Being an Arab under the heel of Israeli rule

por Gianni Carta publicado 14/04/2015 09h34, última modificação 23/04/2015 20h09
Life in Occupied Palestine, an academic volume now available free of charge through the Project Muse, depicts the day-to-day realities endured by this suffering population

Under Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, there will be no Palestinian state. That was Netanyahu’s main promise when campaigning for his hawkish political party Likud, which in the March 17legislative elections led him to his fourth consecutive victory. Under the third Netanyahu administration, some observers naively believed (or pretended to believe) that he was considering, under the mediation of the US Secretary of State John Kerry, some sort of compromise with Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Yet, encouraged by other anti-two-state solution parties with which Likud is in alliance, Netanyahu increased settlements in the West Bank and around Jerusalem. Divide to conquer, as the Romans used to do. Checkpoints in areas that belong to Palestine under the so-called international law proliferated in a shifting maze with an obvious aim: nobody knew how to get from one city to the other. Now this may only get worse.

For those who did not know that Netanyahu, now 65, had never considered a two-state solution—and are unaware of the brutality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine—I strongly recommend Life in Occupied Palestine, in Biography, a quarterly published by the University of Hawai’i Press. The volume (37, number 2), printed in the spring of 2014 and edited by Cynthia Franklin, Morgan Cooper and Ibrahim G. Aoudé, “is now available freely through the Project Muse, and hard copies are just being sent out,” Franklin tells me. It is an edifying volume for those who want to know more about the atrocities committed by the Israelis against the Palestinians, but also for those who have studied or reported on the Israeli occupied territories. Furthermore, the volume offers readers an ample view of Palestine, as the articles are written by academics from different fields of study and thus with different approaches and perceptions of the occupied territories. It also helps that the authors come from different backgrounds and countries, making the volume a multicultural debate about Palestine.

For instance, Magid Shihade (see interview), a political scientist at Birzeit University, in the West Bank, writes about “how the Israeli settler colonial state structurally disrupted the mobility, memory, and local and regional identity of Palestinians in Israel generally.” Structuring his article on two picnics in 1962 and 1972 around the village of Kafr Yassif, colonized in 1948, Shihade explains that “the British colonial rulers” and other nations, “chief among them the United States,” betrayed Palestine by “turning it over” to the Zionists. The Zionists, in turn, “armed and financed by different western countries, destroyed all urban centers that the Palestinians had built before 1948, displaced about 84 percent of the Palestinian society, and razed hundreds of villages and towns.” Shihade’s is an enlightening text about “people’s sense of place,” alienation, fear, racism—and the purposeful Israeli ghettoization of Arab cities. Alex Winder, a PhD candidate in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, bases his article on the diary entries written by a Palestinian villager describing his difficulties and those of other compatriots following the 1948 war. Refaat R. Alareer, who teaches Creative Writing and World Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, tells us how Palestinians become acquainted with their past and culture from the elderly in their families, whose accounts “go far beyond entertainment.” As Alareer says, “If I allowed a story to stop, I would be betraying my legacy, my mother, my grandmother, and my homeland.”

Franklin, a professor of English at the University of Hawai’i, writes that “coediting this volume is a privilege: through working on it I have established friendships and alliances with contributors, and learned from them about the ongoing history of, and the urgent need to end, Israel’s colonization, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine.” For her part, the coeditor Morgan Cooper, who has lived for over a decade in Ramallah, where she runs the Café la Vie, reminisces that when she arrived in Israel and soon had to go through a checkpoint to get to the West Bank’s capital she realized “something was terribly wrong.” An American national and holder of a Master’s in Cultural Studies from the University of Hawai’i, Cooper says that having grown up “in a society where Zionism seemed common sense,” it took her a long time “to put the pieces together and identify what was wrong.”

In fact, as Franklin sums it up, the aim of Life in Occupied Palestine “is to challenge the Zionist narrative” of events in Palestine reported (or not reported, when anti-Zionist) by “The New York Times and other mainstream US and Israeli sources.” Of course, we should add that, with rare exceptions, the mainstream global neoliberal media is pro-Israel, not just a number of US media platforms. For instance, Franklin observes how Tel Aviv launched a military operation to find three Yeshiva students that were allegedly kidnapped in June 2014 in Hebron by the “Arab terrorist group” Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since its victory in direct elections in 2006. Besieged by Israel, Hamas has an armed wing in the small territory that several observers consider the largest open-air prison in the world.

