Will the ghosts of Lifta come back to haunt Israel?

Will the ghosts of Lifta come back to haunt Israel?

Will the ghosts of Lifta come back to haunt Israel?
The Palestinian village of Lifta. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Every Palestinian knows the story of Lifta, a small village on a hillside near the city of Jerusalem. During its war to conquer Palestinian-majority areas of Palestine in 1947 and 1948, Israel ethnically cleansed and eventually destroyed more than 530 Palestinian villages.
Today, Lifta is one of the few remaining ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages under Israel’s control that has not been totally destroyed.
But that may soon change. In addition to expanding the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and surrounding Jerusalem to prevent the city from ever becoming a part of a Palestinian state, Israel’s government is considering a plan to destroy the beautiful homes of the Lifta ghost town. They want to build expensive luxury villas — for Jewish people only, of course.
Drive past Lifta and you can see the old Palestinian homes hugging the mountain side. A picture of that view from the road is often used as an emblem by the many Lifta Palestine chapters that seek to preserve the history of this centuries-old village.
The US is home to many Palestinian associations, with the Ramallah Federation and the Bethlehem Association among the most influential. But the Lifta Association is also one of the largest post-Nakba organizations determined to prevent Israel from erasing Palestinian identity.
In 1948, Israel’s pre-state militias attacked Lifta in an act of “vengeance.” Zionist activists alleged, mainly after 1948 and through pro-Israel Western media, that the 1929 protests against increased Jewish immigration into Palestine by the British in 1929 were led by Lifta-based leaders. Although Jewish militias attacked Palestinians during the protests, Western media focused on reporting the violence against the Jewish immigrants.
Some Arabs have always suspected that the Israelis never razed the old Arab homes in Lifta so they could remain abandoned and deteriorating as a reminder to the Palestinians of Jewish Israeli supremacy.
In 1947, Jewish militias targeted the civilian village, seeing it as a strategic vantage point to their control of Jerusalem, which was designated to be neutral and outside the proposed partitioned “Jewish state.” Armed Jewish gangs assaulted the residents, forcing them to flee along with 750,000 other Palestinians in hundreds of other villages. Jerusalem was one of their primary goals and conquests.
Anyone who drives south on Route 50 from Jerusalem, just past the “Golda Meir Interchange,” can see the remains of the destroyed Palestinian village and homes on the hillsides.
It is a stark reminder of what Israel can do to anyone who challenges its supremacy.
Now, more than 73 years after the Nakba, and with Israeli domination over Palestinian lives unchallenged and brutal, the symbolism of Lifta’s destruction no longer carries the same punitive weight for Palestinians, although the village is still revered.
That might be why the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) announced last week that it will be accepting bids from Jewish developers to build luxury villas on the site.
The same proposal came up in 2010 but was blocked after protests from human rights groups. The old mosque in Lifta was destroyed and Israel’s government plans to build a new synagogue there. There have been court orders preventing demolition of the village. And Israel at one time included it in a nature reserve without demolishing the remaining buildings.

If Israel’s government can destroy Lifta, it means that one day it could destroy Ramallah, or even Bethlehem.

Ray Hanania

The latest plan to destroy Lifta’s memory seems to have greater momentum because of the weakening of the Palestinian cause among the Arab world.
However, it appears that Israel’s government cares little for international law or human rights. And many Lifta activists have been organizing conferences to see what can be done to prevent this latest threat.
Lifta’s symbolism is significant to many Palestinians, and it will be interesting to see if human rights organizations will again protest against Israel’s plans to demolish the remaining properties.
The Israeli government once exploited the destruction of Lifta, allowing it to remain as a symbol of the Palestinians’ fate, a form of punishment. Today, Israel wants to rub that ugly fate into the faces of Palestinians, believing that the Arab world support for Palestine has weakened.
Destroying Lift would be just another international war crime. But, as we know, thanks in large part to the pro-Israel bias of the mainstream Western media, Israel rarely has to face justice for its human rights violations, war crimes or violence against civilians.
If Israel’s government can destroy Lifta, it means that one day it could destroy Ramallah, or even Bethlehem.
Who is stopping them?

  • Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania
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