Rebuilding history – Destruction and Reconstruction in Palestine

Dr Salman Abu Sitta, founder of the Palestine Land Society, seen at the P21 Gallery in London during the awards ceremony for an architectural competition for the reconstruction of destroyed Palestinian villages [supplied photo]

Dr Salman Abu Sitta, founder of the Palestine Land Society, seen at the P21 Gallery in London during the awards ceremony for an architectural competition for the reconstruction of destroyed Palestinian villages

Report by: Dr Hilary Wise and Betty Hunter (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)

This September London’s P21 gallery hosted an important exhibition and prize-giving ceremony – one that brought together history, politics and contemporary architecture.

The annual competition is the brainchild of Dr Salman Abu Sitta, founder of the Palestine Land Society, perhaps best known for his monumental work in creating highly detailed maps of Palestine as it was before the 1948 Nakba.

Thanks to his work, we have meticulously documented proof of the more than 500 villages which were largely destroyed during the Israeli attacks and occupation following British withdrawal.

This huge database has been used as the source of inspiration for a competition in which students of architecture and planning choose one of the villages from a shortlist of 100 and propose an imaginative reconstruction. Said the organisers:  “Students were encouraged to preserve historical and religious sites and traditional water resources such as wells and springs, which formed the heart of Palestinian agricultural life in the past.“ They were also asked to take into consideration communications with adjacent communities and to bear in mind the needs of local tourism, including visitors from al shatat (exile). Some students included memorials to the victims of the Nakba and to Palestinian resistance leaders martyred in 1948.

This is the second year of the competition; last year three universities participated, but this year saw the participation of eight universities in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. The jury consisted of five distinguished architects from Germany, Palestine and the UK.

The whole concept of the competition is clearly linked to the theme of the right of return of Palestinians to their homeland – a right enshrined in international law and reaffirmed annually by the United Nations. Dr Abu Sitta, who was born in Al Ma’in in Beersheba district, spoke eloquently about the long history of Palestine and the continuity of life over the centuries in its towns and villages drawing on his phenomenally detailed knowledge of the whole region.

This year the winning entry by a student from the University of Petra, Jordan, was inspired by the destroyed hilltop village of Al Qastal near Jerusalem. He was awarded a prize of £2000 and a travelling scholarship. Dr Abu Sitta pointed out that Al Qastal was one of the first village to be attacked and depopulated in the spring of 1948. The following day the village of Deir Yassin became the site of one of the worst massacres of the Nakba.

The chairman of the jury, Dr Nasser Golzari of the University of Westminster, reminded the audience of the very difficult practical, physical and mental conditions under which many of the students were working – especially those from the Islamic University of Gaza, subjected for years to a crippling blockade.

Some of the prize winners were able to join the audience on Skype to talk about their entries. Tellingly, those from Gaza were cut off, due to one of the all too frequent power cuts imposed on the Strip.

The student who was awarded the second prize had chosen the village of Qula near Ramleh, which had been razed to the ground and later covered by a forest. She explained how she was able to plan the re-emergence of the village, while preserving the forest around it.

Last year’s student winners were unfortunately not able to take up the travelling fellowship they were awarded, because they were not granted a visa to travel abroad.

Local coordinator Antoine Raffoul expressed the determination of the organisers that this year’s winners – and those from last year – will be able to take up their travelling scholarships. Their trip will include studying the reconstruction of an Italian village badly damaged in a recent earthquake.

He also said that they hoped that the competition will be gradually internationalised, attracting the participation of institutions and individuals from around the world.

(Source / 09.09.2018)

Gaza hospitals to stop services over fuel crisis

Gaza has a total of 13 Ministry-run hospitals and 54 primary health care centers

Palestinian Health Ministry warned on Sunday of grave consequences of the fuel crisis on hospitals in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

“Generators are about to shut in major hospitals in Gaza due to shortage of fuel,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement.

“There is no response from all parties so far [to solve the crisis],” he said.

On Tuesday, the ministry warned of collapse of medical services in hospitals in Gaza due to lack of fuel needed to run generators in hospitals.

Home to nearly two million people, the Gaza Strip boasts a total of 13 Ministry-run hospitals and 54 primary health care centers that account for roughly 95 per cent of all health services in the coastal enclave.

Gaza, which continues to groan under Israeli siege, has struggled with severe electricity shortages since 2006.

(Source / 09.09.2018)

EU Urges Israel to Reconsider Demolition of West Bank Village

A Bedouin man watches as an excavator digs in the Palestinian village of Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank

The European Union urged Israeli authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish the village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of occupied Jerusalem.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a written statement that the consequences of demolition of the community and the displacement of its residents, including children, against their will, “would be very serious and would severely threaten the viability of the two-state solution and undermine prospects for peace.”

The Israeli High Court of Justice rejected petitions against the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and said a temporary injunction that had put a hold on the move would lapse in a week.

The Court ruled on Wednesday that the army could evacuate the village located near the Kfar Adumim settlement.

Immediately after the ruling, Palestinian officials and activists began an open sit-in in the Bedouin village.

Head of the Wall and Settlement Resistance Committee Walid Assaf announced the start of an open sit-in to address the Israeli court’s decision to demolish the village and deport its residents.

He called on Palestinian people and factions, the Popular Resistance Committees and all institutions to be head to the village to protect the residents.

The village in inhabited by around 35 families, who live in tents and huts.

The population there is mainly from Arab Jahalin Bedouins, who came to the village after they were displaced by Israel during the Nakba in 1948. The number of Bedouins living east of Jerusalem today is about 7,000 people, and the occupation authorities refuse to recognize their existence and seek to expel them.

In 1977, Israel began harassing the people when the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim was built. In 2000, harassment intensified. In 2010, the first decision was issued by the Civil Administration to demolish all the facilities in Khan al-Ahmar.

In May 2018, the Israeli High Court of Justice approved the demolition order, and on July 4, Israeli authorities besieged the village.

The Palestine Liberation Organization- affiliated “National Bureau for the Defense of Land and Settlement Resistance” has called on the international community to “pressure the occupation government to prevent it from carrying out the crime of ethnic cleansing, which is planned in Khan al-Ahmar.”

It also urged the International Criminal Court to act directly and open an official investigation into Israeli and settler crimes.

(Source / 09.09.2018)