navigating palestine can be a difficult task given that the land has been so judaized so that villages are covered up with forests and colonies and the names altered so as to cover up the crimes committed by zionists over the years. one of the people who has eased this process is salman abu sitta whose book the return journey: a guide to the depopulated and present palestinian towns and villages and holy sites is an indispensable tool. this book, which has all the necessary place names in hebrew, arabic, and english maps palestinian villages onto a zionist colonist map to aid people in finding the remnants of palestinian villages as well as navigating zionist roads. this book, along with walid khalidi’s all that remains and the palestine remembered website, enable one to uncover these villages that one day palestinian refugees will return to. since i’ve spent the better part of this week driving around 1948 palestine mapping palestinian villages for a project i’m involved with i thought i’d share some of the more egregious things i’ve seen.
the map pictured at the top of this post is a page taken from the return journey. it is the page for my friend’s mother’s village, المغار or al maghar, which proved quite difficult to find nonetheless because of the colony of beyt el’azari on its land. there are a number of colonies in the area, or settlements, which even the zionist terrorist colonists call them inside 1948 palestine as this photograph below shows. this colony was also on the land or next to the land of al maghar as well as the village of qatra, which is next to al maghar. sometimes the zionist terrorist colonists make names that sound similar, which makes it a bit easier to find. but once you find the area the next task is to find remnants of palestinian life that the zionist terrorist colonists have covered up.
in this area in the ramla district of palestine there were a number of ways that palestinian life was covered up. for one thing, the orange groves that my friend’s mom always talks about were hidden from the road and locked up with a gate by zionists who seem to feel ashamed or fearful of having stolen these orange groves. thus the street is lined with trees they planted to make it more difficult to find them.
likewise there are checkpoints within these colonies, often gated, often with guards, to keep non colonists out. and oftentimes one can find a prison or army base inside as in these photographs here. sound familiar? is this any different than on the other side of the so-called “green line”? these are colonies too. or “settlements” as the zionist terrorist colonists call them and yet i don’t hear anyone talking about freezing these. nor do i hear them talking about removing any of these colonies. and yet for me they remain the major stumbling block as maintaining these settlements or colonies prevents the palestinian refugees from returning to their villages and their land.
one reason that these settlement colonies erase palestinian history is so that they can re-write it in a way that specifically asserts their own presence in palestine, which manipulates and perverts the historical record. the picture below is a perfect example of this. it is posted on the sea wall in yaffa and it says:
The fortified walls around Jaffa have been known since the Byzantine, Crusader, and Ottoman periods.
The part of the North-Western fortifications which were revealed here, protected the city from naval invasion by foreign armies and pirates.
This section of the wall is part of the sea wall formation revealed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, in the Jaffa port and to its North.
The North-Western sea-wall came out of use during the 19th century.
notice that the words palestine or palestinians are never mentioned in the text even though this is the population and place discussed in it. by omission and by asserting that one of the zionist colonist agencies is responsible for “revealing” the wall, they are implying that this is their wall.
sometimes when one is driving in 1948 palestine one is lucky and can see the old palestinian homes from the road as with the village of عجّور or ajjur. there is a colony on their land that is gated, and the big house in the photograph below is inhabited by zionist terrorist colonists, but one can see what remains of this village clearly from a main road.
in اللد or lydd, which is a city in which some palestinians still live–both those who are from lydd and internal refugees from other cities like yaffa who are not allowed to return to their homes, and where zionist terrorist colonists also live on palestinian land, one can see a prominent poster supporting the zionist terrorism of meir kahane’s kach movement (also known as the jewish defense league in the united states), which even the united states designates as a terrorist organization. one usually sees his poster around places like khalil, but he’s apparently popular in lydd, too.
in دير آبان or deir aban i found a zionist terrorist colonist’s restaurant on the land of the palestinian village with a ton of palestinian homes on the hill just above his establishment. i find it rather amazing that one can live among this living testimony to the fact that their presence here is only because of the ethnic cleansing that took place and continues to take place. there is no escaping it in villages like deir aban.
one of the most horrifying features of the ethnic cleansing of palestine is the jewish national fund’s park system that conceals palestinian villages. in the jerusalem area there is the begin national forest that covers up the villages of القبو or el qabu and رأس أبو عمار or ras abu ammar. and then there is the american independence park. this enormous park covers up the villages of خربة اللوز or khirbat el loz, صطاف or sataf, دير الشيخ or deir al sheikh, دير الهوا or deir al hawa, بيت عطاب or beit itab, and سفلى or sufla. there are a number of signs around the park showing who funded it–zionists like brandon and lily tartikoff–and others whose names i did not recognize. i posted one such sign below at the information center we stumbled upon today. that center had a ton of brochures and maps for the various parks. the one for the american independence park is so bold as to mark on it the villages of safla, deir al sheikh, beit itab, and safla. there is large hebrew version at the information center (see below) and a legend of items of note that correspond to it. in the numbers that correspond to palestinian destroyed villages they even mark them as such (see close up in hebrew of deir al sheikh below). here is what the brochure we found in english says:
American Independence Park stretches over some 30,000 dunums on the northwestern slopes of the Judean Mountains, along the road arteries forged by KKL-JNF from Mehasiya junction near Beit Shemesh to Bar Giora junction and from Bar Giora, Tzur Hadassah and the HaEla Valley. Mount Ya’ale ridge, Nahal Sorek nature preserve and the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railway line are north of the park and the Sansan ridge to the south.
