Recent academic advances have identified memory as a critical component in the construction of national identity.  Further insights made by Simon Schama, who demonstrates that memory is encapsulated in landscapes, and that memory of prior eras can be constructed from ruins and other traces found in landscapes,  indicate the need to view memory as consisting of two different categories: social memory and landscape memory. While these categories have not been specifically identified or described by Schama (or any other authority on memory for that matter), Schama's research nonetheless points to the existence of these categories.
Social memory is synonymous with what is otherwise referred to as collective memory. Essentially, social memory is the way human groups remember past events. Among others, these groups include believers of religions and their sects, participants in social movements and political parties, citizens of nation-states, and members of ethnic minorities and nations that have not achieved independent status. Members of these groups relate to each other with a mutual understanding of past experiences, and thereby share a common identity.
Landscape memory, on the other hand, deals with the artifacts of the past. It is concerned solely with the traces of earlier eras that are preserved in landscapes. These traces entail any type of both material and non-material artifacts. Material artifacts of the past often include, for example, any historical, religious, or archaeological sites and objects, as well as the physical traces of significant events of the past, such as the rubble and scars of war, the initial traces of human settlement in new areas, and the vestiges of major achievements like space exploration, or the spread of Islam or communism. Examples of non-material artifacts, on the other hand, include place-names, myths, superstitions, and religious traditions that have been encapsulated in any of the different aspects of territory. In essence, landscape memory is the way the traces of the past signify a prior human presence in the land.
While both landscape and social memory are responsible for shaping national identity, they do so in differing ways. Whereas dominant understandings of past events in part construct nations' identities essentially because of shared experiences, landscapes also contribute to the formation of identity as they provide symbols of commonality. Species of flora and fauna, for example, have often been used by nation-states as symbols of their independence and distinct identity. The New Zealand kiwi, the American bald eagle, and the Canadian maple leaf are just some examples. In addition, archaeological sites and artifacts evoke a powerful sense of belonging to the land, and in numerous instances these material symbols have contributed to the construction of modern nations' identities. Hellenic symbols, for example, construct present-day Greece as the home of western civilisation. And contrary to many Greeks' wishes, the population of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have sought to adopt the symbols of Alexander the Great in their attempts to construct a national identity, and an ancient claim to land.
On the other hand, while landscapes help shape identity, landscapes are in turn imbued by the cultural traits of the populations that occupy them. National monuments, memorials, and statues are erected as representations of important aspects of the nation's past. Sites of victories in war, rebellion, and other significant national events have been monumentalised and sanctified as places for tourism, and in some instances, destinations for pilgrimage on annual holidays. Less prominently, landscapes are shaped by the ordinary folk who occupy them. Landscapes are moulded by each distinct generation's needs and lifestyles. The traces of rapid industrialisation throughout Eastern Europe, for example, such as extensive pollution and abandoned factories and steel-mills, signify some of the ways in which Eastern Europeans lived under communist rule. In addition, as we shall see, the construction of cooperative settlements throughout Palestine reflects much of the Zionist movement's attempts to achieve socialist ideals. On the whole, therefore, at present most of the landscapes around the globe have been textualised by the ideological precepts of any given population's identity.
Social memory of how approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees were created during the 1947-49 Arab-Israeli War has been the site of a fundamental battle between Palestinians and Israeli Jews. According to the Palestinians' version of the events, the Jews expelled the local inhabitants with premeditation. In addition, Palestinians argue that the Jewish campaign in 1948 was an ethnocidal one, as the Jews employed the use of psychological warfare, selectively targeted massacres, and mass rape of Arab women to force the Arabs into flight. The catastrophe of 1948, this argument continues, was a product of long-term Zionist intentions to take over Palestine.  While Palestinian historians have explored these claims in detail throughout the decades, their works are only reflective of the popular memories and sentiments of the refugee communities in general.  In the years since the war, these sentiments have been depicted in hundreds if not thousands of novels, short stories, plays, poems, films, sketches, and other forms of popular cultural expression.
Most Jewish Israelis, on the other hand, shifted the blame for the creation of the refugee problem onto the Arabs themselves. In fact, throughout the decades many Israelis have remembered the birth of the refugee problem as a consequence of voluntary flight. The main version of events proceeds basically as follows: both internal and external Arab leaders, but primarily the exiled Mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, and his loyal Arab Higher Committee (AHC), ordered the local Palestinians to evacuate their homes in repeated radio broadcasts. Having abandoned their homes largely before the May 15 invasion by Arab states' armies, the Palestinians expected to return to their villages and towns (as well as those of the defeated Israeli state), behind the advancing pan-Arab armies. Palestinian flight was achieved despite numerous Jewish pleas to stay in their homes and coexist peacefully as citizens in the new Jewish state. Though less numerous than in the first half of the war, voluntary Arab flight continued after the establishment of Israel, as the IDF expanded throughout further areas of Palestine.
This version of events was originally devised by senior Israeli bureaucrats in the latter stages of the war for Israeli politicians and diplomats to use in their dealings with the international community.  This claim of Arab orders was used repeatedly with an iron conviction throughout the decades in order to deny calls for the return of the refugees (enshrined in UN resolution 194),  and it continues to be used to this day.  For decades mainstream Israeli historians accepted and developed further most if not all aspects of this narrative without any real critical evaluation.  In turn this narrative was detailed in history textbooks used throughout the decades in Israeli high schools.  Because of the Israeli Ministry of Education's strict regulation of the history curriculum, which entailed the use only of such textbooks,  the state deliberately attempted to socialize younger Israelis with the explanation of voluntary Palestinian flight. 
In recent years Israeli historians, working in response to the opening of Israeli state archives on 1948, have debunked both the myth of Arab orders and the general claim that the Jews had intended and planned to expel the local population at the outset.  These historians have provided overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that the Palestinian leadership in fact ordered the locals to stay put in May 1948, and that the flight of 2-300,000 Arabs by that stage genuinely surprised the Jewish leadership. According to these historians, while much of the evacuation up to that point was because of factors related to the fighting, expulsions and atrocities by the IDF occurred throughout 1948 but were more frequent in the latter half of the war, and were spurred on mainly by the earlier mass movements of Arabs, and out of vengeance for earlier Jewish losses. The decisions to forcibly evacuate villages and towns were made primarily by Jewish commanders at the specific time of military engagements, and while many political leaders hoped to have the new state emptied of as many Arabs as possible, at no stage of the war was there ever any collective decision by these leaders for a mass expulsion of the population. The birth of the refugee problem, these historians argue, was a consequence of the fighting and the pressures of the war in general; a war initiated by the Palestinians' violent rejection of the November 29 UN decision to partition Palestine, and of their desires of crushing the Jewish community; and a war, escalated in May 1948, by the Arab states' invasion and intention also of destroying the new state.
