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June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com
A SUPPLEMENT ON BATTIR’S BID FOR REC...
June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com
KEY POINTS:
- Battir’s cultural land...
June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com
significance, with demonstrated deve...
June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com
Regarding Emergency Nomination, even...
June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com
In addition, even if Battir were ins...
June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com
The current maps of the nominated si...
June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com
system, a more complete Battir Manag...
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Battir icomos recommendation

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Battir icomos recommendation

  1. 1. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com A SUPPLEMENT ON BATTIR’S BID FOR RECOGNITION AS A WORLD HERITAGE CULTURAL LANSCAPE THE ISSUE: This February, the Palestinian Authority submitted a nomination dossier to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC), nominating the Western Bethlehem village of Battir for inscription as a World Heritage cultural landscape. The site was submitted as an Emergency Nomination based on current plans to expand the Israeli Separation Barrier through the heart of Battir, putting the integrity of the site in jeopardy. This World Heritage site designation, which would demonstrate Battir’s unique historical and global value, is crucial in the ongoing petition of Battir and Friends of the Earth Middle East that was submitted in December 2012 to the Israeli High Court to halt the expansion of the fence. We believe that the ICOMOS evaluation submitted to the WHC is based on incomplete information and misunderstanding of the situation due to flaws in the investigation and the Palestinian Authority’s mismanagement of the proposal. Criticisms stem from a lack of information, not from certainty that Battir does not meet the criteria for inscription. The purpose of this document is to provide supplementary information and arguments that demonstrate Battir’s Outstanding Universal Value and the importance of its inscription as a World Heritage cultural landscape. We are working to correct information that was omitted, incorrect, or outdated in the ICOMOS evaluation and original nomination dossier. THE COMPLETE TEXTS: ICOMOS report: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2014/whc14-38com-inf8B1-Add-en.pdf Draft decision: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2014/whc14-38com-8B-en.pdf
  2. 2. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com KEY POINTS: - Battir’s cultural landscape has Outstanding Universal Value based on 4,000 years of continuous human development and its unique cultivation and water- sharing traditions that are maintained by the community today. - Battir has demonstrated its ability to sustain itself despite threats from the current geo-political situation. The Village of Battir has a clear plan for conservation and management of the site, and demonstrated local commitment to its preservation. - The World Heritage Committee does have the power to safeguard Battir’s cultural landscape. In fact, inscription as a site is one of the best protections against irreversible harms. - At very least, the Committee should vote to defer the proposal, instead of rejecting it outright, as there are already-existing updates that would strengthen the nomination if given the chance for revision. DECONSTRUCTING THE ICOMOS REPORT: To qualify for inscription, sites must prove that they are of Outstanding Universal Value. Battir’s nomination is based on the existence of 4,000 years of continuous human development in harmony with the natural landscape, including archaeological studies that date Battir back to the Bronze and Iron ages and Roman period. The cultivation of agricultural terraces is a century-old practice that is sustained today by Battir’s eight main historical families. What ICOMOS Says: o Although there is some archaeological evidence dating back 4,000 there is not enough evidence to show continuous human development in Battir. o The report states that much of Battir’s current landscape has been shaped by recent history when Battir became the last stop on the Jaffa – Jerusalem railway under the British Mandate in 1917 and formed close economic ties with Jerusalem o Battir’s preserved system of agricultural terraces and stone watchtowers may be of exceptional national importance to Palestine, but may not be unique on a global scale. There are many similar examples of these sites in the Mediterranean. What We Say: o While there may be other examples of terraced agricultural landscapes, Battir is unique and “representative of the very best” of these landscapes because of the depth of history recorded at this site. The history preserved at Battir is of global
