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We will not be erased: Why Palestinians are storming social media on April 30

Culture matters because it is proof of Palestinian identity and existence. Preserving it and celebrating it is a form of cultural sumud.

By Susan Muaddi Darraj

Rep. Rashida Tlaib wore a thobe, a traditional Palestinian dress, at the House swearing-in ceremony on January 3, 2019. (C-SPAN screenshot)

Rep. Rashida Tlaib wore a thobe, a traditional Palestinian dress, at the House swearing-in ceremony on January 3, 2019. (C-SPAN screenshot)

In her essay “On the Meaning of Sumoud” for the Palestine Chronicle, Benay Blend defines sumud — which means “steadfastness” in Arabic — as “a mental state of resilience that translates into not accepting the status quo.”

In Palestine, the “status quo” is the steady attempt to erase Palestinian existence. When a Palestinian school is bulldozed, Palestinians instead hold classes in someone’s home. They replant trees and rebuild homes and entire villages that have been destroyed. Earlier this month, the Palestinian Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Naqab (Negev in Hebrew) was demolished for the 143rd time. No doubt it will be rebuilt, as it has been 142 times before. They will rebuild not because Palestinians have a tremendous capacity to endure such suffering. In fact, there is much despair among Palestinians — especially in Gaza — who reached a breaking point decades ago. No, they will rebuild because there is simply no other choice.

In the United States, the “status quo” is the continual attempt to erase Palestinian identity. As Hanna AlShaikh writes in The Nation, “the Palestinian-American community has historically been rendered invisible or pushed to the sidelines.” This refers not only to the United States government’s consistent pro-Israeli policy, but also to the personal experiences and the microaggressions endured by the Palestinian community in America.

Palestinian speakers are invited to sit on panels only as long as another pro-Israel panelist is present to provide “balance.” Palestinians and allies who articulate and describe the assaults on Palestinian human and civil rights are labeled “radical” or “anti-Semitic,” and thus silenced. Many have lost their livelihoods because of this unjust branding. On a personal level, I will never forget the time a college professor told me, in front of my classmates: “There’s no such thing as Palestinians – you’re really Jordanian-American.”

This dangerous myth — the “non-existence” of Palestinians, a literal erasure — continues to be popular. Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu’s son repeated that myth, posting on social media that “Palestine” couldn’t possibly exist because there is no “P” in the Arabic alphabet. (The Twitterverse swiftly corrected him: someone pointed out that there is no “J” in Hebrew, but that doesn’t mean that Jews don’t exist.)

Palestinian Americans have always resisted these attempts at erasure. They take their children to Saturday Arabic lessons; they form dabke clubs; they pass on lessons in tatreez (Palestinian embroidery); they start book clubs; they insist that the word “Palestine” — not “Arab world” or “Mediterranean Culture” — be used on the program of their child’s school international festival.

Culture matters because it is proof of Palestinian identity and existence. Preserving it and celebrating it is a form of cultural sumud.

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In January, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib took her oath of office wearing a brightly embroidered thobe. This act of pride in her heritage and her family moved me deeply. Such a simple gesture, and yet how powerful. I started a hashtag, #TweetYourThobe, to celebrate with her but also to stave off the emerging, denigrating re-definition of this gesture, the attempt to turn it into something ugly, to reshape it on racism’s pottery wheel.

The fact that #TweetYourThobe went viral (thousands of women posted photos of themselves in their thobes) confirmed the need for so many of us to say, “This is who we are. This is how we define ourselves.” The viral moment was jubilant and life-affirming. Dr. Amal Amireh posted that the campaign was “an example of effective social media activism that can lift the spirit of the community (which badly needs it).”

Wanting to continue this trend, I reached out in January to the Museum of the Palestinian People, which will officially open in June in a beautiful location in the heart of Washington, D.C. I was drawn to its goals, which include sharing “Palestinian stories through historic artifacts, personal narratives and artistic expression to transcend separation, fragmentation, and boundaries.”

