Oct 9, 2011

The Great Book Robbery

Colonial history is a history of attack on native people and everything associated with them.   It is an attempt not only to erase the people but to erase their memory.  No other colonial system developed as many tools  to achieve this erasure than Zionism.  Zionsits used the classic brute force forms of ethnic cleansing where 530 villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed. Today more than 7 million of us Palestinains are refugees or displaced people.  Zionists also deployed all available tools from linguistics (erasing place names and creating new ones), to history/archeology (distorting and lying about history of an indigenous people while creating a fake history to justify zionism), to communication (planting agents in amin stream media to propagate the mythologies), to urban and rural social engineering to transform the ancient landscape. 

Part of this tsunami of destruction was the looting of Palestinian culture and property.  Israeli airlines even used Palestinain embroidery designs for ethir crews in the early 1950s.  They expropriated even food so that falafel and hummus became "Israeli foods." But as a professor who have spent all his life among books, I found the looting of Palestinain books as particularly troubling.  Ofcourse Israel looted the land, the houses, the factories, eth farms, and everying inside of those to create the "Jewish state" (see for example http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Palestine-Remembered/Story680.html ).  But books hold a special meaning for us educated Palestinians.  We believe that the essence of a modernized people lie in the books they read.  Before 1948, Palestine had a vibrant cultural scene with Jaffa, Jerusalem, and Haifa (together with Cairo and Beirut) being great cultural and academic centers for the Arab world.  Local publishers in fact published just as many books in Palestine as in Beirut in the first half of the 20th century.  In that period, Palestinian politicians used to be the highest educated class in society.  Leaders from families like Al-Khalidi, Husseini, and AbdulHadi took pride in their private libraries. My own grandfather taught me that money comes and goes but a decent book purchased and read provides priceless life changing habits.  He himself authored several books and provided me with a role model for that.  As such, I feel pain when I recall people pushed out of their lands and then their property stolen and labeled "abanoned property".  This is such a horrible name since no one abandons their property.  It is and remains stolen.  I believe Palestine will eventually be free and refugees will return to tehir homes and lands.  They will also return so that this generation can reclaim the books of our grandparents.  As we dust and open those books, the hidden history will come to life and the the years of pain and exile will slowly recede into memories.  New knowledge will be built upon this old knowledge and this will help shape the Palestine of the future. 

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