  3. 3. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com significance, with demonstrated development since Roman times. There are significant intact archaeological remains dating back 4,000 years, older than any of the remaining terrace systems that may be similar. Further, Battir is not simply a preserved testament to the past, its ancient terraces are actively maintained by community traditions that are integrated deep into the landscape. ICOMOS acknowledges the presence of this historical record, but discounts its universal significance.  For more information, see FoEME’s fact sheet on Battir’s unique history. o Battir’s surviving practice of democratic water distribution among its eight main families is globally unique and sustained today.  For more information on the community’s traditions, see coverage from a February 2014 CNN report and an August 2012 Wattan report (Arabic). o According to the Conservation Opinion of Dr. Michael Turner, the UNESCO Chairholder in Urban Design and Conservation Studies in Jerusalem, Battir has unparalleled geo-morphology.  His Conservation Opinion for FoEME states, “In short, it might be stated that the value of the Cultural Landscape of Battir-Beitar is in its totality and the layering of histories over many periods and its relationships between the social patterns of land-use and the land form and structure – its geo-morphology. This embodies the epitome of the definition – (see Operational Guidelines/WH Convention). As presented in the previous statement to the Court, the translation of values through physical attributes is the accepted practice of evaluation of cultural and landscape values. This moves the evaluation into a more scientific realm, extending the complex evaluations of 'scenic beauty'. Even within this sphere further research has been done in understanding this criterion of 'scenic beauty' within the World Heritage Convention, having myself peer-reviewed this document during this year. This evaluation has not been carried out by the Army or its expert.” o Battir’s recent developments such as its economic ties to Jerusalem are not a reordering of the landscape but a part of continuous development. Farmers have continued to use traditional cultivation practices on the terraced landscape and a democratic system of water sharing, simply expanding its agricultural markets to Jerusalem. o We acknowledge that the archaeological evidence is incomplete, but this research is ongoing and inscription as a World Heritage Site is necessary to protect the site for further research. Without this designation, the site will be vulnerable to irreversible damage such as the building of the Israeli Separation Barrier and other geo-political threats resulting from its position along the Green Line separating Israel and Palestine.
  4. 4. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com Regarding Emergency Nomination, even ICOMOS recognizes the imminent threat of the Israeli Separation Barrier but questions the preservation of Battir even if construction of the fence is effectively prevented. This ignores Battir’s comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and demonstrated local commitment and capacity for sustainability. What ICOMOS Says: o States that “experts remain divided” on whether the fence can be constructed without irreversible damage to the terraces. o Even if the fence is not constructed, Battir is vulnerable to threats including: expansion of Israeli settlements, abandonment of cultivation and restricted agricultural markets for produce, lack of maintenance and repair of the terraces and canals, afforestation (colonization of non-native spruces and pines) in abandoned terraces, and a lack of sewage system. o Despite the local commitment of the eight families, there is not a sufficient legal or national preservation framework to protect them from these threats. o States that the Battir Management and Conservation Plan outlined in the nomination dossier will not be ready for implementation by the time of voting. What We Say: o The barrier, if built, will cause irreversible damage to the terraces of Battir, proven by modeling and analysis of the proposals by experts from Arzi Engineering. The Israeli army has not given any response to this in court. o The arguments in ICOMOS’ evaluation are inconsistent. Beyond the fence, the remaining threats mentioned are a result of, or worsened by, the geo-politics of the Israeli occupation. The Palestinian Authority is prevented by the Israeli government from undertaking maintenance and restoration projects or developing a sewage network, and its ability to support cultivation and expand markets are severely limited by the occupation. It is for this very reason that Battir has filed for an Emergency Nomination, seeking protection from the WHC and other international bodies to safeguard it from the politics of the conflict. o There is a specific, effective local framework already in place to preserve and sustain Battir as a cultural landscape. The Battir Management and Conservation plan has been updated and implementation has begun since the nomination was submitted. Despite limits from the occupation and an incomplete national framework, the community of Battir has sustained itself through local cooperation for many generations, and can continue to do so if adequately protected from external threats. WHC inscription would help Battir to receive further national and international support.