Recently, the museum agreed to partner on a new project: an International Day of Tatreez and Palestinian Culture, to be held on April 30 of every year.

This is our inaugural celebration. Starting on the morning of April 30, people all over the world will share photos of anything that represents Palestinian culture to them — and the story behind it — using hashtags #tweetyourthobe, #tweetyourtatreez, and #tweetyourculture.

We talk about “seizing the narrative,” and social media is the newest platform on which to share our authentic stories.

We will not disappear. We will not be erased. Sumud.

Susan Muaddi Darraj won the American Book Award in 2016 for her novel, A Curious Land. The book also won the Grace Paley Award and the Arab American Book Award. Her children’s chapter book series, Farah Rocks, will be the first to star a Palestinian American girl as the protagonist; it will be launched by Capstone Books in January 2020. You can find her on Twitter at @SusanDarraj.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      Why are the fake “fakestimyans” storming social media today ?
      I dont know – maybe April 30th is Hitler’s birthday ??

      Incidentally, the French government said the Notre Dame event was caused by an electrical fault WHILE THE FIRE WAS STILL BLAZING. Shouldn’t the cause be investigated in an enquiry that lasts several days at least ?

      Apparently over 10 French Churches were set on fire or severely trashed in February-March this year. This included St. Sulpice, Paris’s 2nd-largest church after Notre Dame. It had its large wooden door on its southern transept set ablaze. In another church near Nimes, intruders drew a cross on a wall with excrement then stuck consecrated hosts to it. See Crux Magazine March 28t 2019

      I wonder who is doing all this anti-Catholic stuff ?
      Disaffected protestants ?
      Maybe atheists who dislike the Catholic Church’s domination of French history ?
      Perhaps extreme Buddhists, Chasidic Jews or radical Hindus ?
      Its a big mystery isn’t it ??

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Lewis: Why April 30? Well….

        https://mpp-dc.org/international-day-of-tatreez-palestinian-culture/

        MPP Names April 30th International Day of Tatreez & Palestinian Culture…
        April 30th is the last day of Arab American Heritage Month, which was recognized by the 115th Congress on April 5, 2017 . There are three and a half million Arab Americans in the United States; approximately 5% are Palestinian Americans, who are diverse in terms of religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and political views.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Bruce:
          Fakestinyan culture ?
          Oh yeh……HOMICIDE BOMBINGS in pizza parlors, buses, bus stops, nightclubs, passover seders etc.
          Lets not forget the culture of their “fakestinyan”:
          Language
          Religion
          Capital City
          King
          Royal Palace
          Archaeological Record
          Historical Literature
          Constitution
          & other non-existent features.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Jennifer

      You can’t disappear because you never existed.

      Your insecurity is not rooted in someone’s attempt to erase you. It’s rooted in the fact that you’re a recently made up nationality that no one had heard of prior to 1967.

      Find a historical text printed before 1967 that mentions arab palestinians.

      You can’t because there are none.

      You made up this identity to try to destroy Israel, and you’ve failed.

      You owe what little identity you have 100% to Zionism because without it, you’d have no identity at all, other than as an arab, no different from any other arab.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The state of Israel never existed before 1948 either. (And although it shouldn’t matter, if we follow your own racist logic floating around in there, among present day Palestinians are people at least as much genetically and historically related to ancient Samaritans, and to ancient Jews, as you are. At least.) I don’t mean to be rude, but your argument, Jennifer, is extremely dumbed down, it is mere cant, venomous, hackneyed propaganda, propaganda that could only be manufactured, it seems to me, by someone utterly heartless and brutal about the human rights and property rights of non-Jewish human beings. By this you display a quite ugly, atavistic spirit, the very spirit that you in your own mind attribute to those you would deride. This is how confused you are about this.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Ben:
          The State of Israel existed in Ancient Times (although it was sometimes called the State of Judah). Ancient times does mean BEFORE 1948.
          Just a small correction to your time line there.

