Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948

Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948

Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948

Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948

Synopsis

Hundreds of Palestinian villages were left empty across Israel when their residents became refugees after the 1948 war, their lands and property confiscated. Most of the villages were razed by the new State of Israel, but in dozens of others, communities of Jews were settled--many refugees in their own right. The state embarked on a systematic effort of renaming and remaking the landscape, and the Arab presence was all but erased from official maps and histories. Israelis are familiar with the ruins, terraces, and orchards that mark these sites today--almost half are located within tourist areas or national parks--but public descriptions rarely acknowledge that Arab communities existed there within living memory or describe how they came to be depopulated. Using official archives, kibbutz publications, and visits to the former village sites, Noga Kadman has reconstructed this history of erasure for all 418 depopulated villages.

Excerpt

—“Please stop at Masmiyya.”

—“Where is it?”

—“You know, the junction where you can turn left to Be’er Sheva or right to
Tel Aviv.”

—“No, this place is called Re’em junction … what was that weird name you
just used?”

—“Masmiyya. You haven’t heard about it? This is what the people from the
south call this junction.”

—“Okay, I’m from Jerusalem, but I drive here every once in a while, and I don’t
know the name … You should know: this place is called Re’em junction,
and it’s even on the map, look …”

This recent conversation I had with a cabdriver from Jerusalem, a person of Russian origin, demonstrates well the act of erasure and its long-lasting influence. Those who were born in the 1950s, like me, still carry with them fragments of memories of the Palestinian localities demolished by Israel, mainly retained from the landscapes we traveled through, in which we frequently brushed against the ruins of the demolished sites. Those ruins had names, and of course were connected to systems of roads and tracks, as well as remains of orchards, groves, hedges, and fields. These crumbs of memory have also survived in spoken, everyday language, which refers to the country’s places, vegetation, and customs. But the new generations, and especially the new immigrants who have arrived over the last few decades, already have no connection to this disappearing geography.

This, of course, is no coincidence. the act of erasure has been guided for decades by the mechanisms of the Jewish state, which seek to expunge the remains of the Arab-Palestinian society living in the country until 1948, as well as deny the tragedy visited on this people by Zionism. the act of erasure, which followed the violence, the flight, the expulsion, and the demolition of villages, is prominent in most major discursive arenas—in school textbooks, in the history that Zionist society recounts itself, in the political discourse, in the media, in official maps, and now also in the names of communities, roads, and junctions. Palestine, which underlies Israel, is continuously being erased from the IsraeliJewish body and speech. the remains of Arabness left in the Israeli landscape are perceived by the Jewish majority as the communities of “Israel’s Arabs”—some . . .

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