Like social memory of 1948, landscape memory has also been the site of a fundamental battle between Israelis and Palestinians. Essentially, whereas Israelis have sought to erase the pre-48 Palestinian landscape of all Arab traces, Palestinians have tried to preserve the memory of the indigenous population and their lifestyles. Israeli landscape memory of what has been constructed on the land after 1948 has afforded no room to any Palestinian trace of what existed beforehand.
At the end of Israel's War of Independence the state had amassed just over three quarters of the land of the Palestine Mandate. All the 1948 refugees' ownership of their homes and lands was eliminated in law retrospectively by the Absentee Property Law of 1950, and their property was absorbed by the Custodian of Absentee Property.  In addition to the dozen or so Arab urban centres and 418 depopulated villages, the property taken over by Israel during its War of Independence amounted to just over 6 million dunams of land (a dunam is about a quarter of an acre);  125,000 homes located in both the towns and villages;  and countless personal and moveable items ranging from basic possessions such as jewelry, heirlooms, furniture, and art objects, to bank deposits and stock shares.  In 1950, the total value of all this property was calculated as somewhere between 1 and 4 billion US dollars.  Between May 1948 and December 1954, approximately 700,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Israel, thereby doubling the Jewish population and replacing the original Palestinian population.  Not only were the Arab homes in urban centres filled up by Jewish immigrants, but most of the Palestinian villages were replaced by new Jewish settlements. To be precise, by the end of 1954, 357 agricultural and non-agricultural settlements were established, including 194 moshavim, 83 kibbutzim, and 80 non-agricultural settlements.  Most of these were established on appropriated Palestinian lands, and some were established upon the sites of abandoned Palestinian Arab villages.
This was more than simply a take-over of property. Virtually all memory of the exiled Palestinian Arabs and their vestiges has been erased and replaced by new Israeli memorial artifacts. This near total erasure of Palestinian memory is a product of an attack on three key aspects of landscape. The first of these-by far the most significant-was the destruction of the 418 villages abandoned during 1948 and their displacement by Jewish settlements. The second was the erasure of the Arabic nomenclature of all topographical features of pre-48 Palestine which was replaced by Hebrew names. The third aspect was the attack upon the religious and sacred sites of pre-48 Palestine: the abandoned graves of religious figures, mosques, and cemeteries. Whereas the first of these was the most critical, due to the immensity of its scale and the greater degree of loss to the Palestinians, the latter two aspects of Israeli erasure were essentially symbolic: they normalised and provided an historical legitimacy to the Jewish take-over of the Arabs' former villages and lands. On that basis, therefore, many of the new Jewish memorial artifacts that replaced these Palestinian vestiges have been textured by the ancient Jewish past.
The central argument of this article is that all that remains of the landscape of pre-48 Palestine that does not exist in a present state of decay or abandonment, has been erased of its Arab semiotic configurations and has been assimilated into rival Israeli structures. The following pages of this article intend to examine what happened to the pre-48 rural landscape of Palestine, and how the Israelis transformed and textualised the landscape on the basis of their own needs and ideological precepts.
How and why did the Israelis erase the depopulated Palestinian villages? Almost immediately, the destruction of Palestinian villages began in the early stages of the 1948 war. According to the Israeli historian, Benny Morris, whose writings are the most important on the issue of village destruction throughout 1948, as a part of the Haganah's defensive "retaliatory strikes" of January, February, and March 1948, the destruction of homes and parts of Palestinian villages was employed against villages and urban centres "that harboured or were suspected of harbouring hostile Arab militiamen and irregulars."  Such demolition activity, however, was limited in scope, and was insignificant when compared to the latter stages of the war. Under the impact of the Haganah's Plan Dalet offensives carried out in April-May 1948, numerous Arab villages located in eastern and western Galilee, close to the Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek (situated between Haifa and Jenin), and in nearby Jerusalem areas, were either partially or totally destroyed.  According to Morris' analysis, although some of this demolition was influenced by Israeli feelings of vengefulness in response to Arab attacks, the ideological desire to have a state free of Arabs, or the wish to acquire more lands for the new state, the main reasons for the destruction "were clear military motives-to deny bases and refuge to hostile irregulars and militiamen, to prevent a return of irregulars to strategic sites and to avoid the emergence of a Fifth Column in areas already cleared of Arabs."
By June 1948, however, senior Yishuv officials began to utilise the demolition of Palestinian villages as a mechanism for the permanent blocking of an Arab refugee return. At this time Yosef Weitz, the director of the Jewish National Fund Lands Department and the key purchasing agent of Arab lands for the Yishuv, lobbied the political leadership for the establishment of a body, with himself at its head, to oversee a campaign of widespread demolition.  Acting with verbal approval from both Prime/Defence Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Foreign Minister, Moshe Shertok, and confident that such a body would soon be officially sanctioned, Weitz established the first of two Transfer Committees. Along with Ezra Danin and Elias Sasson who made up the three-man Committee, Weitz established a demolition apparatus around the country which operated behind the front lines.  (Both Sasson and Danin were Arab affairs experts for the Haganah Intelligence Service and senior foreign affairs officials for both the Yishuv and later the state of Israel). According to Morris' writings, Weitz "had his 'personal' JNF apparatus at hand; the network of regional JNF offices and workers, and a web of land-purchasing agents and intelligence and settlement contacts around the country."  The first Transfer Committee began its demolition work at the end of May 1948. For a month it operated on funds Weitz had seized from JNF coffers, but without its official authorisation.  More importantly, Weitz and the Committee continued to act without official and public sanction from either Ben-Gurion or Cabinet. This lack of endorsement was partly because such activities conflicted with Mapam coalition ministers who were ideologically committed to coexistence with the Arabs. Indeed, in mid-June their public opposition to the expulsion of the Arabs and the demolition of Arab villages was broadcast to all members of the party.  Any official recognition of the Transfer Committee, therefore, would have most likely led to Mapam's break away from the governing coalition. And given the immediate realities of an invasion by the various armies of Arab states, Ben-Gurion did not wish to risk a break-up of the Cabinet in mid-1948.  In addition, although Ben-Gurion wanted to have the new state permanently emptied of as many of its Arab inhabitants as possible, and was happy to have Weitz engaged in activities that would result in this, he nonetheless sought to avoid being personally implicated in acts of expulsion or village demolition throughout 1948 out of fear of tarnishing his image. He sought also to avoid the state's image being tarnished before Western eyes.
On June 30, the Transfer Committee disbanded in part because, despite numerous attempts, Weitz failed to obtain legal sanction for the Committee which resulted in its lack of funding. "There are no tools and no materials" left to pursue the demolition work, Weitz wrote in his diary.  When approval for a Transfer Committee was finally granted, it was for a body which was responsible only for analytical evaluation of the refugee problem, its scope, and the opportunities for resettlement in Arab states. It was this body, set up in late August 1948, which, during its broader analytical tasks, devised the myth of Arab orders for Israel's international political purposes.  The legal parameters of the second and officially sanctioned Transfer Committee were a clear limitation on what Weitz originally wanted.