Searching the three students in the West Bank, troops of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) invaded universities, cities, and villages in the West Bank. Six Palestinians lost their lives, writes Franklin. The NYT and the mainstream media did not report a single story on the damage the Israeli soldiers inflicted on the population. Neither did the majority of international media platforms, including those here in Europe.

The invasion of the West Bank preceded the Israeli war against Gaza in the summer of 2014. Netanyahu retaliated for two initial reasons. First, he deemed it necessary to eliminate Hamas for having kidnapped and killed the three students in the West Bank. Second, Hamas was launching Qassam rockets and mortars into Israeli territory. However, independent investigators reported that Hamas had not orchestrated the kidnapping, nor the assassination of the three students. The authors of the kidnapping and assassination of the students were a handful of radicals from another group, which also launched the rockets and mortars. A few militant groups in Gaza believe Hamas is not radical enough in the conflict against Israel. Therefore, Netanyahu shifted the attention of his compatriots—and of the global media—to the tunnels that Hamas had built to fight IDF troops in Gaza and in Israel, to store weapons, and to smuggle products not allowed to the Palestinians. The Israelis destroyed 40 tunnels, but several remain intact. The disparities between Israeli (mostly military) causalities and those of Palestinians are huge. During the Gaza War, which lasted 50 days, over 2,100 Palestinians died. The vast majority of them were civilians. By contrast, 66 Israeli soldiers and six civilians were killed. Yet Amnesty International accused both sides of war crimes.

Asked how to bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and find a solution for the existence of the occupied territories as a nation, Franklin responds: “The best hope is to compel the Israeli government to comply with the international law, according to BDS, the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.’” Franklin adds, “Those measures seem to me the best and most viable solution to end Israeli apartheid, occupation, and settler colonization.”

Not all writers of Life in Occupied in Palestine believe in the same methods to deal with Israel. These different perceptions are always welcome as they make us reflect, and that should be the goal of any academic journal. Morgan Cooper, for instance, has a different view from Franklin. Cooper says, “I no longer praise the nonviolent resistance.” The reason? A turning point was seeing “the burning […] of a fifteen-year-old Palestinian boy alive at the hands of the occupiers.” When Palestinians demand “the most basic human rights,” they end up in jail. Thousands are in prison. All the people who work in her café have been in jail. Cooper says she is tired of seeing “the violent theft of lands.” She is tired “of seeing injustices Palestinians have suffered and continue to suffer hour after hour, a deep rooted, legally enshrined right to resist by any means they possess.” Cooper adds, “Israeli military occupation and colonization of Palestine is illegal and immoral. American tax dollars front most of the bill for the violence. America has responsibility for what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, and like Israel, should be held accountable.”

A review of the issue and related events in Palestine in as-Safir:

من دفاتر شعب محتلّ
“بيوغرافي” الأميركية “تحت الاحتلال”:
ثلاثة مقاهٍ وعددٌ خاص
غلاف المجلة لعددها الفلسطيني
غلاف المجلة لعددها الفلسطيني
 |  كتبت مورغن كوبر: “أولئك الذين لا يعرفون فلسطين إلّا من خلال إعلام الماينستريم، عليهم أن يباشروا في قراءة القصة من زاويةٍ مختلفة”. وكوبر هي أكاديمية شارَكت إلى جانب كل من سينثيا فرانكلين وإبراهيم عودة في تحرير وتقديم العدد الخاص من مجلة “بيوغرافي” الذي يدور حول فلسطين.
رسالة كوبر، أعلاه موجّهة، خصوصاً، إلى أولئك الذين يهتمون بقراءة ما لا تقوله معظم وسائل الإعلام في الجانب الآخر من العالم. وما لا يقال يأتي ليناقض سرديّة الإعلام السائد (“ماينستريم”) الذي رأت أن دوره هناك يقتصر على تقديم صورة نمطيّة مُعلّبة لا تحاكي الواقع الفلسطيني. الهدف إذاً هو محاولة الإضاءة على بعض جوانب حياة الفلسطينيين، الاستثنائية كما “العادية”، تحت الاحتلال.“بيوغرافي”، فلسطين، والسيرة

