[News] First, Destroy the Archives

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 27 12:36:17 EDT 2006

How different is this from the years of destruction of land records 
and property deeds that 'justifies' further colonial expansion...just 
try to rob people of their history & the conquerors can re-write it. 
Countless historical documents have been targeted as have written and 
media archives when newspaper offices and broadcast archives have 
been destroyed.

July 27, 2006

First, Destroy the Archives

9/11 Nablus



For anyone who witnessed the results of the terrorist attacks on the 
World Trade Center buildings in New York City, the scene was 
horrifyingly familiar, albeit on a smaller scale.

The first evidence of the devastation was seen and felt blocks away 
from the site--billowing clouds of brown dust that filled the air, 
stung the eyes, and clogged the back of throats.

The site itself was a landscape of obliteration--the legacy of the 
Israeli Occupation Forces' three-day blitzkrieg on a complex of 
public buildings that included the muqata'a--an enormous command and 
administrative structure built in the 1920s by the British--a 
Palestinian security building, part of a prison, and the ministries 
of agriculture and the interior.

Mountains of still smoldering debris were everywhere. Piles of 
stones, building materials, wood, twisted metal, shards of glass, 
crushed cars, and wires dangling crazily from fragments of electrical 
systems covered the ground.

The Israeli soldiers assaulted the city on Wednesday searching for 
"wanted men" for the purpose of "national security." The siege 
followed the death of an Israeli soldier last Sunday when a group of 
soldiers entered the Old City by foot and engaged in a shooting clash 
with Palestinian resistance fighters.

The soldiers had used high grade military explosives to blow up the 
buildings in blasts so loud and powerful they could be heard all over 
the city. Windows and doors in surrounding buildings, most of which 
are residential homes, were blown out.

In addition to the destruction of public buildings, the Israelis 
killed at least six Palestinians and injured 85 before leaving the 
city in their armored vehicles Friday after dark under cover of a 
final massive explosion they set at the building complex.

Buried and half buried in the ruins of the Ministry of the Interior 
were hundreds of thousands of file cases and documents--birth and 
death certificates, identification records, passports and other 
travel documents, ledgers of hand written information--a heritage of 
historical information about Nablus residents that covered more than 
100 years of successive Palestinian occupations under the Ottoman 
Empire, the British Mandate, the Jordanian kingdom, and the current 
Israeli regime.

"We offered to give the Israelis the keys of the building so they 
could search it to make sure there was no one hiding there, but that 
was not good enough for the Israelis, who insisted on demolishing 
everything," said Abed Al Illah Ateereh, the director of the Ministry 
of the Interior in Nablus.

Ateereh was at the site Saturday morning directing dozens of 
municipal employees and volunteers sifting through the piles of 
wreckage and digging in the ruins in an effort to retrieve the few 
documents that were salvageable..

It was not an easy task.

"There is 100 percent damage," Ateereh said. "They destroyed the 
building completely, but that wasn't enough for the Israelis. They 
then used their Caterpillar bulldozers to churn up everything and mix 
all the documents with the soil so that nothing is able to be 
preserved," Ateereh said.

The ministry had at least 175,000 individual case files each 
containing multiple documents. It will be impossible to recover an 
entire case file, Ateereh said. Some of the newer documents are 
backed up on a computer, but the old historical records are priceless 
and irreplaceable.

"Passports, birth certificates, family information, identity 
records--all the kinds of information that an interior ministry would 
keep are all gone. These documents were used not only by 
Palestinians, but also by UNICEF and other agencies and foreigners 
who came to the ministry to do research," Ateereh said.

The destruction will have an immediate impact on thousands of people 
who intended to travel out of the country soon--students going abroad 
to continue their education, old people or sick people seeking 
medical care, people planning to visit family and anyone who depended 
on the ministry's records.

Refugees in exile and in local refugee camps may also be impacted by 
Israel's destructive spree. Several refugees from the Nablus area who 
are now in Syria came to the ministry for proof of their history and 
status as refugees, Ateereh said.

The Israeli military also attacked the Ministry of the Interior in 
Gaza earlier this month, and recently, journalist Amira Hass reported 
in Haaretz newspaper on a new Israeli clamp down to stop Palestinians 
in exile and the non-Palestinian spouses of Palestinian residents in 
the West Bank from entering the country.

Observers of the conflict said the destruction of personal 
identification records may indicate a new phase in Israel's ongoing 
policy of ethnically cleansing the indigenous Arab population while 
the Jewish state continues its land grab through construction of the 
Apartheid Wall, expansion of its illegal settlements, and 
expropriation of around 28 percent of the West Bank in the Jordan 
Valley, some of the best agricultural land in the country.

Nablus Mayor Adly R. Yaish was also at the site early Saturday 
morning consulting with Ateereh on the situation. Yaish said the 
devastation of the public buildings was deliberate and unjustifiable.

"This is a civilian institution where all the reports for people are 
kept. You can see they were determined not only to destroy it, they 
mashed it and turned it upside down. These documents are from 100 
years ago. They destroy everything," Yaish said.

Asked if the city could afford the massive clean up effort, Yaish 
said, "Of course, the city has no money for this kind of clean up."

The city also has no means of testing whether the Israelis used any 
chemicals or depleted uranium in their explosions, Yaish said. None 
of the workers digging through the debris were wearing masks or other 
protective gear.

The city will declare an emergency and refer people to other cities 
to try to solve the problem, at least temporarily, Ateereh said.

The city also plans to take legal action against Israel for its 
wanton destruction.

"We plan to take this case to the international court. We will work 
on it and we plan to contact all kinds of humanitarian institutions 
in the United States and everywhere about this injustice and 
violation of human rights. We hope everyone will express the 
Palestinians' feelings of suffering from this kind of operation," Ateereh said.

The Freedom Archives
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