  5. 5. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com In addition, even if Battir were inscribed, the report questions the ability of WHC to adequately safeguard Battir from threats such as the expansion of the fence. What ICOMOS Says: o Since the nomination is filed only by the PA and is not a transnational nomination including Israel, the inscription of the site is only binding to the owner of the property: Palestine. ICOMOS questions whether the WHC can take actions against threats, such as the fence, from the Israeli Authority. What We Say: o In fact, inscription is vital to protecting Battir and would be effective in safeguarding the landscape. o UNESCO itself ruled that the WHC can effectively protect Battir, when it awarded the community the first prize ex-aequo of the UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes in 2011.  The Jury statement reads: “While the geopolitical situation of the occupied territory poses evident risks and limitations to the sustainability of any activities, one can be confident that the past and current support by international bodies will also be continued in the future in order to help stabilizing the long-term implementation of activities such as those proposed in this nomination. The safeguarding and management activities carried out at this site comply with international standards and are clearly based on an integrated approach that links the safeguarding of the natural and cultural, tangible and intangible values of the site through community-based action with a view to enhancing the environmental, social and economic relevance with and for its inhabitants. The exemplarity of the activities has a particular value in the light of this complex geopolitical situation that does not necessarily favor simple access to international markets, the stabilization of law enforcement or setting priorities on longer-term safeguarding measures.” o Battir was named to the World Monument Fund 2014 Watch Sites, recognizing the value of international historical designation for local preservation efforts.  The profile states: “Inclusion in the 2014 Watch offers a vehicle to draw attention to plans to build over the terraces in the hope that this will be halted in favor of enhanced dialogue, and that a management plan can be initiated to help equip local institutions with the scientific, analytical, and practical tools necessary to conserve and safeguard their heritage” o In 1981, the WHC inscribed the Old City of Jerusalem as a site on the list for World Heritage in Danger, recognizing the ability of the WHC to aid in safeguarding sites threatened by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  6. 6. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com The current maps of the nominated site does not include the full cultural landscape. What ICOMOS Says: o The property maps submitted in the PA nomination dossier omit the village of Battir and a significant portion of the lower terraces. Due to the incompleteness of the property included on the maps and buffer zones, inscription of the nominated property does not include enough of the area to adequately protect the cultural landscape. What We Say: o These maps can be revised and expanded to include the village of Battir and the lower irrigated fields. In fact, FoEME has already worked with professional cartographers to develop updated maps that would protect the integrity of the full cultural landscape. o In the past, the WHC has inscribed sites that are still in the process of completing maps and management plans, as long as there is enough information compiled to ensure the site’s integrity as the plans are completed. o Consider the Rice Terraces of the Phillipine Cordilleras, inscribed in 2011. This site has direct parallels to Battir, as explicitly stated in the comparative analysis section of the nomination dossier.  The official WHC description for the Rice Terraces states: “While maps of the property are yet to be prepared and boundaries to be delineated, all important attributes of the rice terraces comprising the rice terrace paddies, the traditional villages and the forests that are its watershed are present in the five inscribed clusters. Although traditionally defined boundaries for the terraces with the buffer zone of private forests have provided some level of protection, the definition of precise limits of the protected areas and the preparation and implementation of Community-Based Land Use and Zoning Plans (CBLUZP) is critical to ensure that the conditions RECOMMENDATION: We recommend that Battir be inscribed as a World Heritage cultural landscape based on its demonstrated Outstanding Universal Significance, with history dating back 4,000 years, older than any comparable terrace system, and its globally unique water-sharing system that is preserved today. At the very least, the committee should vote to defer rather than reject Battir’s nomination. Due to ongoing research and recent political developments, there are already existing updated versions of documents specifically mentioned in the reports including: a study of the impact of the proposed Israeli Separation Barrier on the terrace
  7. 7. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, m.obidallah@gmail.com system, a more complete Battir Management and Conservation Plan that is ready for implementation, and updated maps that adequately protect the integrity of the cultural landscape. These files demonstrate clear progress that is already underway to address the criticism of ICOMOS in an updated nomination dossier if given the chance for revision. If Battir’s nomination file is rejected completely, the World Heritage Committee leaves the landscape vulnerable to imminent threats that would damage the sites irreversibly and impede future archaeological research and historical documentation. It is crucial that the WHC give Battir’s cultural landscape fair consideration. We cannot leave 4,000 years of unique human history unprotected.

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