A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research

A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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The Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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An old picture of the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Robert Dawson photo)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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A view of the Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Robert Dawson photo)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Supplied)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Supplied)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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A view of Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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Media people get a briefing on the renovated Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
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A view of the renovated Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Photos by Robert Dawson and Khalidi Library)
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Updated 29 January 2021

A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research

A restored Palestinian library in Jerusalem preserves heritage, encourages research
  • Founded in 1900, Khalidi Library contains one of the world’s biggest private collections of Arabic books and manuscripts
  • The library and its treasure trove of manuscripts and books further buttress Palestinians’ historic claim to the city

AMMAN: At the turn of the 20th century, Hajj Raghib Al-Khalidi realized he must act to preserve the rich collection of books and manuscripts his family had assembled over many generations.

In 1900, the Jerusalem-based intellectual gathered together the many volumes and papers scattered among his extended family and catalogued them in a single location. With that, the Khalidi Library was born.

Now, over a century later, Khalidi’s descendants have carried out a major restoration, which has seen the library’s centuries-old collection preserved and digitized for scholars to access worldwide.

The library, known in Arabic as Al-Maktaba Al-Khalidiyya, was established in the Old City of Jerusalem in Tariq Bab Al-Silsilah near the Bab Al-Silsilah, one of the main gates to Al-Haram Al-Sharif — also known as Temple Mount — home of Al-Aqsa Mosque.




An old manuscript found at Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Supplied)

It contains one of the world’s biggest private collections of Arabic manuscripts (approximately 1,200 titles), the oldest of which is about 1,000 years old. Among them are about 200 extremely rare Islamic texts, many of them intricately decorated with geometric motifs in colored ink.

Its printed collection, mostly of 19th century vintage, contains around 5,500 volumes. There is also a massive archive of family papers going back to the early 18th century.

The Khalidis claim to trace their ancestry to the early Muslim conqueror Khalid ibn Al-Walid, who died in 642. A family called Khalidi was documented in Jerusalem in the 11th century. The best attested family lineage, however, dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries during the Mamluk Empire.

The Mamluk-era building where the library is situated has also stood the test of time. Built in 1389, it has outlasted successive rulers from the Umayyad Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire to the British Mandate, standing proud even today under Israeli occupation.

For Palestinians, the library is a living testament to their historic claim to the Holy City, dealing the “false Zionist narrative” a sound rebuttal, according to one of Khalidi’s descendents.

KHALIDI LIBRARYMILESTONES

  • 1389 - The Mamluk-era building is constructed.
  • 1900 - Raghib Al-Khalidi establishes library.
  • 1967 - East Jerusalem is annexed by Israel.
  • 1989 - Friends of the Khalidi Library is incorporated.

“A library of rare books and manuscripts that goes back to the 10th and 11th century is proof that Jerusalemites and Palestinians have been a center of culture and civilization for millennia,” Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American historian of the Middle East and Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, told Arab News.

“(Zionists) argue we don’t exist and that we have a fabricated history and that other people are indigenous to this land and we are not. We the Palestinians are the people of this land while the other narrative is that of the settler-colonial project that was imposed on us.”

At the close of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jerusalem was left divided between Jordan and the fledgling state of Israel. The Arab defeat sparked a massive flight of Palestinians to Arab countries of the Levant region that is known as Al-Nakba — literally “the catastrophe.”

At the conclusion of the 1967 war, matters became even worse for the Palestinians when Israeli forces overcame the Jordanian army’s resistance and captured East Jerusalem. The resulting shift in the balance of power drove out much of the remaining Arab population. In 1980 Israel annexed Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally.

More recently, in a controversial decision in 2018, Donald Trump’s administration moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, officially recognizing the city as Israel’s capital. Palestinians have long sought East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

No matter which party is in power in Washington, Israeli settlements keep expanding into occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, dimming hopes of a peaceful resolution to the decades-old conflict and the creation of a Palestinian state. But the descendants of those displaced families, scattered across the Middle East and in the far-flung corners of diaspora, have not stopped lobbying for the right of return.

“After the 1967 occupation, there were serious concerns we would lose the library even though it is registered as a protected family endowment,” Raja Khalidi, another descendant of the library’s founder, told Arab News.

Raja is the director-general of the Ramallah-based Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS), who previously served as a senior economist with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

He spent most of his life in the diaspora, but returned to Palestine in recent years to join the family’s efforts to protect and preserve the library which bears their name.

