Palestine museum opens without exhibits

A long-awaited museum dedicated to Palestinian culture and history has officially opened in the occupied West Bank, but the building currently has no exhibits.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (R) attends the inauguration of the Palestinian Museum in the West Bank town of Birzeit on May 18, 2016.

A much-awaited but empty museum in the occupied West Bank, intended to show the history and culture of Palestine, has been inaugurated. Visitors may have to wait a few months to see it with its full display.

Authorities say the building, which cost $28 million, is ready and the formal inauguration will take place in October this year.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the museum "will tell the world - the entire world - that we were here, we are still here, and we will continue to be here to build our independent state. Nobody can deny us this right."

"We have been planted here since the dawn of history," he added.

According to the museum’s official website, the project is "dedicated to supporting an open and dynamic Palestinian culture nationally and internationally."

It also states that the main focus of the museum will be Palestine in the period from 1750 onwards.

Initially museum authorities also wanted to hold an inaugural show on Palestinian refugees on the opening day, but the show was cancelled due to a disagreement among them.

Credit: Twitter/ Palestinian Museum (@palmuseum)

Director of the Museum Omar Qattan said, "We wanted to stick to a date - I think it is very important psychologically for us to be able to make promises that we keep. So we decided to open now rather than wait for the inaugural exhibition."

The organisers say the museum is a place where Palestinians can access their history, which they say has been distorted by Israel to justify expansionist policies in Palestinian territory.

The building was designed by Irish and Chinese architects and financed 95 percent by Palestinians.

Credit: Twitter/ Palestinian Museum (@palmuseum)

The idea for a Palestinian museum dates back to 1997, four years after the Oslo Accords were signed, establishing the Palestinian Authority and in theory laying the groundwork for an independent Palestinian state. It was initially hoped the museum would be built in East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed.

Qattan said that finding a location every Palestinian could access was part of the challenge.  "Wherever we build it in Palestine, there is always going to be an accessibility issue."

Next week the museum will open an exhibition in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, entitled "At the seams: A political history of Palestinian embroidery."