Palestinian Revolutionary Becoming: Building Movement, Relations, and Praxis
Panel XI-11, 2023 Annual Meeting
On Sunday, November 5 at 8:30 am
The Palestinian revolution marks a historical shift in the Palestinian political imaginary. Following the 1948 Nakba, the Palestinian condition became unified in its subjection to Zionist settler colonialism. In the following years, the Palestinian spatial reality would transform through the making of the refugee community, the colonial re-molding of borders, and Zionist military rule. The Arab military forces, for a variety of reasons, would prove inadequate for challenging Israeli militarism. As the years following the Nakba passed, Palestinian organization began to develop, moving from small formations of rebellion in response to the Nakba, to building the Palestinian student movement, to formalizing political infrastructure with the birth of Palestinian political parties and the movement takeover of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). All of this infrastructure building provided a growing platform for base-building, movement operations, and archiving Palestinian history, resilience, and resistance.
The Palestinian revolution emerges as such in the late 1960s as an anti-colonial project with anti-imperialist commitments at a time of cold war polarization, global anti-colonial struggle, and the actualization of independence through some of these anti-colonial liberation movements. The Palestinian revolution became popularly known worldwide and linkages to various third world and anti-colonial movements with an internationalist trajectory were being forged. This panel examines such relationships in revolution-making both regionally and beyond as well as raising questions about the dissemination of knowledge of the Palestinian revolution and how revolutionary knowledge is often contested. This panel takes you on a journey through different narratives, sectors, and imaginations of the Palestinian revolution. It explores student relationships from the Jordan years (late 1960s-1970s) by analyzing Palestinian revolution-making as inspirational and collaborative, whether internally within Jordan or abroad in the US. It analyzes party-based political alliances and discursive compatabilities across the Mediterranean between Palestinian and Italian formations. And it reconceptualizes how the Palestinian transnational community can produce a multiplicity of decolonial knowledges that contest the dependency of the state on national narrative. Situated in the late 1960s and 1970s, each of these contributions work to help elucidate how Palestinian discursive and movement practices in formation opened up spaces of possibility for revolutionary exchange and decolonizing futures.
This paper investigates Palestinian student activism in Jordan in the 1960s and 1970s focusing more specifically on its relation with the Jordanian student movement. The paper’s rationale is predicated upon a central premise: in the aftermath of the Nakba, Palestinian student political engagement was fundamental for the emergence and articulation of revolutionary and counter hegemonic discourses in the whole Arab region. Scholars have emphasized Palestinian student activism in Egypt and Lebanon, where they contributed to the radicalization of student politics and the elaboration of anti-imperialist analyses that challenged the status-quo. Yet, little is known about Palestinian student contribution to the emergence of the student movement in Jordan and its role in the Jordanian opposition movement.
How did Palestinian and Jordanian students frame their shared claims? How did they understand their cooperation and role in Jordan? How can the analysis of the collective political effort of Palestinian and Jordanian students contribute to the understanding of the political history of the Palestinian movement, the Jordanian Kingdom and the Arab region as a whole?
This paper investigates Palestinian and Jordanian student politics in the regional context examining the relation between the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) and the General Union of Jordanian Students (GUJS) in the 1960s and 1970s, two decades that saw student activism at its peak globally. Palestinian and Jordanian students understood their political ambitions and goals as interconnected and inseparable, contradicting the dominant narrative and rhetoric that saw Palestinians and Jordanians as guided by different and even opposing political interests. Based on oral history , through interviews with former Palestinian and Jordanian students as well as archival analysis of primary sources, this paper suggest that student cooperation in Jordan was fundamental for the articulation of a revolutionary discourse at the regional level and the engagement with international student spaces and solidarity movements on the global stage.
