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PACBI-Do Not Celebrate Ethnic Cleansing and Dispossession, Boycott the Open House Jerusalem and its Urban Party


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19 October 2012

Do Not Celebrate Ethnic Cleansing and Dispossession, Boycott the Open House Jerusalem and its Urban Party

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urges organisations and individuals to boycott the Urban Party Jerusalem and the rest of the Open House Jerusalem (Houses from Within) series of events taking place between October 25-27th 2012 in Jerusalem. The urban party, which is part of the Redrawing Project created by the Irish city planner, Paul Kearns and the Israeli architect, Motty Ruimy, is to take place at the Museum on the Seam [1].
 
The Open House Jerusalem and its several activities, including the urban party Jerusalem, are supported by a host of Israeli official organisations, including the Ministry of Tourism, the Municipality of Jerusalem, the Israeli Authorities Authority, amongst others. This renders this project a typical example of Israel’s rebranding to cover up its crimes against the Palestinians, particularly in Jerusalem.
 
Moreover, the urban party, as its organisers note '[is] a metaphor of what connects and distinguishes Jerusalem from a settlement, from a refugee camp, and from East Jerusalem – while symbolically taking place on the seam between the two parts of the city’ [2]. This statement testifies to the complicity of this project in whitewashing the colonial reality in Jerusalem. Through normalising and contrasting the notions of settlements and refugee camps with Jerusalem while symbolically recognising the divide, this project not only accepts these as normal planning zones but also celebrates the brutal reality on the ground. 
 
Participating in the urban party Jerusalem would inadvertently lend a stamp of approval to Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing and massive human rights violations. The Museum on the Seam, where the urban party Jerusalem is planned, is the original house of the Baramki family. In 1932, the prominent Palestinian architect, Andoni Baramki, built this house for his family in Jerusalem. In 1948, during the Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign, or Nakba, the Baramki family were uprooted, like hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The Baramki’s family request to claim back their house was repeatedly denied by the Israeli authorities under the racist Absentees’ Property Law of 1950 [3], which was used to pillage the property of Palestinians ethnically cleansed during the Nakba and even those who were internally displaced and declared as 'present absentees’[4]. This infamous law recognizes the presence of internally displaced Palestinians as 'residents’ or 'citizens’ of the state of Israel, but 'absent’ as far as their own individual property is concerned.
 
The story of the Baramki House is only one of thousands of similar stories, but this particular case exemplifies the wider injustice. We, in PACBI, see the Museum on the Seam as an embodiment of Israeli criminality, hypocrisy, property theft, colonization, oppression and persistent denial of the Palestinians’ very presence and the rights that go along with it. We demand that international law be implemented, and the Baramki House be returned to its legitimate Palestinian owners, the Baramki family [5]. It is therefore pertinent not to give legitimacy to this Museum by endorsing its activities and participating in covering up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes and towns.
 
Beyond the urban party, the larger programme of the Open House Jerusalem (Houses from Within) uses the destruction of Palestinian properties as a form of architectural veneer, which is disconnected from the colonial reality that generated this destruction. Visiting the village of Lifta, whose residents were ethnically cleansed in 1948, is listed amongst the activities of the Open House Jerusalem. The visit is supposed to '[focus] on the stages of the ancient village`s development, whose residents initially lived in caves, moving from there to a crowded, built up nucleus in the middle of the village, and eventually to urban villas’ [6].  This historical/architectural narrative masks the colonial reality with a facade of intellectual enquiry that covers up crimes of disposition and violations of the rights of the indigenous Palestinian population. The original inhabitants of this village who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 live in nearby East Jerusalem, denied the right to return to their homes [7]. This project builds upon the architectural legacy of these indigenous Palestinians as if they were a memory of a distant civilisation and not a people who have been dispossessed of their homes and are still fighting for their right to return to their properties and land.    
 
The programme of Open House Jerusalem also portrays the light railway system, recently introduced in Jerusalem and which links the city to neighbouring colonies in violation of international law, as a medium of connection and respect for all inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem. According to international law, an occupying power is not allowed to annex or drastically change the infrastructure in the territories it occupies. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice confirmed that Israel is an occupying power and that building the Separation Wall and the Jewish settlements is illegal. As this light railway line project runs through occupied East Jerusalem, it is in blatant violation of international law and the rights of the indigenous Palestinians [8].
 
We therefore call upon you not to lend a hand to rebranding Israel and celebrating its violations of international law and ongoing dispossession of the Palestinian people. Boycott the Open House Jerusalem and its urban party.   
 
Sincerely,
PACBI
 
 
About PACBI and the BDS movement
In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, PACBI issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid [9]. The 2004 Palestinian call appealed to the international academic community to, among other things, “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions” [10].
 
Following this, in 2005, an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing BDS campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality [11]. The BDS movement adopts a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights and international law standards as other nations. It is asking the international academic community to heed the boycott call, as it did in the struggle against South African apartheid, until “Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid." [12]
 
Notes:
[4] For more information see, for example, Masalha, Nur (1992) Expulsion of the Palestinians: the Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948.Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies.  Also see, http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=2662
[6] Ibid
[8] See http://www.jerusalemquarterly.org/images/ArticlesPdf/38_Derailing_Injustice.pdf
[10] Ibid
[11]

[12] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=868 

Posted on 19-10-2012


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