Battir icomos recommendation 19.6


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  1. 1. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, 1 A SUPPLEMENT ON BATTIRS 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 Battirs 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 Authoritys 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 Battirs 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 We are working to correct information that was omitted, incorrect, or outdated in the ICOMOS evaluation and original nomination dossier.
  2. 2. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, 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: Draft decision: KEY POINTS: - Battirs 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 Battirs 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.
  3. 3. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, 3 Battirs 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.
  4. 4. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, 4 DECONSTRUCTING THE ICOMOS REPORT: A. To qualify for inscription, sites must prove that they are of Outstanding Universal Value. Battirs 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 Battirs 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 Battirs 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 Battirs 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 FoEMEs fact sheet on Battirs unique history. o Battirs 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 communitys 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. 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
  5. 5. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, 5 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 Battirs 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. Battirs valleys hold over 4,000 years of human history and unique preserved water-sharing traditions 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
  6. 6. June 8, 2014 Prepared by Mohammed Obidallah & Eleanor Marshall, 6 (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 Fostis 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