          Reply to Comment
          • john

            the concept of states as we know it didn’t exist until around the 1700’s.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            What’s your point? Palestine existed in ancient times too. (Spare us the claptrap about kings and coins though, please.) And John is right.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            My point is that the “fakestinyans” are as real as the Ugly Egyptian Terrorist who invented them in the 1970s.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The Israelis are as real as the Stern gang terrorists? Oh, ok.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Jennifer: When the American colonists declared independence from Britain in the 18th century they didn’t justify it by claiming that they were creating Version 2.0 of a previously existing country.

        No, they basically gave a human rights argument. After a half century of home demolitions, administrative detention and torture in Israeli prisons, I think the human rights argument is sufficient for the creation of a new state.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          The American Colonists never sought to destroy Great Britain and cause the destruction of London.
          The fake fakestinyans do seek to destroy Israel and erase its cities.
          That is the difference, Bruce.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You have this backwards. Britain did seek to destroy the Americans. The Americans, however, had other ideas, and they had sumud.
            Israel, the vastly greater power, tries constantly to destroy the Palestinians.
            You have it backwards.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Shlomo

      The “brilliant” correction of Netanyahu’s son, pointing out the there’s not ‘J’ in Jews, is immensely stupid. The two examples are not alike, because the Arab ‘Filastin’ is derived from the Greek ‘Palestine’, wheras the English ‘Jews’ are derived from the Hebrew Yehudim. Netanyahu’s point was that Palestine’s own name for itself is borrowed from Western cartography while other people, including Jews, have an original endonym in their own language. Arguing that an exonym for Jews includes a sound foreign (it isn’t, by the way) to the Hebrew language does absolutely nothing to disprove him.
      A proper rebuttal would have been that there are historical precedents for people naming their identity based on how others saw them. The fact that the author chooses this BS over such a common-sensical one shows exactly how much logic they’re willing to use.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Scott McDonald

      If you live in Oregon you’re an Oregonian. If you live in Palestine (as your forebears have for centuries) you are a Palestinian.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      What some brainwashed Arab kids do or don’t do in their spare time in New York or other US cities is irrelevant.
      The 450,000 Israelis living in Judea & Samaria are NEVER going to leave.
      We will stay in these mountains for all eternity.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        What settlement do you live in? That is, when you’re not marching in the streets of Afula in a brownish shirt against the horror of Arab citizens buying homes near Jews?

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          After a nation is destroyed and its inhabitants scattered, group identity is supposed to gradually lose cohesion over time. After several centuries, all memory of the past is lost. That is what happened to the Romans, Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, Normans, Mongols etc etc.
          How come the pesky Jews are not behaving this way?
          The number of Israeli Jews is now approaching 7 million while its GDP per capita now exceeds that of Japan, UK or France.
          Doesn’t this break the 2nd law of thermodynamics ?
          See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Sorry but modern day Israel and the ancient Hebrews are as different as modern and ancient Greeks. Again, you are the great over-simplifier. Now, how about answering the question?
            What settlement do “we” live in? And how do you manage that and the marches on Arab home buyers in Afula? You’re a busy guy!

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Nope. Modern Greeks could not understand a single sentence of Ancient Greek, despite the boasts of some Modern Greeks. Moreover, the pagan religion of antiquity has no connection to the Greek Orthodox faith of today. All this even though the Greeks were not subject to massive etnic cleansing like the Hebrews.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            for someone with such a tenuous grasp of history, you sure seem fond of teaching it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tom

            @Lewis, Your bible is not a history book, and there was not ethnical cleaning of jewish people in Palestine (using the name of the roman province) in 70 and most of the descendant of the hebrew people have stayed, most of them have been converted into christianity then islam (sometime by force). The arab people living in Israel/Palestine since centeries (palestinian but also the mizrahim) and are a mix of the différents people that controled the region including the first the cannaneans and israelites.
            In the all history of the region, the kingdomn of Israel has lasted 100 years, plus 350 years for the judean one, why are your history is so biased you forget the cananeans,the phoenicians,the egyptians, the persians, the assyrians, the greecks, the romans, the bysantins, the arabs, the crusadors, the turquish etc.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Re: “In the all history of the region, the kingdomn of Israel has lasted 100 years, plus 350 years for the judean one”
            WELL THAT IS 100 YEARS MORE AND 350 YEARS MORE THAN THE FAKE FAKESTINYAN ONE !