A further reason why the first Transfer Committee ceased its demolition work was the fact that soon after the establishment of the state on May 14, the IDF was engaged in its own independent destruction of abandoned Arab villages. These activities were products of a shift from military-strategic activities to political-ideological ones; that is, IDF units began to operate with the intention of preventing an Arab refugee return. This would continue irrespective of the Committee's dissolution.  Moreover, according to Morris' reconstruction, Weitz simply "got cold feet."  After months of unsuccessful lobbying, Weitz realised that he could not pursue the monumental task without endorsement from the political leadership.  In practical terms, the Transfer Committee's demolition activity amounted merely to between a dozen or two dozen village sites. However, it provided the physical methodology for what Weitz referred to as "Retroactive Transfer,"-the permanent barring of the Arabs' return home. IDF units and some Jewish settlements, which also began to demolish Arab villages later in 1948, learned from Weitz and his network of agents around the country how to go about physically destroying abandoned villages. Moreover, Weitz's apparatus lent legitimacy to those Israelis desirous of an Arab-free state in the face of chaotic and turbulent times, and of policy confusion and competing ideological stances.
Mapam's opposition to village demolition within Cabinet was consistent and forceful. Discussions on the issue took place on June 16, 20, 23, 27, and 30.  Consequently, the need to maintain Cabinet unity forced Ben-Gurion to instruct the IDF General Staff to issue prohibition orders. On July 6 the IDF ordered: "Outside of the actual time of combat, it is forbidden to destroy, burn and demolish Arab towns and villages [and] to expel Arab inhabitants from the villages... without special permission or an explicit instruction from the Minister of Defence in each case."  This, however, was largely ineffectual as throughout the second half of the war, IDF units repeatedly destroyed Arab villages with Ben-Gurion's approval either during or shortly after battle, or in the weeks and months thereafter.  The demolition activity seems to have been extensive, but an accurate number of how many villages cannot be calculated due to the different phases of landscape erasure over the decades. Similarly, the distinction between military-strategic and political-ideological motives for village demolition is extremely difficult to establish. According to Morris, both motives-together with widespread Israeli looting-were in operation in the second half of the war, and village demolition supplemented the IDF's illegal expulsion of the Arabs, making the Palestinian exile a permanent one.
By Autumn 1948, JNF settlement officials began to battle the IDF's demolition activities for the preservation of Arab villages given the twin problems of tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants flowing into the country, and the state's acute housing shortage.  IDF demolition slowly ceased towards the end of 1948, but village demolition continued over the next few years primarily as a consequence of Israeli settlement. According to the geographical surveys undertaken by Palestinian historian, Gazi Falah, particularly extensive demolition was carried out in areas located near the established, pre-48 agricultural settlements.  According to the Israeli historian, Meron Benvenisti, whose analysis takes us one step further, this occurred in part because the established settlements had long coveted neighbouring Arab lands: "There is extensive evidence that members of the older kibbutzim and moshavim pushed for the destruction of the abandoned Arab villages adjacent to them, and even took part in destroying the villages with their own hands, so they could take over the abandoned land and prevent the return of the displaced inhabitants."  Such expression of avarice occurred along with Israeli settler and military mass looting, and vandalism of abandoned Arab possessions.  Another explanation put forward by Benvenisti for the settler demolition work was that they did not want the abandoned Arab houses to be allocated to the new immigrants: "The veteran settlers' movement," Benvenisti states, "was not interested in the possibility of their being populated with new immigrants, since its members wanted to keep all the land in their own hands and not share it with the newcomers."
Much of the demolition carried out in the early years of the state was a consequence of the unsuitability of Arab houses and villages for Jewish habitation. Less than 20% of the settlements that had been erected by the end of 1949 were constructed upon the sites of abandoned Palestinian villages. By 1952, only 70 settlements existed atop of the ruined Palestinian villages, and in under half of these had there been any permanent settlement intentions by Israeli officialdom.The reasons for their unsuitability were numerous. First, the mass looting and vandalism by the neighbouring settlers rendered these villages uninhabitable. Second, many of the villages were constructed out of unreliable adobe brick. Third, the physical distribution of homes and streets within Arab villages did not coincide with Israeli forms of settlement. The extent of this unsuitability was so comprehensive that the costs of renovating Palestinian villages exceeded those of constructing new settlements. Consequently, most abandoned Palestinian villages were ignored by Israeli settlement officials and remained empty, in states of decay, and awaited demolition and replacement with new Jewish settlements.
In addition to the state's settlement needs, demolition was also a response to international pressures on Israel. Throughout 1949 both the United Nations and the US pressured Israel to repatriate a substantial number of Palestinian Arabs.  Consequently, in order to prevent repatriation, some minor demolition work was undertaken in July of 1949 by government bodies, while at the same time the Department of Public Works demolished abandoned villages in the Jerusalem Corridor and the southern Shephelah region.  On a much broader scale, demolition in the fifties resulted from the grim realities of Palestinian refugee infiltration.  Between 1949-1956 tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees infiltrated Israel in order to return to their villages. They did so, according to Morris' critical study on this infiltration, "for theft, harvest, smuggling, pasturing, reestablishing residence (by refugees), and family visits (to relatives who remained in Israel)."  "Almost certainly far fewer" than 10% of the total infiltration between 1949 and 1953, Morris writes, "were politically motivated or had violent aims."  In an attempt to prevent infiltration, therefore, numerous houses were destroyed in order to deny the returning villagers shelter, and remaining villagers were forcibly relocated to other Arab settlements within Israel so as to minimise family reunion.
In general, demolition activities in the latter fifties and sixties remained sporadic. According to Benvenisti's research, in October 1966 the Israel Lands Administration implemented its program entitled "leveling villages" in the Galilee.  Yet, despite Benvenisti's authoritative writings on the issue of village demolition in the post-war period, the significant aspect of afforestation is missing from his work. According to Sabri Jiryis' general study on the Israeli Arabs, "on hilly ground which could not be farmed, the sites of villages were covered with trees and soon looked no different from any other forest. By the mid-1960s the Israeli government was carrying out the last of its projects for 'cleaning up the natural landscape of Israel' by removing the remaining traces of ruined Arab villages."  To substantiate these claims, Jiryis cites a Maariv report dated 5 August 1965, a Haaretz report dated 6 September 1966, as well as Prime Minister Eshkol's responses to questions in Knesset Debates 1966/1967.  The final phase of Arab village demolition was carried out by the Israeli government soon after the 1967 conquest of the West Bank and Gaza. "This calculated destruction," Benvenisti explains, was undertaken "with the aim of eliminating any possibility that refugees from the West Bank and Gaza, who had begun to make pilgrimages to the ruins of their villages, could identify their houses."
