Palestine
Siloam

Political archaeology amid Jerusalem tensions

Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made a visit to al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, flanked by by a heavy security detail—eliciting outrage from the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian Authority called the move “an unprecedented provocation,” with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accusing Ben-Gvir of staging the visit as part of an agenda to turn the site “into a Jewish temple.” The fracas comes as Israeli authorities have launched another supposed archaeological project in East Jerusalem which critics say masks an ongoing program of “Judaization” of the Old City. This concerns the Pool of Siloam, a small reservoir believed to have served Jerusalem in biblical times. In making the announcement, officials visited the site, accompanied by a large detachment of police—sparking a spontaneous protest from local Palestinian residents. Three members of a Palestinian family that claims rights to the land in question were detained. (Photo: Купальня Силоам, Иерусалим via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
Borodianka

UN documents damage to cultural sites in Ukraine

A preliminary report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed the extent of damage to Ukraine’s cultural heritage since Russia invaded in February. UNESCO verified damage to 207 cultural sites, including 88 religious sites, 15 museums, 76 buildings of historic or artistic interest, 18 monuments, and 10 libraries. The report is sourced from satellite images taken before and after the start of the war by both the UN and private companies. UNESCO defines cultural properties under Article 1 of the 1954 Hague Convention. The worst damage was found to be in Donetsk region, now declared annexed by Russia, with 59 damaged sites. (Photo: damaged statue of Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko in Borodyanka. Via Euromaidan Press)

The Caucasus
Nakhchivan

‘Cleansing’ of Armenian culture in Azerbaijan exclave

New clashes broke out on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan, with each side accusing the other of violating the ceasefire. Fighting was first reported near the Lachin Corrdior, which connects Armenia to the autonomous ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh. But attacks on Armenia have also been launched from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, which is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory. A land corridor through Armenia to Nakhchivan is one of Azerbaijan’s outstanding demands in the conflict. Days before the fighting erupted, a report was released by the group Caucasus Heritage Watch at New York’s Cornell University, accusing Azerbaijan of “a systematic, state-sponsored program of cultural erasure” targeting Armenian heritage sites in Nakhchivan. (Photo: CHW)

Palestine
temple mount

Israel high court approves Temple Mount development

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government’s planned cable car over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ruling was met with approval by proponents such as Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Lion, who claimed the project will reduce air pollution and “allow comfortable and efficient access to the Western Wall and the Old City.” However, the project has been met with condemnation by many, including city planners and architects,environmental groups, and Karaite Jews, a minority sect with a cemetery located along the proposed cable car’s path. Palestinian groups have especially criticized the proposed path through East Jerusalem, an area ceded to Arab control in the 1949 armistice but occupied by Israel in 1967. Advocacy group Ir-Amim tweeted: “Folks will hop in in [West Jerusalem] and have no idea they’re cabling over the heads of occupied Palestinians.” (Photo: Adam Teva V’Din)

South Asia
ayodhya

Indian writer sued over Hindutva-jihad comparison

A criminal complaint was registered against Indian politician and former union minister Salman Khurshid over statements made in his recent book Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times. The complaint was filed under sections of the Indian Penal Code that protect “religious sentiments.” It alleges that Khurshid offended the religious sentiments of Hindus by comparing Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) with the ideology of terror groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. Khurshid’s book on the Ayodhya holy site dispute created an uproar upon its release, with Hindu militant organizations calling for its suppression. (Image: Penguin Books)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia brings World Court case against Azerbaijan

The Republic of Armenia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities. In its application, Armenia contended that “for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination,” including mass killings, torture and other abuses. The complaint charged that “Armenian cultural heritage has also been systematically destroyed, erased and falsified.” Armenia has requested the Court to take provisional measures “as a matter of extreme urgency” in order to “protect and preserve Armenia’s rights and the rights of Armenians from further harm.” (Map: Wikipedia)

North America
thacker-pass

Paiute and Shoshone oppose Nevada lithium mine

Local indigenous peoples and their environmentalist supporters have rallied outside the federal courthouse in Reno, Nev., as they await a decision on their request for an injunction to stop the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project, set to be developed on public lands within the ancestral territory of the Paiute and Shoshone. Opponents have also established a protest camp near the mine site. If the injunction is denied, Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Canada-based Lithium Americas, will be able to move ahead with an archaeological survey in preparation for breaking ground on the mine. (Photo: Protect Thacker Pass)

Iraq
Gilgamesh

Looted Gligamesh tablet repatriated to Iraq

A US District Court in New York ordered craft chain Hobby Lobby to turn over the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, a rare cuneiform text from ancient Mesopotamia that was smuggled into the United States from Iraq, so that it may be repatriated. The company’s founder and president, Steve Green, bought the 3,500-year-old Akkadian artifact in 2014, intending to display it in his Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC. The tablet is one of approximately 17,000 looted artifacts that Washington has agreed to return to Iraq. (Photo: ICE via ArtNet News)

Planet Watch
GLAN

International youth file climate change lawsuits

Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. A similar legal action has been launched by a group of youth in Australia, seeking an injunction to stop approval of a license extension at Whitehaven Coal‘s Vickery mine in New South Wales, arguing that it would threaten the futures of young people all over the world by exacerbating climate change. (Photo: GLAN)

Africa
GERD

Trump wades into Egypt-Ethiopia fight over Nile

Reportedly at the direct instigation of President Donald Trump, the US State Department ordered a suspension of aid to Ethiopia over its move to begin capturing water behind a controversial new mega-dam on the Blue Nile that is opposed by Egypt and Sudan. A State Department spokesperson said the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to Addis Ababa “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.” The freeze could affect as much as $100 million in aid. The reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began filling in July, over the protests of Egypt and Sudan, which rely on the Nile for nearly all of their water needs. (Photo: Water Power & Dam Construction)

Iran
soleimani

Trump and Soleimani: clash of barbarisms

Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. In fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a “dirty war” in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is why all the media talk (echoing Trump) about how he “killed Americans” reeks of racism and imperial narcissism. However many US troops Soleimani may have been responsible for killing, this was the least of his massive crimes. Similarly, calling him a “terrorist,” implying he was responsible for attacks on Westerners (always the connotation of that label in mainstream Western discourse), is a vast understatement. He was worse than a terrorist: he was a war criminal. And so is Trump—in his destruction of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul (which could only have cheered Soleimani), in his targeted-assassination drone strikes, and now in his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. (Photo: Iran Briefing)

South Asia
Ayodhya

India: high court rules for Hindus in Ayodhya dispute

The Supreme Court of India issued a unanimous ruling in the decades-long Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land case, finding for the Hindus. A small plot of land in the city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, has traditionally been believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of the god Ram. The location is also venerated by Muslims because it was the site of the Babri Masjid, a mosque built in the sixteenth century by the first Mughal emperor Babur. Both religious communities have fought over the site, and the ruling was issued with India’s security forces on high alert. (Photo: रूही via Wikimedia)