            “why are your history is so biased you forget the cananeans,the phoenicians,the egyptians, the persians, the assyrians, the greecks, the romans, the bysantins, the arabs, the crusadors, the turquish etc.”
            BECAUSE THE THE CANANNITES NO LONGER EXIST WHILE THE OTHER EMPIRES NEVER MADE THE LAND OF ISRAEl THEIR HOMELAND AND NEVER MADE THEIR JERUSALEM THEIR CAPITAL.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Until after 1945 the vast majority of Jews could not speak Hebrew either except for some memorized liturgical formulas. And had Jews stayed in Palestine for several thousand years instead of the diaspora their Hebrew would be unrecognizable by ancient Hebrews. You think you could converse with Chaucer’s Englishmen? Or Beowulf?
            This is just more of your deliberate “where are the king’s and coins?” simpleminded posing.
            The whole Israel = Jews and Jews = Israel equation is a modern political creation. Hebrew was only revived in the early 20th century. Much more than purely a linguistic process, the revival of Hebrew was used by Jewish modernization and political movements, and became a tenet of ideology associated with settlements, Zionism, and Israeli policy.
            The indigenous Palestinians, despite your blatant attempts to delegitimize them, have the same right to self-determination as Morrie from Moldova, Barry from Brooklyn, or Gruen, Miliekowsky or Smilansky.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tom

            In addition, the indigenous mizrhaim jews used to speak ARABIC and not Hebrew!And that was a long time before the hebrew revival brung by the european sionist.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Yes, the Mizrachim used to speak Arabic until Arabs pogromed them out.
            Very nice friendly Arabs aren’t they ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Tom

            Which progrom are you talking about ???? Most of the Mizrahim used to live more or less peaceafully in Palestine before the zionist came in the late XIXe, creating tension and a gap between jews and others.
            The Old Yishuv was kind of propserous and integrated in the arab society (In Safed, Hebron, Jérusalem, Tiberiad)the same as the christian arabs.

            By the way, the old Yishuv has always been considered by the PA as part of the palestinian society (the same as the samaritans in Nablus).

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben:
            Through most of diaspora history, most Male Jews in most places were literate or semi-literate in Hebrew.

            Re: “Jews = Israel equation is a modern political creation.”
            Except before 1948, the word “Israel” was used as a synonym for “Jewry”.

            The Miliekowsky saga has been dealt before. You apparently feel a 18th Century Slav King had the right to force that family to adopt some Slavic surname. I do not. That is the difference between us.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This is a lot of the same distraction bread crumbs you spread along a witch’s path you are trying to lead us down. To get back to the true road:

            https://peacenow.org/page.php?name=they-say-we-say-the-palestinians-are-not-a-real-people#.XMzwyehKjIU

            They Say:

            The Palestinians are not a real people. They are just Arabs from other places who settled in the Land of Israel over the years, without any cohesive national identity. There never was a Palestinian state and efforts to create one now are unjustified.

            We Say:

            Golda Meir’s suggestion, back in the late 1960s, that there is no Palestinian people was wrong and counterproductive. Repeating it today is wrong many times over, and does a terrible disservice to efforts to secure Israel’s future through peace.

            The starting point is this: it makes no difference whether Israelis, or Jews, or anyone else recognize the Palestinians as a people. The Palestinians view themselves as a distinct people, with deep ties to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel and supporters of Israel can neither deny nor wish the Palestinians and their claims out of existence. That is the reality that must be accepted and addressed if there is ever going to be peace, security, and stability.

