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Until Return - Issue 2


by Nader Abuljebain
Al Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition
November 15, 2007

As we all know, there are various modes of resistance to oppression. In some cases, as in the Palestine Liberation struggle, it has been a key element in the more than 60 years of European Zionist intervention, and the struggle of our people to reclaim and return to their land. The significance of cultural resistance in the Palestinian national struggle for liberation is usually
underestimated and often overlooked.

Cultural resistance is not an end in and of itself. Every other aspect of resistance is informed by its cultural aspect, both inside the resistance and among its supporters. For activists cultural resistance is also political resistance. In the United States, caught in the grip of powerful
Zionist forces that dominate and control much of the cultural space, it has been extremely difficult for Palestinian activists and their supporters to break through the barrier of the imperial narrative that justifies all aspects of the US/Zionist push into West Asia. The purpose of this dominant narrative is to rally the support of the North American population for the crimes against humanity that have taken place in Palestine, since the Balfour Declaration set the European dominated imperial project on its devastating course from 1917 until today.

History shows that colonialists maintained their control by repressing the cultural life of the colonized. In Palestine under Zionist occupation it has taken different shapes and forms, such as censoring the educational curriculum, closure and harassment of institutions of civil society,
stealing cultural artifacts, launching failed archeological campaigns to prove the Hebraic existence in specific Palestinian localities, changing names and creating new names for all occupied areas in Palestine, and not least, the suppression of artistic expression. This is illustrated in the excellent book by Keith Whitman The Invention of Ancient Israel, The
Silencing of Palestinian History.

Even current history shows how the Colonialists conspired with the Zionist state to separate the Palestinian Refugees issue from the Refugee issue in general.

The United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) was founded in 1950. It has done much by way of good humanitarian work for Palestinian Refugees from health, to education, to social work, to employment, etc... .

But the dangerous intentional part about forming the UNRWA, was to be a different agency from the United Nations Higher Committee for Refugees (UNHCR), that takes care of World Refugees; so by this separation the Palestinians might not be called Refugees, but rather should be dissolved in the Arab World.

All liberation movements against the European colonizers knew only too well that culture plays a significant role in struggles against the colonizers. Amilcar Cabral, the Guinea Bissau revolutionary leader, believed that culture is one of the most important weapons in the hands of the colonized. As Palestinians we understand this, and cultural resistance, has become an
integral part of the political struggle. Its essence is that not only the hearts and minds of the colonized are a bulwark against colonialism, but the people's connection to the land is powerful and cannot be separated from their identity, no matter how powerful the occupier or how far away they live from their homeland.

The Palestinian Narrative is a sacred task that must be protected, preserved, and spread to the entire world, as a reminder, of that continued slow genocide imposed by the occupier, and as an inspiration to the future generations who will continue the struggle until the establishment of the free secular democratic state in Palestine, with "One Person One Vote".

Maintaining our Arab face and culture is a responsibility that will be kept alive in every way possible, in all fields of the Arab Palestinian life, Art, Music, Poetry, Pottery, Embroidery, Folklore, Dancing, Acting, Singing, Costumes, Coloured glass industry, Fables and Popular tales, Coins, Stamps, Engagement and Wedding traditions, Birth celebration, and Death mourning, Religious and Social seasons, Industry and Agriculture, Food and Deserts,
Handcrafts and Art crafts, Fossils and Scrolls, Architecture and Archeology, Geography and History. All forms and aspects of the Palestinian daily and historical life has to be not only preserved, but also maintained and publicized through the Radio, TV, Seminars, Lectures, Conferences and Conventions.

As Dr, Anis Sayegh wrote in his introduction to Palestinian History in Postage Stamps- Collection of Nader Khairiddine Abuljebain:

"Palestine is in our memories, but it is not merely a memory. It is more than a mere memory, for it is the foundation stone, while memories are just images or dreams.

Photographs, coins, inscriptions, antiques, postcards, implements, foodstuffs, drinks, games, furniture, architectural styles and books. These are things of which memories are made...........

Therefore, the collection (stamps) of Nader Abuljebain should serve as a spur to action, beside which shrill speeches and neat slogans pale into insignificance. It refreshes our memory, fortifies our will, and strengthens our resolve."

To confront the theft of our culture and heritage is a fierce battle that is fought every day by our people. We have before us at all times the consequences of the Zionist occupation: the theft of our homes and lands has led to the theft of our arts, our food, our costumes and they have claimed them as their own. When they invaded Lebanon in 1982, they destroyed the
Palestinian Research Center, and they did the same thing to the Sakakini Cultural Center in Bier Zeit. They continue to attempt to steal our very identity. However, the enemy has realized its failure, because despite the massive genocidal military campaigns, and the operations aimed at ethnic eradication, and the apartheid practices performed against the Palestinian Arabs now and during the last Century, the Palestinian people have stayed alive, reproducing and flourishing, and maintaining their heritage and culture. The very fact of our continued existence in the face of the world's longest standing and horrific occupation is living testimony to the heroism of our people. This process has given the newer generations a pride of their ancestry and heritage and the momentum and strength to resist inside Palestine and in exile.

Under the leadership of Palestinian community-based groups, we must all assume a larger role in cultural activism focusing on the Right of Return, and reminding the world that colonial 'Israel' was not established on an empty piece of land but rather its imposition was based on a slow genocide and expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs, and the expropriation of the
Arab Palestinian land. Anywhere in the world people know they live on the land, but for the Palestinians their land lives in them. They are inextricably and intimately linked to that space and that land in all of Arab Palestine. There will be no lasting peace in the region UNLESS that
link, that organic unity between the exiled Palestinians and their homeland, is restored. It is at the core of the Palestinian struggle.

At a time when the US, and the Zionists world-wide are searching for a way to 'settle' this conflict, we see Palestinian and other Arab officials willing to surrender our inalienable right to be a people on our own restored land. This will not happen, because we understand that our struggle is a long-term generational one. Our main task as communities in exile is the preservation and bequeathing of our heritage to the younger generations. We need to develop institutions to carry on such a monumental task.

How we have gone about doing this and what still remains to be done will be the subject of Part Two of this series.

Back to Until Return Issue 2


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