Monday, February 5, 2024

Israeli Damage to Archives, Libraries, and Museums in Gaza, October 2023–January 2024

A Preliminary Report from Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

Download a PDF of the report here.

The destruction of cultural heritage in Gaza impoverishes the collective identity of the Palestinian people, irrevocably denies them their history, and violates their sovereignty. In this report, we offer a partial list of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza that have been destroyed, damaged, or looted by Israeli armed forces since October 7, 2023. This report is necessarily incomplete. It is very difficult to determine the status of archives, libraries, and museums in Gaza during the ongoing Israeli bombardment. Current conditions in Gaza, such as the targeting of journalists, frequent communication blackouts, and extensive damage to the built environment pose an immediate threat to safety. Moreover, archivists and librarians have been repeatedly displaced, injured, or killed, making it even more difficult to take stock of the damage to cultural heritage. As a result, it should be assumed that this report represents only a fraction of the extent of damage and death, not a complete picture.

We compile and offer this information with the understanding that the erasure of Palestinian culture and history has long been an Israeli tactic of war and occupation, a means to further limit the self-determination of the Palestinian people. In 1948, during the Nakba, 30,000 books and manuscripts were looted from Palestinian homes; in 1982, during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Israel looted and confiscated the library and archives of the Palestine Liberation Organization; libraries and archives were damaged during the Second Intifada, and have been repeatedly targeted in Gaza. Furthermore, the intentional destruction of cultural heritage has been recognized as a war crime and prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.

This report joins those issued by Heritage for Peace (November 7, 2023), the Palestinian Ministry of  Culture (December 6, 2023), the Arab Regional Group at the International Council of Monuments and Sites (January 9, 2024), and others. These reports document the destruction of religious sites, archaeological evidence, cultural institutions, and more. We bring a focus on libraries, archives, and museums as sites of knowledge, community spaces, and repositories of cultural heritage. Irreplaceable historic materials have been lost in the destruction of institutions such as the Central Archives of Gaza City and the Rafah Museum. The destruction of libraries represents the loss of not only book collections, but the efforts of Gaza’s librarians to acquire, care for, and provide access to reading materials, despite Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. 

Finally, we include information about the librarians and archivists who have been killed in the ongoing Israeli bombardment. We mourn the deaths of our colleagues and their families.

February 1, 2024
Librarians and Archivists with Palestine



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