Demanding a Place for Palestinians in American Cultural Life – Palestinians aren’t just kept in misery and degradation by the Israeli occupation — they’re also silenced, at home and abroad. Palestinian activists and their supporters are trying to change that.

First pub­lished at Jacobin. In her Jan­u­ary 19, 2020 op-ed in the New York Times, Michelle Alexan­der argued that it is ​“Time to Break the Silence on Pales­tine.”…

First pub­lished at Jacobin.

In her Jan­u­ary 19, 2020 op-ed in the New York Times, Michelle Alexan­der argued that it is ​Time to Break the Silence on Pales­tine.” After recount­ing the many ways peo­ple have been forced into silence on Pales­tine, she ends with this res­o­lu­tion: ​In this new year, I aim to speak with greater courage and con­vic­tion about injus­tices beyond our bor­ders, par­tic­u­lar­ly those that are fund­ed by our gov­ern­ment, and stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty with strug­gles for democ­ra­cy and free­dom. My con­science leaves me no oth­er choice.”

I great­ly admire Alexander’s op-ed and stance. The occa­sion of her essay was Mar­tin Luther King Day, prompt­ing her to reflect on the stance he might have tak­en on Pales­tine. ​Break­ing the silence on Pales­tine,” how­ev­er, did not include a sin­gle Pales­tin­ian voice. Alexan­der referred to the case of Bahia Amawi, a Pales­tin­ian who was fired for not sign­ing an anti-boy­cott pledge, and she names the good work of sev­er­al Pales­tin­ian orga­ni­za­tions. But not a sin­gle quote from a Pales­tin­ian voice. 

The ten­den­cy has been to refer to Pales­tini­ans as vic­tims of oppres­sion, but also omit the fact that they are among the most resilient and coura­geous peo­ples of the world, hav­ing endured that oppres­sion and resist­ed it for decades. The media has been con­sis­tent­ly awful at even rec­og­niz­ing the accom­plish­ments of Pales­tini­ans and Pales­tin­ian Amer­i­cans as human beings, and the sto­ries of those accom­plish­ments and his­to­ries have been erased and repressed everywhere.

Not every­one has a plat­form in the New York Times, so we should be immense­ly grate­ful to Alexan­der for using her col­umn to say what she did. But we also need to note how rare this kind of state­ment is — and that there is no Pales­tin­ian or even Arab voice at the Times. Cen­sored, shut down, and denied main­stream means to tell the Pales­tin­ian sto­ry with Pales­tin­ian voic­es, Pales­tini­ans and their sup­port­ers go to oth­er places, media, venues, and invent their own.

For instance, since 2016, grad­u­at­ing Pales­tin­ian archi­tec­ture stu­dents have com­pet­ed for the pres­ti­gious ​Recon­struc­tion of Destroyed Pales­tin­ian Vil­lages” award. As report­ed in the Mid­dle East Mon­i­tor, ​the archi­tec­tur­al com­pe­ti­tion, organ­ised by the Pales­tine Land Soci­ety, brings togeth­er his­to­ry, pol­i­tics and con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture as young stu­dents com­pete to recon­struct over 500 vil­lages destroyed dur­ing the Nak­ba in order to pre­serve and restore their her­itage and draw a real­is­tic, future blue­print for the return of Pales­tin­ian refugees.” And the Arab World Insti­tute in Paris hosts an annu­al exhib­it called ​For a Pales­tin­ian Nation­al Muse­um,” which col­lects Pales­tine art, pho­tog­ra­phy, and graph­ics in a series of gal­leries that stands in as a tem­po­rary ​nation­al muse­um” for Palestine.

Acknowl­edg­ing the tremen­dous bur­den placed on Pales­tini­ans to cre­ate a counter to the era­sures and dis­tor­tions they have faced, Pales­tin­ian schol­ar and activist Edward Said once said, ​The Pales­tin­ian must make the present since the present is not an imag­i­na­tive lux­u­ry but a lit­er­al, exis­ten­tial necessity.”

Last year, a group of Pales­tin­ian, Pales­tin­ian-Amer­i­can, and U.S. activists raised enough funds to pro­duce a three-day event in New York City, ​Pales­tine Writes,” with exact­ly the aim of cre­at­ing a Pales­tin­ian present and pres­ence at the heart of U.S. cul­tur­al life. They raised enough funds to bring some of the most esteemed writ­ers from Pales­tine; pay for visas and lodg­ing; and put them in dia­logue with US writ­ers and activists such as Angela Davis, his­to­ri­an Robin D. G. Kel­ley, indige­nous schol­ar and Red Nation activist Nick Estes, and oth­ers on trans­la­tion, incar­cer­a­tion, indi­gene­ity, and more; along with a series of work­shops and events for children. 

