battir icomos recommendation 19.6

10
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Prepared by: Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected] Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected] Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected] 1 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 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 We are working to correct information that was omitted, incorrect, or outdated in the ICOMOS evaluation and original nomination dossier.

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Page 1: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

1

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 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.

Page 2: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

2

This topographical map, produced from the survey conducted in Battir 2007-2011 provides the framed landscape

used in the Conservation and Management Plan developed for local sustainability of the site

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

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.

Page 3: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

3

Battir’s terraced landscape and democratic system of water sharing from the Roman Pool have been a preserved patrimony for over 4,000 years. They are actively maintained and developed today, where more than 550 km of dry

stone walls have been surveyed.

Page 4: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

4

DECONSTRUCTING THE ICOMOS REPORT:

A. 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 significance, with

demonstrated development since Roman times. A 2007 excavation of the site showed

significant intact archaeological remains dating back to the Caliphate Period in 636 AD,

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 is globally unique and

sustained today. Water is measured daily and shared equally among the eight main

families cultivating the terraces, using a network of canals and storage pools that have

survived from the Roman times.

For more information on the community’s traditions, view coverage from a

February 2014 CNN report and an August 2012 Wattan report (Arabic).

For a detailed description of the water-sharing practices, see this PNN

profile.

Page 5: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

5

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.

Battir’s valleys hold over 4,000 years of human history and unique preserved water-sharing traditions

Page 6: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

6

B. 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.

What ICOMOS Says:

o ICOMOS 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 The evaluation 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 Artzi Civil Engineering. The

Israeli army has not given any response to this in court.

According to Engineering Partner Zion Fosti’s May 18, 2014 Expert Opinion: “The

conclusion can be reached that in the event that the Defense Establishment will

decides to materialize its plans and execute the project, that is, the erection of

the security fence and the patrol road within the ambit of the strip between the

existing road and the railway track, the entire topography will be dramatically

destroyed including ancient terraces. […] The scope of the area that will be

destroyed is about 50,000 sq.m. The destruction that will be caused will be

irreversible and it will not be possible to rehabilitate it nor restore it.”

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.

Page 7: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

7

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.

C. 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.”

Page 8: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

8

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.

Water from this Roman-age storage pool is divided equally among eight main families who farm Battir’s terraces.

The above map shows the original nominated zone and the buffer zone to protect it.

In 2013, this buffer zone has been cut on Walaja site, North of the Makhrour Valley.

Page 9: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

9

D. ICOMOS states that the current maps of the nominated site do not sufficiently cover 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 The village is included in the buffer zone, but its changing demographics could

compromise the historical preservation of the site. The omitted section of lower terraces

is minor.

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

Page 10: Battir icomos recommendation 19.6

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prepared by:

Mohammed T. Obidallah, Expert on water and the environment and Battir resident, [email protected]

Eleanor Marshall, Intern at Friends of the Earth Middle East, Bethlehem Office, [email protected]

Jasmine Salachas, Professional cartographer.: Mapping Focus on Battir from the survey implemented in Battir (Lansdcape

Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management Plan, 2oo7-2o11) , [email protected]

10

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. It is among the very best examples of this type of terraced landscape, and rich

with archaeological remains from throughout the historical record.

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 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 update nomination dossier to address ICOMOS criticisms

and provide a more accurate reflection of Battir’s globally unique cultural landscape, 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. Failure to take immediate action to preserve

Battir’s cultural landscape could mean the loss of 4,000 years of unique human history.