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Saturday, November 27, 2004

remembering palestine

memory is political. which parts of history are remembered and which are forgotten have an important impact on how we view ourselves and others, and consequently how we might treat ourselves and others. two excellent books by james loewen - "lies my teacher told me", and the better but less well-known "lies across america" - look at the politics of memory by examining history textbooks and historic sites, respectively.

when it comes to the history of israel/palestine, the dominant zionist discourse tends to exclude the tragedy suffered by palestinians in 1948 as a significant historical fact, obscure the fact of palestinian presence on the land before 1948, and even distort palestinian grief, interpreting it as a provocation. as eytan bronstein of the israeli group zochrot writes:

"Many monuments and road signs point out the loss of Jewish soldiers in wars, yet no indication of the destruction of Palestinian life may be found at all on our cultural and geographical landscape. The heavy price paid by the Palestinians-in lives, in the destruction of hundreds of villages, and by being uprooted from their homes-receives no public recognition. Demolished Palestinian villages are never commemorated, their names often Hebraicized and bestowed upon the new settlements established in their place. These villages are invisible spots on Israel's landscape; only the obstinate sabra bushes serve as their silent monuments.

Palestinian pain, too, is illegitimate; all expressions of pain are considered hostile and threatening. Israel regards its Arab citizens' grief as a threat to Jewish existence here and now."

palestine remembered is an online project that tries to preserve the memory of palestine before the naqba, the 1948 catastrophe in which 4/5 of the palestinian population of what became israel was ethnically cleansed and the depopulated villages destroyed. though i don't agree with all of the material in the FAQs and quizzes, i find it a very worthwhile project.

zochrot, literally "(we/you/they) remember", is an israeli organization dedicated to changing the discourse in israel to be more inclusive of palestinian memory, with the aim of transforming israeli culture and politics.

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