Middle East

New Palestinian museum opens without exhibits

Journalists visit the new Palestinian Museum in Birzeit (17 May 2016) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Palestinian Museum sits in gardens outside the university town of Birzeit

Palestinian leaders have formally opened a new national museum in the occupied West Bank, even though it does not yet have any exhibits.

An inaugural show highlighting the Palestinian refugee experience was suspended amid a disagreement between the museum's board and former director.

The chairman says he expect the museum to be operating by the end of the year.

"Satellite exhibitions" reflecting the Palestinian story will also be held in cities around the Middle East.

Next week, Beirut will host one entitled "At the seams: A political history of Palestinian embroidery."

'Psychological importance'

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says the Palestinians regard themselves as a people without a homeland - now they have a museum without an exhibition.

The empty building, built at a cost of $24m (£17m), is a striking low-rise structure in light local stone which sits in handsome gardens outside the university town of Birzeit, our correspondent adds.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The museum's chairman said he did not consider its unusual opening to be embarrassing

When it is up and running, the Palestinian Museum will chronicle the story of the Palestinian people and their displacement by the conflict which followed the establishment of the state of Israel at the end of the 1940s.

It will also provide a focal point for the gatherings of collections of private family photographs.

The museum's chairman said he did not consider its unusual opening to be a source of embarrassment.

"We are celebrating the fact it is completed on time. We are celebrating the gardens," Omar Qattan was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

"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."

At Wednesday's inauguration ceremony, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared: "This 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.

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