The event sold out all three days. And then the pan­dem­ic hit. 

The event orga­niz­ers have regrouped and are doing an online event from Decem­ber 2 – 6. Head­lin­ing the fes­ti­val are lumi­nar­ies of Pales­tin­ian writ­ing in Ara­bic and Eng­lish, includ­ing lit­er­ary giants Ibrahim Nas­ral­lah, two-time win­ner of the Ara­bic Book­er Prize (Katara), and Mah­moud Shukair; acclaimed nov­el­ists Hala Alyan and Ran­da Jar­rar; and notable Pales­tin­ian visu­al artists, includ­ing Samia Halaby.

And for the first time ever, Hanan Ashrawi, Jere­my Cor­byn, and Angela Davis will share a stage to dis­cuss cul­ture, sol­i­dar­i­ty, and inter­na­tion­al­ism. All told, more than sev­en­ty inter­na­tion­al schol­ars, writ­ers, artists, and activists will take part, includ­ing Kenyan poet and play­wright Shail­ja Patel, Robin D. G. Kel­ley, Oglala Lako­ta edu­ca­tor and poet Mark Tilsen, and Nick Estes.

Con­fer­ence orga­niz­er and nov­el­ist Susan Abul­hawa says, ​Pales­tine Writes is part of a ter­rain where our human­i­ty, cre­ative genius, and ancient cul­ture can thrive, as the phys­i­cal land of our ances­tors, our belong­ing, is being pulled from beneath our feet by colonizers.”

Like the Recon­struc­tion of Destroyed Pales­tin­ian Vil­lages project, Pales­tine Writes does not claim to restore Pales­tine, but it will aim to open space for think­ing about Palestine’s his­to­ry, present, and future in a unique­ly Pales­tin­ian-ground­ed man­ner. Pales­tin­ian poet Mah­moud Dar­wish, once said, ​Poems can’t estab­lish a state. But they can estab­lish a metaphor­i­cal home­land in the minds of the peo­ple. I think my poems have built some hous­es in this landscape.” 

Break­ing the silence” on Pales­tine will require press­ing the issue in mul­ti­ple venues. Giv­en the recent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, one of the key areas will be in the new Joe Biden admin­is­tra­tion. Nei­ther Biden nor Kamala Har­ris has shown even a mod­icum of con­cern for Pales­tin­ian rights, and it will be a test of the pro­gres­sive wing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty to place con­di­tions on any con­tin­u­ance of mil­i­tary and diplo­mat­ic sup­port for Israel. Pales­tine Writes is an essen­tial part of bring­ing a fuller spec­trum of Pales­tin­ian life onto the world stage, so that politi­cians know the peo­ple whose rights and lives hang in the balance.

In These Times is proud to fea­ture con­tent from Jacobin, a print quar­ter­ly that offers social­ist per­spec­tives on pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics. Sup­port Jacobin and buy a sub­scrip­tion for just $29.95.


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David Palumbo-Liu | Just another WordPress site (2021-08-02T05:58:08+00:00) » Demanding a Place for Palestinians in American Cultural Life – Palestinians aren’t just kept in misery and degradation by the Israeli occupation — they’re also silenced, at home and abroad. Palestinian activists and their supporters are trying to change that.. Retrieved from https://www.museumpirates.com/2020/11/23/demanding-a-place-for-palestinians-in-american-cultural-life-palestinians-arent-just-kept-in-misery-and-degradation-by-the-israeli-occupation-theyre-also-silenced/.
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» Demanding a Place for Palestinians in American Cultural Life – Palestinians aren’t just kept in misery and degradation by the Israeli occupation — they’re also silenced, at home and abroad. Palestinian activists and their supporters are trying to change that. | David Palumbo-Liu | Just another WordPress site | https://www.museumpirates.com/2020/11/23/demanding-a-place-for-palestinians-in-american-cultural-life-palestinians-arent-just-kept-in-misery-and-degradation-by-the-israeli-occupation-theyre-also-silenced/ | 2021-08-02T05:58:08+00:00
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