The long-term and fundamental effect of the Israeli take-over of the abandoned Arab villages and their lands was the almost total erasure and assimilation of all that remains of the pre-48 Palestinian villages. In 1992, the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) published the most comprehensive study of all the depopulated 1948 villages to date. This study, aptly named All That Remains, concluded that of its list of 418 villages that survived both the Israeli demolition efforts and "the ravages of time," only 8 villages on its list "remained relatively intact from a physical standpoint, while an additional 7" remained "virtually intact."  Of these seven villages, the small and rustic village of Ayn Hawd was converted into an artist colony named Ein Hod in 1954.  The twenty houses of the village of Tarbikha were absorbed by the moshavniks of Moshav Shomera (established in May 1949).  Balad ash-Shaykh was settled by immigrants in 1949, and the village was renamed Tel Chanan and became a part of the Nesher township.  Tirat Karmel was constructed around the existing remains of al-Tira in 1949, and its former lands were passed out to other new Israeli settlements.  Al-Maliha and Ayn Karim were both assimilated into West Jerusalem.  Finally, the village of al-Safiriyya was settled by residents of Shafrir in 1949 and was later absorbed by its surrounding settlements.  The bulk of the villages, 292 (70%) according to the IPS, had in fact been razed to the ground and rendered without any Arab traces, and a further 90 (22%) were largely destroyed with only a few structures remaining-the balance being taken up by villages that suffered little or no damage. The memory of all those villages, the traces of their occupants, as well as their lands and possessions, were swallowed up either by their neighbouring Jewish moshav, kibbutz, and non-agricultural settlements, or the new settlements established on or near their sites after 1948.  "The Hebrew names" of many of these settlements, concluded the IPS, "have replaced their Arabic predecessors, sometimes faintly and mockingly echoing them." 
The extensive research undertaken by the IPS reconstructs the communal lives of the former inhabitants of those lost 418 villages. It examines their village histories, population statistics, economics, religious denominations, and it documents the specific factors for their exile. Above all, in meticulous and precise detail, it assesses the degree of Israeli erasure and assimilation of their traces. Ranging from simple Arab tombstones to mosques, from homes to public buildings, and from gardens to cultivated orchards, all that remains of the abandoned villages of pre-48 Palestine that has not been physically destroyed and reduced to rubble, has either been abandoned and allowed to ruin over time, or has been assimilated into different Israeli structures. Many Arab houses, mosques, and public buildings now exist either in decay or in abandonment, or in a preserved but sanitised state as Jewish dwellings, restaurants, offices, barns, and stables. By isolating and providing photographic evidence of these preserved Arab structures, the IPS has documented the abundance and immensity of Israeli settler assimilation of all that remains of the villages of pre-48 Palestine.
The work of the IPS exists as a fundamental example of Palestinian landscape preservation. The primary function of the IPS' study was, as its editor, Walid Khalidi, stated "to attempt to breathe life into a statistic, to render to these villages a sense of their distinctiveness." In its essence, it was "meant to be a kind of 'in memoriam' to all these erased villages and their former occupants."  In this critical respect, however, the IPS was engaged in a self-defeating enterprise. If all that remains was as Khalidi stated "a scattering of stones and rubble over a forgotten landscape," then all that remains is largely nothing from an Israeli perspective, because the 418 Palestinian Arab villages were destroyed in the early years of Israel's independence, and have continued to exist in a state of erasure or of total sanitisation throughout the decades.
Many of the 'absentised' (i.e. legally appropriated) villages described by the IPS have been buried under Israeli forests.  In this very significant respect the landscape has been textualised with the victor's identity. The significance of the forest in Zionist-Israeli national symbolism has been critical. A long-term enterprise, afforestation began in the early decades of Zionist colonisation of the land, and the symbol of the forest has traditionally signified the importance of rescuing the land from desolation-"making the desert bloom" as the popular saying goes. Yet, because the Palestinian has consistently been constructed as the ecological despoiler of the land of Palestine, the full and precise meaning of the Israeli forest is that it symbolises the importance of rescuing the land from Arab desolation.
Landscape Memory and the Israeli Erasure of pre-48 Palestine
Theo Tsalamandris
"The historical Hebrew names of places in Eretz Israel are the most reliable testimony that these places have been our patrimony from time immemorial and that our rightful claims to these places and to this land are historical and ancient. Therefore, if the JNF Naming Committee is convinced that a new settlement is located near a place-especially a place where there was a Jewish settlement during one of the periods when the nation of Israel dwelt in Eretz Israel, but whose name was forgotten in the course of generations or was preserved in a different form by various conquerors, reaching us in its present form, embodied as an Arab village, the remains of a 'ruin,' or an archaeological 'tell,' or such like-the committee shall assign to the new or restored settlement the historical Hebrew name of the place in its original form."

Menachem Ussishkin,
head of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Naming Committee 1935-1941 (date unknown).
Assumptions of the Arab as the ecological despoiler of the land have long been held in Zionist and Israeli popular thought. Both lay and scholarly scientific literature has consistently and repeatedly blamed Palestinians for having destroyed aspects of the landscape.  For example, in Israeli geography textbooks used in the education curricula of both the Yishuv and the Israeli state, the local Arabs have often been blamed for having transformed the once vastly cultivated areas of ancient and biblical times into desert.  The phrase the Arab was "not only the son of the desert but also the father of the desert," originally coined by the British governor of Sinai, Major C. S. Jarvis, has often been quoted in Israeli and Yishuv textbooks.  In more recent times, the twentieth century's erosion of cultivated areas has been blamed upon the outdated farming techniques of Bedouin herders and the burning of trees for the making of charcoal.  These dominant and widely held Israeli Jewish assumptions were translated into the Black Goat Ordinance and the Plant Protection (Damage by Goats) Law of 1950, which authorised Israeli bureaucratic agencies to confiscate goats grazing on state and privately held lands not owned by their Bedouin farmers. In addition, such assumptions have been translated into prohibitive orders issued during the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. In the early 1980s, for example, the military authorities prohibited the making of charcoal in certain areas of the West Bank.
In contrast to this anti-Palestinian stereotype, widely held Israeli assumptions have constructed the Jew as the protector of ecology.  Afforestation is a reflection of the Jews' love of the land and their intentions to return it to its flourishing biblical forms. Israeli school children have been inculcated with the importance of blooming the land. On Tu-Bishvat (New Year of the Trees), an Israeli national holiday, school children are taken to plant trees or shrubs in the soil of the homeland.  Further, the planting of trees has been elevated to major national significance as foreign state leaders and dignitaries visiting Israel have often been invited to plant trees in forests and groves.  Western tourists and sympathisers of the Israeli state have also been encouraged to plant trees as a part of their tourist itineraries, or to donate money to Israel's afforestation drives.
