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Rethinking Internationalist Solidarity with the Palestinian Revolution

Session IV-10, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Friday, December 2 at 11:00 am

Panel Description
In recent years, there has been a significant resurgence in popular solidarity with Palestine, especially in Europe and the United States. However, there are rich lineages of solidarity with Palestine from across the Global South and East Asia solidarity that stretch back to the 1950s. These iterations of solidarity represent reimaginings of how we understand the historical trajectories of the solidarity movement without relying upon Western frameworks. Following this trend, scholars of the Middle East and North Africa have restored to the historical narrative the rich and engaging relations between postcolonial Arab nation-states with counterparts in Latin America, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Engaging with the scholarly literature on Palestinian anticolonial nationalism, Marxism, and postcolonialism, this interdisciplinary panel considers how Palestinian solidarity has been expressed in its diverse forms, how these solidarities represent, and what it tells us about politics, nationalism, and revolution. We seek, as a panel, to recuperate these histories of solidarity with Palestine from the Global South as they represent the radical possibilities expressed by these movements in the 1960s-1970s. Collectively, the papers on this panel investigate the iterations of internationalist solidarity with the Palestinian cause through political philosophy, tricontinental cinema, writers unions, art, and militant action. Drawing upon diverse sources and untapped archives, each paper explores how political movements engaged in solidarity with Palestine. Our first paper uses the cinema of the Palestinian Revolution as an expression of Third Cinema, a political and aesthetic project created during the era of Tricontinentalism. The second paper looks at the far-left Japanese Red Army’s alliance with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and how the two groups coordinated operations on a global scale. The third paper explores the organizational history of the General Union of Palestinian Writers and Journalists both as a venue for theoretical production and as part of the international network of Palestinian resistance. The fourth paper explores the artistic production of political posters supporting the Palestinian cause by different Palestinian factions, during the 1960s and early 1970s in Jordan. The revolution's experience in Jordan has been erased from the historical narrative of the Palestinian revolution and these posters will be used to amend this erasure. Together, these projects offer new perspectives on how to reconceptualize the study of global solidarity movements with Palestine.
  • In 1968, Palestinian artist, Mustafa Hallaj, created a powerful image titled “Battle of al-Karameh,” which depicts a Feda’i woman standing tall and brandishing a weapon. The powerful image, produced in response to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) victory against Israel during the battle of al-Karameh, asserts Palestinian revolutionary armed struggle and stresses its significance in the plight for national liberation. This battle was a monumental episode for the Palestinian Revolution and ignited the enthusiasm of the revolutionaries and their commitment to the liberation struggle. Hallaj lived in Damascus at the time but closely followed the events in Jordan and traveled to Amman on different occasions to be with Palestinian revolutionaries. Many artists and anti-imperialist revolutionaries viewed Amman as a central revolutionary site where fighters, artists, filmmakers, and journalists ascended to fight, document, and engage with the Palestinian revolution. Similarly, during the events of Black September in 1970, when the Jordanian monarchy crushed the Palestinian Revolution in Jordan and expelled the PLO from the country, many revolutionaries, artists, and volunteers from across the world were either in Jordan partaking in the revolution or following from afar, commenting, writing, and deeply engaging with the revolution. Despite the severity of the event and its significance as a turning point for the modern history of Jordan and the Palestinian revolution alike, the revolution’s experience in Jordan receives little attention by scholars and has yet to be fully explored as a significant episode in the history of Palestine and Jordan. As such, this paper aims to answer the following questions: how do we explain the absence of Jordan from the geographies of the Palestinian revolution when the country was central to revolutionary practices and aesthetics? What does this absence have to teach us? In doing so, this paper aims to firstly, demystify long-held beliefs around Jordan which is perceived as an artificially constructed place created by colonial powers to serve a political purpose and therefore considered a place empty of history. Secondly, it will show how studying the Palestinian revolution’s experience in Jordan points us towards the transnational connections that emerged between the Palestinian revolutionaries and anti-colonial movements across the world starting in the 1960s. This paper utilizes political posters and images produced by Palestinian factions and their supporters as archival documents that are a testament to Jordan’s forgotten revolutionary past and the connection made between Palestinian revolutionaries and other anti-imperialist groups during that period.
