Of all the controversial passages in Nadia Abu El Haj's Facts on the Ground, few have been so chewed over and have provided such fuel for polarized debate as this one, from her chapter 9, ‘Archaeology and its aftermath', page 250:
While by the early 1990s, virtually all archaeologists argued for the need to disentangle the goals of their professional practice from the quest for Jewish origins and objects that formed an earlier archaeological project, the fact that there is some genuine national-cultural connection between contemporary (Israeli-)Jews and such objects was not itself generally open to sustained questioning.9 That commitment remained, for the most part, and for most practicing archaeologists, fundamental. (Although archaeologists argued, increasingly, that the archaeological past should have no bearing upon contemporary political claims). In other words, the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins is not understood as pure political fabrication. It is not an ideological assertion comparable to Arab claims of Canaanite or other ancient tribal roots.10 Although both origin tales, Arab and Jewish, are structurally similar as historical claims, Broshi's argument betrays a "hierarchy of credibility" in which "facticity" is conferred only upon the latter (Cooper and Stoler 1997: 21).
The text as given above is precisely as it appears in the book,* complete with footnote numerals, italics, brackets, and typographical error (that full stop after the bracketed phrase ending ‘contemporary political claims' should be inside the closing bracket).
Most of the attention this paragraph has received has focused upon the phrase, or rather fragment, ‘pure political fabrication'. Critics of Nadia Abu El Haj have taken the words as indicating that the author is arguing that that 'the modern Jewish/Israeli belief in ancient Israelite origins' is a 'pure political fabrication', sometimes reproducing the author's original emphasis, sometimes not (here are some examples). In response to these charges, others have argued that the words ‘pure political fabrication' have been taken out of context and misinterpreted, and that Nadia Abu El Haj is saying precisely the opposite, that Israel's ancient history is not a pure political fabrication (examples here).
[Note: To read the rest of this article, please follow the link above.]