Have You Been to Palestine?
The author chooses to remain anonymous.
Have you been to Palestine? Perhaps you were on the inaugural PalTrek or decided to join the Israel trip this winter break. Or, maybe you went independently without participating in one of those trips. In any case, congratulations, you probably had a life-changing experience.
I went to Palestine for the first time last year with SIPA friends who took care of me and accompanied to many of the sights that you may have seen this winter. Whether you went to the al-Aqsa Mosque, the Church of Nativity, the illegal settlements in Hebron or Zlatemo’s famous sweets in Jerusalem, I can only imagine that it was as emotional and enlightening for you as it was for me. Although I have been involved in work related to Palestine for the last 10 years and co-founded the Palestine Working Group at SIPA, it was my first time actually going to Palestine and the experience certainly opened my eyes to a cornucopia of things. Being on the ground was obviously different from the indirect experiences one can gain through reading or watching Youtube videos.
Yet, not everyone has had the privilege of stepping foot in Palestine. There are many at SIPA who cannot because their nationality bars them from doing so, or simply because of time and financial constraints. We at the Palestine Working Group tried to address this by bringing Palestine to SIPA as best as we could, whether it was through inviting expert speakers, holding fundraisers for UNRWA or screening a documentary on Gaza. I have the utmost confidence that the new board will take our legacy even further and I am excited about what they will bring to the SIPA community this year.
To those who were lucky enough to go to Palestine this winter and anyone who has ever been to Palestine, I look forward to listening to your unique experiences and exchanging thoughts and ideas. For the purpose of this article, I have collected a number of websites and Twitter accounts you can follow to keep yourself informed on Palestinian issues. Find the full list here. (Disclaimer: Just because I included a certain website does not mean I agree with or endorse their opinions).
Below, I’ve picked some of my personal favorites.
I’ve often said that if you’re interested in the Middle East and you’re not reading Jadaliyya, you’re probably not reading anything worthwhile on the Middle East. Founded by some of the brightest scholars on the region, Jadaliyya is one of the only English-language websites that consistently provides academic, erudite pieces on the Middle East as opposed to run-of-the-mill, and often superficial news. They have excellent analyses as well as introductions to research from various scholars of the Middle East, both upcoming and well-established. So if anybody is doing interesting or innovative research on Palestine, it’s bound to be featured on Jadaliyya. Also, check out their Palestine Media Roundups where they collect all the interesting articles over a two-week period.
Founded and led by the formidable Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada is a household name in the Palestine circle. Incisive and often covering breaking stories on Palestine and US-Palestine relations, it has been the bane of existence for those who do not agree with their opinions or those who simply do not like facts (pro tip: they usually overlap). Their reach was recently proven again when they obtained and uploaded a previously censored (and un-aired) Al Jazeera documentary on the Israel lobby in the United States.
I’ve been a fan of +972 Magazine since its inception because of its honest, prescient and insightful analysis and inclusion of much-needed Israeli and 48er Palestinian voices into the discourse. Some of the best pieces that I’ve ever read on Palestine have come from this website. I am proud of the fact that the editor is a SIPA alumna, Henriette Chacar. And some of you remember a familiar name on the website, Amjad Iraqi, who gave an excellent introduction for the SIPA community on Palestine at his Palestine 101 session last semester at Publique.
Mondoweiss was founded by two American Jewish guys, Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz, and thus it’s not only a fountain of knowledge on Palestine but also US-Israel relations and American Jewish identity. Praised lavishly by some and accused of (supposed) anti-Semitism by others, regardless of whether you agree with them or not, it’s hard to deny that Mondoweiss knows how to stir up a debate on controversial yet important topics. Particularly, they’re not afraid to be critical of the pro-Palestine movement when necessary.
My highly personal description of Al Shabaka would be that they are in-between Jadaliyya and news outlets, in a good way. They have in-depth analyses that are rigorously-researched but also timely and relevant to current events. SIPA’s Palestine Working Group has many ties with Al Shabaka – Amjad Iraqi moonlights as an analyst there, and Al Shabaka fellows Zena Agha and Yara Hawari graciously came to SIPA last semester to give us a talk on Palestine. Zena also helped us immensely with organizing this year’s PalTrek and my good friend Noura Mansour writes for them as well..
As great as these websites may be, there’s nothing better than going to Palestine in person, of course. Going to Palestine – looking up at its skies, touching its olive trees, feeling its walls, talking to its people and kissing its land which lay beneath your feet – often changes people’s lives.
My wish is that all those who have been or want to go to Palestine one day, as I did for more than a decade, continue their relationship with the land in whatever way that feels best to them. Not all of us can dedicate our lives to Palestine, but we can all have our personal ways of remembering things so that they do not become ashes that run through our fingers. May our memories be a force for good in our lives.
Friends who know me know that I would usually finish this piece with a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, because I believe that there is a Mahmoud Darwish verse for every moment in life. Instead, I will leave you with some lines from Samih al-Qassim, another great Palestinian poet who was Mahmoud Darwish’s good friend.
“The Day I die
my killer will find
tickets in my pocket:
One to peace,
one to the fields and the rain,
and one to humanity’s conscience.
I beg you – please don’t waste them