لأكثر من ثلاثين عاماً، اعتُبرت مجلة “بيوغرافي”، الفصليّة، منتدىً مهماً لكتابة السير الذاتية المتخصّصة، بالإضافة إلى أنّها تتميّز بمقالات تبحث في البُعد النظري كما العام، إلى جانب الثقافي والتاريخي. وتقدم أبحاثاً عميقة تدمج ما بين الأدب والتاريخ والفنون والعلوم الاجتماعيّة، من هنا صلتها بالسير الذاتية.
في الثاني من شهر شباط الجاري، صدر عدد “بيوغرافي” الخاص بعنوان “الحياة في فلسطين المحتلة”. والمجلة هي منشورٌ أكاديميّ صادر عن جامعة “هاواي” الأميركيّة. وإلى جانب الجهد الذي بذله المحررون الثلاثة: سينثيا فرانكلين، ومورغِن كوبر، وإبراهيم عودة، على مدى أكثر من عام، ساهم 19 كاتباً، معظمهم فلسطينيين، في كتابة المحتوى. ومن خلال عدسة الحياة اليوميّة للفلسطينيين، يعرّف هؤلاء معنى حياتهم، من الشتات إلى الهجرة والاعتقال والقهر.. والحنين.
من “الحدود، والرحلات، والوطن”، في الجزء الأول من المجلّة الذي يمضي في استكشاف أشكال المقاومة والإبداع التي تسمح للفلسطينيين بالتنقل من خلال العقبات الصعبة التي تحدّد حياتهم اليوميّة، إلى التركيز في الجزء الثاني على كيفية مقاومة العنف والاحتلال والاستعمار بالفن والتعبير الإبداعي. حمل الجزء الثاني عنوان: “الغزوات، والاعتقالات، والخيال المتمرّد”، فيما يشرح المساهمون في الجزء الثالث عن “التضامن المتبادل والعلاقات الثورية”. فيشرح هذا الجزء عن طريقة الحياة التي تؤكّد، مرّة جديدة، أنّ التعاطف مع فلسطين محوريّ ويحتاج إلى تمتين. ويلفت الجزء الرابع الانتباه إلى العمل الصّلب الذي تؤديه حركة “المقاطعة وسحب الاستثمارات وفرض العقوبات BDS”، باعتبارها الوسيلة الأنجع لترشيد تحرّك المجتمع الدولي تضامناً مع الفلسطينيين.
أما مقدمة المجلة فتقوم على أربعة أجزاء، وعنوانها: “ثلاثة مقاهٍ وعدد خاص”. تراها تعكس آثار الاحتلال على الأكاديميين الفلسطينيين، فيناقش المحررون الثلاثة ما يعنيه أن تكتب سيراً ذاتية، بينما يقتل مئات الفلسطينيين في غزّة. إذ ان أجزاء المقدمة كُتبت قبل وخلال العدوان الإسرائيلي الأخير على القطاع، ما يبرز في الجزء الرابع من المقدمة التي خصّصت للإضاءة على حرب غزة.
كل موضوع في العدد يُطرح من زاوية وتجربة شخصيّة. فتحضر الدوافع التضامنيّة، كحال مورغِن كوبر المتزوجة من فلسطيني والتي تعيش في رام الله، حيث تشارك تجربة الاعتقال والحياة المذلّة في الضفة الغربية. كذلك، تحضر الدوافع الشخصية، مثل تجربة إبراهيم عودة مع العيش في مخيمات الشتات.

