“This is not just a construction plan- they want to erase our memory,” architect and Lifta refugee Nasser Abu-Lel told local and international media today [29 March] in East Jerusalem regarding the Israel Land Administration’s plan to build a luxurious residential and commercial zone on the remains of his village in West Jerusalem.
Published by AIC, March 29, 2011
“The Israeli plan targets what remains of the houses we were forced to leave in the Nakba of 1948; the stones and walls that echo the daily life of our own parents, before the Zionist gangs forced them to leave.”
The proposed decade-long project, which the Israeli Land Administration now wishes to implement (plan number 6036), was issued following Jerusalem Municipal approval of the construction of 268 housing units, one hotel and a number of community institutions on the site of the Palestinian village of Lifta. Following the court petition to save Lifta that was submitted by various organizations Lifta refugees on 6 March, the Israeli court issued a temporary injunction on selling lots on the site.
The press conference this morning to protest the plan was organized by the Sons of Lifta Society, an organization that gathers refugees from Lifta and their descendents in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Speakers at the conference included the Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Hussein, Fatah’s Jerusalem Affairs Liaison Hatim abd al-Qader, representatives from the Sons of Lifta Society and refugees from the village, as well as Attorney Sami Arshid, who represented Lifta refugees and other organizations at court.
Arshid told reporters that his petition to the court was the culmination of work done on the ground by various Palestinian and Israeli organizations, architects, planners and other individuals since approval of the plan by the Jerusalem Municipality. “Our goal was modest and simple,” Arshid said, “we claimed in court that these lands and house have owners and they are still alive, whether in East Jerusalem and the West Bank or in exile, and that if Israeli law prevents them from fulfilling their property rights at this moment, this should not mean that the law is to consider their property rights as gone forever.”
Regarding the decision to go to an Israeli court to prevent the demolition of Lifta, Arshid said: “the decision was not easy. The Israeli law regards Lifta’s lands and buildings as ‘absentee property,’ something Palestinian refugees everywhere cannot accept. However, we managed to overcome this challenge by basing our demands on historic property rights.”
Yacoub Odeh from the Land Research Center and himself a refugee from Lifta, spoke about the measures already taken to save his village. According to Odeh, Lifta refugees in Palestine and exile are already contacting international bodies, including UNESCO, the EU and UNRWA, calling on them to protect Lifta’s land and houses. “It is our right to return to our land, rebuild our village and plant trees for the next generations, not those who wish to come here from abroad to build villas and hotels on our land. We will continue to hold on to our right as people of Lifta and as Palestinians; we are an integral part of the Palestinian people and Lifta is an integral part of Palestine.”
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