“Different members of our family rebuffed Israeli attempts to confiscate the library and in the end parts of the roof were confiscated to allow for the creation of Jewish yeshiva (religious schools),” he said.




An old manuscript found at Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Supplied)

In 1989, the Friends of the Khalidi Library (FKL) was incorporated in the US under the chairmanship of Walid Khalidi to rally support and solicit funds to protect the site.

Donations quickly flooded in from members of the extended family, the Ford Foundation, UNESCO, the Dutch government and the Arab Economic and Social Fund in Kuwait, among many other sources.

With these funds, according to the Khalidis, the Boston-based FKL was not only able to stave off Israeli encroachments but also completely renovate, refurbish and re-equip the library and preserve its valuable holdings.

Raja and his fellow court-appointed administrators, Asem and Khalil, worked hard to save the old manuscripts with the help of foreign experts, who trained local staff to continue the preservation work.

Every document, book and manuscript has finally been scanned and catalogued. “It took us years to do that but we are excited that all the original manuscripts are now saved and protected and their content is scanned for all researchers to use online,” Raja said.




Inside the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem’s Old City. (Supplied)

Several of the texts held by the library shed light on the history of Palestinians in Jerusalem, explore the Arab presence in the region, and tell the story of the Khalidi family and its connections to the city.

The goal of the library is not only to preserve heritage but to also encourage research, according to Raja. “We want to be known not only as a repository but also a regenerator of original publications,” he said.

To this end, the library, in addition to preserving old manuscripts, has branched out into publishing, recently printing a work by Rouhi Khalidi, who died in 1913, titled “Zionism, or the Zionist Question” — quite possibly the first book on the subject penned by a Palestinian.

Rashid feels it is wrong to deny Israelis their national identity. “Just like in America, we recognize the American people even though they created a country by the expulsion of the indigenous people and created their own settler-colonial reality,” he said.

Even though many Israeli researchers “are blinded by their chauvinism and racism and who disbelieve that we have a legitimate national history,” Rashid believes the Khalid Library could serve as a useful resource for the many Israeli researchers who acknowledge the Palestinian narrative.

________

Twitter: @daoudkuttab


Bahrain announces extension of Covishield-AstraZeneca dosing intervals

Bahrain announces extension of Covishield-AstraZeneca dosing intervals
Updated 27 February 2021

Bahrain announces extension of Covishield-AstraZeneca dosing intervals

Bahrain announces extension of Covishield-AstraZeneca dosing intervals
  • The vaccine was approved for emergency use for vulnerable groups in the Kingdom starting Jan. 21
  • The vaccine was produced by AstraZeneca in cooperation with the University of Oxford

DUBAI: Bahrain has announced it is increasing the number of weeks between the first and second dose of the Covishield-AstraZeneca vaccine from four to eight weeks, state news agency BNA reported.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said the longer dose durations between eight to 12 weeks are related to greater vaccine effectiveness, the Ministry of Health’s Undersecretary for Public Health Dr. Mariam Al-Hajeri said.
The vaccine was approved for emergency use for vulnerable groups in the Kingdom starting Jan. 21. The groups include the elderly and those with immune complications, she said.
The vaccine was produced by AstraZeneca in cooperation with the University of Oxford and is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India under the name ‘Covishield’.


Explosion hits Israeli-owned ship in Mideast - AP

Explosion hits Israeli-owned ship in Mideast - AP
Updated 27 February 2021

Explosion hits Israeli-owned ship in Mideast - AP

Explosion hits Israeli-owned ship in Mideast - AP
  • The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: An explosion struck an Israeli-owned cargo ship sailing out of the Middle East on Friday, renewing concerns about ship security in the region amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran.

The crew and vessel were safe, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is run by the British navy. The explosion in the Gulf of Oman forced the vessel to head to the nearest port.

Dryad Global, a maritime intelligence firm, identified the stricken vessel as the MV Helios Ray, a Bahamian-flagged roll-on, roll-off vehicle cargo ship.

Another private security official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, similarly identified the ship as the Helios Ray.

Satellite-tracking data from website MarineTraffic.com showed the Helios Ray had been nearly entering the Arabian Sea around 0600 GMT Friday before it suddenly turned around and began heading back toward the Strait of Hormuz. It was coming from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and still listed Singapore as its destination on its tracker.

The blast comes as Tehran increasingly breaches its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers to create leverage over Washington. Iran is seeking to pressure Biden to grant the sanctions relief it received under the deal that former President Donald Trump abandoned nearly three years ago.