American Independence Park was made possible through the generosity of partners and friends of KKL-JNF in the United States. KKL-JNF began developing the park with the help of friends of JNF of America in 1976, to coincide with the bicentennial of American Independence and to mark the friendship between the two freedom-loving countries. The park was developed in an area planted with trees in the 1950s by new immigrant residents of the area and adjoining Beit Shemesh who arrived int he country with the establishment of the State of Israel.
certainly i don’t dispute the relations between the u.s. and the zionist entity, but what they have in common is not freedom, but colonialism. i would love to see what american indians think of such a name and the notion of “american independence” in this context in particular.
ilan pappe has an excellent chapter on the jewish national fund (jnf) parks in his book the ethnic cleansing of palestine entitled “the memoricide of the nakba. he says:
JNF parks do not only offer parking spaces, picnic areas, playgrounds and access to nature, but also incorporate visible items that tell a particular history: the ruins of a house, a fortress, orchards, cactuses (sabra), and so on. There are also many fig and almond trees. Most Israelis think these are “wild” figs or “wild” almonds, as they see them in full bloom, towards the end of winter, heralding the beauty of spring. But these fruit trees were planted and nurtured by human hands. Wherever almond and fig trees, or olive groves or clusters of cactuses are found, there once stood a Palestinian village: still blossoming afresh each year, these trees are all that remain. Near the now-uncultivated terraces, and under the picnic tables, and the European pine forests, there lie buried the houses and fields of the Palestinians whom Israeli troops expelled in 1948. However, guided only by these JNF signs, visitors will never realise that people used to live there–the Palestinians who now reside as refugees in the Occupied Territories, as second-rate citizens inside Israel, and as camp dwellers beyond Palestine’s border.
The true mission of the JNF, in other words, has been to conceal these visible remnants of Palestine not only by the trees it has planted over them, but also by the narratives it has created to deny their existence. Whether on the JNF website or in the parks themselves, the most sophisticated audio-visual equipment displays the official Zionist story, contextualizing any given location within the national meta-narrative of the Jewish people and Eretz Israel. This version continues to spout the familiar myths of the narrative–Palestine as an “empty” and “arid” land before the arrival of Zionism–that Zionism employs to supplant all history that contradicts its own invented Jewish past.
As Israel’s given “green lungs,” these recreational sites do not so much commemorate history as seek to totally erase it. Through the literature the JNF attaches to the items that are still visible from before 1948 a local history is intentionally denied. This is not part of a need to tell a different story in its own right, but is designed to annihilate all memory of the Palestinian villages that these “green lungs” have replaced. (228-229)
the jnf website that pappe refers to is particularly appalling. on first glance one might think that this is a site dedicated to ecology, the environment, and conservation if one did not understand the historical irony that led to the creation of these forests (and if you are a jew living in the west you likely have contributed to the creation of these forests every time someone planted a tree in your name). ironically pappe shows just how these forests run counter to any notion of environmental conservation:
The three aims of keeping the country Jewish, European-looking, and Green quickly fused into one. This is why forests throughout Israel today include only eleven per cent of indigenous species and why a mere ten per cent of all forests date from before 1948. At times, the original flora manages to return in surprising ways. Pine trees were planted not only over bulldozed houses, but also over fields and olive groves. In the new development town of Migdal Ha-Emek, for example, the JNF did its utmost to try and cover the ruins of the Palestinian village of Mujaydil, at the town’s eastern entrance, with rows of pine trees, not a proper forest in this case but just a small wood. Such “green lungs” can be found in many of Israel’s development towns that cover destroyed Palestinian villages (Tirat Hacarmel over Tirat Haifa, Qiryat Shemona over Khalsa, Ashkelon over Majdal, etc.). But this particular species failed to adapt to the local soil and, despite repeated treatment, disease kept afflicting the trees. Later visits by relatives of some of Mujaydial’s original villagers, revealed that some of the pine trees had literally split in two and how, in the middle of their broken trunks, olive trees had popped up in defiance of the alien flora planted over them fifty-six years ago. (227-228)
with respect to the parks in the areas of the district of al quds that i was visiting today, the jnf forests and their zionist narratives are explained by pappe as follows:
The JNF website here promises its visitors unique sites and special experiences in a forest whose historical remnants “testify to intensive agricultural activity.” More specifically, it highlights the various terraces one finds carved out along the western slopes: as in all other sites, these terraces are always “ancient”–even when they were shaped by Palestinian villagers less than two or three generations ago.
