Marian Houk (@Marianhouk) October 21, 2016
According to Haaretz, the archaeological project is run by the right-wing settler group Ir David Foundation, also known as Elad, the main financiers of the contentious archaeological digs around the Old City of Jerusalem.
Elad aims to “rediscover and preserve the Biblical city of David,” in an effort to connect Jews to their Biblical roots through tourism, archaeological excavation, and “Judaizing Jerusalem” by buying out homes in Palestinian majority neighborhoods.
The Elad group has also remained a strong force in the Israeli settler movement in East Jerusalem, leading a takeover of 25 buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan last year, which constituted the largest incursion of Israeli settlers into a Palestinian neighborhood in the past 20 years, ARIJ reported.
Rights groups have claimed that these excavations often seek to promote Jewish heritage and attachment to the occupied city, while neglecting Palestinian history, in order to promote claims of Jewish ownership and further displace Palestinians, particularly those living in neighborhoods around the Old City.