New narratives in political history

Palestine Updates 60

OpinionNew narratives in political history
This issue of ‘Palestine Updates’ brings you subaltern perspectives from the Palestinian struggle.

Palestine has been tyrannized by a racist-colonialist regime for 70 years. During this period Israel has been thriving by creating narratives about the Israel-Palestine conflict from a slant that favours the Jewish people against the Arab population in Israel as well those in the occupied territories and in the diaspora. The mainstream media, controlled as it often is, by Zionist entities report news from Palestine-Israel in a way that projects the Arabs as crude terrorists who want to exterminate the Israelis at all costs. Public perception, especially in the Western world, views Palestinians in a negative light.

The political circumstances under which Israel was created has massively and cruelly pushed Palestinians into the margins. Palestinians face a kind of oppression that, perhaps, has no parallel in world history. The Jews would argue that their victimization during the holocaust was the worst ever. Comparisons, however, offer few or no solutions at all. The oppressed are the only ones who understand and can describe their suffering. The occupation and holocaust are, but, different forms of political oppression. One dehumanized an entire people and the occupation is no different. Those who reject this interpretation are in denial of the hard truth about the occupation.
Palestinians have a long and rich history. They have amongst them political analysts, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, who, by examining their history; have enabled the Palestinian to continuously firm up their faith and patience in the face of oppression. In their efforts, this group of Palestinian intelligentsia is seeking to create a common, single narrative about their situation.

Rifat Kassis, one of Palestine’s leading social thinkers and prominent human rights activist, underlines this unity is essential at the top, as well as at the grassroots level: “We need to have a real unity between all parties and not only a ‘paper agreement’ between Hamas and Fatah. [We need to] strengthen the civil resistance, strengthen the BDS campaign internationally, and work on protecting the people and preserving their existence by supporting them to be steadfast and resist.”

Kassis is not alone in this call. Numerous other Palestinian intellectuals are just as discouraged by the lack of concrete leadership, and recognize the need for urgent and profound structural change through political discourse. Clearly, nothing will change until the prevailing political divisions are removed. They are the obstacle to peace.  But, in addition, change will also come from external pressure and international solidarity. That, in turn, entails a new reading of history and not the stereotype notions of the conflict now prevalent.

Hopefully, the articles in this issue will offer readers new understandings, or reinforce notions and information already in currency.

Ranjan Solomon

 Israel confess to massacre IDF tried to censor

 “I saw a fair number of corpses,” recalled former Knesset member and Israeli government minister, Yair Tsaban, on the massacre carried out on the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, for director, Neta Shoshani. “I don’t remember encountering the corpse of a fighting man. Not at all. I remember mostly women and old men… An old man and a woman, sitting in the corner of a room with their faces to the wall, and they are shot in the back,” he recounted. “That cannot have been in the heat of battle. No way.”

Yet, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, critics vituperatively insist no such assault occurred, as Deir Yassin villagers were the aggressors against several pre-state militias battling for an independent, demarcated Israel. A few of the surviving smattering of eyewitnesses and participants in the atrocity relayed to Shoshani haunting memories of the decimation of the village — which began on the morning of April 9, 1948, as part of an operation meant to destroy a blockade on the road to Jerusalem in one of many incidents ultimately leading to what Israelis call the War of Independence — for a documentary entitled “Born in Deir Yassin.”

But, like any nation whose violent aggression leads to geostrategic or political victory over less-prepared defending forces, documentation, photographs, testimonies, and accounts from witnesses to the horrific Deir Yassin bloodbath have been cloistered away by the Israeli government. Seven decades after the fact, multiple records requests from Shoshani and Haaretz were not granted by Israel, under the premise the information would needlessly stir further controversy and possibly damage the country’s reputation. A mere cursory glance at the information Shoshani compiled for the documentary proves Israeli misgivings more than warranted.
Read entire narrative from Free Thought Project website

Archives belie Israel’s narrative of Palestinian conflict
Early members of the Zionist movement and later Israelis have consistently attempted to control the narrative of the conflict with the Palestinians, including by seizing photographic evidence of Palestine and the Palestinians’ history.

This appears to be the conclusion reached by two women, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, have dedicated most of their lives to researching images related to the conflict and their use and fate. They have concluded that in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, an image can also be as dangerous as a cannon. Images are powerful. When rightly projected a picture is worth a thousand words.

Rona Sela, a curator and lecturer at Tel Aviv University, recounted to Al-Monitor how she first became involved with these images 20 years ago. “I was doing research in the mid-1990s,” she began. “My focus was an analysis of Zionist photography in the early stages of the state of Israel. I researched the way institutional Zionist propaganda departments from the 1920s to 1948 used visual images to construct a national identity to build people’s consciousness about national issues. As the Palestinian narrative was, in most cases, missing from the Zionist one, I started searching for Palestinian images.”
Al Monitor carries the full article
Read more:

Jerusalem’s identity and the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict
Restrictions on access to the sacred sanctity of the Holy City of Jerusalem remains fuel to the fire of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, writes Dr Ibrahim Natil.

