Thinking about events and dates that Palestinians commemorate, one hundred years after the fateful Balfour Declaration of 1917, reveals a political timeline on which the story of contemporary Palestinian history hangs. Commemoration, as an act, tends to lionize certain events and persons, especially when it is officially created or sponsored. Because Palestinians have long been without an official political entity in Palestine that can produce official commemorative actions, Palestinian commemorations reflect both individual and collective actions that develop and change over time. This essay analyzes those actions and the different spaces and actors behind them to explicate the politics of commemoration. It posits that the metanarratives of Palestinian history that have developed give primacy to the powers and forces that undermined Palestinian aspirations and actions. As metanarratives, they create frames for understanding history within a political and national discourse of struggle, dispossession, and suffering. And yet, these metanarratives miss the embodied practices of commemoration that define Palestinian life within this struggle. Detailing Palestinians’ commemorations reveals the robust culture that ties commemorations of the past with activism, awareness, and education for the present and the future.
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