The Baramki House: The Absent / Present
Boycott from Within activists Ronnie Barkan and Renen Raz pay tribute to Gabi Baramki by calling on the Israeli museum occupying the Baramki House to return the pillaged house to the Baramki family.
What is the story?
In 1932, the prominent Palestinian architect, Andoni Baramki, built his own breathtaking house in Jerusalem. He dedicated it to his wife, Eveline. In 1948, during the Zionist ethnic cleansing campaign, or Nakba, the Baramki family, like hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, were uprooted and ended up briefly in Gaza, and then in Ramallah. The Baramki House was transformed into a military outpost: the Turjeman Post. The building stood on the seam line between what became Israel and what became the West Bank, across from Mandelbaum Gate, the only crossing point between the two sides of the divided city of Jerusalem.
After the 1967 war, Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine and put the West Bank and Gaza Strip under its military control. The Mandelbaum Gate was abolished and the military outpost was abandoned. Since Andoni and Eveline Baramki were residents in the now occupied East Jerusalem, they were issued Israeli identity cards from the Israeli authorities. The Israeli army had no more need for the house as a post, so the Baramki family felt their quest to reclaim the House could finally come to fruition. Alas, the family’s request was denied by the Israeli authorities under the racist Absentees’ Property Law of 1950, which was used to pillage the property of Palestinians ethnically cleansed during the Nakba and even those who were internally displaced and declared as “present absentees.”(1) This infamous law recognizes the presence of internally displaced Palestinians as “residents or “citizens” of the state of Israel, but “absent” as far as their own individual property is concerned.
Until his death in 1972, Andoni Baramki made a habit of visiting his precious house on a daily basis. He would walk around the house a few times every day, but he was never given permission to set foot into it.
After the death of his father, Gabi Baramki continued the effort to reclaim the family home, but to no avail. In 1999, the Baramki House was transformed into “The Museum on the Seam” by the Israeli Jerusalem Foundation, which advertised as its mission its hope to “advance dialogue amongst us despite our different viewpoints. We must commit ourselves to a social dialogue that is based on what we have in common and what unites us rather than on what divides us and keeps us apart.” (2) This project was made possible through the “generous support of the von Holtzbrinck family of Germany.”
The story of the Baramki House is only one of thousands of similar stories; but this particular case exemplifies the wider injustice. In August 2012, Gabi Baramki passed away, leaving behind a rich legacy of struggle for Palestinian rights and for developing Palestinian educational institutions. The struggle for freedom, justice and equal rights, to which Gabi dedicated his entire life, continues.
We in PACBI see this Museum as an embodiment of Israeli criminality, hypocrisy, property theft, colonization, oppression and persistent denial of the Palestinians’ very presence and the rights that go along with it. We demand that international law be implemented, and the Baramki House be returned to its legitimate Palestinian owners, the Baramki family.
What can be done?
Suggestions for action:
● Stopping Israel from attending any architectural or cultural event unless it returns the Baramki House to its rightful owners, admits and redresses the injustice inherent in the massive property confiscation based on its “present absentee” law, and rescinds this racist law;
● Raising the issue of the Baramki House in each architectural and cultural event in which Israel might be present and insisting that Israel must comply with international law and return pillaged property to its respective owners;
● Exploring all possibilities to hold the von Holtzbrinck family of Germany (Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, Holtzbrinck family Publishing/Stuttgart, Germany Revenues: $2.2 billion. Employees: 12,600 www.holtzbrinck.com/eng) complicit in this crime, as this family effectively facilitated the transfer of private Palestinian property to an Israeli cultural institution, in violation of international -- and possibly German -- law. This generous fund by the German company/ family is just one example of how aid to Israel by Germany, Europe or the US, has made these benefactors partners in the larger crimes committed by the state of Israel. That aid to Israel has invariably helped in covering up Israel's old crimes or facilitating new ones;
● Pursuing all possible legal options available under international law in order to reclaim the House.
Who is our target?
UNESCO, all architectural and cultural institutions, and all worldwide archeological and cultural organizations.
1) For more information see, for example, Masalha, Nur (1992) Expulsion of the Palestinians: the Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. Washington: Institute for Palestine Studies.
_____ Massalha, Nur (1997) A Land Without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians 1949-96. London: Faber and Faber.
Tom Segev, Arlen Neal Weinstein (Tanslator) (1998) 1949 The First Israelis, Henry Holt & Company, Bottom of Form