Capt. Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv told the AP that the Israeli-owned vessel had left the Arabian Gulf Thursday bound for Singapore. On Friday at 0230 GMT, the vessel stopped for at least nine hours east of a main Omani port before making a 360-degree turn and sailing toward Dubai, likely for damage assessment and repairs, he said.

While details of the explosion remained unclear, two American defense officials told the AP that the ship had sustained two holes on its port side and two holes on its starboard side just above the waterline in the blast. The officials said it remained unclear what caused the holes. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss unreleased information on the incidents.

A United Nations ship database identified the vessel’s owners as a Tel Aviv-based firm called Ray Shipping Ltd. Calls to Ray Shipping rang unanswered Friday.

Abraham Ungar, 74, who goes by “Rami,” is the founder of Ray Shipping Ltd., and is known as one of the richest men in Israel. He made his fortune in shipping and construction.

According to the Nikola Y. Vaptsarov Naval Academy, where Ungar provides support and maritime training, he owns dozens of car-carrying ships and employs thousands of engineers.

The US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it was “aware and monitoring” the situation. The US Maritime Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued a warning to commercial shippers early Saturday acknowledging the explosion and urging ships to “exercise caution when transiting” the Gulf of Oman.

While the circumstances of the explosion remain unclear, Dryad Global said it was very possible the blast stemmed from “asymmetric activity by Iranian military.”


Yemen’s children starve as UN seeks billions to avoid vast ‘man-made’ famine

Yemen’s children starve as UN seeks billions to avoid vast ‘man-made’ famine
Updated 27 February 2021

Yemen’s children starve as UN seeks billions to avoid vast ‘man-made’ famine

Yemen’s children starve as UN seeks billions to avoid vast ‘man-made’ famine
  • Some 80 percent of Yemenis need help, with 400,000 children under the age of five severely malnourished
SANAA/NEW YORK: Ahmadiya Juaidi’s eyes are wide as she drinks a nutrition shake from a large orange mug, her thin fingers grasping the handle. Her hair is pulled back and around her neck hangs a silver necklace with a heart and the letter A.
Three weeks ago the 13-year-old weighed just nine kilograms (20 pounds) when she was admitted to Al-Sabeen hospital in Yemen’s capital Sanaa with malnutrition that sickened her for at least the past four years. Now she weighs 15 kilograms.
“I am afraid when we go back to the countryside her condition will deteriorate again due to lack of nutritional food. We have no income,” her older brother, Muhammad Abdo Taher Shami, told Reuters.
They are among some 16 million Yemenis — more than half the population of the Arabian Peninsula country — that the United Nations says are going hungry. Of those, five million are on the brink of famine, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warns.
On Monday the United Nations hopes to raise some $3.85 billion at a virtual pledging event to avert what Lowcock says would be a large-scale “man-made” famine, the worst the world will have seen for decades.
Some 80 percent of Yemenis need help, with 400,000 children under the age of five severely malnourished, according to UN data. For much of its food, the country relies on imports that have been badly disrupted over the years by all warring parties.
“Before the war Yemen was a poor country with a malnutrition problem, but it was one which had a functioning economy, a government that provided services to quite a lot of its people, a national infrastructure and an export base,” Lowcock told reporters. “The war has largely destroyed all of that.”
“In the modern world famines are basically about people having no income and then other people blocking efforts to help them. That’s basically what we’ve got in Yemen,” he added.

Algeria anti-govt protesters hit streets after year-long hiatus

Algeria anti-govt protesters hit streets after year-long hiatus
Algerian anti-government protesters take part in a demonstration in the capital Algiers, on February 26, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 27 February 2021

Algeria anti-govt protesters hit streets after year-long hiatus

Algeria anti-govt protesters hit streets after year-long hiatus
  • Demonstrators kept up weekly protests after Bouteflika’s resignation, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962

ALGIERS: Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Algeria’s capital on Friday as the Hirak pro-democracy movement gathers renewed momentum after a year-long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite a ban on gatherings over the pandemic, crowds gathered in several neighborhoods of Algiers in the early afternoon and marched toward the city center, AFP journalists said.
“It’s awesome. It’s like the big Friday Hirak protests,” one demonstrator said.
The Hirak protests were sparked in February 2019 over former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, and the long-time leader was forced from power in April that year.
Demonstrators kept up weekly protests after Bouteflika’s resignation, demanding a sweeping overhaul of a ruling system in place since Algeria’s independence from France in 1962.
They only suspended marches last March due to coronavirus restrictions, but calls have recently circulated on social media for a return to the streets.