This long-term Zionist-Israeli ecological attack on the Palestinians has stemmed from the need to undercut their connection to the land and their claims to nationhood in Palestine. In the eighties, the West Bank military authorities banned the picking of zatar (wild thyme), a popular local herb used by Palestinians in their daily cuisine.  According to Benvenisti, the decision to ban the picking of zatar stemmed from some "genuine concern" for its long-term ecological existence. But the prohibition order, he explains, was "also a strong political and ideological statement." This statement went as follows: "You Palestinians despoil the land indiscriminately because you don't feel for it, ergo it is not your homeland; we look after it, therefore, it is ours."  Ted Swedenburg's deconstruction of Israeli greening, however, is even more significant. According to his reading, Israeli afforestation has existed as a "veritable holy sanctuary." Not only has the Israeli forest symbolised both the rescuing of the land from Arab desolation and the construction of the Israeli Jew as the "guardian" of the landscape, but thousands of trees have been planted in Israel to commemorate the victims of the European Holocaust: "The forest's emotional charge," Swedenburg states, "is redoubled by its additional function of memorialising the victims of Nazi persecution." Thus, "afforestation," he continues, has been directly "linked, materially and symbolically, to the Holocaust, for thousands of trees have been planted in memory of lost communities and individual victims."
The second aspect of the erasure of Palestinian landscape memory was the eradication of the Arabic nomenclature of all topographical features of pre-48 Palestine: the landscape's streams, mounts, springs, tells, and wadies. Just as the abandoned villages of 1948 were displaced by new Jewish settlements, Arabic names were replaced by new and old Hebrew names. In July 1949, 9 Israeli scholars with backgrounds in cartography were constituted by Ben-Gurion as the Committee for the Designation of Place-Names in the Negev Region (also known as the Negev Names Committee [NNC]). Essentially, they were commissioned to assign Hebrew names to the newly conquered desert areas of the Negev and Arava.  The IDF had formally conquered the Negev and Arava by March 10 1949. By that time, most of the local Arab population had either been expelled or had fled from these southern areas.  Ben-Gurion and the map-makers of the NNC now sought to erase symbolically the Arabs' prior existence in that area, and to formalise Jewish possession of the land. This enterprise was undertaken by changing the names of the landscape's topographical features from Arabic to Hebrew. As the letter from Ben-Gurion to the Committee's chairman clearly indicates, this dual process of erasure and symbolic possession was of significant national importance: "We are obliged to remove the Arabic names for reasons of state. Just as we do not recognise the Arabs' political proprietorship of the land, so also do we not recognise their spiritual proprietorship and their names."  The Committee's work was completed on March 20 1950. The 533 new names that it constructed were printed on the Committee's 1:250:000 scale map of south Israel that was published in 1951.
The main mechanism by which the Committee worked to take symbolic possession of the Negev and Arava areas, was to lump past and present together by actively seeking to rename topographical features on the basis of biblical or ancient Hebrew names. This process, known as redemption by nomenclature, began in the early years of Zionist colonisation of Palestine. The last British map of Palestine was issued in 1948. Only 5% of all its place-names (which were transliterated into English) were Hebrew; the rest were Arabic.  In the pre-state period, the Yishuv was permitted to name only Jewish communities that were established upon Jewish owned lands. This task was assigned to the Jewish National Fund Naming Committee (JNF Naming Committee). Operating from 1925 to 1951, it was headed by Menachem Ussishkin, and it was he who put in place the methods by which the newly established settlements would be named.  As Ussishkin himself outlined in what is the second prescript to this chapter, the names of settlements would be established by determining the ancient names located near the Jewish settlement. This was primarily achieved by the Hebraicisation of contemporary Arabic names that were thought to have preserved the ancient Hebrew. The purpose of this redemption, Ussishkin makes clear, was to legitimise the establishment of the new settlements on the basis of a prior Jewish existence-to demonstrate the Jews' "rightful claims to these places" given the "historical and ancient" Jewish patrimony. In the event that this process was not achievable, the assignment of a new name dedicated to a leading Jewish figure or an aspect of Zionism would be given: "If the committee is not convinced," Ussishkin wrote, "that the new or restored settlement is located in the vicinity of a place where there was a Jewish settlement during a prior period in the history of Israel in its land-the committee shall assign it a name memorialising a personality or a symbolic name."  In its twenty-six years of operation, the JNF Naming Committee assigned the names of approximately 400 Jewish communities.
Many of the Hebrew place-names of ancient Israel were assimilated and preserved in an Arabic form after the seventh century take-over of Palestine by Islamic conquerors. Christian scholars of the mid-nineteenth century read the Bible against modern Arabic place-names in order to locate ancient and biblical sites.  According to Edward Robinson, the scholar who first used this device, "the Hebrew names of places continued current in their Aramaean form long after the times of the New Testament... After the Muhammadan conquest, when the Aramaean conquest gradually gave place to the kindred Arabic, the proper names of places found their ready entrance: and have thus lived on upon the lips of the Arabs, whether Christian or Muslim, townsmen or Bedouin even unto our own day, almost in the same form in which they have also been transmitted to us in the Hebrew scriptures."  British cartographers of the late nineteenth century and the Mandate period emulated this tool in their own map-making of Palestine.
It was primarily through this process of redeeming historical place-names from the Arabic that the official maps of the Israeli state were constructed. Indeed, 333 of the 533 names constructed by the NNC were either Arabic names translated into Hebrew, or biblical-sounding but authentic Arabic names that were simply Hebraicised.  (In other words, in this latter respect, where the ancient Hebrew could not be determined, the Committee simply assimilated the biblical sounding Arabic name into a modern Hebrew form). This dual process of re-naming was, of course, powerfully ironic: once the Arabic names were transformed and imprinted on Israeli maps, the Arabic names became erased and were forgotten, and most Israelis understood the new Hebrew names to be eternal. "No Israeli would imagine," Benvenisti confidently asserts, that the biblical sounding name "of Kibbutz Grofit comes from Umm Jurfinat, that Beer Ada was Bir Abu Auda, and that the name of Yerukham (a town near Beer Sheva) replaced the Arabic name, Rakhma."  Further, the erasure of the Arabic nomenclature by the NNC was solidified by the bureaucratic apparatuses: "The bureaucracy," Benvenisti continues, "wields tremendous power in its imposition of the new map: road signs, postal cancellations, office correspondence, and journalistic reports all reinforce the effort."
