Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

"My Struggle Embraces Every Struggle" : Palestinians in Israel and Solidarity with Afro-Asian Liberation Movements

Academic journal article Arab Studies Journal

"My Struggle Embraces Every Struggle" : Palestinians in Israel and Solidarity with Afro-Asian Liberation Movements

Article excerpt

Before he was an internationally acclaimed poet, Mahmoud Darwish spent his twenties as an editor and columnist for al-Ittihad and al-Jadid, the Arabic-language publications of the Israeli Communist Party. In February 1962 he reported on the second Afro-Asian Writers Association Conference in Cairo, where writers from sixty countries gathered to discuss how they could forge a sense of solidarity based on their geographical and historical ties. Darwish articulated the impetus for the conference by noting that in the years immediately preceding it, "The East has stood on its feet and unleashed its energy, which has changed the face of humanity's history and cleansed it of imperialism's filth . . . . In this solidarity the writers of Asia and Africa have found a path towards unifying their shared forces."1 While Darwish's account vividly conveyed his excitement about the conference, one thing was missing: Darwish himself. As a Palestinian living in Israel, Darwish could not attend the conference, due both to Israel's ban on travel to Arab countries and to the Arab boycott of Israel. Nonetheless, Darwish's enthusiasm for the conference clearly reflected a broader, yet frequently overlooked, aspect of Palestinian discourse in Israel. Despite their physical and geographical isolation, Palestinian activists and intellectuals repeat- edly sought to affirm their solidarity with global decolonizing movements and liberation struggles. In doing so, they subtly contested elements of the Zionist narrative that portrayed Israel itself as part of the decolonizing world.

Until recently, much of the scholarship on the pre-1967 Palestinian minority in Israel has characterized it as politically quiescent and isolated, in contrast to the more robust political assertiveness of later generations of activists.2 More recent studies have challenged this picture of quiescence, highlighting early acts of resistance despite the dominance of the Israeli military regime.3 Additional work has also shed new light on what Ghassan Kanafani in 1966 termed the "resistance literature in occupied Palestine," showing how poetry festivals and Arabic literary journals provided impor- tant outlets for poetic expressions of nationalist sentiment and opposition to Israeli policies during the pre-1967 period.4 These studies, however, focus primarily on state-minority interactions and tend to locate the Palestinian community squarely within the confines of the nation-state. A few scholars have noted the consumption of Arab media by Palestinians in Israel as well as Palestinian activists' pan-Arab orientation.5 Yet there has been less attention to how Palestinian cultural producers in Israel situated themselves within the broader context of Afro-Asian decolonization movements and their concomitant global solidarity programs. As a result, the Palestinian minority has yet to be fully integrated into broader studies of Arab intel- lectual and cultural history, particularly during the pre-1967 period when scholars assumed they were cut off from the wider region.

This article addresses this gap by examining how Palestinian activists and intellectuals in Israel articulated their solidarity with Afro-Asian libera- tion struggles. Because of numerous political and ideological constraints that hindered their ability to organize sustained, large-scale and contentious collective action,6 they relied upon cultural production to express their solidarity with these movements. Through a content analysis of two of the most popular and influential Arabic-language publications in Israel during this period-the semi-weekly newspaper al-Ittihad (The Union) and the monthly cultural journal al-Jadid (The New)-I argue that between 1960 (the Year of Africa7) and 1967 (the June War), Palestinian contributors to these publications utilized three overlapping solidarity discourses. These discourses aimed to connect Palestinians in Israel to the major anticolonial and anti-imperial struggles that animated the Afro-Asian world during this period, most notably those of Algeria, Congo, and Vietnam. …

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