No Occupation Without Representation: Artists in Palestine

HG Masters in Arts Asia Pacific:

Feature_palestine_hourani_1000So much depends upon the acceptance of a few facts. This is what Edward Said was lamenting when, in August 2001, he wrote in the Cairo newspaper al-Ahram Weekly: “The appallingly unbroken history of Israel’s 34-year-old military occupation (the second longest in modern history) of illegally conquered Palestinian land has been obliterated from public memory nearly everywhere, as has the destruction of Palestinian society in 1948 and the expulsion of 68 percent of its native people, of whom 4.5 million remain refugees today.”

In the decade since, and as the occupation marked its 44th year in June, the struggle over the future of Palestine and the status of the Palestinian people remains one of representation, of the past and the present. Nearly everything about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is contested on the factual and semantic levels—how many people are wounded or killed by whom at any given demonstration, whether it is a “wall,” “barrier” or a “fence” that now runs through the West Bank, whether Israeli policies constitute “discrimination,” “apartheid” or “ethnic cleansing,” and even whether the 1947–48 Nakba happened at all. They are debates played out by politicians and activists, Israeli and Palestinian, on the international level for their respective strategic interests, as well as in the media, in proxy wars of propaganda and disinformation by factions competing to write the historical narrative of post-Mandate Palestine. As storytellers and emissaries of Palestinian culture, Palestinian artists across disciplines have been caught up in or have willingly participated in this struggle, as they address the urgent subjects of modern Palestinian culture: dispossession, nostalgia, exile and resistance.

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