Know More About Palestine

Friday Nov. 26, 2010 4:46 PM (EST+7)
Memories and maps keep alive Palestinian hopes of return

Read more: Right of return, refugees, book review, Palestinian, refugees, peace talks

RAMALLAH, November 26 (JMCC) - Memories and maps make up a core part of the experience of Palestinians whose lives have been scarred by dispossession, occupation and uncertainty about their future. Two new books reveal their significance for keeping Palestinian hopes of return alive, and, the difficulty of ever achieving it.

Salman Abu Sitta, a refugee from 1948, has spent years cataloguing the course and consequences of the nakbah (disaster) that Israel's war of independence represented for his people. Now he has published an updated version of his massive Atlas of Palestine, stuffed with tables, graphs and nearly 500 pages of maps that trace the transformation of the country starting with its conquest by the British in 1917 and the Balfour declaration's promise to create a national home for the Jews.

Aerial photographs taken by first world war German pilots are combined with mandate-era and Israeli maps supplemented by digitally enhanced satellite images that record old tribal boundaries, neighbourhoods and even individual buildings. Most striking are the hundreds of Arab villages that were destroyed or ploughed under fields, as well as postwar Jewish settlements and suburbs. The Abu Sitta family lands, for example, are now owned by Kibbutz Nirim, near the border with Gaza.

Social scientist Dina Matar also follows the trajectory of a continuing nakbah, in her fine book about what it means to be a Palestinian in the 21st century, but her mission is to record voices that are normally heard only in fragments and at times of crisis. This composite biography includes personal stories and reconstructed experiences from the 1936 rebellion against the British through to Oslo in 1993, and unifies the disparate worlds of Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. Individual narratives of suffering, defiance and despair are linked by chapters of factual historical background, and tell of life in refugee camps, the experience of the Jordanian civil war or the first intifada, when the children of the stones took on the Israeli military but won only the brief attention of an indifferent world.

Read more at The Guardian…







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