UNRWA digitalizes to save its historic archive of photos

“This is a population who exist, who have a history and is deserving of a future in which they and their children can live in dignity and enjoy full rights” – UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness to Ma’an News Agency at the opening of an exhibit in Jerusalem’s Old City on the digitalizing of its historic archive of photos. The Ma’an report is posted here.

The UNRWA digital archives can be accessed online here. The images record events in 1848 and 1967, as well as in between, and since.

Agence France Presse [AFP] reported here that “Because of its historical and cultural significance, the [UNRWA] archive has been inscribed UNESCO’S ‘Memory of the World’ list since 2009”.

[UNRWA was founded by the UN General Assembly at the very end of 1949, and only began operations in 1950; the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, registered and helped Palestinian refuges before that date…]

UNRWA photographer George Nehmeh, from Lebanon [where UNRWA was headquartered for many years] worked for the Agency, as it is known among Palestinians, from 1960 to 1996:

Ma’an reported that “The archive consists of over half a million negatives, prints, slides, films and videocassettes, covering all aspects of the lives and history of Palestinian refugees since 1948…The first group of photographs were shown on Thursday in an exhibition entitled ‘The Long Journey’ at the Al-Ma’mel Center in East Jerusalem’s Old City”

The BBC published a slideshow, posted here of the photos now on display in East Jerusalem.

The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner wrote, here, that “The exhibit that opened Thursday, called ‘The Long Journey’, will soon go on tour to large cities in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and possibly Syria, and will also be shown at cultural and political centers in Europe and North America … Palestinians refer to the events of 1948 as al-Nakba, Arabic for ‘the catastrophe’. About 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war over the foundation of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were later displaced by the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, some becoming refugees twice over. Tens of thousands have recently been displaced again, reliving the trauma, because of the civil war raging in Syria”… [n.b. — There were other occasions of multiple displacement, as well, from Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, and more…]

The NYTimes, too, published a slideshow, here, to accompany Kershner’s article.

Kershner also wrote, in her piece, that “the refugee issue remains one of the most delicate and complex elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the core of the two sides’ clashing historical narratives. So it was perhaps inevitable that some Israelis would view the new memorialization of the refugee experience through a prism of politics and contention. ‘When was the last time that any United Nations agency raised so much money and invested so much effort in organizing and circulating around the world the documentation of a specific plight like that of the Palestinian refugees? Never’, said Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry … Mr. Palmor said that while the agency mostly did good work on the ground, it was ‘dedicated to preserving the refugees’ status rather than encouraging their resettlement or integration in their current or alternative locations, contributing to the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem’.” As Kershner reported, UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunnes responded that “What is perpetuating the refugee problem is the failure of the political parties to resolve it”…

Meanwhile, Greg Carlstrom [now an independent journalist, formerly with Al-Jazeera English in Doha] Tweeted from Cairo:
Gregg Carlstrom ‏@glcarlstrom 29 Nov — The @nytimes manages to write about a photo exhibit on Palestinian refugees without interviewing a single Palestinian here

Netanyahu, at age 28, on a Palestinian State [basically: no way … at most, if they behave well, the Palestinians can get eventual citizenship of some kind, Israeli or Jordanian or some other, he says…]

While looking for something totally unrelated on Youtube, this completely other video was suggested:  it shows a young Benyamin Netanyahu, before he even took the name “Netanyahu”.

He’s identified here as “Ben” or “Benjamin Nitay”, a 28-year-old graduate of MIT, an Israeli [and, according to the screen titles, an “economic consultant”] who has “written widely on this question before the house tonight”.

In the video, Ben Nitay / Benyamin Netanyahu is not debating his political views, he’s being given a platform to say what he wants, to argue his polemic.

Looking a lot like John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Live”,  but with much wilder eyes, Nitay / Netanyahu says:

“No, I don’t think Palestinians do have a right to a state… For 20 years [from 1948 to 1967] we didn’t hear a word about self-determination… I’m sure…if the process continues they will be offered citizenship of some kind, be it Israeli or Jordanian”

The moderator is Marilyn Berger of the Public Broadcast System in the U.S. — who co-anchored the best and almost only non-stop coverage, such as it was in the days before satellite communications and computers, of both the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars — and the endless debates in the UN Security Council in New York, afterwards.

“Attorney One”, as we shall call him, is the gentle-mannered late Morris Abrams whose warm and kind demeanor didn’t obscure fierce pro-Israel views.  He was later to become the U.S, Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, where he served for years, before his retirement — when he founded the Geneva-based UN Watch [which watches out for Israel].

Morris Abrams gets the first Question: “Mr. Nitay, is self-determination at the core of this conflict?”

This allows the young Netanyahu to explain: “No, I don’t think it is.  The real core of the conflict is the unfortunate Arab refusal to accept the State of Israel”…

Little has changed in more than three decades.

“For twenty years, the ‘Arabs’ had both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and if self-determination were, as they say it is, the core of the conflict, they could have easily established a Palestinian State, but they didn’t…For twenty years, we didn’t hear a word about self-determination. In fact what we did hear, those of us living in the Middle East, was about ‘driving the Jews into the sea’… Now, after 1967, under the leadership of the PLO, the hardline strategy shifted to adopting a moderate dressed-up slogan which talked in terms about first a secular, democratic state and then replaced it with ‘Palestinian self-determination’. But, what this really means, is contrary to what Mr. Arouri said about 1977 being a a changed year in the PLO’s objectives, let me quote you what the PLO Information Office said in a Dutch paper in 1977, on May 5, 1977, the statement was very simple: ‘Our objective remains the destruction of the Zionist state’. So, let’s keep in mind, the objective here is not to build a state, but to destroy one”…

Continue reading Netanyahu, at age 28, on a Palestinian State [basically: no way … at most, if they behave well, the Palestinians can get eventual citizenship of some kind, Israeli or Jordanian or some other, he says…]