The Independent, 21 July 2001

 Palestine Twilight by Edward Fox

 Buried secrets in unholy ground

 By Stephen Howe

       On 19 January 1992, 67-year-old Albert
      Glock was shot outside the Palestinian city
 of Ramallah. It was an efficient some thought a
 professional killing. Glock, an American who
 headed the Institute of Archaeology at nearby Birzeit
 University, left a widow and four children, a mass of
 half-sorted pottery fragments, and an enduring
 mystery. Who killed him, and why? Was the murder
 personal, or political, or some sinister mixture of the

 In the atmosphere of that time and place the dying
 days of the first Intifada and the aftermath of the Gulf
 War it seemed unthinkable that the killing not be
 connected with the Arab-Israeli conflict. But who
 would want to assassinate an ageing Lutheran
 missionary from the Midwest? And who would want
 to murder an archaeologist? Could it even be that
 Albert Glock died because of archaeology; because
 someone didn't like what he dug up, or the way he
 interpreted it?

 A dense fog of speculation rapidly enveloped
 Glock's death, and has never quite cleared. He
 might have been targeted by any of several
 Palestinian militant groups for various motives
 including the fact of his being an American, albeit a
 passionately pro-Palestinian one. The killing might
 have been connected with rows at Birzeit: Glock had
 stubbornly refused to give a job to a Palestinian
 colleague, an ambitious young man with influential
 friends. It might even have some link with Glock's
 unrequited romantic yearning for another colleague:
 it was outside her house that he was shot.

 Most bizarrely and ominously, Glock might have
 become a target for Israeli secret agents. Inevitably,
 this was the theory on which Palestinians
 immediately fastened. There was some
 circumstantial evidence. Israeli soldiers and police
 were slow to react to the shooting and allegedly
 half-hearted in their investigation. The cool
 professionalism of the killer, it was suggested,
 matched the habits of Shin Bet's hitmen. Above all,
 Palestinians argued, no one in their camp had any
 motive for murdering so staunch a friend as Glock.
 Israel, though, might have such a motive; one that
 did indeed stem directly from Glock's archaeology.

 Digging up the ancient past is a highly political
 business, from Nazi scientists' search for Aryan
 origins to the racialised controversies over southern
 African prehistory. In the Middle East, nationalist
 and religious passions have intertwined to imbue
 archaeology with particular potency. Israel's very
 claim to existence is based in large part on ideas
 about ancient Jewish sovereignty. Archaeology
 became both a national passion, and a political tool.
 But for Christians as well as Jews, the search for
 relics of ancient Israel has a special allure.

 Glock, product of a fundamentalist Christian
 upbringing, had his intellectual roots here: Holy Land
 archaeology was all about seeking evidence for the
 historical truth of Bible stories. As time passed,
 however, his ideas changed beyond recognition. He
 became a fierce critic of the diggers' focus on
 ancient Israel which, he and others came to think,
 obscured or distorted the Palestinian past.

 If Biblical archaeology provided a charter for Israeli
 nationalism, then a different approach, centred more
 on the Ottoman era and on remnants of peasant life,
 offered historical underpinnings for Palestinian
 nationhood. The archaeology Glock sponsored at
 Birzeit could be seen as an indirect but powerful
 attack on Israel's dominant ideology, and a weapon
 in the hands of the Palestinians. There, some
 believe, lies the key to his death.

 Many of the most fascinating parts of Edward Fox's
 investigation pursue that line. Fox traces the
 byzantine undercurrents of Israeli-Palestinian
 archaeology with great skill and clarity. He
 concludes, though, that those disputes explain the
 course of Glock's life, not the cause of his death. If
 the Israelis really found Glock's digging such a
 threat, all they had to do was revoke his visa.

 Glock was frankly not influential enough to be much
 of a danger. He was neither the pioneer of a
 pro-Palestinian theory his mentor, Paul Lapp,
 deserves that title nor its fieriest exponent. The
 latter distinction probably belongs to British
 historian, Keith Whitelam. Glock had published little
 and, among younger Palestinian scholars, he made
 at least as many enemies as disciples. We must
 seek his murderers elsewhere than in the depths of
 Israel's secret services.

 Does Fox solve the enigma? Not entirely; but he
 does point towards the likeliest suspects, and the
 most plausible explanation is... Reviewers of
 detective fiction are expected never to spoil the
 reader's pleasure. The same principle should
 govern this review.

 Beyond the puzzles left by the murder, this book's
 achievement lies in its evocation of Glock's
 personality. A dour, inflexible, sometimes intolerant
 man, he was hard to love. But there was, Fox
 convinces us, something quietly heroic as well as
 tragic about his life and its ending.