[Thursday June 13 2013] The Arabs48 News Website has reported that the Tel Aviv University is cooperating with right wing settler groups involved in excavations in Silwan Arab town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied East Jerusalem.It said that the Elad settler group, involved is funding and financing settlement activities, is indirectly paying the salary of a Tel Aviv University researcher in charge of the excavations.

Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the decision of the Archeology Center at the Tel Aviv University to initiate excavations in Silwan caused a stir due to allegations of cooperation with extremist right wing settler groups.

The Tel Aviv University claimed that the excavations are carried out in cooperation with the Israeli Antiques Authority, and “has nothing to do with the Elad group.

Haaretz obtained documents indicating that the Elad group started the digging, has been directly involved in the issue since the beginning, and that the Tel Aviv University was not only fully aware of the issue, but knew that Elad was paying the salary of Tel Aviv University Archeologist, Yuval Gadot, who heads the excavations.

It said that a meeting was held in November of 2012, just before the digging started, and that the summary of this meeting shows that Gadot, and the director of Elad, David Be’eri, and various officials of the Israeli Antiques Authority attended the meeting, and that Elad was granted a role in the digging.

Elad was given various tasks, including providing workers mechanical tools and logistics, while an agreement that was signed between the Tel Aviv University and the Israeli Antiques Authority “commits the authority to pay Gadot 23.000 NIS per month for his work”, Haaretz said.

The Tel Aviv University told Haaretz that it had no connection with Elad, and that, to the best of the University’s knowledge, the budged of the Antiques Authority comes from the government.

The University said that the agreement states that the digging, the analysis and research are exclusive to its researchers, and that “it has no contracts, or relations, with Elad”.

Yet, Haaretz revealed that the budget of the entire excavation work comes from Elad, as per an agreement between Elad and the Antiques Authority.

The agreement states that Elad would pay 385.000 NIS for a 40-day exploratory excavation, but it continued to pay on regular basis.

Furthermore, Haaretz quoted Yoni Mizrahi, of the leftist Emek Shaveh archeologist organization, stating that groups involved in the excavations in Silwan, even groups that deny political motivations, are part of the attempts carried out by the settlers to fortify their control of occupied East Jerusalem.

He added that Tel Aviv University has been denying for months “whet everybody knew about their involvement and cooperation with the settlers.’

Elad responded to the issue by stating that it operates and develops the “City of David” project, in Jerusalem, and pays part of the cost of the archeological excavations carried out by the Israeli Antiques Authority.

It also denied any role in relations between Tel Aviv University and Antiques Authority, and added that Gadot is licensed to excavate part of the area.

The group claimed it does not interfere in the work of researchers.