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169, May 2012 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Palestine Museum in South Africa.
Dr. Anwah.
Palestine Museum in South Africa.

Palestine Museum in South Africa
By Anis Daraghma
Officially there are four physical museums in the world that exist solely to exhibit Palestinian political discourse: Palestine Museum in Cape Town; The Palestine Gallery in London; Palestine Museum at Birzeit University in Palestine; and Palestine Museum in Tehran. Although they are the only museums that carry the name of Palestine and all that this name implies, they are not the only museums that exhibit Palestinian political discourse. For instance, the Arafat Museum and Mahmoud Darwish Museum, both in Ramallah, Palestine, exhibit Palestinian political discourse as revealed through the lives of former President of the Palestinian National Authority Yasser Arafat and Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. Certainly, holding up the sign “Palestine Museum” does not mean that those who choose other titles are not exhibiting Palestine political discourse.

Indeed, museums that exhibit Palestinian political discourse are in the early stages of development. None of the six museums achieves a constant flow of visitors, as they are young in age and experience. Therefore, one cannot provide a concrete critique of these six museums. One can, however, offer an observation of the process to establish these museums. In a way, they are not yet museums but are in the process of becoming museums.

Maybe one should not expect to see any of the six museums achieve a crystal alignment with Palestinian discourse - the discourse of Palestine in the eye of Palestinians and their allies - be it political, social, archaeological, or cultural. On one hand, the discourse of Palestine is not only Palestinian - it is also universal. Palestinian discourse is important to or shaped by not only Palestinians but also by human rights activists, including Muslims and Christians beyond the geography of Palestine. On the other hand, there is no universal agreement on the ideology of Palestinian discourse. There is, however, a landscape of political emphases. That is to say, the context and the stories of any one of the six museums will be different from that of the other five museums. For instance, the Palestine Museum in South Africa will exhibit a part of the Palestinian political discourse that may be understood by or important to South Africans. Likewise the discourse of the Palestine Gallery in London will exhibit a discourse that may be understood by those who live in London. In both cases what is exhibited is actually a limited expression of what may be a significant understanding of Palestinian political discourse that emerges from the perspective of those who frame these museums.

It is unsurprising to see the emergence of the Palestine Museum in Cape Town. Firstly, what is happening to Palestinians concerns activists, including South African Muslims and Christians. For instance, what is happening to Islamic and Christian archaeology and sacred places in Palestine is also of concern to South African Muslims and Christians, as well as to individuals interested in archaeological and historical studies. Secondly, the persistence of colonialism, racism, oppression, and dismissiveness to Palestinians concerns the current government of South Africa, including the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as well as other parties. The ANC’s history confirms a strong tie and investment between the ANC and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). At this moment in history, there is no need for such a tie to be diminished with regard to humanitarian support and solidarity. Above all, humanity is connected beyond geographical and political boundaries. In South Africa, we see ordinary Muslims, Christians, students, academics, activists, business people and staff members of the South African government express their solidarity, sympathy, and support for victims of colonialism and subjugation not only in Palestine but everywhere, as far as they know about it.

Establishing the Palestine Museum in South Africa comes as a generous expression of solidarity that has emerged from concerned individuals who seek no thanks or recognition but aim to de-accelerate the process of the erasure of Palestine; to liberate Palestinians from the curse and persistence of subjugation; to show an alternative horizon for Israelis, far removed from that of constructing potential massacres; and to contribute to making this world better for all of us.

Is it important to establish Palestine museums in South Africa and elsewhere? Undoubtedly Palestinians and Palestine will not be liberated merely by Palestinian efforts. This can only be achieved through a joint effort between Palestinians and Palestine solidarity groups beyond and within the geography of Palestine. According to Noam Chomsky (November 2010), this will only be significant when Palestine solidarity groups play a significant role in the United States. South Africa’s liberation history tells us that South Africans were liberated when they achieved a global boycott of South Africa’s apartheid government. So freedom was not achieved in South Africa only via the resistance of South Africans in their country but also via their cooperation and investment with liberation movements and governments in almost every other country.

I am not saying that Palestinians and/or Palestine will only be liberated via the model of South Africa - that is, boycotting colonial-racist political entities and ideologies. I am confident that the freedom of each nation and/or person is achieved in a unique way. Also I am confident that Palestine museums beyond the boundaries of Palestine are forms of solidarity with the liberation discourse of both Palestine and Palestinians. These efforts contribute to educating the public and governments about the issue and will help both entities to construct less abusive and more moral policies towards Palestine and Palestinians.

The Palestine Museum in South Africa is a platform of Resistance in Motion, whose work is shaped in response to the policies of the hegemonic states in Palestine, such as that of the United States and its embedded media such as CNN. The focus of the Palestine Museum is to educate the public about these policies and media that aim to maintain the state of war against Palestinians. War - or rather, imposing the state of emergency - temporality, and hopelessness are three faces of one colonial discourse - a foreign discourse that leads to the impoverishment of local communities in order to dismiss their existence. The state of war comes from constructing and expanding Israel’s boundaries, which seem to necessitate the erasure of Palestine and to dismiss the future of Palestinians in the region. Israel is systematically modifying the socio-political-spiritual-ecological-physical landscape of Palestine to become “Israel” - a place of “idealism/selfishness,” “purity/arrogance,” and universal hope/dismissiveness. Such an on-going discourse is engineered to encourage and to force Palestinians to look for safer, healthier, more productive and sustainable places beyond the geography and the shadow of the region. The Palestine Museum joins efforts with those who aim to free Palestinians and Israelis - humanity in general - from such a suicidal plan.

Dr. Anis Daraghma, PhD, is the director of the Palestine Museum and a fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa.

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