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Dr Salman Abu Sitta is a pragmatic and principled visionary whose unwavering yearning for home has morphed into the Palestinian Land Society, his literal pièce de résistance, that has created the phenomenal Atlas of Palestine, 1917-1966 and meticulous plans for the inevitable return home. His every breath and step that began in the 1948 Nakba from Bir as Saba to a refugee camp in Gaza, to his diasporan exile, have created a highway of return for fellow refugees and their descendants -the stolen generations of Palestinians.

Dr Abu Sitta’s vision is anathema to the zionists because it comfortably accommodates a one state wherein Palestinians and Jews can live together. No other Palestinian has developed a working detailed blueprint that is the foundation of  communal peace.

His uncompromising integrity stands contrast to the PA/PLO gang of collaborators in Ramallah and imaging a Palestine with Abu Sitta as president or prime minister provides a standard of leadership that no Palestinian should compromise. Furthermore, unlike the limpet grip of the old Ramallah guard on power,  Dr Abu Sitta is priming the aspirations of the younger generation to be proactive and responsible for their future through The Architectural Competition for the Reconstruction of Destroyed Palestinian Villages now in its second year.

Presented here is  DR ABU SITTA’S AWARD SPEECH:

LONDON, 7 Sept 2018

Why this competition:

You heard the slogan. Palestine is a Land without People: Is it a myth? If it was, it cost us Palestinians a century of death and destruction. And it is not over yet.

Palestine has suffered, by any measure, the most devastating event in its 5000 year history. With Trump and Netanyahu it does not seem to stop.

In 1948, the inhabitants of 560 towns and villages were depopulated in 31 military operations during the Zionist conquest of Palestine, thus making two thirds of the Palestinian people refugees. Half of those refugees were expelled by the Zionist militia before Israel was declared on the ruins of Palestine. Almost all these depopulated villages were destroyed.

Israel was established on a land, ninety four percent of it is Palestinian.

Today 7 million Palestinians are refugees, denied the Right to Return home. Their homes are often within sight, as in Gaza or a short bus ride, as in Lebanon.

No amount of propaganda, misinformation, silencing of the truth or smearing of justice advocates will conceal this truth and its consequences. Not even Trump’s actions of cutting funds and eliminating Palestinian refugees or Netanyahu’s threats of destroying the weak with his nuclear bombs will wipe out the tragedy that befell Palestinians. Nor will it stop them fighting for their rights.

Today we are here to look at those destroyed villages with a fresh and hopeful look and resurrect them in mind and body.

Many are over 2000 years old. Probably Jesus Christ walked in their streets.

We know that the Palestinian Bishop Eusebius of Qisaria in 313 AD listed the names of these villages.

We know that the Crusaders listed their names, although they twisted and Latinized some of them.

We know that the first Ottoman Tax Register of 1596 listed their names, their population, their occupation and produce.

We know that the survey of Palestine conducted by the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1870, listed over 1,000 towns, villages and hamlets and listed 13,000 place names.

We know that the Government of Palestine under the British Mandate produced hundreds of maps, summarized in our Atlas of Palestine which contains 55,000 place names.

All this heritage of humanity, Israel destroyed during the Zionist conquest of Palestine.

Israel destroyed these villages, not in the heat of war but systematically, relentlessly, continuously ever since. Till today. In al Khan al Ahmar. In al Araqeeb, destroyed within Israel 130 times and rebuilt as many times. And this week in Al Walaja, recommended for World Heritage Sites.

The destroyers were not warring soldiers. They were Israeli municipality engineers—and, surprisingly, archaeologists, brought to destroy the best Palestine history and search for Jewish history to keep. They were also officials of the Jewish National Fund, registered in Britain as a charity devoted to the improvement of the environment.

We are now left with the debris of this destruction, strewn over the Palestinian landscape.

But that was not enough for Israel.

Mere mention of Palestine must be eliminated.

So Palestine place names were erased from geography. Fifty five thousand names describing the ageless social history of the people were erased in Israeli maps and records. They were replaced by 6,800 Hebrew names, created by a committee, immortalizing Herzl and Ben Gurion.

For Israel, Palestine does not exist, neither on maps, nor in history.

Palestine’s history for the last 2000 years, from 70 AD to 1948 is erased in Israeli books. They do not talk about it. In the Zionist mythology, Palestine was terra nullius, a huge geographical vacuum which lasted 2000 years. Presumably meanwhile it was inhabited by ghosts who built one thousand localities and planted wheat, oranges and olive trees, and then vanished when European Zionist setlers came to make the desert bloom.

The myth of Palestine as a land without a people turned out to be not a myth at all, it was a PLAN to make it so. Expulsion of its people, destruction of its landscape, its erasure from geography and history, was and is the plan that was carried out.

But they cannot succeed.

We, in Palestine Land Society, recorded tens of thousands of files on villages, culled from libraries and archives around the world, mostly the colonial west. We assembled a database of several million refugees, their names, their spouses and their children. We located their village of origin and their present camp of exile. We defined the road network they need to traverse on the journey home.

Now the task is to rebuild their destroyed villages.

Let me tell you why and how?

Palestinians today are 13 million, half of them are on Palestine soil. In 2030, they will be 18 million.

Six million are born after Oslo Accords, the peace hoax. They are in their twenties. Some of those young people, studying architecture at their graduating year, are the generation you have come to see their work today.

They are third generation refugees. This generation are risking their life, facing the Israeli snipers bare-chested at the barbed wire of Apartheid wall in Gaza, or snatched from their beds in the West Bank at dawn to be arrested for raising a Palestinian flag, or their computers are confiscated like this young woman who could not submit her design in the competition because of the soldiers raid…

All of those young people who submitted their designs say to you today:

WE ARE STILL HERE,

WE SHALL REBUILD OUR DESTROYED HOMES,

WE SHALL RETURN.

They deserve our admiration and salute.

***

Now it is my pleasure to announce the awards for year two of the competition in reverse order.

Commendation and Special Mention for the four students at the Islamic University of Gaza, Palestine for their perseverance and compliance with the competition terms under conditions of blockade, power cuts and constant bombardment. They are:

Amjad Oeida. Project: Suba- Jerusalem district.

Ahmad Ajjur. Project: Saffouriya- Nazareth district.

Dina Abu Samhoud. As Sawafir- Gaza district.

Kariman Mash-harawi. Karatiya- Gaza district

Third Prize: Loay Deek, Birzeit University, Palestine. Project: Beit Jibrin- Al Khalil (Hebron) district.

Second Prize: Arwa Qalalwa, Birzeit University, Palestine. Project Qula – Al Ramle district.

First Prize: Yazan Nasrallah, University of Petra , Amman, Jordan. Project AlQastal-Jerusalem district.

Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters and editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name.  She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of  Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.