INTERVIEW: Palestinian identity is deeply rooted even in diaspora: Palestinian culture minister

Sarah Ramadan, Sunday 2 Jun 2024

Palestinian Minister of Culture Emadeddin Hamdan explained that in the face of a continued national catastrophe, Palestinians have maintained their culture as a form of resistance against the occupation.

Palestinian Minister of Culture

 

"The Palestinians have been through a continued Nakba, and the current events are sheer extension of a long history of displacement, extermination, and denial of their rights as the indigenous people of the land," said Palestinian Minister of Culture Emadeddin Hamdan

He explained how Palestinians have pursued a firm stand against the Israeli occupation, which indiscriminately targeted homes, schools, hospitals, and places of worship.

"Attempts to erase the Palestinian identity has long been a challenge for the occupation," he said, adding: "Hence, documenting the assaults on Palestinian cultural heritage is not just a national duty, but a comprehensive responsibility for everyone to tackle."

"In the absence of a true international accountability for the crimes of the Israeli occupation, Palestinians have remained attached to their land and heritage, defending them with the power of historical facts, supported by the solidarity of free people who now have understood the reality of Israel's practices," he added.

"The issue of identity, culture, and history have always been part and parcel of forming a cohesive framework that invokes resistance against the threats imposed by the relentless Israeli occupation machine to undermine their identity," he said.

"This occupation has been killing, destroying, and displacing the Palestinians as means to wash them out of their own lands. The Palestinian identity has thus been shaped by the cultural and historical reservoir of the indigenous people whose set of values, the tight grip over their faith and their living rituals echo their indigeneity. This in part explains their resilience in the face of the brutal acts of Genocide that are humanly unbearable."

Limited options, long struggle
 

"Palestinians have limited options and cannot go beyond the concept of paying dearly to get back their land," Hamdan said. 

He describes the ongoing situation as an unfolding of the Nakba.

"The painful feelings of loss, deprivation and injustice suffered by Palestinian refugees have been the bred and salt for them to this day, especially when the very same story was repeated in 1967," he said.

"Therefore, the current Israeli extermination machine, the ongoing ethnic cleansing and genocidal acts are, for the Palestinians, more of the same or a prolonged part of the original crime, for which Israel has not been held accountable before any international institution that protect human rights," he added.

Attacks on Palestinian existence
 

Hamdan believes that Israeli targeting of homes, schools, universities, hospitals, mosques, churches and other civilian objects in Gaza is an attack on Palestinians’ very existence.

"There have been desperate attempts to erase the Palestinian features, wipe out and distorted their images. Israel has been trying to obliterate the essence of Palestinian presence. The targeting of Phoenician relics in Gaza complements this systematic policy," he said.

Collective responsibility for documentation
 

The culture minister believves that documenting the assaults on cultural heritage in Gaza is a collective responsibility.

"We follow up with all relevant parties. We are in constant communication with Arab, Islamic, and international organizations specializing in cultural matters, especially the UNESCO, which monitors the unprecedented attacks on human heritage. We have approached these organizations to form international committees that assess what is happening. Pursuing Israel's war of extermination in Gaza means more attacks on heritage, which take various forms such as demolition, destruction, theft, and distortion," he said.

"Therefore, the documentation process must be comprehensive and precise to hold the occupying state accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian culture, which is part of human cultural heritage, the minister noted."

Efforts to protect heritage
 

According to Hamdan, the ministry has been working with “our brothers in Arab and Islamic countries” to protect Arab and Islamic heritage.

"These efforts have been materialized through a series of decisions made by Arab and Islamic organizations. However, extensive work is yet to be done and needed, given the scope and the extent of brutality of the ongoing war which calls for more powerful support of the Arab and Islamic organizations interested in protecting such cultural heritage. Nonetheless, efforts continue, and we look forward to more support in this battle."

"As for the churches in Nazareth, the Israeli measures are more aggressive. The destruction goes under the pretext that the 1948 territories are Israeli lands, thus the occupation practices and its policies go well beyond the international regulations," he said.

"However, our people in the occupied territories especially in Nazareth, are paying dearly to preserve the Muslim and Christian assets in the city, and we follow up each and every violation of the Israeli occupation."

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