            At the same time, Israelis and Jews should recognize the gross insincerity and disrespect involved in denying the Palestinians’ identity, because we have experienced the same ugly denial. For years, extremists within and outside the Arab world have attacked the legitimacy of Israel as a state by attacking the Jewish claim to the land and attacking the legitimacy of Israelis as a national group. They have argued that Israelis are nothing but foreigners who came from the West, who should go back where they came from.

            People of integrity – Jewish and non-Jewish – categorically reject and condemn such attacks on Israel. We point to Jewish historical and religious ties to the land, to the continual presence of Jews on the land throughout history, and to the well-established Jewish longing for Israel way before 1948. We insist on Israelis’ right to self-determination and security. And we recognize the pain such attacks cause to Israelis and the threat these attacks represent to the very possibility of Israel-Arab peace.

            Likewise, for decades there has been an effort among extremists in Israel and abroad to try to delegitimize the Palestinians as a people and delegitimize their right, as a people, to self-determination. These arguments are historically incorrect and insensitive. Worse, they are irrelevant to the current situation on the ground, and politically damaging to Israeli interests.

            There is ample historical documentation showing that a separate local identity among Arabs living in Palestine started forming in the 16th and 17th century, and that a national Palestinian consciousness began crystallizing early in the 20th century, as anti-colonial movements took root around the world. This national consciousness transformed into a national movement and later into a national liberation movement, in large part as a result of the friction between the Palestinians and Zionism, the Jewish national self-determination movement.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Re: “There is ample historical documentation showing that a separate local identity among Arabs living in Pal”estine started forming in the 16th and 17th century”

            Can you name any 16th or 17th Century scholars, poets, thinkers or leaders that expressed this forming identity ?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The Palestinian Mufti Khayr al-Din al-Ramli (1585-1670) wrote a legal opinion which several times mentions “Filastin,” “biladuna” (our country), etc. Going beyond simple geography. See for example “Palestine and Other Territorial Concepts,” by Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor Haim Gerber, International Journal of Middle East Studies, 1998. “The argument of this paper is that though the all-inclusive identity of Middle Eastern Muslims under the Ottomans was Islamic and Ottoman first, territorial identities existed beneath them and that these territorial communities are commensurate with the modern Middle Eastern states.”

            But the argument we are having here does not simply depend on 17th century historical correctness, as you would have it. It also depends on integrity, sincerity, respect, human rights and 20th century self-determination and anti-colonial issues, as Peace Now has it. No matter what anyone thought four centuries ago.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            From wikipedia:
            “At its greatest extent, Jund Filastin extended from Rafah in the south to Lajjun in the north, and from the Mediterranean coast well to the east of the southern part of the Jordan River. The mountains of Edom, and the town of Zoar (Sughar) at the southeastern end of the Dead Sea were included in the district. However, the Galilee was excluded, being part of Jund al-Urdunn in the north.”

            In other words, this Muslim Cleric defined his fakestine very, very differently from the modern so-called “fakestinyans”. This cleric defined filastin as EXCLUDING the Gallilee and INCLUDED large tracts of what is now JORDAN. You just proved my point – “Palestine” is a purely geographical concept. It is a borderless, capital-less, currency-less, anything-less region.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Give it up, Lewis. This is all distraction and irrelevant. These people and their fathers and grandfathers and great grandmothers etc have been living in the land for centuries. You can’t say the same. Where was your great grandmother born? Why do you get to delegitimize them but they don’t get to delegitimize you? Based on your racial theory? Your overweening arrogance? These are rhetorical questions. You needn’t bother answering. I think Peace Now has it right and makes a livable future possible. You OTOH seriously and unabashedly want ethnic cleansing and mass transfer, war crimes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Yes, everything is an irrelevant distraction when it disproves your theories.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            so, we need to cite specific historiographical resources, while you feel free to make up bullshit.

            Reply to Comment
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