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Palestinian Libraries
International Responsibilities Task Force
of the American Library Association's
Social Responsibilities Round Table


Damage to Palestinian Libraries and Archives during the Spring of 2002

Compiled by Tom Twiss
Government Information Librarian, University of Pittsburgh
August 2, 2002
 
Last revised January 16, 2003.

This report does not pretend to be comprehensive. Included here are examples of damage to libraries, archives, records, and files. Also included are examples of damage to government computers and computer systems which may have housed files. Reports of damage to cultural sites or to institutions which do not contain libraries, archives, records, or files are not included. For the most part, reports of damage to materials other than information resources are not included or are summarized in brackets. Statements quoted here do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Responsibilities Task Force, the Social Responsibilities Round Table, or the American Library Association.

 

Nongovernmental Libraries and Archives

1) Ajyal and Angham FM Radio Stations, Ramallah

The doorman of the building was forced to open the station door to soldiers who used sledgehammers to destroy the two studios, . . . [including equipment] and the entire music and program library. Destruction was total.

2) Al-Haq Human Rights Organization, Ramallah.

[In addition to damage to windows and doors, offices, confiscation of computers, and theft of equipment, the director] adds that the catalogue cards for the library, which contains the only public collection on law and human rights, have been removed from their boxes and scattered across the floor. As with files and papers, she does not know if any have been removed from the office.

3) Al-Nasr TV Station, Ramallah

Destroyed stations: On the way back, I called Mr. Ammar who owns Al Nasr TV and Manara radio stations . . . . Mr. Ammar had managed to get into his station with difficulty to a most ugly sight. [Damage to equipment described. Equipment and] tapes, CD's, . . . were spread all over the floor of the station. The investment and the work of a lifetime were in ruins.

Total destruction of equipment/extensive vandalism: [Equipment and] tapes, CD's, . . . were found spread over the floor of the station and completely smashed by sledgehammers.

4) Al-Quds Educational Television station, Ramallah

After surveying and documenting the damage, Ayman Bardawil, director Of Al Quds Educational Television described the damage as overwhelming. " . . . . [Equipment was looted, stolen, and destroyed.] Irreplaceable archival videos and data has been for ever lost."

Then on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers came to the four-story Medical Professions College building, where our studios are located, and began destroying what we have worked to build. [Offices broken into, equipment destroyed. . . .]

While being held, they [two of our staff members] saw television cameras and invaluable video archives thrown from the fourth floor, where our equipment and studio are located.

I am now certain that our TV studio, the only one with . . . a comprehensive children, social and cultural library of films . . . has suffered the same fate [as the Ajyal and Angham FM radio stations, Amwaj TV, Amwaj radio and Watan TV stations].

The condition of the Institute of Modern Media and Al Quds Educational Television was devastating. . . . . [The Center and its equipment was totally destroyed including] its children's and cultural library. Over six years of hard work was shattered.

5) Al-Quds University, Health professions complex main library, Al-Bireh

Destruction has touched almost all [buildings, equipment, prayer areas], the library and archives. . . .

The main library, which serves both university students and members of the community, was heavily damaged. Books and other educational materials were either damaged or destroyed.

6) Bethlehem University, Bethlehem

At Bethlehem University . . .[classrooms and offices were damaged by artillery]. Even the library didn't escape the shelling.

Struck by four Israeli missiles on the nights of March 8 and 9, 2002, Bethlehem University suffered severe damage to its two newest
facilities, Millennium Hall . . . , and the addition to the university library building, the Turathuna Center (Palestinian Heritage Cultural Center), which has been in use for less than one year.

It has been determined that the missiles which struck Millennium Hall and the University Library were TOW Anti-Tank Missiles, with
components made in the USA.

. . . .

Library -- Turathuna Center

 

7) French Cultural Center, Ramallah

Four floors above [a damaged fast food restaurant], the French cultural center and its 4,000-book library were badly damaged by heavy machine-gun fire.

Arts and culture organizations have not been immune from the vandalism and methodical destruction of Palestinian institutions in the last 2 weeks. In addition to the Sakakini . . . the destruction of the contents of the French and Greek Cultural Centers in Ramallah . . . .

8) Greek Cultural Center-Macedonia, Ramallah

The building that has the office for the Greek Cultural Center in the middle of Ramallah received ten rockets and went on fire.

9) Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute, Ramallah

When workers gained admittance after the departure of the Israeli soldiers on April 21, the Palestine Monitor reported that the offices of the HDIP were vandalised beyond description. . . . . [Floors covered with food, etc.; equipment destroyed, sink removed, etc.] . All computer hard discs (23) were removed. Files and reports had been burnt. The HDIP estimated that more than 13 years of research and valuable bibliographic information and databases had been lost.

Israeli soldiers occupied the Ramallah offices of HDIP for more than two weeks. The vandalism and destruction of property in the office during that time was immense. . . . . [Office equipment, computers, furniture, cameras destroyed. Garbage everywhere.] . . . . data and books rendered unusable. . . . . [Damage to building.]

At HDIP perhaps the most devastating loss is that of more than 13 years of research in Palestinian health and development as well as valuable bibliographic information and databases.

10) Jenin Municipal Library

[The Israeli occupation forces today demolished scores of commercial shops in Al-Sibat neighbourhood in Jenin city centre . . . .] The occupation forces, using police dogs, broke into the Public Jenin Municipality Library and ransacked its contents.

11) Lutheran religious compound, Ramallah

Ansara says soldiers returned three times to search the religious compound, which contains a school, a kindergarten and a church. They blasted open doors, defaced maps of the Middle East, left graffiti on the chalk boards, ransacked the library and administrative
office, . . . .

12) Ma'an Development Center, Ramallah

The library, one of the best resource centers in the West Bank for training, development, and other specialized issues, was also subject to the Israeli soldier's vandalism; training videos, training CDs, and other resources were smashed or damaged.

Just over a week ago, Israeli soldiers broke into MA'AN Development Centre which was located in the Chamber of Commerce building in Ramallah. . . . [Director described destruction of office and equipment.]

Aid workers said the greatest loss was the destruction of 11 years of records, data and teaching manuals.

They put the cost of the loss to equipment at $40,000, but have yet to establish the cost of the loss of 11 years of intellectual capital.

"This attack is part of the systematic, widespread attack on all of Palestinian civil society, including all NGOs, government ministries, schools, health centres, libraries and historic sites," the secretary of Women Refugee Education Network, Helen McCue, said.

13) Palestinian Insurance Company, Ramallah

Many private institutions had been similarly invaded. . . . the records of the Palestinian Insurance Company were gone, and there were many more examples.

14) Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, Ramallah

Today I visited the Ramallah offices of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) and spoke with its president, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi. The offices were occupied by Israeli troops during the recent attack on Ramallah, and the condition of the offices after the departure of the occupying troops tells a good deal about the Israeli military and the political strategy of the current Israeli government.

. . . .

The Condition of the UPMRC Offices

1. The office in Ramallah was the primary administrative office for UPMRC, and contained extensive records dating back several decades on the health condition of the Palestinian people. Like any modern office, these records were stored in computer format. Within the office, every single computer (more than 20) was destroyed, with the hard drives removed, and various other components strewn across the individual offices and meeting rooms. The data on these computers have disappeared.

. . . . [Other office equipment, video camera, etc. stolen; desk contents thrown to the floor; videotapes damaged.]

5. Throughout the offices, the contents of desks, files and shelves were dumped on the floor, [often mixed with garbage].

. . . . [Garbage was forced into inaccessible areas; phone and email system destroyed; hand-woven rugs damaged; bullet holes in walls; sink destroyed; graffiti.]

d. A file room was filled with office records and used as a urinal.

 

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Government Libraries, Archives, and Files

General statements

In Ramallah and Bethlehem, public archives have been gutted, property records destroyed, and the infrastructure of Palestinian government, from computers to police stations, smashed beyond repair.

Findings:

 

Across the West Bank, educational and research facilities, cultural organizations, and media outlets, as well as Palestinian Authority ministries, have been targeted in what Israel says is a campaign to destroy an infrastructure of terror. Files and computers at the ministries of agriculture, industry, civil affairs, and finance have been seized. The Land Registry office, Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian Legislative Council, local government buildings, human rights organizations and medical institutions as well as private radio and television stations have also been ransacked and searched.

UNDP officials estimate that the Palestinian Authority's central institutions in Ramallah suffered damages to buildings and office equipment worth approximately $16 million during the recent Israeli incursions. "The dollar amount only reflects physical damage and does not include invaluable public records from various ministries, including the Ministries of Health, Education and Public Works," said Mr. Rothermel.

