Stories of ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages translated in US
The English translation of Noga Kadman’s “Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948”, recently translated in the U.S. and published by the Indiana University Press, is the latest contribution to a growing body of works analyzing the Nakba and its ongoing aftermath.
Originally published in Hebrew in 2008, “Erased from Space and Consciousness” draws from “official [governmental] archives, kibbutz publications, and visits to former village sites” to reconstruct the history of the continual Israeli ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and the subsequent Judaization of the evacuated land.
Drawing from many previous studies and recollections—notably including Walid Khalidi’s “All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948”—“Erased from Space and Consciousness” offers a key insight into the military processes of 1948, which ethnically cleansed 418 Palestinian villages and forced over 700,000 Palestinians into exile, now known as the Nakba. Kadman also guides the reader through Israeli “absorption” and “Judaization” of land in the years immediately following the Nakba. As she explains: “350 out of the 370 new communities established across the country between 1948 and 1953 were set up on refugee land, and in 1954 more than a third of Israel’s Jewish population was living on land belonging to refugees.”
The author identifies the Jewish National Fund, “a nongovernmental organization with the stated mission of preserving and developing the land of the country for the benefit of the Jewish people, rather than for the sake of all Israeli citizens” to be a central player in this post-cleansing process. Specifically, she sheds light on the JNF’s role in “demolition of villages, planting forests over their remains, establishing Jewish communities on refugee land, Judaizing place names, and marginalizing the villages in the information it provides about the sites that contain their remains today.”
This is coupled with a strong critique of Israeli self-awareness, wherein lies a large incongruence between their perceived history, and the vicious ethnic cleansing which is their history. As acclaimed Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi explains “Kadman looks at official discourse, kibbutz and moshav diaries and records, and the maps produced by the Israeli state to show in disturbing detail how the dispossession the population of over 400 villages, most of which have since been destroyed, has been largely eliminated from the imaginary of most Israelis [emphasis added].”
A thorough understanding of the events of 1948 is key to understand the most powerful currents present in Israeli society – namely: militarization, exclusionism, and settler-colonialism. Kadman’s work joins those of Khalidi, Pappé, Kattan, and many others paving the way for a true scrutiny of Israel, Zionism, and the Palestinian question.