صداقات وتحالفات على طريق الجامعة

11 يوماً كانت مدّة زيارة سينثيا فرانكلين إلى الضفّة الغربية في أيار العام 2013. خلالها، شاركت في ندوة حول “تنمية مهارات أعضاء هيئة التدريس”، مخصّصة لتعزيز التواصل بين الأكاديميين والمثقّفين الفلسطينيين من جهة، والأكاديميين الأميركيين (غير المتخصصين في الشأن الفلسطيني – الإسرائيلي) من جهة أخرى.
هدف الزيارة كان واضحاً بالنسبة إلى فرانكلين: كمحرّرة مساهمة في “بيوغرافي”، “أردت أن أتعرّف إلى أشخاص يُمكن أن يكونوا مهتمّين في المساهمة عبر كتابة نصوص للمجلّة عن الحياة في ظلّ الاحتلال”. ولكن الأمر لم يعد يقتصر على “العمل معاً”، لأنّ التحضير للعدد الخاص أتاح لفرانكلين أن تؤسّس صداقات وتحالفات مع الكتّاب المساهمين. “تعلّمت منهم: الحاجة الملحّة لإنهاء الاستعمار والاحتلال الإسرائيليين”. فالفلسطينيون، داخل أراضي العام 1948، يواجهون قيوداً وصعوبات لناحية التعليم، وهو ما لمسَته في مختلف أنحاء فلسطين أيضاً خلال زيارتها لخمس جامعات هي: بيرزيت، بيت لحم، الخليل، القدس، والنجاح.
ويحدث مراراً أنّ حتى أولئك الذين يعيشون على مقربة من مؤسساتهم التعليمية، يستغرقون، يومياً، ساعات للوصول إلى حرم الجامعة. وتروي كيف أنّ الطلاب وأعضاء هيئة التدريس يقطعون مسافات طويلة لاجتياز جدار الفصل العنصري، وكيف أنّ الهدم العشوائي لمنازل الفلسطينيين يؤدّي، غالباً، إلى قطع الطرق، وتالياً عدم القدرة على الوصول إلى الجامعة.
منذ العام 1967، وبينما كانت إسرائيل تبني آلاف الوحدات الاستيطانية، غير الشرعية، في الضفّة الغربية، هدم الاحتلال منازل ومؤسسات ومرافق فلسطينية يصل عددها إلى أكثر من 28 ألفاً.
وإلى جانب تلك العوائق التي تحول دون حق الفلسطيني في التعلّم، هناك أيضاً الكلفة العاطفية والعصبية، تضاف إلى المذلّة والغضب والخوف، وثمن المقاومة – أو، بمعنى أدق: البقاء على قيد الحياة – وعنف الفصل العنصري والاستعمار والاحتلال.
“خلال زيارتي القصيرة إلى الضفة الغربيّة، أصبحت شاهدةً على طرق العيش في فلسطين المحتلة، وكيفية ارتباطها بالماضي”، بالإضافة إلى حالات العنف الطارئة التي تتطلّب الكتابة والتحرير على نحو عاجل، لأولئك الذين يعيشون في ظل الاحتلال.

قهوة سادة.. وسلاح

“المزيد من الموت في غزة، يعني المزيد من القهوة السادة”.. (مورغِن كوبر).
ترمز القهوة السادة في المجتمعات الشرقية عموماً إلى كرم الضيافة والترحيب، قبل أن تصبح جزءاً من مراسم العزاء. وكانت مورغِن كوبر جاهلة تماماً لما يجري في هذا البلد عندما وصلت إلى مطار “بن غوريون” – اللدّ، في العام 2003. تقول: “أمضيت سنوات طويلة وأنا أحاول إقناع بعض الأميركيين، الذين لا يعرفون شيئاً عن فلسطين، أنّ هذا الشعب يقاوم بطريقة سلميّة. أنا أؤيّدهم. ولكن بعدما حضرت أولى الاحتجاجات والجنازات، تغيّر كل شيء. أنا الآن أؤمن بأنّ كل وسائل المقاومة مشروعة للشعب الفلسطيني المحتلّ، والمقاومة حقّ مطلق. لم أعد أثنِ على المقاومة السلمية”.
حين وصلت سينثيا، وهي أميركيّة يهوديّة، إلى فلسطين، كان بإمكانها، لو أرادت، أن تحصل على الجنسيّة الإسرائيليّة خلال أسبوع واحد. في المقابل، سُمح لإبراهيم عودة، وهو لاجئ فلسطيني يحمل جواز سفر أميركي، بأن يزور بلاده كسائح فقط. ولذلك، وإلى أن تحين العودة، اختار إبراهيم ألّا يزور فلسطين.
يروي في مقدمته أنّ فلسطين هي “النقطة المحورية في الصراع العربي”، رابطاً الأحداث التي تجري في كل من فلسطين وسوريا والعراق وليبيا وتونس ومصر بالقول: “لن يكون بمقدور المرء أن يفهم، تماماً، النضال الفلسطيني من أجل التحرّر، من دون فهم البيئة التي يحدث فيها هذا الصراع، إلى جانب مصالح الدول الاقتصادية والجيوسياسية في مستقبل هذه المنطقة”.
يكمل: “ويؤكّد هذه النتيجة ما جرى من انتفاضات في العالم العربي في العام 2010، وكذلك غزو واحتلال العراق في العام 2003. حالة الفوضى التي تعيشها الدول العربية، أضعفت الشرعية والنضال من أجل القضية الفلسطينية، وأدت طبعاً إلى تعزيز قبضة إسرائيل في المنطقة”.


