Saving Lifta: Stepping up the Campaign

This week, the Coalition to Save Lifta announced that, following a petition submitted on 6 March, an Israeli court had ordered a temporary freeze on plans to build a new luxury Jewish neighbourhood on the remains of the Palestinian village of Lifta.

Their 7 March press release stated:

Following a petition submitted yesterday [...] Judge Yigal Marzel issued a temporary injunction today ordering the Israel Land Administration to freeze publication of the results of a tender to lease plots for building in the village of Lifta. The petition was submitted by Attorney Sami Arshid on behalf of Jerusalem activists, including descendents of Lifta, the Bnei Lifta Association, Rabbis for Human Rights and the Jafra Association …

1943 map of Jerusalem showing Lifta to northwest

1943 map of Jerusalem showing Lifta to northwest (Wikimedia commons)

Lifta, once home to over 3,000 Palestinians, is one of more than 500 Palestinian villages depopulated by the Haganah and other pre-state Israeli militias during the war of 1948. It is one of only a handful of these villages within the borders of Israel that remain substantially intact, neither destroyed nor re-appropriated by Jewish Israelis (others include Kafr Bir’im and al-Bassa in the north). Its prominent location, visible from the main road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, has given Lifta an iconic status as the most prominent monument to the Nakba and, by extension, to al-Awda (the Return).

Of course, this current reprieve may well prove temporary, since the success of the petitioners thus far appears to have hinged on a ‘professional opinion’ focusing primarily on the failings of the design proposal itself, rather than challenging more fundamental issues of cultural heritage or the land rights of refugees. Hence a change to the developer’s proposals could yet satisfy the courts. However, this small victory still offers cause for hope, and an opportunity to raise awareness and plan the next stage of the fight to save Lifta and to protect the cultural heritage of Palestine that remains.

Photograph of Lifta from 1898

Photograph of Lifta from 1898 (PalestineRemembered.com)

On the ground, organisations such as Zochrot are engaged in actions and events to commemorate Lifta and the many other Palestinian villages, whilst internationally organisations such as Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine maintain open petitions in support of Lifta and other sites.

Tania Kepler of the Alternative Information Center (AIC) has written an excellent article, ‘Temporary Injunction against New Building in Palestinian Village Destroyed in 1948′, placing this week’s court decision in the context of the ongoing local and international advocacy campaigns focusing on the cause of saving Lifta.

You can also download the press release from the ‘Coalition to Save Lifta’.

(Update: A new petition to save Lifta is now online here)

Photograph of Lifta in 2004

Photograph of Lifta in 2004 (Hussam Siam / PalestineRemembered.com)

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