This process of transforming Arabic names into Hebrew ones was not only confined to the work of the NNC, but was utilised in the work of all the major re-naming enterprises. As previously stated, the IPS determined that "the Hebrew names" of many of the settlements that replaced the 418 Arab villages depopulated during the 1948 war, "have replaced their Arabic predecessors, sometimes faintly and mockingly echoing them." From May 1948 to March 1951, the JNF Naming Committee assigned approximately 200 new names to the Jewish settlements that were being erected throughout the country.  The reason behind this mocking echo was that in many instances, the JNF Naming Committee simply Hebraicised the existing Arab place-names. Given the extensive construction of new settlements and the need for names denoting an historical legitimacy, the JNF Naming Committee generally requested a listing from the settlers themselves of the Arabic names of the new settlement's surrounding topography: "In order for us to be able to assign you a name, please send us a list of the hills, valleys, stream beds (wadies), and archaeological tells with distinctive names in Arabic," was one typical request from the JNF Naming Committee.  Consequently, many of the Jewish settlements erected upon or near abandoned Palestinian villages received Hebraicised forms of Arabic place-names. Most of these were genuine redemptions of ancient Jewish names: Faradiyya was transformed back into the older Parod; Dallata back into Dalton; Kasla into Ksalon; Beit Dajan into Beit Dagon; Yibna into Yavne; and Zirin into Yizrael and so on.  Others, however, were authentic Arabic names with no ancient Hebrew connection that became Hebraicised: Zakariyya into Zecharia; Manawat into Manot; Kamana into Kamon; Jalun into Gillon.  But "who's to know," Benvenisti cynically states, "that the biblical-sounding name Tefen, for example, is actually the Arabic name al-Tufaniyya."
In March 1951, the NNC and the JNF Naming Committees were merged into a new body. Known as the Governmental Naming Committee (GNC), it was authorised essentially to rename the entire remaining areas of the cultural landscape. Like the JNF Naming Committee and the NNC before it, the GNC sought to do this primarily by restoring the preserved ancient Hebrew names from the Arabic nomenclature, or by transforming the authentic Arabic names into Hebrew. The critical difference between the GNC and the NNC was its scale. The GNC's work went on for nine years in total, and in that time it had constructed 3,000 new names. Whereas the NNC was confined to mapping the desert and sparsely populated areas of Israel's south, the GNC was required to map the heavily populated areas of Israel's central and northern regions. Towards the end of the fifties, significant pressure was put on the GNC to speed up its re-naming and re-mapping activities. This was done not simply to reflect the erection of new Jewish settlements and the roads connecting them, but to erase the formal existence of Arabic place-names that continued to exist in Israeli consciousness, and to provide the public with the new Hebrew names it needed for daily communication. Throughout the fifties, British Mandate maps of pre-48 Palestine, with their overwhelming number of Arabic place-names, were reproduced in accordance with the needs of the Israeli public. Circles indicating new Jewish settlements were sketched onto the old maps, whereas most of the abandoned Palestinian villages were designated by the term harus (destroyed). The obvious consequence of this was that much of the old landscape was preserved in print, and these maps served as testimony to the refugees' prior presence in the land. But when the map of the GNC was finally completed and published in the early sixties-a map that reflected the massive demographic changes made in the landscape-all memory of pre-48 Palestine had been officially erased. In its place were the Hebrew names of Jewish settlements, roads, and topographical features.
In contrast to this immense intellectual war on the memory of pre-48 Palestine, Palestinian refugees have conducted a symbolic counter-erasure of the present day Jewish reality of the land. Palestinian refugees have sustained memories of their former villages and homes by using maps depicting pre-48 Palestine only. On these maps, the Jewish settlements erected after 1948 are of course absent, and the Jewish settlements established in the days of the Yishuv have generally been classified according to the different periods of the Zionist settlement drives in the land.  Similarly, Palestinian refugees have immortalised the names of their lost villages and cities in the organisational structures of the refugee camps in the displaced Palestinian diaspora. "Dozens perhaps even hundreds of names like Lydda, Haifa, Jaffa, and Ramle," wrote the Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein in the early nineties, "have been bestowed upon schools, streets, squares, whole neighbourhoods, and even businesses wherever the refugees of 1948 live."  Most of these names, however, have not been given to the names of refugee settlements or camps in order to avoid a sense of permanence in the new and ever temporary setting.  Names of lost places saturated other structures within the refuge in order to foster (counter)-memories of lost but always portable landscapes. Like the thousands of keys and title deeds to former homes kept by displaced Palestinians, the preservation of the names of distant villages and towns is indicative of the obsessive longing to return. "Anyone," continued Rubinstein, "who happens to find himself at an early morning hour near the exit from Jebalya refugee camp in Gaza, or other places where Palestinian labourers assemble to travel to work in Israel, can hear the names of these vanished cities and villages. In announcing their destinations, the drivers who transport these workers refer to a lost map, calling out names like Faluja (rather than Kiryat Gat), Qastina (rather than Kiryat Malachi), Isdud, Yazur, Zarnuqa, and other places that disappeared from the map over forty years ago."  In this significant respect, therefore, names and maps have existed in a fundamental intellectual battle over memory. Whereas Israelis have sought to erase all memory of the prior Palestinian presence in Palestine, Palestinian refugees have sought to preserve that memory, and by doing so, they have asserted a mental counter-erasure of the present day Jewish realities on the land.
In sharp contrast to the erasive work of the Israeli naming committees, Palestinian preservation research has often avoided reference to the pre-Palestinian Jewish presence in the land. The IPS, for example, consciously erased the pre-Palestinian Jewish biblical presence at some abandoned Arab village sites. Take the following two examples: those of the abandoned Palestinian villages of Sataf and al-Zib. Both Arab villages were constructed over the ruins of ancient Jewish biblical sites, and both assimilated their place-names into Arabic. Sometime after Sataf was depopulated in 1948, the Israeli authorities converted some of its remains into a tourist site. As Gazi Falah outlines, although some of the "cultural relicts" at the mountain village site of Sataf "have been preserved for tourist purposes," the Jewish "official historical records [displayed at the site] usually indicate an existence that extends back to biblical times. In these ways, Palestinian Arab cultural contributions to the village site have been trivialised as Jewish history has been foregrounded. In a kind of reverse palimpsest, the ancient layers beneath the Palestinian site have been highlighted."  Yet, in its description of Sataf as the abandoned Arab village site, the IPS ignores any reference to the biblical Sataf, and omits the post-48 foregrounding of Jewish biblical roots. The IPS describes its present situation as follows: "The area around the village spring, which is located to the east next to the ruins of a rectangular stone house, has been turned into an Israeli tourist site."  The IPS then describes how the site was covered by a JNF forest in dedication to Moshe Dayan. This sequence of facts strongly implies that the present Jewish Sataf exists as a tourist site primarily because of its afforestation and not because of its biblical past.
