Nakba Education on the Path of Return (Issue No.42, Autumn 2009)

Nakba Education on the Path of Return (Issue No.42, Autumn 2009)

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The authors in this issue of al-Majdal, are directly involved in the process of Nakba Education in various places, directing their work at different communities, and their cover cover various aspects of the topic. Rami Salameh looks at curricular education in Palestinian elementary and high-school classrooms and the need to develop the pedagogical methods involved in Palestinian Authority schools, while Said Barghouti examines the way Israeli history textbooks over the past forty years have presented the history of the land to Palestinian students. Dan Walsh examines the way the “Middle East Conflict” is taught to U.S. High school students, suggesting ways that Palestinian poster art can be used to present the students in a more accurate and student-empowering way. Also in the U.S., members of the Palestine Education Project describe their work with students in Brooklyn to learn about the experience of Palestinians and draw connections with their own lived experiences. Nidal al-Azza shares his reflections on teaching Palestinian refugee rights under international law to Palestinian law students. Also looking at education in the classroom, Amaya Galili describes How do we say Nakba in Hebrew? the recently launched Learning Packet developed by Zochrot to teach Jewish-Israelis about the Nakba.

Other authors focus on Nakba education outside of the classroom. Mo'ataz al-Dajani looks at the efforts of al-Jana Center in Lebanon to engage Palestinian children and youth in the writing of their own history by engaging with older generations and with their surroundings, while Rich Wiles describes the educational activities of refugee community centers in the Bethlehem district. A highlight of this issue is an article by Khaled al-Azraq, a political prisoner for the past twenty years, describing the Palestinian prisoners' movement's struggle to educate its cadre.

While the articles in this issue provide a small sample of the forms that Nakba education can take, the experiences and work that they describe offers a useful guide for others engaging in this field. Sharing and learning from others' experiences is one of the ways educators can learn, and this issue of al-Majdal aims to be a contribution to this shared learning process.

Editorial: They Can Take Everything but Our Minds

In the last issue of al-Majdal, we explored legal avenues for holding accountable Israeli perpetrators and those complicit in violations of international law. All the pending cases discussed in that issue have since been dismissed, whether through legislative intervention (as with the Daraj case in Spain), or findings that the cases were not justiciable or the plaintiff did not have standing (as with the al-Haq case in the U.K. and the Bil'in case in Canada). Once again, Palestinian victims were denied effective remedies because challenging Israeli impunity was judged to be too politically sensitive for the courtrooms of the richest and most powerful countries in the world.

In the same period, however, Israeli impunity was challenged by another judge who delivered his team's assessment of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel and Hamas during Israel's military offensive against the occupied Gaza Strip between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009. At the end of September, the U.N. “Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” headed by Judge Richard Goldstone submitted the Mission's meticulously researched report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, including a set of practical recommendations aimed to ensure that Israeli perpetrators will be held to account for the first time. The “Goldstone Report” is assessed in Reem Mazzawi's commentary for this issue of al-Majdal

The Gaza Strip: “Never Again!” – Again

On 29 September 2009, Judge Richard Goldstone submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council in his capacity as the head of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (“Goldstone Mission”).1 The 575 page report was the result of thorough and meticulous research and resulted in a flurry of activity and controversy that included deferring endorsement of the report, civil society mobilization protesting the deferral, and a special session of the Human Rights Council in which the the report and its recommendations were adopted.

Readings from the Fateh Political Program

Affirming Refugee Rights while Advancing Strategic tools to Achieve these Rights

Upon reviewing Fateh's political program, it becomes apparent the extent to which the Draft Papers on the the Defense of Displaced Palestinians' Rights (the Refugee Paper) discussed at the Sixth Conference of the Palestine Liberation Movement (Fateh), and which were the result of refugee community lobbying efforts at the Conference, were influential. Under the title “Principles,” the political program adopted by the conference included:

Palestine History Project: Teaching a Collective Narrative

Until recently, with some rare exceptions, writings about Palestine and the Palestinians tended to fall into the general category of the “grand narrative.” Absent are Palestinians as human beings. Instead, when they are murdered they simply become numbers; when they are driven from their homes they simply become refugees; and when they resist the occupation of their land and the theft of their patrimony they are labeled terrorists.

