Sunday, February 03, 2008

Commemorating Palestinian villages

According to a report in Ha'aretz, the Jewish National Fund will place signs in parks which were formerly occupied by Palestinian villages. For those not familiar with the Israeli land ownership system, the Jewish National Fund owns some parts of Israeli land but is also the custodian of "absentee lands"--i.e. lands of Palestinian refugees (including those who were in Israeli territory at the cease-fire but not actually on their land).

About 500 former Palestinian villages were demolished. According to the organization Zochrot, which is fighting for the commemoration, there are 86 former villages within the boundaries of national parks; the JNF has reportedly will commemorate 31, placing information about the villages on their former sites.

There are different ways to look at this move. A cynic would say that the JNF wants to accelerate the process of historicizing and making everything a fait accompli, as has always been Israel's strategy; but realistically, it's almost certain no Palestinian will return to these demolished villages to live. Note that the organization, Zochrot (Remembering), which is pushing for the commemoration, supports the right of return for Palestinian refugees, so they clearly hope that such moves will keep the memory alive as older refugees who went through Nakba continue to die out. I would think a bigger question is, what about the other 450 villages that aren't yet commemorated?

It's also sad that most of these plaques will probably be vandalized by right-wingers. The Ha'aretz article shows a standing sign which had already been mostly removed. Just another reminder that the issue is far from being ancient history.

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