Demolition of Palestinian homes in Mount Scopus Slope to make way for new national park.
Photo by Oren Ziv

‘They See Not, Nor Know’

A bulldozer destroys the home of Ali Abu Sakran

Israel Nature and Parks Authority says name of plan for National Park in East Jerusalem, slated to displace Palestinian residents, is ‘poor choice of words.’

By Nir Hasson | Nov.13, 2012 | 6:53 PM |  3
“They See Not, Nor Know 2012” – this is the name that was given to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority plan to demolish Arab structures and remove rubble in the area of the Mount Scopus Slope National Park, slated to be established in East Jerusalem.

The phrase “They See Not, Nor Know” appears twice in the Bible, for example in Isaiah: 44. In both places, it is used to denounce pagans and people who did not recognize the God of Israel.

The document, which has been obtained by Haaretz, details the preparations for clearing the site of the planned national park and states that the aim of the operation is “to prevent interference in designation of the area as a national park and the preservation of nature and landscape values.”

The “mission,” according to the document, is for the municipal authorities, with the help of the Jerusalem District of the Nature and Parks Authority and the command of the Jerusalem Police, to “act in accordance with a municipal bylaw to fill burrows and to remove hazards.”

A year ago, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee approved the plan to establish a new national park in the area of Mount Scopus. However, the plan was frozen by a court order due to a petition regarding the question of whether it is necessary to translate “They See Not, Nor Know” into Arabic.

Palestinian residents and left-leaning organizations in the city say the aim of the national park, like that of other parks and public gardens in East Jerusalem, is to prevent the development of the two adjacent Palestinian neighborhoods, Issawiya and a-Tur. The national park is slated to be constructed on areas designated in the past for expansion and will, in fact, create a situation in which the neighborhoods will not have anywhere to develop.

“The name means only one thing,” said Jerusalem city council member Meir Margalit (Meretz), “which is that the Palestinians won’t know where it’s coming from or how it hit them. There’s no other way to read it and it’s impossible to whitewash it with polite words.

“This is not by chance and it reflects the mentality of these people. This is additional evidence that we are talking about a body for which nature isn’t the priority, but rather oppressing the Palestinians in East Jerusalem in every possible way,” Margalit added.

Another argument voiced against the establishment of the park is that it has no justification as far as nature and the landscape in the area, as most of the site consists of stretches with no vegetation or wildlife and very few archaeological sites of unusual value. The Palestinian inhabitants and the left-wing organizations have named Israel Nature and Parks Authority Jerusalem District director Evyatar Cohen, a settler and formerly a top official of Elad, the organization that runs the City of David in East Jerusalem, as the motivating force behind the planned park.

In response, the authority stated that it is important to preserve the configuration of the landscape at the eastern entrance to Jerusalem, in addition to the natural and archaeological values justifying the designation of a national park.

Since the decision was taken and despite the fact that the area has not yet been designated as a park, the authority has been preparing the area for construction, taking such steps as demolishing livestock pens, storehouses and agricultural installations owned by Palestinian residents, as well as blocking dirt roads in the area.

The document “They See Not, Nor Know” exposes the plan of action. Since the Parks Authority cannot act under the Nature Preservation Law because the designation procedure has not yet been completed, it is utilizing a municipal bylaw. To this end the authority has turned to the Jerusalem Municipality’s legal adviser for approval.

The plan details the personnel and engineering equipment required for carrying out the project, as well as expressing fears that Palestinian residents will disturb the peace. Thus, for example, in the chapter “Incidents and Reactions,” the report states: “It is likely there will be a decision by the regional administration to stop construction without a police order for security or safety reasons, if, for example, the workers are at risk.”

In response, the parks authority issued a statement: “The name of the plan, which was given by a field supervisor in the authority, expresses the perpetual difficulty in enforcing activities in the area. This is a poor choice of words that does not reflect the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s approach. In the future, we will make more careful title choices. Our apologies to anyone that may have been offended by the name of plan.”