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Tel Aviv University
The dialogue of belonging in and its expression in regional planning, Dr. Toby Fenster

Introduction 

http://www.nakbainhebrew.org/index.php?id=171

 1. Zochrot (Israeli registered non-profit no. 580389526) hereby submits an objection to the above-mentioned building plan, which purpose is to construct a residential neighborhood on the lands where the Arab village of Lifta existed until 1948. 

2. Zochrot was founded in March 2002 to promote recognition of the Palestinian Nakba by the State of Israel, its residents and institutions. The Nakba, or “catastrophe,” refers to the tragedy incurred by the Palestinians in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled and most of their villages and cities — over 530 — were destroyed. Zochrot’s activities are based on our belief that the destruction and erasure of Palestinian existence from the landscape is part of the history of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people, and not only of the Palestinian people. We are certain that effecting a respectful, dignified, and sensitive consideration of this tragedy is a necessary stepping-stone on the path to resolving the conflict between the two peoples and achieving reconciliation between them. 

3. Zochrot’s primary activities involve documenting and commemorating the sites of Palestinians villages and cities destroyed in 1948. These sites do not enjoy the protection of relevant bodies, for example the protection accorded to natural sites by the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature or the protection accorded to ancient historical sites by the Antiquities Authority. Therefore, Zochrot views itself as directly involved with and connected to the changes that are taking place or are likely to take place with respect to the destroyed villages. 

4. This objection is accompanied by an affidavit by the Director of Zochrot, Mr. Eitan Bronstein, which is attached hereto. 


Theoretical Support 

1. In her article “The dialogue of belonging in and its expression in regional planning,” Dr. Toby Fenster investigates the significance of the construction of identity and belonging with respect to Palestinian citizens in . She examines how different opportunities for the construction of identity and belonging arise within the framework of Israeli planning. As her starting point, Fenster focuses on the definition of the expression ‘quality of life’ as it appears in national outline plan (TAMA) no. 35: “The meaning of that well-worn term, ‘quality of life,’ is to combine the feelings of comfort, belonging, and commitment to the society in Israel with a connection to the place, identification with, and commitment to the physical surroundings — the image of our country’s landscape” (pp. 2-3; emphasis in the original.) Using this definition, Fenster asks whether it is also possible to apply the concepts of ‘belonging to’ and ‘identifying with’ a place with respect to the Palestinian collective in Israel.

2. Via a discussion with the national outline plan (TAMA) no. 35 planner, and using the example set by a planning case in which a compromise was reached between the conflicting aims of widening a street in Nesher and preserving the cemetery of Azz a-Din al-Kassam, Fenster suggests a renewed consideration of how to reconcile between components of memory in area planning. She concludes that it is indeed possible for different communities to preserve memory, in opposition to the existing trend of ‘erasing’ or ‘appropriating’ the memory of a minority.


Principle objection 

Part 1 

 1. Zochrot objects, in principle and in whole, to the preservation plans under review for the reasons detailed below.

 

2. Although it may be argued that Zochrot’s objection rests on political grounds, we maintain that the building plan under discussion, presented in the guise of a professional preservation project, is itself an undertaking having direct political significance with respect to the continuing domination by the State of Israel of Arab spaces in the country. 

3. The Palestinian village of Lifta existed adjacent to Jerusalem until 1948, when it was overtaken by the Israeli Defense Forces. Its residents were forced to leave the village and find refuge in Jerusalem, in various cities in the West Bank and in other countries. At the core of the village there remain a few tens of houses and a water well, and this area is a unique corner in the Jerusalem landscape. The village was not repopulated by Jews — as compared, for example, to Ein Karem, Ein Hod and other villages — and therefore an implicit relationship of respect toward the Palestinian residents of Lifta has been established. When Jews repopulated the abovementioned villages, historical events were presented in such a way as to make it appear that the Palestinian residents had freely and willingly abandoned their villages. This physical and cultural reconstruction of the past obscures the reality of the pain and the depth Palestinian refugee problem, which stands as the primary obstacle to reconciliation between the two nations. 

4. The houses of Lifta, some of them badly damaged, are still standing. Although many of the village structures are in ruins, they remain a monument to the war of 1948 in which most of the Arab villages were conquered and their residents became refugees. In opposition to the existing relationship of respect toward Lifta and its refugees, the current building plan aims to construct hundreds of housing units and to transform the village into a residential neighborhood. This construction will erase the significance of the village as an important memorial site to its refugees, some of them citizens of Israel living in the Jerusalem area. 