تقول فرانكلين، إنّ إنجاز هذا العدد الخاص، “علّمني الكثير عن الصمود”، وليس فقط صمود أولئك الفتية الملثّمين الذين يظهرون على غلاف المجلة، ويحملون العلم الفلسطيني في أبهى صور المقاومة، بينما تسقط الصواريخ الإسرائيلية على أرض فلسطين وناسها.
إذ يتجلّى الصمود أيضاً، من خلال المساهمين الذين يكتبون القصائد ويزرعون الياسمين في المعتقل، هؤلاء الذين يحفرون في الماضي ويبنون حاضراً جديداً، وأولئك الذين يحكون لأولادهم عن مستقبل أفضل، وينظّمون مسيرات ويؤيّدون المقاطعة. لقد رآهم المحررون الثلاثة جميعاً في فلسطين أحياناً في بيوت مختلفة وأحياناً في جسمٍ واحد.
يروي هذا العدد قصصاً عن الحياة اليوميّة التي يعيشها الفلسطينيون، أي حياتهم الاستثنائية. كما يحكي كذلك عن المساعي الصهيونية لنزع الشرعية والقضاء على ما تبقّى من حياة هؤلاء. وهكذا أيضاً، يتمّ ترميز المقاومة في سياق العدد، حيث يكتب المساهمون باللغة الانكليزية لمنشورٍ دوليّ صادر عن جامعةٍ أميركية.. ويتحدّى كذلك، الانقسامات القاتلة التي أوجدها الفصل العنصري، والاستعمار الاستيطاني، والتطهير العرقي، والاحتلال، ليقدّم رؤى لـ “الحياة معاً”.. وتحرير فلسطين.
// كادر //


• الجزء الأول: “الحدود، والرحلات، والوطن”
نادرة شلهوب كيفوركيان، سارة لحمود | منفي في الوطن: العودة والوطن الفلسطيني
آلكس ويندر | بعد النكبة: يوميات قروي فلسطيني، 1949
ماجد شحادة | ليست نزهة: استعمار المستوطنين، والتنقل، وهوية الفلسطينيين في إسرائيل
لينا هشام الشريف | إقصاء
هنيدة غانم | الجدار: يوميات المقاومة – قضية قرية المرجة الفلسطينية 1949 – 1967
• الجزء الثاني: “الغزوات، والاعتقالات، والخيال المتمرّد”
مورغِن كوبر تحاور روان أبو رحمة | التمرّد العرضي
سينثيا فرانكلين تحاور رجا شحادة | نحو لغة جديدة في التحرّر
رفعت العرعير | غزة تكتب: رواية فلسطين
لينا هشام الشريف | اكتب ما تعرفه… أعرف أنّي فلسطيني
سونيا نمر | أحلم بـ “نيفرلاند”
سعيد عمر | “الغذاء ليس قضيتنا”: انعكاسات الاضراب عن الطعام
• الجزء الثالث: “التضامن المتبادل والعلاقات الثورية”
ياسمين صالح حمايل، إصلاح جاد | من الضفة الغربية: رسائل وأعمال مقاومة
ريما نجّار | الحياة في أبو ديس تستمر بهدوء
يوسف الجمل | السفر كفلسطيني
سعيد عطشان، دارنيل مور | التضامن المتبادل
• الجزء الرابع: صياغة مستقبل عادل

عمر البرغوتي، فلسطين دويكات، والمحررين | الـ “أنا” في حركة المقاطعة: الإبداع الفردي

والمسؤولية في سياق التطبيق العملي الجماعي

Book of the Month in This Week in Palestine:

The Biography special issue titled Life in Occupied Palestine is a significant and unique collection of 17 articles, interviews, and literary pieces from 19 contributors and 3 guest editors. These pieces beautifully and powerfully capture both the mundane and the extraordinary of life in occupied Palestine. As contributor Honaida Ghanim writes in her piece: “My village’s border stories revolve around infiltrations, and its infiltration stories revolve around recapturing the ‘ordinary’ and mundane ways of living that, hindered by the borders, became extraordinary. There is nothing more mundane than bringing in a doctor from a nearby village or bringing eggs from a nearby city; and of course, there is nothing more normal than a mother visiting her son or a husband his family. Once upon a border, the mundane and the heroic were one and the same; listening to these stories, we can retrieve their heroism for times present as well as past.” This is true for so many of the pieces in the special issue.

