IRCICA hosted the Palestinian scholars Dr. Hamdan Taha and Dr. Omar Yousef at an online panel themed “Violence on Architecture in Palestine – Occupation Strategies on the Built Environment and Cultural Heritage” on 30 Jan. 2024. The panel, organized under the series of “IRCICA Heritage Talks”, focused on the destruction of urban and architectural structures in Al-Quds and Gaza being perpetrated within the framework of Israeli occupation and settlement strategies and the ongoing criminal aggressions in Palestine. The panel, conducted in English, produced a most enlightening and comprehensive picture of the situation. In his opening remarks, IRCICA’s Assistant Director General Prof. Aboubacar Senghore said that the cultural heritage of Al-Quds and Palestine is among IRCICA’s top priority subjects and that the Centre makes constant efforts to call on world community’s moral consciousness to intervene to stop the massacres and destructions. Arch. Dr. Alidost Ertuğrul, Chief of IRCICA’s Architectural Heritage Section, described the panel context and thanked the distinguished speakers for accepting to share their knowledge and evaluations of the issue on IRCICA’s online platform.
The first speaker, Dr. Hamdan Taha, focused on the destruction of cultural heritage in Gaza. Extensively describing with authentic visual documentation, the archaeological and architectural assets in Gaza including sites, monuments and artifacts extant since pre-historical times, Dr. Taha shared abundant data and photographs about the violence against cultural and architectural heritage during the ongoing aggressions, where 130 major archeological sites, many museums, historical houses, hospitals, libraries, cemeteries, and over 100.000 archaeological objects, were destroyed.
Dr. Taha is a scholar and author on the history and archeology of Palestine, former Director General and Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Palestine (2004-2014), former Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Graduate Studies, Al-Istiqlal University (2019-2020). He is currently coordinator of the Palestine History and Heritage Project, for which he has co-edited with Ingrid Hijlm, Thomas Thompson and Ilan Pappe, the volume New Critical Approach to the History of Palestine (2019). He recently wrote a chapter titled “Excavating Earth and Memory”, in the book Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out (2022) edited by Ramzy Baroud and Ilan Pappe.
The second speaker, Dr. Omar Youssef, gave comprehensive review of the “Israeli Occupation: A Process of Discrimination and Regional Manipulation”, with a detailed analysis of the strategy of urban planning, or urban transformation, as an occupational tool that Israel has been applying in Al-Quds and other areas in Palestine. Dr. Youssef showed a large number of photographs, maps and plans, and communicated statistics, depicting the deliberately discriminative expansion and settlement policies aiming to reduce the Palestinian presence in various areas by making the places “uninhabitable” for Palestinians, and their consequences. He presented many examples of excavation and construction activities and explained the regulations enforced in Al-Quds, and also Gaza and other places, to limit and control Palestinians’ accesses and constructions in different areas. The scholar also alluded to the treatment of the issues in academic discourse.
Dr. Omar Yousef is an architect and urban planner with a focus on the challenges facing Palestinian urban environments, especially in Al-Quds. He is Assistant Professor at Al-Quds University and Academic Coordinator of the M.A. program in Jerusalem Studies. His work encompasses both academic research and authorship and practical projects in urban planning, addressing key issues such as water conservation, ecological challenges, and the impact of the occupation on Palestinian cities and Palestinians.
During the Q&A discussion, both speakers pointed to the absence of reaction on the part of international community to the brutal military aggressions and violent occupational policies led against Palestinians. They informed the attendees on reference publications on these subjects, including their own publications, and ongoing research projects.