The politics of changing an institution’s name, and much more

by ray goodlass

‎10 January: I planned to visit the Palestine Archaeological Museum (since 1967 renamed the Rockefeller Museum) but due to Jerusalem being blanketed in about 6 inches of snow today it was closed, as were almost all the shops, in East Jeruslaem at least,though I had a look around the souks of the Old City and they were pretty deserted too.

As I don’t have any other news to report I’ll add my musings about the museum’s name change. It was funded by John D Rockefeller but conceived and built by the British during their mandate between the two world wars, and opened in the late 1930s as the Palestine Archaeological Museum. When the armisice line was drawn after the Israeli war of independence the museum was in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem to be specific, both of which were controlled by Jordan.   

So when the Israelis gained control in 1967 they renamed the museum after its original benefactor, and made it part of the Israel Museum. Though it does have its own entry point website, if you want to go to specific sub-sites such as ‘exhibitions’, for example, you get taken to the Israel Museum.

It stikes me that renaming the museum is part of Israel’s game plan of re-writing Palestine out of its own culture and history, which to my mind is reprehensible, but in line with everything else it does to obliterate the Palestinian presence.

It will be interesting to see what the exhibitions say about Palestinian history when I evenutally do get into the museum.   

I’ll also take this chance to raise a question a few of us discussed at the Peace Work Camp, which is whether or not Shin Bet, Israel’s Secret Pollice, keep an eye on what Peace Volunteers are reporting by checking their Facebopok posts, and if they do, will we be hassled as we leave the country, or, more to the point, I reckon, allowed back in sometime in the future? I guess I’ll find out.

My Facebook posts have been pretty tame, as I’ve saved my political musings for here in my blog, so I reckon they wouldn’t find much to hang me with, though of course they could have jumped over here to my blog. I don’t think though that my musings would be worth their time and trouble, but we’ll see.

Seeing as its a slow news day, as it were, I’ll finish this post with another comment on why my mindset turns to issues such as peace and the plight of people such as the Palestinians. Prompted by one of the books I’m reading, Michael Riordan’s ‘Our Way to Fight: Peace Work under seige in Israel-Palestine’ this idea is the notion that as a gay, that is, both Riordan and myself, we are ‘the other’ and so identify with other marginalised people. Please keep in mind that as I was growing up there was no such thing as ‘gay pride’, we homosexuals were seen as deviant, sick, and to be shunned at best, attacked at worst. 

I think this does in large part explain my motivation but of course it doesn’t explain the motivation of people with similar views to mine who can’t be categorised as ‘the other’. They are straight, have families, kids and so on. Normal, in fact. But what is ‘normal’, if it exists at all, and perhaps, in some unpublicised aspect of their life or history they too have experienced something that made them also be concerned about those suffering injustice.