UNESCO declares al-Khalil/Hebron a World Heritage Site

Ahlam Shibli, Untitled (Occupation no. 1), al-Khalil, Palestine, 2016–17, chromogenic print, 100 × 150 cm.

Islamic cemetery, al-Shuhada Street, Hay al-Yahud/Avraham Avinu settlement, Old Town, northern part of the city, al-Khalil, December 25, 2016.

View from al-Rahma hill. Jews have free access to al-Shuhada Street; Palestinian access is limited to residents who are registered by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at the checkpoint, but only on foot. They have to renew their registration every year. All Palestinian shops in al-Shuhada Street and in Hay al-Yahud/Avraham Avinu settlement are closed by Israeli military order. Most of the Palestinian houses are deserted due to constand harassment by the IDF and settlers.

My photographic work Occupation—currently on view at EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art as part of documenta 14—traces the destruction of Palestinian livelihood in the city of al-Khalil/Hebron by the Israeli colonial regime and its settlers. In the introductory statement accompanying the work, I quote Imad Hamdan, the director of the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, as saying, “In al-Khalil all the calamity of the occupation is concentrated,” in reference to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and specifically the ancient Palestinian city of al-Khalil/Hebron.

On Friday July 7, 2017, UNESCO declared al-Khalil/Hebron as Palestinian World Heritage site; it also added the town to its list of sites “in danger.” This decision seriously angered the Israeli government; prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu consequently announced a cut in Israel’s payments to the United Nations. UNESCO’s decision implicitly acknowledges the devastating effects of the Israeli occupation; it will support the Palestinian efforts to preserve, restore, and re-enliven the Old City of al-Khalil/Hebron and thereby contribute to their struggle for liberation.

—Ahlam Shibli

Ahlam Shibli, Occupation, al-Khalil/Hebron, Palestine, 2016–17, series of thirty-two photographs, installation view EMST—National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens
, documenta 14, photo: Mathias Völzke

Posted in Notes on 07.13.2017

Ahlam Shibli

According to what Ahlam Shibli told me, the two photographic “reportages”—I use the term here for want of space to debate it—that will be presented at documenta 14 have precedents in her work…