Rich Wiles

by Rich Wiles* and Nidal Azza*

“The fish,
Even in the fisherman's net,
Still carries,
The smell of the sea.”
               --Mourid Barghouti

"We did not go into the battle because we love to be hungry or in pain, but for our dignity and the dignity of our nation." 

With these words, Thaer Halahla from Hebron encapsulated the spirit of resistance. Halahla, and the hundreds of dignified hunger strikers who carried on their struggle even in the face of imminent death each made personal decisions to resist. An act of resistance is not a selfish one; it is an act for the dignity and liberation of humanity. The Palestinian street similarly rose up in support of the political prisoners, and within it, Palestinians of all factions, religions and social backgrounds showed how national unity comes from the hearts of the masses and not from decisions or agreements dictated by 'leaders' in Ramallah or Gaza City. The historic and ongoing struggle was built by the masses, and will always be lead by them.

A quick search for ‘Palestine’ on (the world’s biggest book retailer) reveals over 15,000 available entries. There is clearly no shortage of literature on the subject, much as there is no shortage of discussion or opinion around the world. Many of the books written pre-Nakba were structured within two main catagories. Some were traditional ‘adventurer’ type travel journals almost exclusively penned by authors from the ‘privileged minority’ of the colonialist states, whilst others looked through religious and political perspectives including the reams of early Zionist literature. Post-1948, Palestine-related literature was dominated by accounts lauding the establishment of the Zionist dream. Again, these works were almost exclusively written by ‘Westerners’, which is unsurprising when acknowledging the fact that the creation of ‘Israel’, and the ethnic cleansing that formed an intrinsic part of that process, was a European-style colonialist project.

Education through Grassroots Arts and Culture in Bethlehem's Refugee Camps

Throughout the 1980’s, and stretching back much earlier, Palestinian civil society represented a grassroots and politicized network of organizations supporting the national struggle and all inalienable Palestinian rights. In refugee camps, active Youth Centers and Women’s Unions worked on a community level often operating as underground collectives gathering people together in an ad-hoc manner wherever possible.