Who, After All, Remembers Today the Armenian Village?

By Ruth Amir
Submitted to Session P4755 (Memory and identity: The significance of locality in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Egypt and Israel/Palestine, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Israel; Palestine;
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The Armenian village of Athlit was established in 1926 in Mandatory Palestine by group of Armenian refugees from around Dörtyol and Lapadj in the vilayet of Adana. Anton Hamouda, a Christian-Arab land owner leased them 580 dunam of land of the 1,000 dunam he owned in Palestine's coastal plain. When the 1948 War broke out, Hamouda had fled to Lebanon. His lands were expropriated and allocated to newly-established Jewish-Israeli settlements. The Armenians remained in the Village but lost their source of income and sustainability. They succumbed to a slow process of attrition until the Village was evacuated and demolished in 1981. The story of the Village is largely unknown in Israel, and official documents are scanty and incomplete. Nevertheless for the families of the evacuees and the small Armenian victim-community in Israel, the dispossession remains an open wound.
The proposed paper unfolds the short history of the Village and offers two alternative analyses of the conflict. First the conflict is contextualized as a legal case under the three relevant land laws in force in Palestine/Israel, namely, the Ottoman Land Code of 1858 adopted by the British occupation to all inhabitants of Palestine, the British Land Ordinance of 1943, and since 1948 by the Israeli land regime. Second, the conflict is expounded in terms of Jean-François Lyotard's différend, a conflict between (at least) two parties that cannot be equitably resolved for the absence of common quality in the discourses of the parties and the absence of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments. Inherent in a différend is the incommensurability of the parties’ discourses and the Villagers’ inability to translate phrases from heterogeneous regimens into the other.
The paper thus argues that the victimhood of Israeli-Jews and the legitimacy it apparently provided them became a blind spot to the legitimacy of Villagers' claims. The Armenians cannot articulate or justify their position within the framework of the Israeli discourse and value system. This restriction or the silencing and suppressing the story of the Village by demolishing and erasing any trace and evidence to its existence allows only for conformity or defeat.