campus politics kill the
archeologist? By Calev
(January 7) - Palestine Twilight: The Murder of Dr. Albert Glock and
the Archaeology of the Holy Land by Edward Fox. (HarperCollins)
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.