The issue begins with a four-part introduction written by co-editors Cynthia Franklin, Morgan Cooper, and Ibrahim Aoudé. Largely composed between Honolulu and Ramallah, the introductions locate each editor in relation to Palestine and the special issue, against the backdrop of Israel’s 2014 summer massacre of Gaza. “Borders, Journeys, and Home,” the first section, goes on to explore forms of resistance and creativity that allow Palestinians to move through the daunting obstacles that define everyday life. The second section, “Invasions, Incarcerations, and Insurgent Imagination,” focuses on how Palestinians resist the violence of occupation and colonization through art and other acts of creative expression. In the third section, “Reciprocal Solidarities and Other Revolutionary Relations,” contributors demonstrate the possibilities of life narratives that do not allow for empathy to be enough. Instead, contributors advance and enact forms of solidarity and witnessing through genres that include letters, social-media postings, autobiography, and travel narrative. The special issue concludes with attention to a concrete and forward-looking form of action – the nonviolent BDS movement – that so many contributors have highlighted as a way the international community can act in solidarity with Palestinians.

The diversity of articles, topics, and voices testifies to the editors’ intention of shaping a collection from across Palestine in rejection of colonial divisions of West Bank and Gaza Strip which demarcate the settler-colonial state of Israel. The diversity in the collection also insists on the myriad of ways the Israeli occupation occupies Palestine and Palestinian lives and the greater ways in which Palestinians resist and insist on defining their own lives.

In addition to giving attention to space and forms of violence and resilience, the special issue also offers reflection on time and trajectories of colonialism in Palestine. Ruanne Abou Rahme, in an interview, deals with her recovery work on the incidental insurgent Abu Jildeh whom she reads as a precursor to the 1936 Arab Revolt against the British Mandate. Abou Rahme connects to the present moment: “When you read about what went on in the 1930s, it’s not surprising, because you find you’re living the same thing now. As in the 1930s when we were under British control, a Palestinian elite benefits from the occupation of Palestine and is invested in maintaining this structure.”

The personal narratives, excavations of incidental lives, testimonies, and other interventions included in this special issue work together to offer deep analyses and a shared vision for a just future for Palestine.

A series of panels, events, and discussions is planned in Palestine, the US, and the UK in March 2015. For more information, see:

Sarah Irving, “Palestinian Lives Celebrated in special issue of Biography,” in The Electronic Intifada (1/21/2015):

A special issue of the journal Biography – an academic publication from the University of Hawaii Press – launches this month with a focus on Palestinian lives.

Unlike many other academic works on Palestine, the contributors to this issue of the journal are almost exclusively Palestinian, and they explore issues such as diaspora, migration, confinement, oppression, nostalgia and longing through the lens of Palestinian life stories.

A three-part introduction by editors Cynthia Franklin, Morgan Cooper and Ibrahim Aoudé, titled “Three Cafes, and a Special Issue,” reflects on the impacts of occupation on Palestinian academics. The editors also discuss what it means to write and edit biography when Palestinians in Gaza are being killed by the thousands, and the relationship between the individual and history.

Each subject comes – as befits a journal focused on biographies – from a personal place. They range from that of the bearer of solidarities, the American wife of a Palestinian, sharing the humiliation and confinement of life in the West Bank, to that of the Jaffa-born Palestinian, looking back on a life in exile. The themes recur throughout the journal issue.

In his article ”Not Just a Picnic: Settler Colonialism, Mobility and Identity among Palestinians in Israel,” for example, Magid Shihade of Birzeit University traces issues of identity and belonging among Palestinian citizens of Israel through the experiences of inhabitants of the Galilee village of Kufr Yasif. What does it mean, he asks, for them to live “as citizens of a state that was built on the ruins of their own society”?

