rachel busbridge on the ghost village of lifta
This essay explores the case of Lifta, a ‘ghost village’ located just outside of Jerusalem which has recently emerged as a poignant site of Israeli–Palestinian national contestation. The last remaining depopulated village from the 1948 Palestinian Catastrophe (al-Nakba), Lifta has been slated for ‘redevelopment’ since 2004: a plan that would see the village replaced by a luxury, Jewish-only residential and commercial complex. Employing the dual analytical lens of haunting and imagined geography, this essay examines Lifta as an instance of ‘haunted geography’ in which settler colonial attempts to write nation are always confronted by what is written underneath. Not only is Lifta a stark fissure in Israeli imagined geographies of nation, in that it speaks to an alternate geography which calls into question the former’s legitimacy, but also the attempt to Judaize Lifta has provoked the ‘ghosts’ of the past. These ghosts demonstrate both the past’s continuing legacy in the present and the impossibility of erasing Palestinian claims and memories. With counter-calls for Lifta to become a site of commemoration, I argue that the village has come to be representative of a reconciliatory futurity in Israel–Palestine. This reconciliatory futurity paradoxically derives from the demand to recognize and engage with past injustice; namely, the ongoing historical effects of the Nakba. In Lifta, then, that which haunts underneath becomes a landscape for reconciliation – and a space from which future possibilities of reconciliation may be landscaped.
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