‘Erased from Space and Consciousness’ is the product of years of meticulous research to raise awareness of the hundreds of villages Israel destroyed during and following the 1948 war. But is awareness enough to remedy the injustices of the past?
By Tom Pessah
Kadman, Noga: Erased From Space and Consciousness – Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948. 2015. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 256 pp.
Noga Kadman’s Erased from Space and Consciousness is one of those rare books that profoundly re-shapes your perspective. Growing up inside the Zionist education system meant that even when I did eventually hear about the “Palestinian narrative,” it seemed distant — not connected directly to my life experiences as an Israeli.
Kadman’s book, a product of visits to the sites of 230 former villages and extensive archival work, traces the points at which the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 was submerged and normalized, until this massive break in the country’s history became almost imperceptible to younger generations of Israelis. Through documenting the points at which these Palestinian experiences were re-coded, the book enabled me to de-familiarize the familiar – to finally notice the ruins and the cacti I regularly passed on bus rides, and to start asking questions about their former inhabitants. As Edward Said notes, “there can be no hope of peace unless the stronger community, the Israeli Jews, acknowledges the most powerful memory for the Palestinians, namely the dispossession of an entire people” (p. 145-6). This acknowledgement can only happen once we re-read our surroundings and fully perceive what has always been there — in the background.
After a useful forward by Prof. Oren Yiftachel and an in-depth review of the scholarship on the Nakba and its erasure, the book runs through three empirical chapters. The first examines publications from 25 rural Jewish communities that took over the lands of ruined villages, and describes how this transition was narrated there. The second describes in detail two government bodies established following the state’s founding — the Government Names Committee, and the Survey of Israel (the agency responsible for mapping) — both of which determined how the sites of former Palestinian localities would be officially named in Hebrew.
The third chapter discusses signs and publications by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which help mold the public’s perceptions of what became nature reserves and holiday resorts, which mask the sites of former villages. Extensive...Read More