"The archive does not document historical experience but above all its lack, reminding us time and again that what we have lost had never been completely in our possession to begin with; it is not the source of sealed knowledge and history’s innocuous spokesperson, but that which remembers its forgettings and erasures through the bureaucratic argot of sorting and storing procedures; a site which documents injustice, and therefore that which enables us to trace its paths; a place where the authority , knowledge and control facing us are the other side of the accumulation of documents and papers, which pave the way for forgotten histories and which may, one day, convict their owners."
– Gish Amit, Ex Libris: Chronicles of Theft, Preservation and Appropriating at the Jewish National Library, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute/ Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2014, pp. 169-70 (Hebrew)
The symposium presented and discussed three historical studies that deal – each from a d different perspective – with practices of archiving Palestinian history, which shed light on the power relations and regimentation mechanisms by which Israel controls and appropriates the treasures of Palestinian culture.
Dr. Gish Amit presented his study, recently published in Arabic as well, by the Palestinian Center for Israel Studies in Ramallah. The study analyzes three events which took place in the National Library: the Diaspora Treasures project, whereby hundreds of thousands of books owned by Jews and looted by Nazis were brought to Jerusalem after the war; the appropriation of some thirty thousand books owned by Palestinians during the 1948 war; and the appropriation of books and manuscripts owned by Yemenite Jews who have arrived in Israel in the aftermath of that war. Amit focused on the sorting and cataloguing procedures which have accompanied the collection of Palestinian books and the relationship between them and the erasure of Palestine’s pre-Zionist past.
Dr. Rona Sela presented her study that follows the way in which institutions and military archives in Israel, including the photography military archives subordinated to them, receive, collect and preserve information about the Palestinians, and control the memory, culture and writing of the Palestinian history and heritage and the way those are distributed in the public space. The research follows the control apparatus of the archives that is based on double activation of power relations from the moment those were taken (treasure, looting, secret copying of materials and more), through rules and regulation that organize the activity of the archives in reference to them and the various apparatuses that relate to the limitation of their exposure, till their censoring and erasure from the public space as well as the restriction of their return to their owners. The research had been published in Hebrew in Helena publishing house and these days it is translated to English. It was also presented in an exhibition at Minshar Art Gallery in 2009.
Dr. Adel Manna offered a critical reading of Zionist sources about the Nakba while relying on Palestinian sources, including oral histories. This study is designed to counteract the asymmetry in the historical research and resources about 1948 and its immediate aftermath. Lately Dr. Manna had completed his new book: "Nakba and survival – Stories of Palestinians that remained in Haifa and the Galilee, 1948-1956", which will be published in Hebrew and Arabic in Jerusalem and Beirut on 2016.
Debby Farber moderated the discussion.
The symposium held on Wednesday, July 29, 2015, at 20:00-22:00 in Zochrot’s offices in Tel Aviv, 34 Yitzhak Sade St. in Room 400 on the 4th floor