1) Al-Bireh Municipal Library, located near Al-Bireh Municipality

Similar reports came from all across Ramallah -- offices in ruins, files and hard drives gone. [Various ministries as well as] the municipal administration buildings of Ramallah and neighboring Al-Bireh, including its library, had all been raided.

The library building was visited by municipal engineers briefly when the curfew was lifted. A contingent of soldiers invaded the building on the second day of the invasion 30th March.

Damage: Primarily vandalism, destruction of computers, . . . [doors and windows], Confiscation of books and journal[s].

Destruction: External doors, shattered windows, 3 computers broken.

Vandalism: extensive papers and books on the floor
Confiscation: One computer screen was on suggesting that its hard disk had been taken. A substantial amount of books and journals seem to be missing although exactly how many (and what type) cannot as yet be assessed.

2) Al-Bireh Municipality, Ramallah

Damage: [Destruction of walls, doors, cars, etc.] computers, . . some confiscation of files and hard disks, extensive vandalism, theft

Destruction: . . . . Five computers destroyed (some for hard disks, others just vandalized) . . . .

Confiscation: A number of files seemed to be missing and at least two hard disks taken from computers. The municipality was unable to see what other documents were taken as yet because of the amount of papers strewn on the floor.
. . . .

Vandalism:
A number of offices were in complete disarray. . . . Destroyed files. Computers . . .no longer function.

3) Anabta Municipality Building, Tulkarm District

VANDALISM: [Collection of archeological artifacts and equipment destroyed.] Municipal files were torn and thrown on the ground. The entire library, book shelves and books, were thrown on the floor. Some desks were damaged.
SANCTIONED THEFT: Two municipal computers were taken. In the library, a computer and a camera were taken.

4) Bureau of Statistics, Ramallah

At the Ministry of Finance and the Bureau of Statistics records accumulated over many years have been taken.

5) Ministry of Agriculture, Ramallah

At the Ministry of Agriculture, the door had been blasted open by an explosion that also took out all the windows, and a neighbor said Israeli soldiers had filled two armored personnel carriers with boxes, presumably of records.

Confiscation: Many files and offices in such disarray with files all over the floor it is still impossible to say exactly what has been taken. Many missing hard drives, in other cases whole computer bases (without the screens) have been taken.

Vandalism: "Not an office left untouched", papers and box files strewn all over the floor. . . .

6) Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ramallah

Confiscation of Records: Thus far some missing hard drives, but stolen papers from especially the Ministers office (neighbors told the employee they saw soldiers
carrying out what seemed to be boxes of papers). Many destroyed documents.

At the Ministry of Civil Affairs, a customs and visa agency for Palestinians living outside the occupied territories, records were taken and equipment broken, according to the report [by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees].

7) Ministry of Culture, Ramallah

In the past few days, Israeli occupation forces have raided, destroyed and looted a number of official and private Palestinian buildings. Most notably, Israeli occupation forces raided and looted the Ministry of Culture, which had an invaluable library and art gallery, with artifacts of great historical importance.

Mr. Yehia Yakhlof, Deputy Minister of Culture, stated that the Israeli aggression was directed against "the Palestinian infrastructure, culture, and national heritage". Mr. Yakhlouf also pointed out, "Everything was destroyed inside of the Ministry of Culture; the furniture, equipment, archives, and a number of paintings. . . .

After the press conference, reporters toured the Ministry's building to witness the destruction. The Ministry's offices were destroyed. Damaged doors reveal that Israeli occupation forces used explosive devices to open the closed rooms. The Ministry's main server was also damaged, as were the computers.

The Israeli Occupation Forces and as part of its aggressive military campaign against the Palestinian and the Palestinian National Authority occupied the building of the Ministry of Culture which is located near President Arafat's Headquarters (Al-Mqat'a) in Ramallah. During their occupation of the Ministry's 6-story building, Israeli soldiers turned the building into a detention and interrogation center after completely destroying every property and item found inside the building. The destruction was so systematic and barbaric and included very precious and valuable items, including the Cultural Library, the Palestinian Cinema Archives, . . . in addition of course to the Ministry's . . . , computers, [other equipment, and a training laboratory for film makers] were also destroyed. [They also destroyed studios and equipment of a radio station], even a Book library that was given, as a gift to the Ministry by the French Cultural Center was not spared. The theft by Israeli soldiers also included some . . . computers . . . [and other equipment and cash].

