mardi 6 juin 2017

'They tell lies': Israel's 'museum of coexistence' erases Palestinian history

« Ils racontent des mensonges » : le « musée de la coexistence » d'"israel" efface l'histoire palestinienne
The Museum on the Seam's facade is decorated with promotional materials for their 
current exhibition, a survey of religious and secular Jewish art (MEE/Mary Pelletier)

JERUSALEM - The Mandelbaum Gate stood between the new State of Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967. Serving as a crossing point between the divided city, it had all the trappings of a traditional border: paperwork checks, barbed-wire fences and welcome signs. In many of the pictures, a three-storey house can be seen peaking out from across the gate, with large Corinthian arches decorating the façade and an Israeli flag flying in front of it.

A postcard from the family archive shows the Mandelbaum Gate, which divided Jerusalem from 1948 through 1967 (MEE/Mary Pelletier)

Today, 5 June, marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the Mandelbaum Gate is long gone. When Israel captured and occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 during the six-day war, it demolished the structure and opened the road to what the government called "Unified Jerusalem".

'The story of the house really symbolises the story of Palestine,'

- Haifa Baramki

But the house in the background, known as the "Tourjeman Post," remains, transformed into a contemporary, socio-political art museum. Named the Museum on the Seam, in a nod to its unique placement in Jerusalem’s historical landscape, it "presents art as a language with no boundaries in order to raise controversial social issues for public discussion".

A family photograph taken of the house in the early 1980s, before the Jerusalem Municipality turned it into the Tourjeman Post Museum (MEE/Mary Pelletier)

In the museum, historic photographs of Mandelbaum Gate show signs with an incredible mix of faces and fonts.

“Halt! Frontier Ahead” one sign reads, rendered in blocky letters next to a Hebrew translation. In another, vibrant with the bright hues of 1960s Kodachrome, a sign reads “Welcome to Israel,” and happy travellers, dressed in their finest clothes, pose beside a chain link fence. In some, Jordanian soldiers, dressed in traditional keffiyehs, stand guard next to travel posters, urging tourists to visit “Petra....the mysterious!”

The building which houses the museum was built in 1932 by Palestinian architect Andoni Baramki. A single line on the museum’s introductory website and a sign on the ground floor says this, and then launches into the building’s military history.

The museum’s curator, Raphie Etgar, founded the museum in 1999. Today, his office sits on the roof of the museum, which provides an expansive view of the once-divided city. Below, the Jerusalem light rail runs every few minutes, its cars decorated with Israeli flags, and a logo celebrating 50 years of unification.

'Half truths are not enough, you really have to tell the whole story'

- Haifa Baramki

Etgar, a curator with little time for discussion of his museum’s programme, refused to comment on the history of the building which houses his institution. “Everything you need to know is on the w...

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