‘Ancestors of Palestinian Liberation’ — a resource for educators and organizers as Nakba Day approaches

With Nakba day quickly approaching on May 15, Palestine Advocacy Project has collaborated with Anemoia Projects to present Ancestors of Palestinian Liberation: a multi-faceted, visual, biographical, and educational tool to incorporate Palestinian histories and realities into our everyday spaces.

“This project came from a desire to bring attention to some of the incredible contributions of Palestinian culture, creativity and resiliency in our world, while also understanding the history of colonization and occupation,” says project creator Zelda Edmunds.

Through a collection of artistically-rendered portraits and short biographies, Ancestors of Palestinian Liberation sheds light on some of the brilliant and courageous ways that Palestinians have reckoned with life, self, and collective identity in the aftermath of the Nakba — the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and land in a calculated campaign advanced by Zionist militias to establish the State of Israel, thereby creating what is now a global population of more than 5.6 million Palestinian
refugees.

From the indomitable poetess Fadwa Tuqan to the fearless medic Razan Al-Najjar, Ancestors of Palestinian Liberation marks seven decades since the Nakba by telling the stories of seven Palestinians whose lives and work helped to build a steadfast foundation for the ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation.

Celebration of life of Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003), in Ancestors of Palestinian Liberation

This project offers a unique opportunity to share these powerful histories within our communities through an interactive online portal containing not only printable portraits and biographies, but also accompanying tools such as a key terms index and powerpoint presentation for use by educators, organizers, and others.

“Working on this project allowed me to feel closer to the words and creativity of these Palestinian leaders,” Edmunds tells us. “My hope is that everyone who engages with this project will feel touched or inspired by these ancestors’ living work in the world.”

Why did we choose Razan, who only lived 21 years?

Razan represents a number of important experiences: being a woman, being from Gaza, enduring the most recent decade of Israeli colonialism, being present and courageous at the Great March of Return – a remarkable moment in recent Palestinian history that we wanted to highlight.

There are also some deeper reasons for including her. Anyone organizing resistance in Palestine knows that the current generation of youth is no less passionate, brilliant, and impactful than previous generations. Each successive generation is increasingly empowered as a result of the accumulating work of those who came before them. 

Not only must Palestinian youth reckon with the violent Israeli colonial apparatus, they are also subjugated by adult-dominated political and societal discourses. Razan faced not only these obstacles but also the universal plague of patriarchy and sexism, and she did so with the utmost courage and compassion. 

Though she lived only twenty-one years, her life and contribution to the Palestinian struggle are things from which we can all take inspiration. Indeed, her death has moved others, both older and younger, to become volunteer medics treating Great March of Return protestors. Darwish, Touqan, Said — these are people who were celebrated as icons while still alive. Razan shows us that it is not necessarily a long life of work and public veneration that makes you a consequential figure, it is your character and how you use whatever time you have.

2. How does Edward Said’s work play a role today?

Edward Said’s work was informed by his unsettled sense of identity as a Christian, Arab, Palestinian-American who left Palestine before the Nakba. Today more than ever, people hold multiple identities and experience the sense of “otherness” that comes with that. Much of this “otherness” is rooted in what Said identified in his groundbreaking work Orientalism: that the paradigm through which many of us understand the world and ourselves was and continues to be crafted by colonial and former colonial powers who believe in their racial and cultural superiority. 

The idea that we live in a post-colonial reality is far from the truth. As in Palestine, so across the globe. Colonialism is alive and well not just all over the material world, but also within our minds. Said’s work asserts the right for the oppressed to narrate their own experiences, thereby engaging in a process of decolonizing knowledge, decolonizing the mind, and rectifying the power imbalances that have thus far governed all of our lives. 

Said embodied his belief that boundaries and barriers, invariably set by oppressors, must be crossed and that we must always speak truth to power. Besieged by divide-and-conquer strategies employed by those in positions of power, Palestinians and oppressed people everywhere can find hope and inspiration in Said’s life work.

3. How will this tie into Nakba day and are we doing a Nakba day event?

We recognize that the Nakba never ended – it is ongoing every day. This project intentionally moves away from narratives that present Palestinians as mere victims of this reality. Instead, we encourage people to use this project in their communities as a tool to talk about the Nakba in a way that not only respectfully commemorates the pain and damage that it has caused, but that also centers Palestinians as the agents of their own liberation and highlights their remarkable resilience, hard work and fortitude. Unfortunately, we are unable to run a Nakba day event this year.

To learn more about Palestine Advocacy Project, visit www.palestineadvocacyproject.org. To learn more about Anemoia Projects, visit www.anemoia.net.

Sarah Gold and Zelda Edmunds discussed the new project on Palestine in America podcast the other day.

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