But in his opening paragraphs, Shihade also reflects on what it means to do biographical research amongst occupied and oppressed communities, as he considers the meaning of an encounter with the village’s imam:

While talking about the need for Palestinian input regarding the relationship between Palestinian society and the Israeli state, and the responsibility of Palestinian scholars to enable Palestinian voices to be heard, the Imam argued that no matter what Palestinians write, Israeli authorities and their western supporters will use this writing to their advantage, and to the disadvantage of the local community.

While some articles are creative or historical in tone, some are more directly linked to issues of resistance and solidarity, such as Sa’ed Atshan and Darnell Moore’s work on the links between black and Palestinian queer struggles, or Omar Barghouti and Falastine Dwikat on individual creativity and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Other contributions, meanwhile, cover a range of historical periods and experiences, ranging from Alex Winder’s “After the Nakba in Nuba: A Palestinian Villager’s Diary, 1949” to reflections on the recent book Gaza Writes Back by its editor, Refaat Alareer.

FREE WORD CENTRE Newsletter features mention of the special issue and Lina Al-Shariff’s “Locked Out”:

US journal ‘Biography”s special issue on Occupied Palestine is launched in Gaza, by Yousef Aljamal (June 22, 2015) – See more at:

The Center for Political and Development Studies in Gaza, Palestine held a launch for Life in Occupied Palestine, a special issue of Biography, an Interdisciplinary Quarterly of biographical scholarship published by the University of Hawaii Press, a forum which explores the theoretical, generic, historical, and cultural dimensions of life-writing integrating literature, history, art, and the social sciences as they relate to biography. 

Highlighting the life of Palestinians under occupation, Cynthia Franklin, Morgan Cooper and Ibrahim G. Aoudé co-edited this newly released special issue, which has 17 authors contributing articles addressing aspects of life under occupation; the hardships and aspirations of Palestinians and their means to resist the Israeli occupation. The stories include writers from all parts of Palestine, which makes it a particularly an important issue.

Addressing Gaza’s audience via Skype, Franklin spoke of the significance of writing as a collective as well as an individual act, in addition to the importance of writing and narrating especially in the U.S, where pro-Palestine academics are being harassed:

In Life in Occupied Palestine, contributors’ writings testify to how narrating stories about Palestinian lives becomes a political and collective act as well as a deeply personal and individual one. Life narratives can challenge as well as support the Zionist project that normalizes its practices of denying and erasing the existence of Palestinians. In the United States, as is true elsewhere, attacks on academics and public intellectuals for their alleged anti-Jewish sentiments and uncivil behavior do not only limit their civil rights and free speech. Stories about these uncivil individuals also serve to silence or distort the challenges they pose to dominant US narratives that render Palestinians as non-existent, or as terrorists. The quelling of free speech in the United States, in other words, works in tandem with Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians.

Franklin, a lecturer at the University of Hawai’i, clarifies that Palestinian narratives, including those from a new generation of Palestinians, are not in short supply, yet these stories are being suppressed by the mainstream channels:

Both the narratives that circulate, and also those that are silenced or censored—after all, Palestinian narratives are in no short supply, they just get suppressed in mainstream channels—are key to the dehumanization of Palestinians upon which the Israeli state depends.

Franklin stressed the necessity of being creative when it to comes to bringing up ideas in order to win the battle for Justice in Palestine, quoting Palestinian activist and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, Ali Abunimah, as saying “the battle for justice in Palestine is and has always been, first and foremost, a battle of ideas” (xiv). Franklin noted:

In this battle of ideas, there are material consequences to how individual lives and deaths are represented, or not represented. That is why in addition to building its military’s arsenal of weaponry, the state of Israel invests many millions of dollars into “Brand Israel” campaigns—hasbara that, often by way of cultural ambassadors, sustains the Zionist narrative.

The U.S academic added “that is also why Morgan Cooper, Ibrahim Aoude and I wanted to co-edit the special Biography issue, and why we were so happy to have the support of the journal, the University of Hawai‘i Press, and Project MUSE, in making the amazing work of its contributors available for free downloading.

The battle for justice in Palestine, too, in its essence, is about allowing Palestinians to tell their stories, to be represented themselves, rather than being represented by others. As late Palestinian literary theorist Edward Said explained in his writings: “the one thing we have not tried in all seriousness is to rely on OURSELVES: until we do that with a full commitment to success there is no chance that we can advance towards self-determination and freedom from aggression.” 