This study analyzes the action of the Palestinian movements in Italy and their relationships with Italian parties during the late 1960s until the beginning of the 1980s. It focuses on the political vision, discourse and grassroots activities as they were introduced and implemented by Palestinian actors in the Italian political scenes, building cooperation and solidarities that have shaped the Italian approach to the Palestinian cause in the Cold War period. Available studies on Italian-Palestinian relations have failed to take into account the role of the Palestinian organizations in shaping Italian politics towards the Arab region as they did not use materials produced by these groups. This led to the marginalization of the Palestinian as a political actor in the Italian scene, depicting the Palestinians as a subaltern subject to the events in which they had an active role. Thus, through the study of both Italian and Arabic sources produced by Palestinian movements, this essay aims to grasp how Palestinian movements understood and exploited the Italian political and cultural context for their own benefit, adapting their message to Italian society to make it as effective as possible. The presence of the strongest Western communist party and a highly structured student and labor movement in search of new revolutionary symbols allowed the Palestinian cause to find fertile ground to influence public opinion in the country. Alliances and synergies were thus formed between the various Palestinian parties and their Italian counterparts. The cooperation with Italian parties was decisive in facilitating the political action of Palestinians (framed mainly by the General Union of Palestinian Students) and in spreading their anti-colonial discourse. Here, Palestinian movements went to great lengths to use symbolic references widely found in the Italian political lexicon, bringing the cause closer to the Italian context. Efforts were made to highlight the socialist dimension of the Palestinian revolution so that it could be made a point of reference for all world revolutionary movements. Similarly, Palestinians were invested in highlighting the direct link between the Italian experience of resistance to Nazi-fascism and Palestinian resistance to Zionism, which presented and insisted on drawing analogies between Zionism and fascism. This led to a critical understanding of the Zionist ideology among Italian masses and favored the emergence of a strong solidarity movement at the grassroots level.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the Palestinian Revolution captured the imaginations of millions worldwide who were also fighting colonial systems and imperialist interests in their countries. This paper will examine how the Palestinian Revolutionary zealous impacted student activism on University campuses, taking the United States, and specifically Washington D.C., as its case study. I will argue that the Palestinian Revolution, and specifically during the assaults that culminated in the events of Black September in Jordan in 1970, had politicized and radicalized student activism on different campuses. In Washington D.C., Palestinian and Arab students forged links with each other and stood in solidarity with other student associations fighting colonialism and racism in their respective contexts. Their actions on campus became bolder, more visible, and confrontational. Alliances between Arab, black, indigenous, and latino student associations were formed. Based on accounts in oral history interviews I have conducted, the silence that had captured their campuses after the 1967 defeat had finally been broken.
My interviewees have mentioned that after the 1967 military defeat, activism on their campus was limited. They described a silence on campus that was broken with the emergence of the Palestinian resistance and a visible politicization after the resistance received its first attack in 1970. Many students considered the Palestinian resistance as their only hope in liberating Palestine. It was seen as a revolutionary force that also fought for socio-political and economic change. The attack on it, especially by an Arab regime, meant an attack on their future dreams and aspirations. This assault on the revolution was also seen as an attempt to liquidate the resistance and a step to garner US imperialism in the region and Israel’s colonial interest in Palestine. This has intensified student activism and their anti-colonial and anti-imperialist rhetoric. The politicization of student activism as a direct consequence of the Black September events is not unique to the US context. Rather, such politicization happened on other campuses in Beirut and Cairo. However, the US context illuminates a particular kind of anti-imperialist solidarity that emerged amongst students.
This intervention proposes a decolonial approach to Palestinian archiving initiatives based on process rather than content. By observing the current meta-data production protocols in some major Palestinian archiving projects and analyzing such politics of representations, it is clear that The Modern State Metaphor (and to a lesser extent the Political Movements) is centered as the conceptual and discursive framework for such projects in forming and performing historical knowledge. These historicizing practices dismiss any possible popular, historical narration that deviates from state and/or political movement narratives.
In “History at the Limit of World – History” (2002), Ranajit Guha discusses that the slogan “No writing, No history” was changed to “No state, No history” by 1830 amidst the Renaissance in comparison to history in a colonized context. This mirroring between the two slogans implies an equivalency between “Writing” and “State.” Consequently, writing history is the essence of the production of the state, and as such is the WRITING OF STATE History. In turn, writing through the void of a state means writing that is not recognized as a legitimate contribution to the historical record. In the Palestinian case, how could and should such a dispossessed and diasporic archive be imagined without this claimed centrality?
By considering the primary, and basic elements of “The Modern State” (any state): territory, an identified group of people, and authority, we can see that state-based archiving protocols serve to continuously reproduce these three spaces of sovereignty and are only contested or decoded by the human body used to mobilize against the state from within. As the body navigates the performative spaces of archive-making, sometimes silenced and sometimes amplified depending on its relationship with the state, it can be mobilized through the archival process as a point of either dominance or resistance. This intervention proposes that Palestinian archiving projects emerging from the state and/or political movements like the metaphor, are there to annex modernity discourses regarding Palestinian bodies in their own history and existence instead of disrupting it.
As such, it is not enough to say that we as archivists are after the Opposite of what an institutional or colonial state archive demands even on the level of the process. To counteract that archival violence and archive history from the bottom up we need to render the idea of truth and implement a kind of hermeneutical perspective towards different tones in the archive, starting from the necro-sovereignty.