Atelier Mémoire en Méditerranée

Khaldun Bshara

Palestinian Spaces of Memory and Collective Narrative

Israeli narrative was built on the concept of "making the desert bloom". In this case the desert is Palestine. Taking over the Palestinian landscape entailed the destruction of the Other "Palestinians" landscape to make space and to make the "Other" less visible. The second step in constructing an identity was adopting the Palestinian model of living such as the building typologies or cuisine habits. Then claiming what remain from the landscape, cuisine, buildings and then incorporating it in the Israeli narrative. This was simply achieved by giving new names or description for the streets, neighborhoods, squares, houses and for the things. It is not important that the Israelis as a state adopted the "Occupied" way of living but the problem arose from the fact that the process was institutionalized and with two-facial intentions; on one hand to construct a new narrative and to destroy the other narrative on the other. In so doing a nation was found, another was annihilated.

The Palestinians, caught in a rapid changing landscape and in the day-to-day matters, managed not to construct a collective narrative. Not only because the accelerating actions on their landscape which left them with almost no time to reflect on everyday matters but also because the Palestinian narrative was part of a broad Arab narrative.

It is remarkably noticed that the Palestinians, on individual bases, contributed to the reconstruction or re-writing a Palestinian collective narrative. This could be seen in almost in every discipline or field of memory or memorizing. The pre-Nakba (catastrophe) 1948 era with all its landscape and social relation was studied in scholarly volumes. One also can trace the account of missing landscape in poetry, novels, and even in caricatures. There, in literature, Palestinians managed to bring out the issue of identity, history, nationalism, community… thought sometimes real sometimes nostalgic, Palestinians individually contributed to the construction of a collective narrative.

The revival of built cultural heritage in Jerusalem, Hebron and all-over the West Bank are looked upon as an act of making a Palestinian proud of what Palestine once was, in the process of reconciliation  and in the process of constructing a Palestinian narrative. This might explain the so-many organizations, institutions, or individuals' substantial efforts to help restoring historic centres, monuments, sacred places and to promote a list of sites to be nominated to the World Heritage List. Therefore, Palestinians are engaged in adopting a universal approach towards their Cultural Heritage and their Landscape, and in so doing their lieux de mémoire, attained new dimension which never meant to attain. Nonetheless, museums such as the Nakba museum or the Palestinian Museum for Natural history and Humankind, or the promotion of collecting old photographs, documents, or the original Houses' Keys, or the building of memorials in each village, town or camp to claim the martyrs who passed fighting for a state.

In this intervention, I will shed light on Palestinian attempts to build a collective narrative, mainly after Oslo Agreement 1993.   

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Pour citer cet article :

Bshara, Khaldun. "Palestinian Spaces of Memory and Collective Narrative". Dakirat, 30 janvier 2007 [En ligne]
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