Salvage or Plunder? Israel's "Collection" of Private Palestinian Libraries in West Jerusalem
During April–May 1948, almost the entire population of the residential Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem fled the fighting, leaving behind fully furnished houses, some with rich libraries. This article is about the “book salvage operation” conducted by the Jewish National and University Library, which added tens of thousands of privately owned Palestinian books to its collections. Based on primary archival documents and interviews, the article describes the beginnings and progress of the operation as well as the changing fortunes of the books themselves at the National Library. The author concludes with an exploration of the operation’s dialectical nature (salvage and plunder), the ambivalence of those involved, and an assessment of the final outcome.
Gish Amit is a postdoctoral fellow at the Forum for Trans-regional Studies, the BerlinBrandenburg Academy of Sciences and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Berlin. This article is part of a doctoral thesis titled “The Jewish National and University Library 1945–1955: The Transfer to Israel of Holocaust Victims’ Books, the Appropriation of Books of Jewish Emigrants from the East, and the Collection of Palestinian Books during the 1948 War.” All translations in this article are that of the author.