Similarly, the IPS omits any biblical reference in its description of the present day Jewish Achziv. In the biblical period, Achziv was conquered by the Israelites from the Phoenicians. A Jewish presence existed there until the seventh century CE. In the Medieval era, Achziv was the site of a Christian Crusader fort. After the Arab village of al-Zib was depopulated in 1948, the village site became a popular Israeli tourist and recreation spot called Achziv. (Kibbutz Gesher Ha-Ziv was constructed on the village's former lands in 1949 and lies nearby).  According to Ted Swedenburg's close inspection of the ruins at Achziv, although no authentic biblical remains can be seen at the site, the Palestinian remains of the village have been cleansed of their Arab semiotic configurations, and have been made to look like artifacts of ancient and Crusader eras. For example, the former village mosque which is closed off from the public, lies next to the remains of a crusader castle and is ambiguously designated as a "holy site."  Similarly, the local museum's artifacts which consists primarily of modern Arab relics, are deliberately interspersed with artifacts of ancient eras.  Tourist signs and markers erected by Israelis have reinforced the effort: "The salient point in the Achziv narrative," Swedenburg explains, "is that Jews, who once had a flourishing community in this place (although there appear to be no identifiable archaeological traces of that presence), have returned to reclaim it."  The IPS, on the other hand, traces the village site's long history but fails to mention anything of the Jews' biblical presence at the site.  Al-Zib, it states, "was established on top of a Canaanite town, Akzib ('trickster'), which was taken by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. Archaeological excavations have shown that settlement began long before this date, in the eighteenth century BCE, and that by the tenth century BCE there was a walled town on the site."  Additionally, although the IPS does acknowledge the fact that Achziv presently exists as a tourist site, nowhere does the IPS state that the site has been textualised with Jewish roots.
The massive eleven volume work by Palestinian writer Mustafa Dabbagh entitled Biladuna Filastin (Our Homeland Palestine), is also erasive of the ancient Jewish existence on the land. This work, described as "the most comprehensive study of the historical geography of Arab Palestine" by Benvenisti, deliberately erases the Jewish roots of Arabic place-names. According to Benvenisti's reading, all of the Arabic place-names that have been derived from Hebrew and Aramaic names are classified as having Canaanite, Syriac, Phoenician, or older Arabic origins. As Benvenisti explains, "the name of the village Abil al-Qamh, derived from the biblical [place-]name Abel Beth Maacha (2 Sam. 20: 14)," is described by Dabbagh in the following manner: "In Arabic the word Abil, in this specific context, means a hill, and therefore the meaning of the name is Hill of Flour-because of the quality of the flour that was produced in this village."  Similarly, according to Benvenisti, the name of the Arab village called Birim is a precise preservation of an ancient Hebrew place-name. However, Dabbagh explains its roots as being "derived from the Canaanite word 'peryam,' meaning a place where there is much fruit."  In actual fact, Benvenisti asserts, there was no relation between Birim and Peryam, and the term Peryam itself was not Canaanite at all, but was derived from the Hebrew word Piryam, meaning their fruits.
It is highly significant that both works by Dabbagh and the IPS have been erasive of Jewish biblical roots, as it demonstrates scholarly Palestinian attempts to erase the Jews' historical claims to the land, while highlighting the realities of Israeli dispossession. These Palestinian analysts have sought to undermine the historical legitimacy of the Israeli state by preserving the memory of the Palestinian presence on the land, exclusive of the Jewish ancient presence. Whereas Dabbagh's work may well be the most comprehensive study of the historical geography of pre-48 Palestine, the IPS' work on Israeli erasure of all the abandoned villages is also extremely detailed and comprehensive. Moreover, the IPS is probably the most significant Palestinian publishing house dedicated to maintaining and promoting the study of Palestinian culture and history in general. That both the IPS and Dabbagh engaged in such counter-erasive discourse is unscholarly and even hypocritical.
The third aspect of Israeli landscape erasure was the attack on the religious and sacred sites of pre-48 Palestine: the abandoned shrines of religious figures, village mosques, and village cemeteries. In much the same way that the Arab local inhabitants of Palestine adopted and moulded the existing biblical place-names into their own nomenclature, much of the landscape's popular religious traditions were assimilated and developed into the Arabs' own forms of popular religion. In addition to the Arab reverence for local Muslim figures from the Quran, shaykhs, preachers, healers, and miracle workers, many of the biblical figures of both the Old and New Testaments were also revered.  This reverence was easily achieved given the fact that Orthodox Islam has, of course, always recognised the sanctity of Christian and Judaic figures. The burial places of many of these identities were attributed with spiritual powers that could help Muslims through difficult challenges of life such as drought, famine, war, and illness.  The development of these traditions was ostensibly popular, and was not recognised by Orthodox Islam given the strict prohibitions against the sanctification of burial places.  Nonetheless, for the many Muslims of Palestine who understood the world as being influenced by spirits, demons, miracles, and other expressions of popular religion, faith in the holy powers of saints was of more importance than faith in Orthodox Islam.  Indeed, the cult of the graves was extensive: by 1948 every village had a holy site dedicated to a saint.  Given the religious prohibitions against the worship of graven images shared by Jews and Muslims alike (but not by Christians), the bond between Islam and Judaism was especially close. In fact, the Arabs adopted some of the Jews' worship of Jewish figures from the Mishnaic and Talmudic eras. Indeed, Jews and Muslims often worshipped at the same sites dedicated to the same identities.  The Arabs "treat the graves of the holy tanaim [Mishnaic sages] as extremely sacred," wrote a seventeenth century Safad rabbi.
The worship of local saints effectively ended as a consequence of the exodus of 1948. Some of these shrines were reduced to rubble during the demolition of the villages that either surrounded them, or were located in their nearby vicinity. Most, however, were left standing.  This was probably because of the superstitious fears held by the Israelis responsible for their destruction, that the dead would punish those who desecrated their graves.  Over a hundred of these shrines have either collapsed mainly because of neglect and decay (but also because of instances of vandalism), or they presently exist in advanced stages of deterioration.  Other shrines, on the other hand, were assimilated into local Jewish religious traditions. To cite one set of examples, for generations the graves of the sons of the patriarch Jacob were worshipped by local Muslims. Some time after 1948, Jews sanctified the graves of Reuben, Judah, Asher, Simeon, and Benjamin on the basis of the Jewish religion. The graves of Nabi Rubin (Prophet Rueben), Nabi Yahud (Judah), Nabi Yamin (Benjamin), and Nabi Samaan (Simeon) were all Judaicised. Additionally, the grave of Nabi Samt was Judaicised as the site of the biblical figure Samson. Israeli Jews adopted these grave sites irrespective of the fact that mainstream Judaism has traditionally understood these sites to be inaccurate, on the basis that graves of these same identities have been located in other areas of Palestine. The Jewish individuals who sanctified these and other graves ignored the fact that they were held sacred by Muslims for generations, and they left little material evidence of that connection.  Indeed, the green curtain that adorned the grave of Nabi Rubin with its Muslim inscription: "There is no God but Allah, and Rubin is his prophet," was replaced with another curtain stating: "Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength."  Similarly, the fabrics with the Quranic inscriptions that once hung over the gravestones of Nabi Yamin were replaced with cloths embroidered with biblical verses. The Islamic-looking stone dome at Samson's shrine was removed after its Judaicisation. Although little material evidence exists of their prior Islamic significance, the holy powers ascribed to them have in many instances remained the same. Prayer at the grave of Benjamin by women is understood to increase fertility. Similarly, barren women or women seeking to give birth to males often pray at the grave of Simeon. As with other newly adopted Muslim traditions, these practices were undertaken by thousands of Muslims in the decades and centuries before 1948.