5. We are concerned that if the building plan is carried out and Lifta is repopulated, these actions will further enforce the trauma experienced by the Lifta residents who were uprooted in 1948, and will embody a painful reminder to Palestinians, both in and outside of Israel, of the Nakba inscribed in their collective consciousness. The Or Commission, which investigated the factors leading up to the violence of October 2000, observed that for Arabs in Israel, “The establishment of the State of Israel, which the Jewish people celebrated as the materialization of the dream of generations, entails in their historical memory the most painful collective trauma in its history – the Nakba.” In his testimony before the commission, Alik Ron, OC Northern District during the events of October 2000, related to the deep roots of the rage felt by Arabs in this country: “Over the years the sense of the tragedy, of the loss of homes and the loss of land, has not diminished… They experienced a tragedy. [Some] refugees who were uprooted… stayed inside the State, and this sense of loss has not diminished, has not faded, and follows them to this day.”

6. Recently, much attention has been paid to the initiative of Arabs in Israel to visit the extermination camps in Poland in order to better understand the roots of Jewish suffering and the impact of the trauma of the Holocaust in Europe on Israeli Jews. Building on the remains of the village of Lifta will demonstrate to the Arab public that Jews choose not to return the gesture of respect to Arab history and the Arab tragedy. Instead of understanding, respecting, and preserving the memory of the Arab past in this country, the abovementioned building plan will efface the existing traces of the village of Lifta.

7. It should be noted that although to this day the State of Israel and its institutions have not acknowledged their responsibility for the destruction of the Palestinian villages, nonetheless only in rare cases have houses for Jews been built in the center of villages destroyed in 1948.

8. The very existence of the plan to repopulate Lifta completely ignores the Palestinian refugee problem that resulted from their expulsion in 1948. It rejects, in practice, the right of refugees to return to their homes according to international legal principles and basic human rights. The State of Israel is obligated, by its acceptance to the UN in May 1949, to carry out Resolution 194 recognizing the right of refugees to return. Any reconstruction and repopulation of the village by Jews will exacerbate the future difficulties of resolving the problem of the Palestinian refugees. 

9. Zochrot suggests, therefore, to maintain the village as a memorial site that will meet the need to educate the public about the history of 1948. This education is a necessary precondition for bringing about reconciliation between the two peoples. This option is suggested only insofar as the refugees of Lifta, who are the legal owners of the village land, do not return in practice. 

10. Therefore we suggest not to permit the proposed building plan to be carried out, and to leave the remains of the village as they are. 

Part 2 

 Without detracting from the principled objection expressed above, we propose that the building plan be subject to the following constraints: 

1.    The area of the village cemetery will be preserved and officially designated a cemetery, and a pathway will be paved so as to enable access to the cemetery by families of the village. 

2.    The mosque will be preserved and declared a holy site. 

3.    Although the building plan expresses the aim of carrying out a high-quality preservation, the building planners did not make an effort to contact the refugees of Lifta, who, if they wished, could assist by providing information relevant to the preservation. 

4.    As is required when sites are preserved, a complete document file will be prepared, and will include the Palestinian history of the village. This is in order that the preservation plans will recognize and attend to Palestinian history in the area. 

5.    We oppose Sections 11 and 12 of the plan, relating to the construction of a hotel and of the transformation of the village center into a commercial and residential area. These aspects of the plan are particularly disrespectful of the residents of the village. While they exploit the aesthetic nature of the Arab buildings and roads, they fail to acknowledge the individuals who built, inhabited, and made use of these structures. 

6.    The plan to construct a synagogue in the area, which emphasizes the fact that this plan, as others before it, aims to Judaicize the area and not (as alleged) to preserve it, must be cancelled. 

7.    The owners of the land are not clearly designated as is required by a building plan. Zochrot offers to assist in locating the refugees of Lifta, the legal and true owners of the land. 

8.    The section regarding access and parking for automobiles for residents of the neighborhood is rational from a planning perspective, but in practice it prevents the refugees of Lifta from visiting their village. Carrying out this aspect of the plan will further impair the relationship between the refugees and their village. In another area, in the village of Bir’em in the Galilee, the remains of the village are part of “Bara’m National Park,” which visitors may visit only by paying an entrance fee. However, there is an agreement according to which refugees of Bir’em are exempt from paying this entry fee, and can therefore visit their village unimpeded by a monetary burden. 

In addition to the petitioner signed below, the following members and supporters of Zochrot have added their names to this objection. 

