In recent years, there has been an increased effort to bring Palestinian narratives of the 1948 Nakba to the forefront.
The ethnic cleansing displaced 750,000 Palestinians from their land between 1947 and 1949. In the decades that followed, Palestinian narratives were muted to accommodate the political diplomacy promoted by the international community.
This included a mix of statistics, humanitarian aid and forced dependence which promoted the two-state compromise over the Palestinian people’s political rights and memory. One question we should be asking is: how many narratives of the 750,000 displaced Palestinians still survive?
The loss of Palestinian archives as a result of Israel’s occupation makes the documentation and preservation of Palestinian oral histories a vital task. The international community knows it is easier to deal with the anonymity of statistics, but Palestinians are challenging this imposed complacency.
Even so, decades of political compromise, notably with regard to Palestinian refugees and their right of return, translates to an ongoing loss which cannot be fully recuperated.
Ramzy Baroud’s collection of Palestinian narratives, The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press 2018), points towards the magnitude of untold stories and the importance of Palestinian memory in understanding the Palestinian people’s ongoing Nakba.
Literature makes inroads into awareness. Reading an external overview of the Nakba is not as powerful as acquainting one’s self with the stories of expulsions and massacres. Witnesses of these atrocities have a responsibility to articulate, the least that can be done is to allow the spaces for Palestinian narratives to thrive and be documented.
Ghassan Zaqtan, a Palestinian poet and novelist, spoke to The New Arab about the role literature plays in preserving and imparting Palestinian narratives and memory.