A study undertaken recently by an Israeli religious organisation, called the Foundation of the World, determined that of the more than 500 Jewish holy sites and graves in Israel and the occupied territories, many (but not the majority), were former Muslim sites.  Whereas some Muslim grave sites were Judaicised basically because the identity of the holy dead was relevant to both Islam and Judaism, other non-relevant Muslim grave sites were transformed into different Jewish figures. The shrine of Sitt (Lady) Sakina was Judaicised in 1995. Sitt Sakina, a relative of the prophet Muhammad, was transformed into the grave of the wife of the well known first century CE Rabbi, Rabbi Akiva. Similarly, the burial place of Zachary, the father of John the Baptist-a renowned figure in Islam-was erroneously sanctified as the shrine of the Old Testament prophet Zecharia. The burial place of Jacob's son Dan was originally the site of a grave belonging to a Muslim shaykh, Shaykh Gharib.
Unlike Islamic shrines, the majority of village mosques were physically destroyed by the Israelis during their demolition of abandoned Muslim villages. According to Benvenisti's field research, of the forty or so that still remain (from a total of 140 abandoned mosques), twenty exist in neglect and decay.  The rest have been assimilated into rival functions by those Israelis who have taken control of them. "The bare statistics," Benvenisti states, are that "six are being used as living quarters, sheep-pens or stables; carpentry shops, or storehouses; six have been or are at present serving as museums, bars, or tourist sites of some sort; four are being used wholly or in part as synagogues; and two have been partially renovated for Muslim worship, but that use has been either prohibited or restricted."  Six abandoned Palestinian churches also exist in a state of neglect and decay.  Although a cemetery existed in almost every Arab village before 1948, today the remains of only forty exist. The rest were either bulldozed during the demolition of their adjoining villages, or their simple tombstones and graves have crumbled and decayed over time, or their sites have been buried under by Israeli roads, agriculture, or commercial and residential dwellings.
The sites of these remaining shrines, mosques, and cemeteries exist as a further battleground over the memory of pre-48 Palestine. Numerous Israeli-Arab organisations, such as Adalah (Justice), the al-Aqsa Association for the Preservation of Consecrated Islamic Property, and smaller committees established by internal refugees and their children (Palestinian refugees of 1948 that remained in Israel),  have for decades fought to preserve these sites from either being destroyed by Israeli developers, desecrated by renovators, or allowed to become ruined over time. (Islamic groups have avoided the battle over shrines on the basis that they reflect non-Orthodox practice, and have focused instead on the abandoned mosques and cemeteries). Both Israeli private and governmental bodies have generally argued the needs of development and of residential expansion in order to erase these relics. In many places, where no future development is intended, access to these sites has been restricted with the government regulating body, the Israel Lands Administration, fencing off access to them and erecting signs warning against trespass. These Arab organisations usually cite Israel's Declaration of Independence and the last amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom in their legal positions. Taken together, both of these legal formulations assure accessibility to sacred sites, and prohibit their desecration. Lacking adequate financial and political resources, as well as the sympathies of Israeli Jews-most of whom would prefer that these sites be destroyed-the Israeli Arabs' battle has often been a losing one.  Israeli Jews, in general, have been opposed to the preservation of these sites out of fear that their consecration will set a precedent, and that this may lead to the internal Arab refugees' demands for a return to their appropriated homes.  Throughout the decades, physical and sometimes violent confrontations between Israeli-Arab activists and bulldozer drivers and police have been commonplace in Israel.
This battle over the existing religious and sacred sites should be understood as something greater than the Arabs' attempts to preserve and restore holy relics. Essentially, this is a symbolic but an extremely powerful battle over the roots to the land and the memory of pre-48 Palestine. Israeli-Arab groups have fought for their preservation essentially because they exist as memorial artifacts of pre-48 Palestine; Israeli Jews, on the other hand, have sought to erase these vestiges precisely for the same reason.
Israeli landscape memory has erased Palestinian landscape memory as a consequence of Jewish resettlement. All that remains of the cultural landscape that does not exist in a present state of decay or abandonment has been erased of its Arab semiotic configurations and has been assimilated into rival Israeli structures. The Israelis destroyed virtually all memory of the pre-48 Palestinian cultural landscape in order to eliminate Palestinian claims to a history in the land. They erased the Arabs' villages and homes, the names of their surrounding topography, as well as their sacred and religious sites. The first of these was the most significant partly because of its scale, but also because the Arabs' homes and villages were their primary and most important connection to Palestine. This attack was symbolically reinforced by the displacement of their nomenclature and their religious connections to Palestine. What was constructed in place of those Arab vestiges were new Jewish memorial artifacts.
Soon after 1948, the Israelis textualised the landscape on the basis of ideological precepts of their national identity. Numerous cooperative agricultural settlements were erected throughout the landscape, thereby signifying much of the Zionist movement's ideological commitment to socialism. Forests signifying the Jews' love of the land and their exclusive proprietorship over it were planted to cover the ruins of Arab villages. Many of the names of new Jewish agricultural settlements are understood to be ancient and biblical. So too is the new nomenclature that was spread over the topography of the land and was immortalised on Israeli maps. Finally, ancient religious traditions associated with the grave sites of the Jews' ancestors were (re)-discovered and sanctified. Israeli memory of what has been constructed on the land after 1948, therefore, consists of two different types of memorial vestiges: recent post-48 constructions with no biblical connection, and those that are thought to have existed since the ancient biblical era.
In contrast to the Israeli erasure of pre-48 Palestine, Palestinians have attempted to preserve the memory of that existence. The names of their lost villages saturate the structures of their refugee camps. Refugee keys and title deeds to their homes have been kept, and maps of pre-48 Palestine have been perpetuated. In the battle over historical claims to the land, some Palestinian scholars have erased Jewish biblical roots to places while simultaneously highlighting the realities of Israeli dispossession. Israeli-Arab political organisations have often attempted to preserve abandoned sacred and religious sites not simply out of religious conviction, but also as testaments to their roots to the land.