Nablus and the Destruction of Memory


 

If hearts and minds cannot be won, they must be destroyed
– R. Bevan , Destruction of Memory

A square stands empty among the buildings of down town Nablus; tucked away in one of the side streets, a short walk away from the central square. Barbed wire rings the few cars that are always present on this de-facto car parking area.

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What separates this car park from many others found in Nablus and surrounding West Bank cities are the numerous posters and billboards posted around the corners of the intersection. As with failures associated with mid-20th century European town planning, car parks are used when money shortages and similar factors prevent the building of a more substantial and ultimately, more profitable, solution for the empty space. However, what this quiet place conceals is the targeted assassination of a local combatant Walid Shahrour, killed by the IDF in 2007.

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Following the murders of four IDF soldiers, Walid was eliminated in the common fashion of the IDF- shelling and complete destruction of the house or shelter inhabited by the target (and all the other people who happen to be under the same roof). The urban fabric of the city plays out its own game in shaping the constant reminder of the destruction. As much as it is a physical destruction of a building, it is also a symbolic assault on memory and sentiment. “Everyone who dies here becomes a martyr”, concludes a local activist. No official commemoration is present, perhaps due to the fact that Palestine could essentially become a monument land within a few years. Perhaps also, the building permits are still notoriously difficult to obtain, even when the area falls under Area A (full Palestinian Authority control). Or even more likely, there are no resources present to redevelop the land, either privately or publicly.

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What remains though is the omnipresent reminder of the Martyr around the city of Nablus. From posters flying in the wind to sun faded billboards. The IDF policy of minimising incursions into hostile cities to complete an assassination and thus limiting its own soldiers’ risk is contributing to a completely different risk posed for the IDF and the Israeli government- the essential establishment of Martyrdom and another log into the fire of the Palestinian struggle.

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