Erased from Space and Consciousness: How Palestinian People Became Refugees
How Palestinians became refugees
Research Reveals How Palestinian People Became Refugees

How was it that Palestinian families became refugees? Noga Kadman’s book, Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948 (2015), answers this question with striking detail and a new perspective.

The book reveals how over 400 Palestinian villages were depopulated and their residents forced to become refugees during the Nakba. Atop the remains of these towns, the newly formed state of Israel settled Jewish migrants, created national parks, and developed tourist sites.

Kadman’s research resurfaces these histories in a new light and accessible format.

Eradicating Palestinian History

In five concise chapters, Kadman retells the occurrences of 1948 with two distinct goals: 1) to show how Jewish settlers physically removed Palestinian people from the land and 2) to consider how this removal impacted collective memory for Jewish people in the region.

Kadman outlines how the Palestinian villages were emptied of their residents as well as the process of renaming and mapping the towns. Her book explains how these sites of expulsion were refashioned into tourist and recreational sites.

The book considers how the renaming of Palestinian towns and resettlement by Jewish migrants is related to national identity as well as notions of conflict and security. Kadman considers how Jewish residents feel about living in these depopulated villages and knowing the history of expulsion.

Kadman’s publication is supported by several appendi with maps, primary sources, and evidence to support her research.

Erased from Space and Consciousness

Physical Erasure and Expulsion

+972 Magazine’s feature on the book emphasizes the transformation of both the “geographical and emotional landscapeof historic Palestine to create the state of Israel.

Kadman notes that of the 400+ villages and 11 cities depopulated of their Palestinian residents in 1948, “most of the villages were demolished by Israel, razed to the ground, with no trace remaining in the landscape.” This complete physical destruction of Palestinian buildings and homes from the land and towns was completed early in the 1948 Nakba. The transformation of these spaces into parks and tourist areas happened over the following decades.

In addition to confiscating the “vast lands of the villages,” the Israeli government also claimed the belongings “left by the refugees in their flight.” By appropriating both the land and ephemera of Palestinian families, Jewish settlers erased the physical presence and memory of the land’s original inhabitants.

Emotional Erasure: Altering Historical Memory

The books second important contribution is to uncover the role of depopulated villages in the formation of national identity and Jewish memory. Kadman describes the “Judaization of the space and memory” that occurred during the formation of the Israeli state.

According to her research, “a pattern of marginalizing” Palestinian history manifested in either the deletion of Palestinian names of the emptied towns or the “Hebraization” of their original Arabic names. The original names of Palestinian cities were also erased from maps, did not appear in history and textbooks, and were not taught to the new generations of Jewish settlers.

Kadman dedicates several chapters to discussing how Jewish and Israeli identity were dependent on erasing and blurring the identity of the land’s original Palestinian inhabitants. She states that “the collective memory of Israelis after the 1948 war” was built on the “marginalization and erasure of Palestinian villages from Israeli consciousness.”

Kadman investigates how Jewish settlers dealt with these “moral qualms” while living on stolen land.

Noga Kadman

More Than Depopulation?

Beyond the depopulation of villages, Kadman’s book points to the lasting effect of the 1948 Nakba on both Palestinian and Jewish families living in Israel and Palestine. In addition to confiscating and colonizing historic Palestine, Israeli forces took homes and belongings of refugees. The Israeli government went on to rename these towns and villages, erasing Palestinian people’s history on the land in the process.

The Jerusalem Fund also interviewed Kadman about these harsh realities. In the published piece, Kadman points out the human rights violations she witnessed in the occupied territories that sparked her interest to dig deeper into the atrocities of the 1948 Nakba.

The interviewers referred to depopulated towns as “ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages.” Previous hidden government documents also reveal the extent of the Israeli forces’ violence, including massacres.

This begs the question, Why was there a need for so much violence and erasure? Kadman believes that the forceful dispossession of Palestinian communities from their land was the violent first step in creating the state of Israel. It was quickly followed by “the process of Judaization.”

Collective Memory and Jewish Consciousness

Kadman describes Judaization as a “a meticulous erasure of the remains of the vibrant Arab Palestinian life that used to exist prior to the creation of the State of Israel.” This process specifically included the changing of place names to “sound” more Hebrew and altering the landscape by planting European trees, among other physical erasures.

By making Palestinian existence a “distant history” to most Jewish settlers, Israel was able to construct and “fortify its emerging national identity.” An extensive book review on Reading Religion summarizes the conflicting histories and viewpoints: “one side sees and remembers Palestine as it was prior to the creation of the Israeli state, while the other sees a completely different history that begins from biblical times, with very little reference to any continuous Arab presence.”

Most experts agree that “Palestinian [people] were expelled or had to flee due to the war and were not allowed to return” to their homes. Kadman’s book emphasizes that Israel’s “deliberate erasure and replacement” ensures that Jewish consciousness does not relate to the Palestinian people’s suffering.

A Call to Remember the Past

Kadman writes that “despite official efforts” some memory of Palestinian life in Israel remains, such as in the town names of Kabri and Tantura.

How can you take steps to remember Palestinian history?

Learn more about the Israel-Palestine conflict and how you can get involved.

Visit The Promised Land Museum and consider hosting an exhibit to help promote peace.

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