This photo taken by Anne Paq, an award-winning French freelance photographer who has been based in Palestine since 2003, sent a chill down my back when I came across it this morning in an article published in the Electronic Intifada, titled ‘A village in danger of erasure’.
It just happened that a day or so ago, in doing research for an answer I wrote on Quora in response to a question about Jaffa, I had come across the following information published on The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) website - ‘Nakba week — remembering the catastrophe’.
The part this photo brought to mind reads like this:
The expulsion of the Palestinians — not merely the fighters but the civilians — had been well prepared. Throughout the 1930s and 40s dossiers on all the Palestinian villages had been meticulously compiled by Zionist militias and stored in the files of the Haganah (the Zionist military organisation that operated during the time of the British mandate, 1921–48, after which it formed the basis of the IDF). These files can still be consulted today in the Haganah archives (see Pappe, Ethnic Cleansing, passim).
The Haganah sent spies into the villages, where they availed themselves of the Arab hospitality offered them and, under the pretext of concern for the wellbeing of their hosts, enquired about the number of animals and the amount of land each family owned. This information came in useful when half the villages of Palestine were destroyed in the Nakba. No doubt it also formed a database for the ‘Great Book Robbery’ that took place at the same time, when 70,000 volumes were stolen from well-to-do Palestinian homes and from mosques, some of them to be pulped as being ‘hostile’ to the new Israeli state, and others ending up in the National Library with ‘AP’ (abandoned property) embossed on their spines.
And here was this Haganah-turned-IDF Jew doing exactly the same thing in the West Bank, in preparation for the erasure of al-Walajah, the Palestinian village between Jerusalem and Bethlehem!
Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.