OPN 200306 ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-SETTLEMENTS-1583486631873
Palestinian demonstrators react to a sound grenade thrown by Israeli forces during a protest against Jewish colonies in the village of Qusra, in the Israeli occupied West Bank, March 2, 2020. Image Credit: REUTERS

Resistance is a concept broader than just carrying arms. Images of resistance also vary, violent or non-violent. Cultural resistance is an alternative and counter to the culture of defeat, domination and violation of human rights, in the sense that it is a culture of freedoms, justice, human dignity and homelands.

Embodying its supportive stance towards the Palestinian cause, and on the occasion of the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba (the Palestinian debacle in 1948), the Arab Thought Foundation launched its eleventh Arab report for cultural development, under the title “Palestine in the Mirrors of Thought, Culture and Creativity”. The Foundation’s Saudi President Prince Khaled Al Faisal began a touching speech at the launching ceremony of the report in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia when he said: “Today, I have nothing more important to talk about than Palestine”.

He continued: “I consider the report to be the best of reports submitted by the Arab Thought Foundation, the largest, and the most important in terms of its scientific and cultural content.” He concluded “Those who contributed to writing this report not only wrote it, but they melted themselves and their minds in it ... Let us join hands for the dear cause of Palestine, to go forward toward our future and aspired meeting in the holy city of Jerusalem.”

Israel was based on immigration/conquest and consolidating colonialism through building colonies/“settlements” as one of the most important components of its society. The country has failed so far to absorb anyone who is different and heterogeneous, and attempts to produce a homogeneous society with a unified culture or identity have not succeeded. Therefore, every attempt, whether Palestinian or Arab, to establish and consolidate the Palestinian cultural identity of the resistance comes in the context of the resistance in its comprehensive concept.

Anti-occupation stand

Hence, the emphasis by the Foundation’s Director General, Professor Henri Al Awit, that the report “contributes to consolidating the orientations of the intellectual institution, undertakes the task to declare its concept of culture, its role and function as an act of resistance.” The report, he said: “translates the Foundation’s anti-occupation stand, its support of Palestine, its cause and the rights of its people.” He concluded that “culture cannot remain neutral in the Palestinian people’s battle to resist occupation.”

Since the Palestinian culture is in perpetual danger under a Zionist occupation that entails displacement and replacement of the original Arab Citizens, I have always believed that inasmuch as there would be no progress without a culture of progress, there would be no return (to the homeland) without a culture of resilience and liberation. Also, the occupation of people’s mind may be equivalent to occupying the land. The Zionist state is trying to destroy the Palestinian memory, to obliterate it and steal it if it can, and therefore we find it changing the names of Palestinian places, whether they are cities, towns, villages, rivers, lakes, etc.

Here appears the reaction and the importance of the cultural resistance that is capable of defending the identity, a matter that was observed by the martyr writer Ghassan Kanafani a long time ago when he spoke about the cultural base that establishes the resistance, revealing the relationship between politics and culture. In the introduction to his book entitled The Palestinian Literature of Resistance under occupation 1948-1968 Kanafani wrote: “Armed resistance is the fruit of a plant that has its roots deep in the ground ... Hence, the cultural form of the resistance poses a paramount importance that is never less valuable than the armed resistance itself.”

The first step, towards developing a culture of resistance, begins with an objective awareness of the challenges, building a coherent vision, in light of intellectual reviews of the culture of resistance, and promoting new values and mechanisms for a constructive culture. This was established by the seven axes of the Foundation’s aforementioned report that dealt with Palestine and its cause through the manifestations of intellectual, cultural, literary and artistic creativity.

They included: (1) Palestine in the minds of the intellectual leaders of the Arab Awakening, (2) Palestine as reflected philosophically and in the spheres of human sciences, (3) Palestine: history and identity, (4) Palestine in the mirrors of literature, art and creativity, (5) Palestine in the mirrors of the international culture, (6) Language, education and science in Palestine, and (7) the [occupied] Jerusalem issue.

The report deserves a special praise for including an extensive documentary bibliography, which introduced the most important publications issued in recent years (2014-2018) of French and English literature on the history of Palestine, its cause, its cities, and its peoples’ creative output.

The report was keen on correcting narratives, providing evidence of the legacy of belonging, highlighting projects for reviving heritage, and highlighting all that leads to preserving the Palestinian identity and its authenticity. Indeed, it is a great effort in the context of the legitimate Palestinian and Arab resistance to the Israeli occupation, which is guaranteed under international law. It also embodies the implementation of a basic human right that is the right to self-defence, identity and the right to self-determination.

—Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of Palestinian Encyclopaedia.