A New Generation of Returnees: Challenges in Memory Projects with Refugee Youth in Lebanon

What use is it to remember now?”

These were the words of some Palestinian elders, as a response to our field team's questions regarding the recalling of the expulsions of 1948, a project that Al-Jana undertook in the year 1998, the fiftieth since the “Uprooting.”

Palestinian History and Identity in Israeli Schools

This article is based on my personal experience as a teacher of Palestinian students in Israeli public schools and through my work as school inspector and history curriculum team coordinator for Arab schools from 1975 until 2004. During this period I was engaged in efforts at textbook reform, and on research about Israel's education system which I undertook for my doctoral dissertation.1

The Art of Resistance

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.

The Prison as University: The Palestinian Prisoners' Movement and National Education


Let me start by saying that the role of the Palestinian prisoners' movement in educating its cadre, and thereby contributing to Palestinian “national education” is a large topic, and one worthy of much more discussion and research. As a Palestinian political prisoner who has spent the past twenty years in Israeli jails I would like to highlight some of the general characteristics of the prisoners' movement's struggle to build a system of self and collective education as a central part of developing a patriotic and revolutionary culture that can be a pillar of the liberation movement.

Hearing Obama: How to Introduce an Authentic History of Contemporary Palestine Into the American High School

"...I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts..."
- U.S. President Barak Obama in Cairo, June 4, 2009

Palestine is not just an Arabic and Islamic question: it is important to many different and contradictory worlds that intersect one another. Working for Palestine means being necessarily aware of such open dimensions… As Mandela kept saying during his own struggle, we must be aware of the fact that Palestine is one of the foremost moral issues of our time.”
- Edward Said, 2002

Teaching Culture and Resistance, from Brooklyn to Palestine

The same ground you walk on, we do too…

These words, excerpted from a poem written by Tyeema, one of our students, and translated into Arabic for a mural now hanging in Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus, speak to a journey we have been making with students and educators in Brooklyn for the past three years.
Drawing on popular education models, and making use of grassroots media tools such as digital stories, hip-hop tracks and poster art, the Palestine Education Project (PEP) teaches a class we call “Slingshot Hip Hop: Culture and Resistance from Brooklyn to Palestine” at a small alternative high school.

Reflections on the Badil “Palestinian Refugees under International Law” Course


Intent on introducing Palestine's future legal cadre to a rights-based approach to the Palestinian refugee question, Badil entered a partnership agreement with al-Quds University in the fall of 2007. Since then, Badil's course on “Palestinian refugees under international law” has been one of the courses offered to law students, with larger numbers enrolling each semester. The target group of the Badil law course is university students, particularly law students interested in human rights. It is expected that law students, as part of the student movement that has historically played a major role in the national struggle, will influence their community and contribute to the right of return movement.


How do we say Nakba in Hebrew? Reflections on teaching Jews in Israel about the Nakba

How should the topic of the Palestinian right of return be dealt with by the Israeli educational system? How should it be approached when the reality in Israel is that the topic is one “we don’t talk about”? How can we start a conversation, get people to listen, overcome objections?


Book Review: Flying Home


Flying Home is a touching new children's story produced by youth from Lajee Cultural Center in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, in collaboration with Rich Wiles, a British artist.
Thirty pages in length and illustrated with fifteen full-page photographs taken by the children themselves, Flying Home is a complete package. It is exceptionally well produced, an educational tool for young readers of both English and Arabic, and combines a powerful, human message that is neither culturally specific nor heavy-handed in its delivery.

Child Authors Reflect on Writing Flying Home


by Sadeel al-Azzeh, Balqees Nafez al-Refai, Majd al-Khawaja & Maan Abu Aker

Book Review of Hoffman's My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness


Adina Hoffman writes in a gripping rich language and with a charming poetic flare. Her avid documentary precision makes her obvious love for the subject of her biographical account and for his family, his surroundings and his people almost suspect, were such evil thoughts not rendered meaningless by her fidelity to the deeper nuances of Taha Muhammad Ali’s deceptively simple and un-classical poetry.

