In this article, I will try to describe the Israeli-Palestinian cultural conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in recent years.
The Israeli-Palestinian cultural conflict and the struggle for narrative began decades ago, in 1948, with the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages and the establishment of Israeli settlements with Hebrew names in their place. This conflict continued after Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and their holy sites - al-Haram al-Ibrahimi in Hebron, called the Cave of the Patriarchs; Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, called the Temple Mount in Hebrew; Bilal Mosque, which was the tomb of Rachel and more. After the conquest of the land, the goal was to erase the Palestinian narrative and replace it with a Jewish-Israeli narrative.
In this article, I will try to describe the Israeli-Palestinian cultural conflict in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in recent years, and even in recent months, during the Corona period. Cultural activities on the Jewish-Israeli side continued the project of erasing the Palestinian story, especially during Miri Regev's tenure in the Ministry of Culture, while the Palestinian side acted and is working to preserve the Palestinian national identity and strengthen the Palestinian narrative.
The corona plague has, of course, also affected Palestinian society, its health, its economy, and its national identity in all its components, political, social, and cultural. During this period, the Israeli occupation policy also harmed Palestinian society in the field of culture, especially in East Jerusalem, in an attempt to erase the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic cultural identity of Jerusalem. For example, in July 2020, the Israel Police raided two major Palestinian cultural institutions in East Jerusalem, the Jebus Cultural Center and the National Music Center. However, the Corona period aroused Palestinian memory and shocked it.
Throughout the years, Palestinian art and culture have proven to play an important role in preserving memory and national identity and in resisting the occupation. This role was expressed, for example, in the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, Samih al-Qassem, and Arun Hashem Rashid, in the resistance literature of Ghassan Kanafani, and the "prison literature" written by the prisoners during their years in prison in the Israeli prison.
During the Corona period, a Palestinian official and popular cultural discourse were characterized by online art and literature events broadcast on social media. The Corona created an opportunity to bring together Palestinian and Arab cultural figures from around the world, to strengthen ties between them, and to show broad support for the Palestinian narrative - to present a single voice against the Israeli cultural identity that imposes itself by force of arms and occupation. For example, during the epidemic, the Palestinian Ministry of Culture produced meetings between Palestinian writers from Gaza and the West Bank, Borders 48 and the Diaspora, and Arab writers from Arab countries and from all over the world.
Such meetings emphasize the national dimension of the Palestinian issue, help spread the true Palestinian narrative, and expose the policies of occupation and the daily suffering of the Palestinian people. At the end of each meeting, the artists declare their support for ending the occupation and for boycotting any Israeli-funded cooperation. Many people attended these events - a much larger number than is customary at "face-to-face" events organized by the ministry in the past in the halls.
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Also during this period, the Palestinian Ministry of Culture published several new books, such as the novel "Slap of Destiny" (صفعة قدر) by Jana Jarrar, the novel "When the Heart is Blind" (حين يعمى القلب) by Dr. Vidad al-Barghouti, And the book "I am not alone as a stone" ("لست وحيداً مثل حجر"), by Sami al-Kilani, which belongs to the prison literature genre. In the context of the cultural struggle, it is particularly interesting to note the publication of the research book "Museums and the Palestinian-Israeli Struggle: On the Contemporary Cultural Identity of Jerusalem" (المتاحف والصراع الفسرائيلي;
To strengthen ties within Palestinian society, a new television channel has been opened in cooperation with the media companies "Mada" and "Khadra", which broadcasts, among other things, cultural programs to disseminate Palestinian national culture.
During Miri Regev's tenure at the Ministry of Culture and Sports in Israel (2015–2020), she repeatedly stated that she would support cultural activities in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with the unintended purpose of confronting the Palestinian narrative and replacing it with the Israeli narrative. To implement its policy, Regev allocated NIS 8 million to produce films about the settlers' lives. " We made history !" Regev said, "The time has come for the voices of Judea and Samaria that have been excluded for years to be reflected in cinema as well."
Some of the films produced thanks to these budgets present the settlers as the legitimate owners of the land and their devotion to the land and deny the existence of the original Palestinian landowners. The Palestinians in these films are usually terrorists and nothing more.
According to data provided by the Ministry of Culture at the request of the Association for Civil Rights, in 2015 303 cultural events were held in the West Bank, and in 2016 - 443, an increase that originated mainly from the Ministry of Culture's support for cultural institutions and local authorities. According to researcher Yuval Yekutiel from the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University, 47% of state support for culture in 2019 was directed to cultural activities in the settlements. Among the activities that received support are festivals, such as the Wine Festival "in the timeline", and the Cherry Festival in Gush Etzion, as well as museums, such as the Good Samaritan Museum and the "Eretz Yehuda" Museum in Kiryat Arba.
All of these activities and celebrations, with the support of the government and local councils, emphasize the biblical story and are designed to establish the historical and religious rights of the Jews in the West Bank and the legitimacy of the settlements.
One of Regev's clear moves to erase the Palestinian story is, of course, the " Cultural Loyalty Law " (2018). According to this law, the Ministry of Culture will be able to reduce (or eliminate) the public budgets are given to cultural institutions, Arab and Israeli, whose actions would imply the denial of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; Incitement to racism, violence, and terrorism; Support for an armed struggle or terrorist act of an enemy state or of a terrorist organization against the State of Israel; Marking Independence Day today is mourning, or an act of corrupting or desecrating the state flag or emblem of the state.
The purpose of this law is, of course, to prevent critical cultural activity, and in particular any involvement in the ongoing Palestinian Nakba, as well as to separate Palestinian cultural institutions within Israel and those outside it. That is, to dominate the false narrative and agenda of the far right.
In other words, this cultural activity is part of the deportation and occupation project, a project that aims not only to get the Palestinians out of their land but also to get their story out of them. In the face of this project, the Palestinians are trying to place a local and international political and cultural struggle that will present the "original" story of the locals and the right-wingers.
As mentioned, this is a long conflict between the two narratives. The Palestinians want to preserve their story and national identity through cultural actions, while the Israeli occupation authorities try to undermine this narrative and establish it in its place - also through art and culture.