It has been a magnificent inaugural year for Palestine Square, the blog of the Institute for Palestine Studies. This year we have interviewed Palestinian artists from Berlin to Beirut, reported on-the-scene from Adalah-NY’s “Palestine Calling” launch of the cultural boycott of Israel in NYC and Harvard Arab Weekend’s panel on Palestinian healthcare, reviewed exciting new documentaries and films; and reported on everything from the increasing popularity of the Keffiyeh design, a Chilean soccer team sporting Palestine jerseys, and a rebirth of Palestinian architecture. And, best of all, we have reached thousands of new readers interested in Palestinian history, culture and contemporary affairs!
As we gear up for 2016, we present our Top 10 stories of 2015!
U.K. artist Banksy – who has directed much of his fame toward the Palestinian cause and earlier this year visited the Gaza Strip – invited three Palestinian artists to be part of his collaborative venture that featured over 50 artists centered around a dystopian theme park called Dismaland Bemusement Park.
As the Palestinian keffiyeh design has become more and more ubiquitous around the globe, we looked at the many ways its dynamic pattern has inspired countless individuals. From the world of high fashion (above), to cake bakers, to artists scrutinizing patriarchy and colonial appropriation, and even the Israelization of a blue-and-white keffiyeh.
In December 2013, Chilean soccer club Palestino introduced new uniforms, which maintained their red-green-white-black color scheme and replaced the numeral one with a map outline of historic Palestine. Following complaints from Chilean Jewish organizations, the National Association of Professional Football of Chile fined Palestino $1,300 and directed the club to change their uniforms. The club acquiesced, but responded on their Facebook page, saying, “For us, free Palestine will always be historical Palestine, nothing less.” In keeping with that sentiment, the club’s redesigned uniforms featured the map outline of historic Palestine once again, but this time, the map was placed in the center of the chest and colored in gold. The redesigned uniform became a hotly coveted item, and at peak demand the club sold over 7,000 jerseys to customers all over the world.
Palestine has many calling cards: the olive tree branch, the golden Dome of the Rock, the kufiyyeh, et cetera. . . . But all are arguably surpassed by Handala, the little refugee kid drawn by the late cartoonist Naji al-Ali. With his back turned against a world that turned its own gaze away from the Palestinians, Handala has become the quintessential symbol of Palestine solidarity. Cartoonist al-Ali was only the first to make his mark in a long line of cartoonists inspired by the Palestinian struggle.
After Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas announced at the United Nations General Assembly in September that the PA would no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords due to Israel’s violation of the agreement, Institute for Palestine Studies Senior Fellow Rashid Khalidi observed: “For most Palestinians, and for other observers of events since the signing of the Oslo accords over two decades ago, the main reaction to the announcement by President Abbas . . . is probably: ‘It’s about time!'”
As part of our series on Palestine-related posters, we looked at the history and contemporary adaptation of the most well-known poster of Palestine: “Visit Palestine”. The poster was designed Franz Kraus, an Austrian-born graphic designer who emigrated to Palestine in 1934. Kraus was a Zionist partisan and his poster was adopted and promoted by Zionist groups. In recent years, however, the poster has been branded by Palestinians and pro-Palestinian solidarity activists.
The Ramallah-based Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation is on a grand mission to revitalize the Palestinian village. About 50% of historic Palestinian structures – over 50,000 of them – are in 50 West Bank and Gaza villages, and Riwaq’s 50 Villages project is bringing many of them back to life. Abandoned and decaying shops and homes are once again centers of life and livelihood.
Palestine Square surveyed the work of Palestinian photographers who bear witness to their people’s struggles and aspirations.
Princeton PhD student Zachary Foster introduced us to the exciting history of Palestinians who studied Hebrew: “Buried among the roughly six thousand uncatalogued volumes located in the reading room of the Khalidiyya Library in the Old City of Jerusalem is a hand-written workbook of one of the first Palestinians to study the Hebrew language. The workbook belonged to Ruhi al-Khalidi, who later represented the District of Jerusalem in the Ottoman Parliament in 1908.”
The social media video-sharing app Snapchat devoted a day to broadcasting the West Bank Live Story with Palestinians submitting short videos of their lives in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus . . . eating out, going to the Dead Sea, and, unavoidably, waiting at an Israeli military checkpoint.