BACKGROUND

The Hirak protests were sparked in February 2019 over Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth presidential term, and the long-time leader was forced from power in April that year.

Protesters on Friday were met by security forces who used truncheons and fired tear gas when a crowd forced its way through a police barrier to reach the Grand Post Office, the main Algiers rallying point of the Hirak protests, footage posted on the Interligne news site showed.
The crowd chanted “Civil state, not military state” — a key rallying cry of the protests, which refers to the military establishment that holds sway over Algerian politics.
Police vans took up positions near main squares in the city center and roadblocks were set up on several major roads leading into the capital.
Rallies were also held in some provinces, including in northeastern Kabylie and northwestern Oran, where a prominent human rights activist, academic Kadour Chouicha, was arrested, according to prisoners’ rights group CNLD.
In Algiers, people among the crowd said there appeared to be at least as many people in the streets as last Monday, when thousands marched to mark the second anniversary of the Hirak protests.


UN agency’s decision to cut aid to Gaza Strip refugees raises concern

UN agency’s decision to cut aid to  Gaza Strip refugees raises concern
Young Palestinians take part in a protest against what they say are food aid cuts by the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 February 2021

UN agency’s decision to cut aid to Gaza Strip refugees raises concern

UN agency’s decision to cut aid to  Gaza Strip refugees raises concern
  • “UNRWA, in its new vision for the distribution of foodstuffs, wants to produce a fairer and more transparent system for new groups that will be included in the base of beneficiaries of food aid”

GAZA CITY: Mohammed Rashwan is worried for his family of 10 after a decision from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to reduce aid to Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip.
He was diagnosed with cancer about seven years ago and relies on the relief aid provided by the agency.
“A single basket of aid is not enough for us for a month, but it used to fill part of our needs, in addition to relief aid from local institutions,” he told Arab News.
He qualified as being a member of the poorest group of beneficiaries and so received double aid, known as the “Yellow Coupon.” 
But on Feb. 20 UNRWA said it was canceling this coupon, which helps 770,000 Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip. The strip is home to 2 million Palestinians.
Rashwan described the decision as “unjust” because it did not take different living conditions into consideration.
Under the new system, he will lose about half the aid he used to receive every three months, and there will instead be a unified food basket system for all beneficiaries.
Last Sunday he, along with other angry refugees, protested the coupon’s cancellation by closing UNRWA supply centers.
A meeting held last Monday by the Joint Committee for Refugees with the director of UNRWA’s operations in Gaza, Matthias Schmale, failed to dissuade the agency from its decision.

FASTFACT

Cancer victim Mohammed Rashwan describes the UN Relief and Works Agency’s decision as ‘unjust’ because it does not take different living conditions into consideration.

Committee member Bakr Abu Safiya said there was agreement between different refugee representative bodies about challenging the UNRWA decision, with the agency being given a Monday deadline to pledge a written letter rescinding its decision.
Abu Safiya added that it was too early to talk about options if UNRWA stuck to its guns, but stressed there would be “a program of action and we will not violate the rights of refugees, and the matter may reach the point of demanding the firing of Schmale.”
Schmale, who was appointed to the post in Oct. 2017, has not enjoyed a good relationship with refugee representatives in Gaza.
Abu Safiya described Schmale as “elusive” since taking office and said he had made decisions that were “harmful to refugees, such as reducing services, stopping employment, and fabricating a crisis of employees’ salaries.”
The meeting with Schmale was “stormy and did not produce a result,” he said.
“We will wait for an official position until Monday, after which the response will be considered.”
UNRWA was established in 1949 by a UN General Assembly resolution. It provides services in various sectors to about 5.6 million Palestinian refugees registered with it in its five fields of operations: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
UNRWA media adviser, Adnan Abu Hasna, said the agency would adhere to its decision and not back down.
“UNRWA, in its new vision for the distribution of foodstuffs, wants to produce a fairer and more transparent system for new groups that will be included in the base of beneficiaries of food aid.”
According to Abu Hasna, the new system would benefit tens of thousands more refugees, with an increase of 10 kilos of flour per person.
But Abu Safiya described the new system as a “crime against refugees” and accused the agency of manipulating the numbers of beneficiaries.