The last geographical site is the destroyed Palestinian village of Sataf, located in one of the most beautiful spots high up in the Jerusalem Mountains. The site’s greatest attraction, according to the JNF website, is the reconstruction it offers of “ancient” (kadum in Hebrew) agriculture–the adjective “ancient” is used for every single detail in this site: paths are “ancient,” steps are “ancient,” and so on. Sataf, in fact, was a Palestinian village expelled and mostly destroyed in 1948. For the JNF, the remains of the village are one more station visitors encounter on the intriguing walking tours it has set out for them within this “ancient site.” The mixture here of Palestinian terraces and the remains of four or five Palestinian buildings almost fully intact inspired the JNF to create a new concept, the “bustanof” (“bustan” plus “nof,” the Hebrew word for panorama, the English equivalent for which would probably be something like “bustaorama” or “orchard view”). The concept is wholly original to the JNF.
The bustans overlook some exquisite scenery and are popular with Jerusalem’s young professional class who come here to experience “ancient” and “biblical” ways of cultivating a plot of land that may even yield some “biblical” fruits and vegetables. Needless to say, these ancient ways are far from “biblical” but are Palestinian, as are the plots and the bustans and the place itself.
In Sataf the JNF promises the more adventurous visitors a “Secret Garden” and an “Elusive Spring,” two gems they can discover among terraces that are a “testimony to human habitation 6,000 years ago culminating in the period of the Second Temple.” This is not exactly how these terraces were described in 1949 when Jewish immigrants from Arab countries were sent to repopulate the Palestinian village and take over the houses that had remained standing. Only when these new settlers proved unmanageable did the JNF decide to turn the village into a tourist site.
At the time, in 1949, Israel’s naming committee searched for a biblical association for the place, but failed to find any connection to Jewish sources. They then hit upon the idea of associating the vineyard that surrounded the village with the vineyards mentioned int he biblical Psalms and Song of Songs. For a while they even invented a name for the place to suit their fancy, “Bikura”–the early fruit of the summer–but gave it up again as Israelis had already got used to the name Sataf.
The JNF website narrative and the information offered on the various boards set up at the locations themselves is also widely available elsewhere. There has always been a thriving literature in Israel catering for domestic tourism where ecological awareness, Zionist ideology and erasure of the past often go hand in hand. The encyclopedias, tourist guides and albums generated for the purpose appear even more popular and are in greater demand today than ever before. In this way, the JNF “ecologises” the crimes of 1948 in order for Israel to tell one narrative and erase another. As Walid Khalidi has put in his forceful style: “It is a platitude of historiography that the victors in war get away with both the loot and the version of events.”
Despite the deliberate airbrushing of history, the fate of the villages that lie buried under the recreational parks in Israel is intimately linked to the future of the Palestinian families who once lived there and who now, almost sixty years later, still reside in refugee camps and faraway diasporic communities. The solution of the Palestinian refugee problem remains the key to any just and lasting settlement of the conflict in Palestine: for closet to sixty years now the Palestinians have remained steadfast as a nation in their demand to have their legal rights acknowledged, above all their Right of Return, originally granted to them by the United Nations in 1948. They continue to confront an official Israeli policy of denial and anti-repatriation that seems only to have hardened over the same period. (232-234)
below are images of the village of sataf that i took today. anyone who knows anything about palestinian architecture knows that these stairs and homes are palestinian.
the final village we went to tonight was al walaja or الولجة . i have seen part of this village before as a checkpoint on my way home cuts the village into two as will the apartheid wall when it is completed. whenever i take this road home i see all of the old palestinian homes with zionist terrorist colonists picnicking and wading in the well, but palestinians from this village, of course, cannot do the same. they are refugees and not allowed on their land–even the side that is on the “west bank” side of the checkpoint. we were looking for another part of walaja today and perhaps we found it. we drove up a dirt road, which is usually the first indication that you’re heading towards a palestinian village. up the road we found a parking lot, which was rather crowded for dusk. we soon discovered that zionist terrorist colonists were celebrating a wedding on the ruins and blood of the villagers of walaja.
but this was par for the course. what we saw as we walked up the path was an entire recreated “roman village” on the ruins of a palestinian village. much as pappe explains above, this village tries to root zionists in this land by somehow connecting themselves to the romans and thus creating some bogus narrative of continuity. they had a section on agriculture, pottery, mosaics, baking bread, and it is all set up like those colonial villages we have in the united states to narrate away the ethnic cleansing and genocide american colonists did to the american indians. same story, same narrative, same methods of concealment. below you’ll see photographs of signs, fake donkeys and shepherds showing the methods of irrigation or farming, and “roman” agricultural tools on display. just when you think they cannot sink to new lows they invent new ways of erasing the past and trampling on palestinian history, rights, and people.