LETTER DATED 6 NOVEMBER 1968 FROM THE PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE
OF JORDAN TO THE UNITED NATIONS ADDRESSED TO THE
Upon instructions from my Government, I have the honour to bring to Your Excellency’s attention continuous Israeli acts of demolition and change of character of historical and religious buildings in the Holy City of Jerusalem, attacks on, and looting of, antiquities.
Since the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem historical quarters, religious shrines and well-preserved architectural and historical buildings were demolished were threatened with demolition, and their character changed.
A detailed account of these Israeli lawless measures is mentioned in the attached letter of His Worship the Mayor of Jerusalem and the annexes thereto.
I have the honour to request that this letter and attachments be circulated an official document of the General Assembly and the Security Council.
Please accept, etc.
(Signed) Muhammad H. EL-FARRA
Also issued under the symbol A/7309.
The Minister of Culture and. Information
I seize the opportunity of the visit to Amman this week of H.E. Major General Karl Brunner, United Nations Custodian of Cultural Property in Arab Territory, so as to present Your Excellency with this memorandum on the subject of Israeli attacks on Arab and Moslem antiquities in Jerusalem for the purpose of making this memorandum available to His Excellency the Custodian for his study and. further comment to UNESCO with copies to H.E. the United Nations Secretary-General.
1. The successive regimes which governed Jerusalem, the most recent being the British Mandate and the Hashemite Jordanian Arab rule, committed themselves and. observed the recommendations of antiquity experts, town planning and architecture for the protection and maintenance of the character and features of buildings within and outside the walls of Jerusalem in general, and the religious historical and national heritage buildings in particular. Instructions applied – both military and administrative – by both regimes prohibited any change in the form or type of such buildings and insisted upon keeping them maintained, restored as” enlivened for all times so as to exhibit the historical development of architectural in Jerusalem, and narrate the story of every house and every part of it to the present and future generations.
2. Extending from this rule, the first action taken by the British military Governor upon occupation of Jerusalem, was to issue a military order in 1918 prohibiting the inhabitants of Jerusalem from effecting any change, demolition or repair in any buildings in the city or within a radius of 2,500 metres from Damascus Gate in the centre of the city without obtaining a written permit from the authorities” (Jerusalem City plan, by Kendall, page 4).
3. In order to secure the best results in maintaining the character and features of architecture, whether ancient or medieval, the Mandatory Government invited specialized town planning and antiquity specialists, and introduced strict and detailed legislation for preventing any change in, or the removal of, any building within the Jerusalem walls.
4. The Hashemite Jordanian Arab rule continued to strictly apply the above legislation, which has always won the admiration of all antiquity specialists and town planners as well as visitors.
5. Then came the great disappointment when, immediately after Israeli occupation in June 1967, the Israeli army demolished a part of a big quarter within the walls near the western wall of the Holy Mosque of Omar, and in less than two days removed 135 stone houses and mosques all having the character of medieval architecture in Moslem North African style, properly maintained, in good sanitary conditions and inhabited by no less than 650 people. The buildings were removed without any regard as to their historical, religious or architectural value. The Israelis then falsely claimed that those buildings were in a poor state of repair and that removal was for beautifying the district.
6. In April 1968, the Israeli occupation authorities issued an administrative order expropriating an area of 116 dunums of land and properties also within the City walls, as shown in the enclosed map.
7. This new area includes 595 Arab Moslem houses mostly of two or three stories each, made of the famous Jerusalem stone dating back about 800 years. These buildings include 12 endowed to the Aqsa Mosque, 99 that are North African Moslem endowments, 3514 private Jerusalem Moslem family endowments, while the remaining 130 are private properties of Jerusalem Arab families.
8. The Moslem endowment buildings include the Fakhriyya Zawiya and a mosque, both belonging to the Shafiete Sect, and the Abu Madyan Al-Ghawth Zawiya of North African Moslems. Both these Zawiyas are now threatened with demolition together with adjacent buildings that are endowed to them. I am enclosing two photographs – photograph No. 1 showing a group of buildings adjacent to the Haram Al-Sharif from the west, including the above-mentioned Fakhriyya Zawiya and a large area that had been congested with stone buildings recently demolished, as well as some of the stones remaining therefrom. Photograph No. 2 shows another stage of the demolition, where some of the buildings in photograph No. 1 do not appear any more but, in their place, a truck carrying the debris of houses demolished by them in July 1968. Upon close examination, a truck is seen at the gate of Al-Haram AL Sharif known as the Megharbeh Quarter and directly behind it appears the Dome of the Rock Mosque itself and the minarets of the Haram area.
9. Demolition still continues with all indications that the Israelis are continuing the removal of the rest of the buildings adjacent to Al-Haram Al—Sharif including the Fakhriyya Zawiya and other adjacent ones endowed thereto. All indications show that after completing this operation they will move forward to demolish the remaining western buildings included in the above-mentioned Israeli new expropriation Order.
