After many decades of ongoing Palestinian displacement and dispossession at the hands of the Zionist settler-colonial machine, Palestinians today are fragmented around the world. Of the approximately 12 million Palestinians alive, less than half remain within the borders of pre-1948 Palestine. Whilst such realisations are imperative in understanding the Palestinian cause, discussion and debate around the Palestinian issue is all too often restrained to geographic rather than human terms.
When the Palestinian Liberation Organisation was founded in 1964 it was established to represent ‘the Palestinian people’ – a collective ‘human’ term that paid no dues to geographic limitations. Today the role of the PLO is muddied, the word ‘liberation’ rarely mentioned in official Palestinian statements and the PLO’s actions in many ways have become synonymous with those of the Palestinian Authority despite the latter’s stated and accepted geographic limitations.
These fragmented and confused political stances, alongside a lack of collective accountability, democracy and inclusivity have in many ways reinforced the international consensus that ‘Palestine’ is a concept that is limited to the 1967 borders at best. Palestinians living outside of those borders have been politically sidelined, their voices are rarely heard.
Those who adopt or accept this status quo, even sadly some within elements of the solidarity movement, are offering de facto acceptance, whether intentionally or otherwise, to one of the major results of the Zionist program.
‘Palestinian’ is a term of identity, with roots to a place of origin – Palestine – but without restrictions linked to current locations of residence. So what does this identity mean to Palestinians who live in the diaspora, how do they express it, and what does this experience entail for the millions who know nothing else?
A new Middle East Monitor multi-media project will explore some of these issues over the coming months. Beginning in August, one short film will be published monthly through which Palestinians living in the diaspora will explore a range of issues including collective and individual identity, political representation, exile, culture and the concept of ‘home’.
The first film, to be released by Middle East Monitor in the first week of August, will feature Musheir El-Farra, a dedicated Palestinian activist and author who was born and raised in Khan Yunis in Gaza, but who moved to the UK to study in the late 1980’s where he remains today working as a civil engineer.
In this first film, El-Farra will explore the notion of ‘Loss’ that he has experienced in his time outside of Palestine – the pain of not being able to enter Gaza as his mother lie dying in a hospital bed; the destruction of his family’s ‘Jumais’ trees in which he had always dreamed to build a treehouse for his children; his desperation to be alongside his own people despite his safety in the UK – and respect for many aspects of life there – as members of his family were killed by Israeli drones during Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza.
‘Loss’ – featuring Musheir El-Farra – will be published in the first week of August, and is the first of a series of short films to be released over coming months.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.