The Co-Op showed a 3 films on Palestinian and Israeli themes, what I found most interesting was a production by Benny Brunner made in 2012 called ‘The Great Book Robbery.’ What he showed was that 70000 Palestinian books were systematically collected by the newly established Israeli State during the 1948. As well as land and properties this is a lesser known aspect of what Palestinians called the Nakba or expulsion by Zionist Militias from where they’d lived which started in 1947 and went on beyond 1948. Israel looted Palestinian homes of their cultural treasures, among them books, manuscripts personal papers, photographs and works of art. In the film what Benny did was to secretly photograph an area in the Israeli National Library which was discovered by an Israeli Masters Degree student where some of the books have been kept where each item has an initial AP (Abandoned Property) before their number.
I’ve already written about the 1948 War and looting of Palestinian homes by Israeli soldiers which I believe is a War Crime under the Geneva Convention. What Benny suggested in his film was that a special unit within the Israeli Library Service followed the Army into areas which had been captured to recover books which had been left there by their previous Palestinian occupants. There is no record of how many books, manuscripts personal papers, photographs and works of art were looted. None of these treasures have been returned to their owners or the Palestinian authorities 67 years since they were stolen.
One characteristic which is common to Palestinians and Israeli is how they value learning and literature. At the Co-Op Meeting Angela Godfrey-Goldstein from the Jahalin Association which supports Bedouin communities being expelled from their settled areas in Southern Israel referred to the book robbery as ‘cultural genocide’ which I think is accurate. By removing these priceless relics from their owners Israeli’s have withdrawn from public knowledge a high proportion of written Palestinian history and literature. In the film a Palestinian author says that the Palestinian memories have only been recorded after 1948. There has to be a question why the Israeli’s have kept the relics I’ve described above.
The only similar event I can remember is from the Holocaust history and my experience of visiting Prague with my children where there’s a Jewish Museum. This shows that the Nazi Party preserved the Synagogues in Prague after the German army invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938. During the war relics from Synagogues across occupied Europe were sent to Prague to be kept as relics once all Jews had been killed and the world was ‘Juden-frei’ ( Jew free). If I refer again to the Palestinian issues I’ve written about above we have to ask ourselves if there is a link between the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel, the theft of priceless artefacts and the Zionist ideal to recreate Israel within the boundaries of the biblical land ‘Eretz Yisrael.’ I’ve been thinking recently about further Israeli expansion and the possibility that there may be a plan to expel all Palestinians from Israel. If this were to happen the relics appropriated illegally from them could become part of how the Israel could exhibit them as memories of life there before 1948 in a country which no longer has any Palestinians living there. This may read again like a pure fantasy, almost my personal paranoia which doesn’t reflect reality. At the Co-Op Meeting there was a speaker from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for the question and answer session. I asked my question whether a unilateral annexation by Israel to expand the current borders beyond Jerusalem and include the Settlement blocs was a possibility. The response was that there are Israelis who’ve considered and supported such action. Israel has known this is an option but hasn’t yet acted on it, implicitly my view is that whether it will is unknown.
In terms of the Analysis program last night the topic was whether there are limits to free speech by Andrew Rawnsley. I don’t like him in general because he’s quite right wing, however I found his historical account of free speech right back to Athens to recent events in France very interesting. If you want to hear it even I’m able to access the Radio 4 podcasts, no one else should have any problems!
I had 6 responses to my most recent post and a member of Palestine-UK Social Work Network posted it on Facebook. Please respond to this post if you want, I plan to write a further blog with responses to my previous post.