Abbas says new museum will ‘preserve Palestinian memory’

Birzeit: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed Wednesday’s opening of a major museum in the occupied West Bank, saying it “will preserve the Palestinian people’s memory” — despite no exhibitions being ready.

The Palestinian Museum ws inaugurated in the university town of Birzeit near Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian political institutions in the West Bank.

Dozens of prominent officials and business leaders attended the launch.

“We are opening today a Palestinian monument, the Palestinian Museum, which will preserve the Palestinian people’s memory and tell its story,” Abbas said, noting it was a key part of building an independent state.

“What we have to do is build state institutions, this state and these institutions are being built now, thank God. The only thing left is declaring independence which you all will declare soon, God willing.”

Abbas has been working to get formal recognition of Palestine as a state at the United Nations, much to the chagrin of Israel.

The museum, designed by Irish and Chinese architects also has lush gardens.

The building cost about $28 million, financed 95 percent by Palestinians, organisers said.

However the exhibition that was supposed to open it — which included photographs from Palestinians across the globe — was put on hold, so the museum is currently empty.

Organisers stressed that they were just inaugurating the building, not the museum itself — with the first exhibition due in October.

The idea for the museum dates back to 1997, four years after the Oslo peace accords established the Palestinian Authority and were in theory meant to lead to an independent Palestinian state.

Organisers said they aim to create a place of memory for Palestinians, who often accuse Israel of rewriting history to justify their policies — including the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territories.

Agence France-Presse