Historical narratives

May 9, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

photo taken by Kim in NicaraguaHistory is a narrative normally told by those who succeeded or conquered. We don’t always hear the losing narrative. And so in Israel the word “Nakba” or ‘disaster’ is not uttered. It’s an Arab word that succinctly captures the narrative of what happened to Palestinian people when the Israeli state was created in 1948.

Israeli school texts don’t depict the so-called Green Line or ceasefire line that separated Israel from the Palestinian territories until 1967. As Dr Ruth Firer, historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem says, every country is guilty of telling its own often myopic version of history in which it is usually the hero of the story.

Over in the West Bank, the grand narrative is the birth of Palestinian nationalism and there is no room for the history of the Jewish people.

But one man is trying to weave the two narratives together so both Isrealis and Palestinians can better understand the separate stories of experience. Khaled Kasab Mahameed runs the Arab Institute for Holocaust research and education in Nazareth. When Khaled, who is an Israeli Arab, visits Palestinian refugee camps, he takes along with him graphic photos of Jewish suffering from the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. He believes that the memory of persecution is still strong and informs the Israeli character and that Palestinians should be better educated about the Jewish experience.

Similarly, Eyal Danon, who works on a project with Israeli Arabs documenting the Arab and Jewish history of Jaffa, believes that Israelis should study the Nakba – the birth of Israel that resulted in 700,000 Palestinians fleeing from what they regarded as their home.

Since the 1980s, Israeli historians have been writing about the violence and suffering that surrounded the creation of the Israeli state, but these facts have yet to make it into the grand narrative of Israel.

Hopefully, through the use of narrative and the efforts of Khaled and Eyal Danon, genuine dialogue may start to take place resulting in an appreciation of both sides of the story.


Entry filed under: History, Narratives.

Dust up over Nefertiti Where the Neanderthal went, we may soon follow

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