The Pursuit of Happiness

The prospect of writing My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century filled me with a fairly cavernous sense of dread.


Book Review: Victor Kattan's From Coexistence to Conquest

Arundhati Roy has called Palestine one of “imperial Britain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modern world.” Victor Kattan’s book From Coexistence to Conquest: International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949 leaves no doubt her description is apt.

Why I wrote From Coexistence to Conquest


From Coexistence to Conquest was a difficult book to write. The manuscript went through so many drafts, the title, and even the subject matter changed so many times that I could probably write an article on that process alone. Initially, I had intended not to write a history book. I was supposed to write a legal book on the International Court of Justice’s 2004 advisory opinion on the Wall. But my publisher protested; “Why write a book on just the Wall?” I was asked. If I was going to do that, I was told, I must address the conflict’s history from an international law perspective to place the proceedings in context. But I was not quite sure where I was supposed to start my story.

BDS Campaign Update (mid-June 2009 – September 2009)


French activists protest Paris air show
20 June 2009 - A group of French activists from the French BDS campaign held a non- violent protest against Israeli participation in the Paris - Le Bourget Air Show. Le Bourget Air Show is one of the largest weapons and aerospace technology fairs in the world. The protest took place outside the Israeli pavilion, where several Israeli arms companies had come to sell their military technologies to potential European buyers, while French president Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting the air show. Despite forced removals by police, the BDS activists were highly visible, and distributed several thousand informational leaflets to the public.

Recurring Dispossession and Displacement of 1948 Palestinian Refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Joint written statement submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Twelfth Session
14 September - 2 October 2009

Summary of Findings: Badil's Survey of Palestinian Refugees and IDPs 2008

1. Scope of Palestinian Displacement 2008
The Palestinian refugee and IDP population described here comprises the total estimated number of Palestinians and their descendants whose “country of origin” is the former Palestine (now divided into Israel and the OPT), who have been displaced within or outside the borders of this area, and who do not have access to voluntary durable solutions and/or reparation, including the right to return to their homes of origin and the right to repossess their properties.


Palestinian Officials in Geneva: Sacrificing the Rights of Palestinians at the Altar of False Promises

Badil Statement, 2 October 2009 – The recommendations of the UN fact finding mission to the Gaza Strip headed by Judge Richard Goldstone represented a golden opportunity for the Human Rights Council, the Security Council, the General Assembly, and all member states – particularly the United States and the European Union – to exercise their moral and legal obligations to hold Israel accountable for its crimes committed during its 2008-2009 war against Gaza. Yet the official Palestinian position calling for the postponement of the vote to endorse the report's recommendations now hamstrings these opportunities. In so doing, it has undermined the principle of international legitimacy as a basis to resolve the Palestinian issue and prevents the Palestinian victims of this assault from achieving redress.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

Decision of Palestinian Leadership and International Pressure an Insult to the Victims

Statement of Palestinian Civil Society Responding to Deferral on Goldstone Recommendations Endorsement, issued by:

Adalah * Addameer * Aldameer * Al Haq * Al Mezan * Arab Association for Human Rights * Badil * Civic Coalition for Jerusalem * DCI-Palestine * ENSAN Centre * ITTJIAH * Independent Commission for Human Rights * Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre * Palestinian Centre for Human Rights * Ramallah Centre for Human Rights Studies * Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling *

Badil Launches Fourth Annual Al-Awda Award


We are from there...We are Alive and Will Continue to Live... and the Dream Lives On
Bethlehem, Palestine, 13 October 2009 – The Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights has announced the launch of the 2010 Annual Al-Awda Awards competition, now in its fourth consecutive year. The Award is an initiative of Badil which aims to provide a platform for the use of creative expression to promote Palestinian cultural identity and Palestinian refugee rights, foremost among them the right to return.