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    Israel has damaged or destroyed at least 13 libraries in Gaza.

    Dan Sheehan

    February 6, 2024, 12:22pm

    Librarians and Archivists with Palestine—a network of information workers in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination—yesterday released a report detailing the archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted by Israeli armed forces since October 7, 2023.

    Along with the complete destruction of the Central Archives of Gaza (which contained 150 years of records pertaining to Gaza’s history) and the Great Omari Mosque (which contained one of the most significant collections of rare books in Palestine), at least 13 different libraries have been badly damaged or destroyed entirely since Israel’s latest assault on Gaza began 122 days ago.

    The report begins with the assertion that “the destruction of cultural heritage in Gaza impoverishes the collective identity of the Palestinian people, irrevocably denies them their history, and violates their sovereignty,” and goes on to explain the difficulty in determining the full extent of the destruction inflicted upon the library and museum sector of Gaza:

    This report is necessarily incomplete. It is very difficult to determine the status of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza during the ongoing Israeli bombardment. Current conditions in Gaza, such as the targeting of journalists, frequent communication blackouts, and extensive damage to the built environment pose an immediate threat to safety. Moreover, archivists and librarians have been repeatedly displaced, injured, or killed, making it even more difficult to take stock of the damage to cultural heritage. As a result, it should be assumed that this report represents only a fraction of the extent of damage and death, not a complete picture.

    We compile and offer this information with the understanding that the erasure of Palestinian culture and history has long been an Israeli tactic of war and occupation, a means to further limit the self-determination of the Palestinian people. In 1948, during the Nakba, 30,000 books and manuscripts were looted from Palestinian homes; in 1982, during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Israel looted and confiscated the library and archives of the Palestine Liberation Organization; libraries and archives were damaged during the Second Intifada, and have been repeatedly targeted in Gaza. Furthermore, the intentional destruction of cultural heritage has been recognized as a war crime and prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.


    The list of devastated libraries that follows includes the Gaza University Library (which was destroyed on October 9), the IBBY Children in Crisis Library (which had previously been destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2014), the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library (which contained tens of thousands of books and had been sheltering hundreds of displaced Palestinians before it was shelled by Israeli forces on November 25), and the Al-Israa University Library and National Museum (which was looted by the Israeli military before it was destroyed by controlled demolition on January 18).


    The report closes with a brief remembrance of the librarians and archivists killed in the ongoing Israeli bombardment:


    Abdul Karim Hashash
    Writer and advocate for Palestinian heritage advocate, collector of Palestinian rare books.
    Date of death: October 23, 2023, with many members of his family.

    Bilal Jadallah
    Director of the Press House
    Date of death: November 19, 2023

    Doaa Al-Masri
    Librarian at the Edward Said Library
    Date of death: December 7, 2023, with her parents and siblings.

    Dr. Jihad Suleiman Al-Masri
    Historian and Director of Al-Quds Open University’s Khan Yunis Branch
    Date of death: October 17, 2023

    Iman Abu Saeed
    Oral historian at the Tamer Institute for Community Education
    Date of death: Unknown, with her children Joudi and Ziyad and her husband Eyad.

    Marwan Tarazi
    Archivist of Photo Kegham, Kegham Djeghalian’s photography studio
    Date of death: October 19, 2023, killed with his wife Nihad and infant granddaughter Alin while sheltering at the Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church.

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