Tuesday, November 25, 2008

7th International Sabeel Conference visits demolished Palestinian Villages

On the 3rd day of the ongoing 7th International Sabeel Conference, the lost narrative of the Nakba, or the "Catastrophe" of 1948 was uncovered and participants gained an understanding of the continuing impact this event has on Palestinian society inside of Israel. 250 internationals from the United States and Europe visited locations that had once been thriving Palestinian villages and towns prior to the War of 1948. Currently, these villages exist in various states of destruction. Some villages have been partially demolished, with Jewish immigrants residing in homes previously owned by Palestinians. Others have been completely destroyed, the cacti that once served as natural fencing acting as the only remaining evidence of their existence. The international participants listened to testimonies from witnesses and former residents of the demolished villages. The witnesses were forcibly transferred in 1948 and are still currently denied their right to return to their homes.

In Azib, the Palestinian mayor’s house has been converted into a museum displaying confiscated household possessions of the former Palestinian residents and headstones stolen from the village’s cemetery. These items are displayed as artifacts of unnamed Muslims. The village mosque has been converted into bathrooms and showers servicing Israelis visiting the private beach located on land that was previously considered Azib. The observers saw many such acts of desecration tacitly approved by the Israeli state.

In the evening, the international participants returned to the convention center to share their experiences visiting these villages. A young American man mentioned that he had asked an Israeli resident of a partially demolished Palestinian village, Ijzim what the neglected mosque in the center of his town was. The Israeli incorrectly informed him that the mosque had been a hotel during the British Mandate. This shocking ignorance on the part of these new residents and the ability to witness evidence of the erasure of a culture visibly moved the international participants. They were outraged and many were moved to tears.

Today, this pre-1948 structure formerly inhabited by Palestinian residents of Sa'sa', is now inhabited by a Jewish family that immigrated after 1948. The village is now Kibbutz Sasa retaining its Palestinian name but pronounced in a Hebrew manner.

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