Campaigners claim legal victory in Akka heritage battle

The Khan al-Umdan (Inn of the Pillars) in Akka, Palestine

Akka’s historic Khan al-Umdan.

Sarah Irving

As The Electronic Intifada reported last year, Palestinian residents of the historic city of Akka have been fighting plans by Israeli tourism authorities to turn the Khan al-Umdan (Caravanserai of the Pillars) into a hotel.

Akka has long been the site of gentrification, with upscale Israeli restaurants and tourist shops moving into the ancient buildings of the largely working-class, Palestinian Old City.

But local residents opposed to the latest Ministry of Tourism plans announced this week that they have won the current legal battle against the proposal.

A wider trend

According to journalist Tawfiq Abdelfattah for the news site Arabs 48, the Haifa District Court had ruled in favor of the Jiran (“neighbors”) Center for the Defence of the Rights of the People of Akka and their lawyer, Nora Ashqar. The court had ordered the tendering process for the hotel development to be halted, and awarded costs to the Jiran Center.

Ashqar was quoted as saying that the court’s ruling was a “great victory for the people of the Shauna neighborhood [where the Khan al-Umdan is located] and for the people of Akka in general.”

However, Ashqar sounded a note of caution, saying that it still remained to be seen if eviction orders on residents of the Old City of Akka would be rescinded, and that the threat to the Khan al-Umdan had been just one example of a wider trend of Israeli gentrification in the city.

British-based Palestinian heritage campaign Antoine Raffoul echoed Ashqar’s warning, saying that he feared “that the Israel Lands Administration will not lie low. They always bounce back with another trick.”


Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.