10. Some of the most outstanding among those buildings are Moslem schools built of red and black polished stone during the-Memluke period, including the Tashtamoniyya and Qasr Al-Imam schools, the latter built by Zaher Bibars in Bab Al-Silsilah. Besides these school buildings, a complete market of stone buildings of admirable historical character, called the Silsilah Quarter Market, merging with another market in the centre of the City – the Bashura Market,.of antiquity, architectural and historical fame; both of these markets are threatened with demolition.
11. Foreign antiquity scholars in Jerusalem were horrified by these acts. I have learnt that one of their institutions in the City had recently started photographing all these buildings as a step towards submitting a scientific, historical and architectural study, which will undoubtedly reveal and prove the 4 continuous attacks being committed by the Israeli authorities against the outstanding architectural and cultural heritage in Jerusalem, as well as the determination to change the character of the City, thus gradually removing Arab and Moslem antiquity buildings and replacing them by Israeli Jewish ones.
12. Any lover of culture and scholarship is deeply saddened to see a girls’ school in the Arab quarter, with a capacity of 300, changed under Israeli arms to an Israeli religious court, in contravention with the provisions of the Hague Convention of 14 May l954 prohibiting occupation authorities from changing the characteristics of cultural places. I am enclosing a photograph of this school after its change into a court bearing a sign in Hebrew indicating the existence of a high Israeli religious court in the building.
13. Israel’s representative in the Security Council denied, during the discuss on Jerusalem in May 1968, that the Israeli forces demolished two Moslem mosque the Magharbeh Quarter. He claimed first that there were no mosques especially among the buildings they demolished in June 1967, but when the Jordanian representative to the United Nations surprised him on the following day with the Royal Report issued by the British Mandatory rule in 1930, with, respect to the Buraq and Wailing Wall, containing a plan of the site in the southern part of which appears an English sign marked Mosque”, the Israeli delegate insisted on denying the demolition and alleged that the mosques were still standing and extended a personal invitation to the Jordanian delegate to visit Jerusalem to ascertain the existence of those mosques. And when in vain the Jordanian delegate tried to explain or convince him that the two mosques were wiped out with the demolition of the 135 houses, with bulldozers in 1967, the Jordanian delegate requested that a United Nations Controller should be invited to undertake a verification mission on this question.
14. The presence now of a, United Nations commissioner for the protection of antiquities in the occupied areas facilitates the inspection of these and similar sites. I believe that upon receipt of this memorandum he can inspect the whole area including places that have been or are on the way to being demolished. If he has no objection the commissioner might do well to contact several persons responsible for Moslem endowments, among whom I cite the following:
(1) Sheikh Helmi Muhtaseb, President of the Moslem organization, Jerusalem;
(2) Sheikh Saaddin Alami, Mufti of Jerusalem;
(3) Sheikh Said Sabri, Religious Judge of Jerusalem;
(4) Mr. Hasan Tahboub, Director General of Endowments, Jerusalem
15. All, or any one of the people mentioned above, would be willing to accompany H.E. the Commissioner to visit and see all these contraventions
16. These buildings, whether demolished or awaiting their turn to be demolished, were or are in good state of repair and supplied with all sanitary facilities. They have always been kept clean, and any false claim that they were ruined is without foundation, and intended to mislead the outside world and provide a justification for their expropriation.
17. There is a group of buildings that were actually destroyed as a result of the 1948 fight, belonging to Arabs and/or Jews, which need rebuilding not expropriation because they are in ruins. Such buildings constitute only a part of the Arab buildings that have been expropriated. Some of the families owning them have started rebuilding sections of these houses within the financial means available to them; and they have gradually proceeded with their plans restoring the old Arab architectural character in accordance with building regulations laid 3 down by the Jerusalem Municipality. Most of the existing buildings are in a good state of repair, but all are threatened with the danger of demolition.
18. These buildings are part of the history of Jerusalem and the Arab Moslem influence there. Any p,art, house or path of them presents an aspect of culture, history and scholarship in the City.
19. Israel attempts to destroy the heritage and history with bulldozers and axes. We call the world’s conscience, Governments, organizations, whether cu historical, or religious, to demand the -immediate inspection of our historical sites and their content of valuable heritage which should be protected as in similar cases throughout the world..
19. I request Your Excellency to kindly communicate this appeal to H.E. the United Nations Secretary-General, to H.E. the UNESCO Director-General and to all antiquity organizations in the world, so that they all may stand with us for stopping this war of aggression on Jerusalem, its history and treasures.
With highest esteem,
( Signed) ROUHI EL KHATEEB
Mayor of Jerusalem