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1 Shevat 5762 01:01Monday January 14, 2002

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Did campus politics kill the archeologist?
By Calev Ben-David

(January 7) - Palestine Twilight: The Murder of Dr. Albert Glock and the Archaeology of the Holy Land by Edward Fox. (HarperCollins)

In 1994, London-based, American-born journalist Edward Fox came across an article by Albert Glock in The Journal of Palestine Studies (a quarterly on Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israeli conflict) entitled "Archaeology as Cultural Survival: The Future of the Palestinian Past."

Fox notes: "The subject of the piece was intriguing, but then I read the biographical footnote that took up most of the front page. It stunned me: 'Albert Glock, an American archaeologist and educator, who was killed by an unidentified gunman in Bir Zeit, the West Bank, on January 19, 1992, wrote this essay in 1990. Dr. Glock was shot twice at close range by a masked man using an Israeli army gun who was driven away in a car with Israeli license plates... the US authorities, including the FBI, have not responded to repeated requests by the Glock family to look into the assassination or to ask Israelis to do so."

This murder was hardly a hidden event; it made the front page of The Jerusalem Post, which also reported security sources saying the killing was likely the work of Hamas activists. Yet although Glock was the first

foreigner killed during the first intifada, his death aroused little public interest, and it's likely that most Israelis (like this one) have since forgotten him.

Not Fox though. "The curiosity it aroused became a mission to investigate this obscure murder, buried away in a footnote in an obscure journal... there was a passion in there, in the story of the life and death of Albert Glock - something heroic and tragic that these sparse facts only hinted at."

Fox became so intrigued that in 1997 he actually picked up (with his family) and moved to Bir Zeit, the university town adjacent to Ramallah, and spent the next two years there researching this story. The result is Palestine Twilight (the American edition bears the far better title Sacred Geography), a strange, misguided though fascinating book, about a strange,

misguided, though fascinating man. Glock's death certainly had its tragic elements - although whether his life was heroic, or simply foolhardy, depends on your political perspective.

Born in 1925, Glock was raised in rural Illinois as the son of a pastor in the Missouri Synod, a fundamentalist branch of the American Lutheran Church. After becoming a Lutheran pastor himself, Glock developed an interest in critical Bible studies and archeology that led him to take a 180-degree theological spin away from the fundamentalist faith of his father. During the 1960s, he moved with his wife Lois to study at - and later head - the renowned Albright Institute of Archeology, in what was then Jordanian-occupied east Jerusalem.

After the 1967 war, Glock began to identify himself with the Palestinian cause. He resigned his position at Albright and began teaching at Bir Zeit University, where he founded a department of archeology. At the site of Tell Ti'nnik (the biblical Tana'ach) in the northern West Bank, a site of continual local Arab habitation for centuries, he oversaw a dig that he hoped, as Fox writes, "would revolutionize Palestinian attitudes to archeology and help ordinary Palestinian villagers understand that their survival as a people depended on preserving their culture, and not purely on politics and welfare."

Unfortunately, many of his Palestinian peers didn't even understand why Glock was excavating an ordinary village, rather than digging up the more majestic local remnants of past Islamic civilizations like the Ottoman Empire.

IT SHOULD be noted that the author openly shares his subject's political sympathies - at one point, admitting that even the simple act of crossing over to the Jewish side of Jerusalem and eating a bagel, cream cheese and lox leaves him "feeling guilty and self-conscious." Perhaps when he started this book Fox was hoping that there might be some truth to the Palestinian conspiracy theories that Glock was killed by a Shin Bet hit squad because his archeological work posed some kind of threat to the Israeli authorities.

Alas, even Fox has to eventually admit that there is not much evidence, or likelihood, of that. The "eyewitness accounts" that the assassin drove away in an Israeli car prove spurious, and even more to the point, if the Israeli authorities ever found Glock to be any kind of threat, they could have just deported him - by not renewing his tourist visa - at any time. It is ludicrous to think that the Shin Bet would risk killing an American citizen over archeology, especially when very few people either in Israel or abroad had ever heard of him, or his work.

The one place where Glock did make an impression - and one quite unfavorable in many quarters - was at Bir Zeit and in Ramallah.

"He was a difficult man, a controversial figure," says one Palestinian archeologist. Glock, as painted by Fox, was stubborn, headstrong and arrogant, which were especially dangerous personality traits for a Westerner living in Palestinian society during the days when much of the violence of the intifada turned internecine.

Shortly before his murder, students at Bir Zeit even staged protests against him when he refused to grant a position in his department to Hamdan Taha, today the Palestinian Authority's Director of Antiquities. Glock also raised eyebrows by developing a close personal relationship, one of unrequited affection on his part, with "Maya," one of his female students. Significantly, it was outside her house that he was killed, and shortly afterwards she left Ramallah for America never to return.

It turns out in the end that The Jerusalem Post most likely got it right about Glock's death 10 years ago. Fox relates that Musa Abu Marzouq, an Arab-American arrested by Israeli police in 1995 while bringing in funds intended for Hamas coffers, related during his interrogation that Hamas terrorist Adel Awadallah "gave information about the assassination of a doctor from Bir Zeit university" who was said to 'curse Moslems.'"

Fox tries to paint the archeologist as an unfortunate victim caught in the sometimes deadly political conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. But his story is not necessarily unique to this country; Glock brings to mind those Western academics in Beirut who came to this region with the best of romanticized good intentions toward Arab society, but nevertheless found themselves the targets of kidnapping and murder during the 1980s by Islamic fundamentalists.

The real story of Albert Glock is undoubtedly more in his life than his death, in the personal journal that made him take that path from the American Middle West to the Palestinian West Bank. He was not completely sui generis; there are other Westerners like him living in east Jerusalem and the West Bank who completely identify with the Palestinian cause. But not many would do so as Glock did in the final years of his life, when it became clear that by doing so in this fashion he was flirting with real, possibly mortal, danger.

Why didn't he see the warning signs - or so totally disregard them? Fox never really brings us close enough to the man to understand why; we hear almost nothing from his wife or children, and there is surprisingly little direct quotation from the personal diaries the author had access to.

"Determining who Albert Glock was, and why someone would want to kill him, was like archeology itself," writes Fox. But while the author makes a fair stab at the latter question, he should have dug far deeper to try and answer the former.

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