  • On May 30th, 1972, three Japanese militants from the Japanese Red Army [Nihon Sekigun] opened fire in the arrivals lounge of Lod Airport in Israel. Over two dozen people died during the shootout. The attack, carried out by the Japanese Red Army, was in support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestinian revolution (PFLP). In statements following the operation, the Japanese Red Army declared that the liberation of Palestine foregrounded the coming global socialist revolution. Since early 1971, members of the group had gone to Lebanon to train with the PFLP. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, members of the Japanese Red Army would attack embassies, hijack airplanes, destroy infrastructure, and take hostages at embassies across Asia and Europe to further the goals of global revolution and the PFLP. The Red Army’s militancy represented an early example of East Asian and Palestinian solidarity rooted in a shared anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, and anti-capitalist worldview. In this paper, I examine the development of the alliance between the Japanese Red Army and the PFLP as part of a larger network of anticolonialism and Marxist internationalism of the 1970s and 1980s. Drawing upon Arabic and Japanese sources such as the magazine al-Hadaf by the PFLP and memoirs like ones penned by the Japanese Red Army’s leader Shigenobu Fusako, I argue how Palestinian liberation transcended regional frameworks to become an anticolonial tenet of an internationalist left. Other materials I analyze include the 1971 newsreel film Sekigun PFLP Sekai Sensō Sengen [Red Army PFLP Declaration of World War], statements by the PFLP and the Japanese Red Army, PFLP pamphlets on their political ideology, and media interviews with members of the Japanese Red Army. I argue that the PFLP’s embrace of radical leftist politics made the group and the Palestinian cause appeal to similar leftist groups worldwide. In particular, I trace the development of the Japanese Red Army’s ideology, how it came to view the PFLP as a vanguard organization, why Palestine is the center for global revolution according to the Red Army, and the logics underpinning the need for direct action by its members for the liberation of Palestine.
  • The General Union of Palestinian Writers and Journalists (GUPWJ) was established under the PLO in the early 1970s. Like many other bodies within the PLO, the establishment of the GUPWJ followed years of organizing and activism in the 1950s and 1960s by Palestinian writers working in diaspora. Figures like Kamal Nasser and Ghassan Kanafani were among the many literary and political leaders involved with the union. The formation of the GUPWJ—along with many other Palestinian unions and organizations—demonstrates a legacy of organizing that allowed for the articulation of political vision and the creation of counterpublic space for Palestinians across the Arab world. At a regional level, the union formed in a context where theoretical debates on literary aesthetics stood at the core of political discourse in the region. Many of the most critical theoretical discussions of the period were printed on the pages of literary periodicals—often associated with Arab writers’ organizations—and mediated through regional literary conferences. Beyond the regionally integrated political and theoretical environment expressed through literary production and criticism in the Arab world, the GUPWJ also formed in a moment of internationalist organization. The Afro-Asian Writers’ Association hosted two conferences in Cairo and Beirut in the 1960s with Palestinian representation and featured Palestinian writers in its literary magazine which was printed in English, French and Arabic. Thus, the union was born out of and participated in a moment of international solidarity in the literary sphere. Despite the important organizational, political and theoretical role of Palestinian writers’ unions, the history of these organizations and the ultimate formation of the GUPWJ remain shadowy. This paper aims to trace the genealogy of the GUPWJ primarily in the 1960s. Using documentation of writers’ conferences—often published in literary periodicals associated with writers’ organizations—as well as the broader contents of these publications, this paper will attempt to shed light on the network of Palestinian writers in this period. This paper aims to build an organizational history of the GUPWJ as part of the broader historical understanding of Palestinian political organizing in this period. It will also explore this Palestinian literary space as a source of theoretical production.
  • This paper explores and analyses the Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution as an expression of Third Cinema, a political and aesthetic project created and sustained by filmmakers throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America during the 1970s. It marks an attempt to place the Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution in the political and the historical context in which it emerged, in particular, the Palestinian Revolution (1967-1982), the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), and the tri-continental connections of solidarity and cultural exchange of the 1970s. In doing so, the paper explains how furthering knowledge of Third Cinema’s politics and aesthetics can illuminate not only our understanding of the past but also of our present. The paper also constitutes a documented reflection on the politics, international solidarity, emancipatory aspirations, and revolutionary aesthetics at play in Third Cinema and the Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution, and their effect on the contemporary cultural and political space. It also focuses on 21st century scholarly and cinematic work about the Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution. These new films and books are a testimony of the revival of interest in the political and aesthetic alternatives offered by Third Cinema and the Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution. This research helps us to make connections, parallels and comparisons showing that similar forms of subjugation -- which Third Cinema and the Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution contested and fought against -- are still being imposed today and highlight how the forms of resistance that they produced can inspire cultural spaces of contemporary political action.