What is wrong with these pictures? Start maybe by looking at them all. The landscapes that they show are beautiful and seem to be almost untouched by humans. The problem is that they are taken where Palestinian villages used to exist before 1948. Five days ago was the 65th anniversary of the Nakba (the catastrophe in Arabic), the day that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians had to flee from their land when the State of Israel was established. These photographs are from the website of the association Zochrot that attempts to familiarize Israeli people with the tragic consequences that their country originated, advocate for a Palestinian right to return (see past article about it) and, hope for a bi-national reconciliation. In this regard, Zochrot has established a map (in Hebrew only) giving an inventory of the Palestinian villages that were evacuated and those that have been destroyed after 1948.
Sometimes their destruction led space to the new Israeli towns but as these photographs reveal, it was a much more profound destruction than a “simple” take over. Palestinian villages have been purely annihilated to the very last stone. Such a clear act of negating the presence of a civilization before the existence of Israel is even more shocking and disturbing as it occurred only a few years after the industrialized Nazi death machine against the Jewish people – let us not forget the gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped and communists either. Ruins of these villages would have told a narrative involving the Palestinian existence prior to the state of Israel and would have implied their evacuation from it. This narrative was apparently not part of the newly born State that got rid of it through the violent erasing of this historical tracks. The ruin implies a tragic situation, but the negation to the right to the ruin goes even further: it is an absolute re-writing of history as it attempts to erase a part of it (it is understood here as the factual history, not the interpretation of it, also named history).
I usually do not want to mix the blog with my own design projects but one of the latter seems relevant enough about this right to the ruin to briefly write about it. The design project of Weaponized Architecture was dramatizing an architectural disobedience to the colonial law that prevents Palestinian construction in 63% of the West Bank. The project was functioning with various tactics of camouflage but was also incorporating the hypothesis of its own destruction by the Israeli army in case it would have been discovered. Its materiality and its ‘uneven geometry’ however, were partially designed in such a way that it would requires too much energy to be fully destroyed. The project would thus become a ruin that would still carry the narrative of its existence and continue the territorial resistance against the colonial law in the West Bank.
The following photographs – the second one was taken by Noga Kadman for her book Erased from Space and Consciousness (see this article on +972 about it) – through their captions and their collection also reconstitute the narrative that was destroyed with the villages themselves. They will never be able to replace the ruins that should have remained and carry this narrative by themselves, but hopefully they are able to translate the disturbing civilizational absence of the post-nakba landscapes.