8) Ministry of Economy and Trade, Ramallah

Confiscation: More time needed to assess. Missing hard disks and potentially some computer bases. In the international relations department files found laying open on a table included those on economic relations with Israel.

Vandalism: Strewn files everywhere, the WTO resource Center files and papers ruined, as well as the papers and disks in the intellectual property rights department.

9) Ministry of Education, Ramallah

Systems, records and equipment destroyed at Ministry of Education: On 3 April 2002, about thirty Israelis tanks entered the walled compound which houses the Ministry of Education in Ramallah. Despite the willingness of employees there to open the building, soldiers exploded . . . [doors], as well as the main safe and filing and storage Cabinets. . . . Soldiers took computer net servers, computers, hard disks, files, and documents from the Ministry. The Ministry's examination Room suffered considerable damage from explosions and the ransacking of the room by soldiers: years of student records were damaged or reduced to rubble. The Ministry hopes to be able to rebuild its files from duplicate records in district offices but fears some of these may also be destroyed.

In one room of the Palestinian Ministry of Education, the litter of papers, glass, paper clips and periodicals was ankle-deep. The filing cabinets had been ransacked, and some toppled. Personal computers sat on the desks, their hard drives ripped out.

In another room, the Israeli soldiers had blasted open the safe. . . . Dr. Naim Abu Hommos, the deputy minister of education, said the safe had been used to keep all school test records since 1960. All were gone, he said, along with 40,000 shekels -- about $8,500 -- that had been kept there for petty cash. That was the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education, . . . [and other ministries] have also been earlier victims of this rampage.

Now, the files and archives pertaining to 1 million Palestinian students no longer exist, which threatens with great confusion.

Internal Damage: The IDF forces vandalized the Ministry's offices, confiscating computers and educational aids and removing or destroying vital records and documents. . . .

The Ministry's records, which were confiscated or destroyed, have been built up over many years. The Ministry hopes it will be able to re-construct destroyed records for the issuing and certifying of students' transcripts from regional MOE offices. The MOE is unable to gain full and clear access to the premises in order to make a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the damage and losses at this point.

The ministries of education and higher education have been extensively searched. Computer hard drives and files were taken and offices damaged. "All the information we have gathered since 1994 is gone," Mr. Abu Hommos says. "The injured body of our ministries remain but the brain is gone."

At the Ministry of Education, metal filing cabinets were blown up and computers, videotapes and other educational materials were confiscated, according to a preliminary report compiled by residents and issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

10) Ministry of Finance, Ramallah

Damage: Broken doors, Extensive Confiscation of Computers and Computer Hard Disks

Destruction: [Doors and furniture] Destroyed Computers. . . .

Confiscation: Computer skeletons strewn on the floor, due to many hard disk drives being taken. The most hard hit section in terms of taken computers and hard disks seems to be the Payroll department. Documents strewn on the floor suggests that paper files may have been taken but the employees did not have time to assess. Other computers were found with their screens on.

Other comments/ Impact: The general director suggested that the main destruction and loss was of the Ministry's financial records and accounts. The Ministry is in charge of disbursing salaries, health and pension payments to all government employees including teachers, hospital workers, the police as well as government bureaucrats. The GD says that given the loss of information, public sector employees face not getting paid in the foreseeable future until the records can be re-established.In addition, files for back pay and insurance may have been lost as well.

At the Finance Ministry, officials said all payroll data for the Palestinian Authority seemed to be gone, so paying salaries, benefits and insurance to teachers, hospital workers, civil servants and police officers would pose a serious problem.

The damage caused to computer archives in Palestinian government offices, including the finance and education ministries, in Ramallah could be the hardest to repair. Israeli soldiers shot up many of the offices during raids in the first days of the invasion.

At the Ministry of Finance and the Bureau of Statistics records accumulated over many years have been taken.

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11) Ministry of Health, Ramallah

Physical Destruction: . . . [Doors, ceiling from blowing up entrance] A few computers damaged from being thrown on floor, . . . [equipment].
Vandalism: Throughout files were strewn across the floors. [Vandalism in storage pharmacy.]

