How do the palestinians of the diaspora identify themselves as palestinian? It is something I have always taken for granted, that even though I have never been to Palestine, and that I am half english, I am still Palestinian.
This is actually a PhD topic of someone I know… I met them through their research, I was referred to them as a test subject 😀 We have met and talked about her research, and I found it very interesting. She asked about cultural aspects, and how we kept the palestinian culture alive. I realised that we collect Palestinian art, listen to Palestinian music, and cook Palestinian food quite often, my English mum is a deft hand at moulokhia, and her roast lamb is a treat! But really, is that all that Palestine means?
We talked some more, and I started telling her about the experiences of my Dad, when he was forced to flee his village in northern Lydd, and walk to Jerusalem. I gave her an almost first hand account of the pain and failure my Grandfather felt when seeing his 4 year old son (my dad) pick his way across Palestine. How pictures of Refugees in 1948 actually hurt me, as I feel ‘connected’ to them. I actually choked up when talking about my 2 aunts that died aged 2 and 4, from curable illnesses in the refugee camp, and how my 6 year old Dad survived the illness. She made an interesting comment: did I feel I needed to suffer to deserve to be Palestinian?
It shook me, especially as my narrative had been sparked by my observation that my children (should they ever materialise) would not have these first hand reports that I did. I remembered my cousin saying ‘we do not deserve to be Palestinian, look at the people suffering untold hardships, and tell me whether we deserve to call ourselves Palestinian’. Maybe we feel the need to suffer for Palestine to earn that badge of honour?
Then I thought of immigrant communities in Europe and USA, who integrate and their children lose the connection with their parents homeland. I never understood it, but now realise we are the odd ones out. We left our home at gunpoint, and our existence is at risk of being wiped out by the invaders. Maybe that is why we are driven to make the statement ‘we exist’. Maybe that is why I called this the Palestinian blog, not the british blog. Britain doesnt need me, Palestine does.
Note: an interesting compilation of interviews with Palestinian communities in the diaspora was recently published: http://www.civitas- online.org/ . Oxford collaboration headed by Karma Nabulsi.
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