Respectfully,


Eitan Bronstein
Director, Zochrot 

-----------------------------------------------------

 

Yosefa Mekaitun, Tel Aviv

Danny Shpruch, Tel Aviv

Nada Mata, Haifa

Eitan Reich, Tel Aviv

Norma Musih, Tel Aviv

Youval Tamari, Yafa

Eran Torbiner, Bat Yam

Nitza Aminov, Jerusalem

Omar Agbaria, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

Tirza Tauber, Tel Aviv

Elinor Amit, Tel Aviv

Talia Fried, Tel Aviv

Yoram Bar-Chaim, Haifa

Shlomo Weinberg, Tivon

Shlomo Kownaki, Arad

Adv. Wakim Wakim, Mei’lia

Moran Livnat, Herzliya

Amit Landau, Tel Aviv

Architect Amnon Bar Or, Tel Aviv

Eli Aminov, Jerusalem

Sigalit Givon, Lapid

Anat Matar, Ramat Hasharon

Tamar Almog, Tel Aviv

Dina Gur, Gan Haim

Rotem Mor, Mevaseret Zion

Liat Sabin Ben Shoshan, Tel Aviv

Remi Mendelzweig, Manof

Avraham Ben Yitzhak, Ramat Hakovesh

Edi (Moshe) Saa’r, Holon

Anat Brand, Givaa’taim

Amak Bshara, Nazareth

Adi Maoz, Jaffa,

Or gerlitz, Ramat Gan

Nadav Harel, Tel Aviv

Uri Zakhem, Kfar Saba

Fadi Shbeita, Jaffa

Mayan Librecht, Tel Aviv

Ofer Naiman, Jerusalem

Uri Ayalon, Tel Aviv

Rela Mazali, Herzliya

Orli Alami, Tel Aviv

Meir Levi, Jerusalem

Regev Natanzon, Givatayim

Haim Hanegbi, Tel Aviv

Amnon Raz-Karkotzkin, Jerusalem

Shmuel Bruner, Jerusalem

Luiz Bethlehem, Hod Hashron

Eilat Maoz, Tel Aviv

Ronit Dovrat, Italy

Osnat Bar-or, Pardes Hana

Tamar Zilberstein, Kfar Hes

Avi Zilberstein, Kfar Hes

Muhamad Saleh, Nazareth

Ariel Dolev, Binyamina

Dr. Diana Dolev, Binyamina

Tal Dor, Tel Aviv

Roi Livne, Ramat Gan

Clair Oren, Givat Brener

Lea Even, Jerusalem

Nadav Horev, Jerusalem

Amia Galili, Amir

Sheshtin Sdergren, Hadera

Ido Tzvieli, Tel Aviv

Roni Barkan, Ra’anana

Eyal Sagi, Herzliya

Ghadir Zriek, Natzeret Ilit

Raheli Bar-or, Tel Aviv

Tal Mendel, Kiryat Anavim

Arie Edo Black, Paris

Yoav Peled, Tel Aviv

Hadar Namir, Tel Aviv

Adi Moreno’ Tel Aviv

Eli Rozen, Zichron Ya’akov

Avital Shlanger, Zichron Ya’akov

Ghaida Rinawi Zo’ebi, Natzeret Ilit

Dana Peleg, Tel Aviv

Nur Masalha, Jerusalem

Ahmad Darwish, Jerusalem

Rabab Korabi, Jerusalem

Hanin Masalha, Jerusalem

Musa Nadaf, Jerusalem

Rabab Masalha, Kfar Kara

Anat Biletzki, Yafo

Ariel Dalumi Rehovot

Sefi Kronenberg, Tel Aviv

Tal Haran, Tel Aviv

Ariela Azulai, Tel Aviv

Adi Ofir, Tel Aviv

Ana Tzimerman, Tel Aviv

Hanan Hever, Tel Aviv

Noa Kaofman, Jerusalem

Dani Mouja, Tel Aviv

Rehela Mizrahi

Annelien Kisch-Kroon, Ramat Hasharon

Susan Nathan, Tamra

Tamar Berger, Tel Aviv

Abigail Yakovson, Herzliya

Michael Kaminer, Tzora

Yoad Eliaz, Hadera

Limor Aluf, Ramot Hashavim

Reimonda Mansur, Jdeide

Jared Goldfarb, Jerusalem

Miki Levi, Tel Aviv

David Sagi, Jerusalem

Amit Leshem, Jerusalem

Anat Erez, Tel Aviv

Liron Stoler-Kavari, Tivon

Youval Kavari, Tivon

Gai Avrahami, Tel Aviv

Jenna Weis, Tivon

Nirit Rosler, Jerusalem

Tamar Abraham, Jerusalem

Sharon Geva, Jerusalem

Avner Ben Amos, Omer

Ronit Marian-Kadishai, Ramat Hasharon

Liron Tal, Tel Aviv

Yoad Shbeita, Tira

Dani Grimblat, Haifa

Talma Bar-Din, Haifa

Ruth Perser, Haifa

Amiram Gil, Givatayim

Haya Shalom, Jerusalem

Dana Alexander, Tel Aviv

Yonatan Berman, Tel Aviv

Shani Verner, Kfar Saba

Rola Hamed, Nazareth

Shalom Batzri, Tel Aviv

Ahmad Khalaila, Yafia

Sally Azam Cook, Nazareth

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