The Israeli occupation army has invaded, ransacked, and destroyed every Palestinian Ministry and official building. Today alone, they raided the Ministries of Health, Social Affairs, and Supplies, and the Standards Institution.

. . . .

For example, the Ministry of Health's entire records on births, deaths, and immunizations was either looted or destroyed.

12) Ministry of Industry, Ramallah

[At the Ministry of Agriculture, Israeli soldiers reportedly filled two armored personnel carriers with boxes, presumably of records.] It was the same at the Ministry of Industry.

Damage: Destruction of entrance by explosives. Extensive Vandalism, Some Confiscation and theft.

Physical Destruction: . . . . [Front entrance, basement storage depot, electricity circuit board, telephone exchange, etc. destroyed]. Some computers in the Information Center destroyed. . . . .

Confiscation: Many offices have papers and strewn all over the floor so it remains difficult to ascertain what has been taken. Some computer hard drives taken from the
Information Center and it seems a number of computers missing. The hard disk of the Minister's secretary's computer taken. Archives in the Minister's and Deputy
Minister's offices have been particularly focused upon. The safe in the Finance department blown open and its contents taken (the safe contained records but had no checks or money).

13) Ministry of Transport, Ramallah

Confiscation: Some computer hard disks and computers - exact accounting still not possible. Safes blown open in the 1st floor finance and administration offices contents taken. Some files missing. In the Registration department (on the part of the fourth floor not effected by the fire) a large number of files are missing. The employee stated that approximately 40% of their documents seem missing from the building.

 

14) Palestinian Legislative Council, Council Chambers, Ramallah

The neighboring Palestinian Legislative Council meeting hall was torn apart, and officials said the video archives of its sessions were gone.

[The soldiers] took all of the video-cassette tapes from the lower video room, at least a hundred tapes of Council sessions, put them in plastic bags, and carried them away.

15) Palestinian Legislative Council, Main Administration Building, Al-Bireh

Vandalism: The Library and the Public Relations Unit have suffered extensive vandalism, books and files were thrown all over the floor. The door of the "Hansard" (sound and video equipment) office was broken, documents were thrown on the floor, but the equipment was left intact.

16) Palestinian National Council (PNC) and PLO Department of Refugee Affairs, Nablus

Internal damage VANDALISM: [Ofices vandalized, windows broken] 4 Computers were thrown on the floor, broken 3 tables and files from cabinets strewn across the floor. . . . .

Confiscation: Hard Disks from PNC offices were taken from a number of offices including all the files related to internal correspondence, personnel and financial accounting.

17) Presidential Office, Ramallah

[From text of official statement of the PNA:]

Israeli F-16 planes, Apache helicopters and gunboats bombarded the presidential office in Gaza at dawn today, Sunday, 10 March 2002, with 30 missiles. The bombardment destroyed the first and second floors, and President Arafat's personal office, library, guest room and bedroom.

 

18) Ramallah Chamber of Commerce, Ramallah

Damage: [Doors smashed.] Smashed computers and Xerox copier, extensive vandalism
. . . .

Inside, the first office they entered suffered the most damage. Four computers were destroyed (thrown on the ground and smashed), . . . [copier smashed]. There was
wide-scale vandalism throughout the other offices with files and papers strewn on the
floor. Whether hard disks or paper files were taken cannot yet be assessed. . . .

19) Ramallah Municipality Building, Ramallah

The invading forces had also demolished the second floor in the Ramallah Municipality building, which housed the archives for property registers and other documents of vital importance.

Ramallah's Municipality has also been looted and destroyed; Israeli occupation soldiers destroyed the Municipality's lands claim and registration files, thus exposing the entire society to unthinkable and possibly dangerous problems.

Damage: Extensive vandalism, potentially some confiscation and theft
. . . .

"Every department was vandalized,… [Furniture damaged], paper files and documents were tampered with, dispersed and thrown to the floor, surveying plans and building license files were destroyed,. . . [doors, windows, partitions smashed], and extensive damage was inflicted on the PCs and computer network. Many of the PCs were damaged; the CPUs and hard disks either damaged or taken by the soldiers, and so was the main server. Two steel safes were blown open which contained important documents pertaining to the work of the Municipality and some petty cash. [Damage to building and electrical systems.]"
The Municipality staff has not been able to make a complete assessment of the damage nor determine the extent of the missing equipment, documents and other items.

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Page last modified January 16, 2003.