The identity and the special status of the old city of Jerusalem have already complicated the core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the occupation of the city in 1967. The Israelis took over the old city from King Hashemite of Jordan annexing it in 1948 as a part of the West Bank after the Jewish Israeli forces defeated the Palestinian Arabs and occupied the western part of the Holy City. The Israeli occupation has changed the demographic and heritage structure of the city and commemorates the occupation after 3,000 years from the “control of strangers” according to their “biblical doctrine”.

Jerusalem, because of its location and the fact that it is a holy city, has had a significant role in the formation of national identity. East Jerusalem is where the famous and most sacred holy sites and shrines of both Muslims and Christians are located. Palestinians are prevented from freely accessing Jerusalem from both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These shrines are considered as representing core values for Palestinian national identity. The current wave of protest also challenges the Israeli long-standing position that “Jerusalem is unified under Israeli sovereignty and the Jews have free movement to the Al Aqsa Mosque”.

The local citizens are spiritually and culturally connected to the Mosque. The Jerusalemites first ask each other every morning “How is the Mosque?” –  not, “How is your family, your children or your business?”
Independent Australia has the full article

Israeli damage to historical documents at Al-Aqsa Mosque
Israeli security forces have caused huge damage to historical documents at Al-Aqsa Mosque during the two weeks of crisis over the Muslim holy site. Head of the Manuscripts Department at Al-Aqsa Mosque has claimed: that “the occupation authorities have caused huge and extensive destruction to the libraries and facilities at Al-Aqsa Mosque as well as the manuscripts section. Specialized committees are continuing to assess and survey the damage, and will provide the official bodies with all the results once they are completed. There has been great concern about Israeli theft of important documents from Al-Aqsa departments concerning property and Muslim endowment in Jerusalem because of the lack of Waqf officials at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
More details in Palestine News Network –English

Rabbis for Human Rights petitions court against Jewish signs in Palestinian Hebron
“The settlers are trying to use the signs to change the identity of Hebron, erase Palestinian history and pretend we do not exist,” said Hebron resident Issa Amro. 

Rabbis for Human Rights has petitioned the High Court of Justice against Israeli signs in Hebron, warning that they were erasing Palestinian history in the West Bank city.

The signs in Hebrew and English direct pedestrians to Jewish areas of the city, located in the small sections under Israeli military control. The Hebron Jewish community’s signage projects is the latest in an Israeli-Palestinian cultural war over the identity of the city that is home to 220,000 Palestinians, but whose Jewish history dates back to Biblical times.

The Hebron Jewish community has also painted murals on some of the stone walls on the street highlighting the city’s Jewish history. One mural shows Jews in old-fashioned religious garb walking the streets.

In its petition against the signs, erected by the Committee for the Renewal of Hebron’s Jewish Community, Rabbis for Human Rights stated: “In a systematic, deliberate manner, the ‘Committee of the Renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron’ erases Palestinian cultural identity from Hebron’s Shuhada Street and replaces it with a narrative consistent with the position of its members.

Book review
Meet the Guardian of Palestine’s Past
Because the truth can’t stay buried forever
“Nazareth, the storied biblical city filled with the ghosts of Christianity’s past — or so the narrative goes. Ahmad Mrowat, a 6-foot-5 tower with a gentle countenance, wants to show you a different side to the Arab capital of Israel (and beyond). Using old photographs, documents and artifacts he obsessively hunts down, the 37-year-old archival specialist is slowly painting a picture of what transpired between biblical times and Nakba Day — the name for the 1948 exodus when, according to a mural on the city’s periphery, “more than 780,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes and land” by Zionist forces.”

“The stories of who lived on this slip of parched earth and how they lived before Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — is shrouded in obscurity. That’s in large part because the Israelis confiscated much of Palestine’s archives documenting their history, according to Dr. Rona Sela, a curator, researcher and Tel Aviv University lecturer, and the director of a new film called Looted and Hidden: Palestinian Archives in Israel. (The Israel Defense Forces did not respond to an email request for comment.) Mrowat has devoted his entire adult life to completing and correcting the record — for the roughly 12 million Palestinians living around the world, to be sure, but mostly for posterity.”

To understand the importance of his work, consider this: In June, Israeli writer Assaf Voll published A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era, which was made available as a free download and flew off the virtual bookshelves. The fact that it secured a spot on Amazon’s best-seller list is all the more surprising when you consider that each of its 120 pages is blank. The book was inflammatory and has since been pulled from the site. An article in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, said its “author” explained his work to the local radio station Kol Hai this way: “The Palestinian people believe they are a people, and someone needs to tell them the truth even if it hurts.”
Read the detailed version in

Book review
Letters from Palestine:
Palestinians speak out about their lives, their country, and the power of nonviolence

Many books have dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the Israeli perspective. However, few reflect the Palestinian point of view. Letters from Palestine offers an American audience a rare opportunity to listen to actual Palestinian people as they describe what it is like to live in the occupied territories of the West Bank or Gaza, or to grow up as a Palestinian in the U.S. Their accounts are lively, poignant, searing, and tragic, yet often laced with touches of surreal humor. By showing Palestinians in all their humanity, Letters from Palestine enables American readers to see beyond the usual stereotypes.

To purchase
· Kindle edition: US $ 2.77: Read with Free App
· Paperback