Franklin stressed that contributors to the special issue have demonstrated that, as their voices have been silenced, they have resisted this silencing and misrepresentation:

As contributors to “Life in Occupied Palestine” demonstrate ways their voices and existence are simultaneously silenced as well as demonized, they also resist this erasure and misrepresentation. This resistance happens through accounts such as Yousef Aljamal’s “Traveling as a Palestinian,” and Lina Alsharif’s “Locked Out,” that evidence how Israel’s systemic violence impacts Palestinians as a people and in the most intimate of ways. Resistance, as Refaat Alareer’s essay makes so beautifully clear, also takes the form of telling stories that give voice to the love, joy, friendship, humor, wonder, and triumphs that offer forms of survival; and also through narratives evidencing how Palestinians’ organized political struggle, like their personal narratives, dismantle rather than simply reverse binaries that limit who counts as human and as deserving of human rights.

Refaat Alareer, the editor of Gaza Writes Back, Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine talked about his contribution to the special issue titled “Gaza Writes Back: Narrating Palestine.” Alareer, a lecturer at the Islamic University of Gaza, explained how he assigned his students, soon after Israel’s Cast Lead Operation in 2008-9, to write short stories instead of writing research papers, as a means to release their tension and to give them a platform to tell their own stories, as a means of healing. “Research papers are important, but I thought of assigning them to do something new, to be creative,” he added. “I remember how my mom would tell us stories when we were young. She would tell the same stories in many different ways, by adding new elements and new characters, so that we don’t get bored,” he continued.

Storytelling is common in the Palestinian culture, where older people tell their children bed stories as well as stories of children who didn’t listen to their mother’s instructions and got in trouble, according to him. Following this path, Alareer revealed that he used to tell his little daughters stories “to get them distracted, as Israel was bombing Gaza.” He suggested that short stories make us more human, and bring us back to our humanity. They also take our narrative globally, adding that “the book is well-known now, every week I receive e-mails from people all over the world telling me they read the book. The book has been translated into Malay and will be translated into Italian.”

Lina Alsharif, a resident of Gaza and a mother currently based in Qatar, is a poetess and former student of Alareer. Since she was a university student at IUG in Gaza she has been blogging and writing. Alsharif joined the lecture via Skype as she has been unable to visit her family in Gaza for more than three years. In Locked Out, her contribution to Biography, Lina spoke of being away from family and how it felt. 

When my friends ask me “Why are you staying behind? Why don’t you go home?,” my mind starts whirling, for how am I going to explain how I am being stripped of the very basic, the very ordinary, the very human right to be reunited with my family in Gaza-Palestine.

As Alsharif spoke of her concern of having her daughter to grow up away from her family her little daughter joined the conversation by producing some noise to the delight of the audience.

As a contributor to the special issue, I told the story behind Travelling as a Palestinian, my contribution to Biography:

I wanted to travel to NZ in 2013 to attend the National Conference on Palestine, but my visa application was rejected. I applied again after providing some more documents, and I finally got it… When I wanted to go back home, I applied for an Egyptian visa at the Egyptian Embassy in Wellington, but they never got back to me. I had to go back to Malaysia to get the visa, as it was easier for Palestinians to get an Egyptian visa from there. The day I got it, I the border was shut down, so I was sent back to Malaysia by the Egyptian authorities. I got stuck there for two weeks, and I finally managed to go back to Gaza, hoping that I would be able to get out again in a few weeks. I was wrong, I got stuck in Gaza for three months, and it took me fives attempts to cross the border to Egypt to join my graduate school. I faced the same problem when I traveled to the U.S, my visa was rejected first. I got it later. Even when I wanted to go back to Gaza, I faced numerous problems; this is the story of every single Palestinian. This is traveling as a Palestinian.

The launch is part of a series of events and talks organized by CPDS to further promote the Palestinian cause in the English-speaking world. A copy of Biography is available at CPDS’ Hashim Yeop Sani Library. The launch of the special issue also took place in the U.S, U.K, Malaysia and Palestine, at which various authors and editors spoke. The issue is available online for free here.

– See more at:


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existence, resistance, life writing

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