Browse Galleries:
Browse Posters: previous | next

Sixth Annual Congress of Palestinian Students
Artist: Unattributed (Algeria)
Dimensions: 19.5” x 26”
Publisher: General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS)

This poster announces the annual conference of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) that took place in Algeria in 1971. Its grid of rectangles suggests a chessboard; the repeated, boldly colored image of a kaffiyeh (Arabic: headdress) implies persistence, movement, and perhaps, adaptation. It also implies an army of many.

The Arabic caption in the lower left reads:

Despite the scourge of violent repression and terror, Palestinian students advance the revolution and are the strong voice of the Palestinian people everywhere.


The kaffiyeh, symbolizing a commitment to armed struggle and national liberation, is an icon that would have resonated with Palestinian and Arab students. At the time this poster was printed, the kaffiyeh already held a favored status in Arab and international revolutionary cultures, but it had not yet achieved the level of global popularity it now enjoys. Today the kaffiyeh is the headgear of choice at anti-globalization demonstrations and other protests. For example, it is very popular with Italian youth who don the black-and-white version as a symbol of rebellion and have dubbed it the “Arafati” after Yasser Arafat. Though never exclusively Palestinian, the kaffiyeh has become a fashion metaphor for solidarity with Palestine. Even Israeli poster artists unselfconsciously employ the kaffiyeh in their work as a symbol not only for Palestine but also for their own dissent from Zionist rhetoric.

The General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) is one of the many Palestinian “popular organizations” that have emerged since the mid-1960s. These organizations bring Palestinians together based on shared professional skills and interests; many have offices in nations around the world. Taken together they involve hundreds of thousands of Palestinians across the entire spectrum of political, professional, and cultural life.

The major popular organizations are:

The General Union of Palestinian Artistic Performers
The General Union of Palestinian Artists
The General Union of Palestinian Doctors
The General Union of Palestinian Economists
The General Union of Palestinian Engineers
The General Union of Palestinian Farmers
The General Union of Palestinian Jurists
The General Union of Palestinian Students
The General Union of Palestinian Teachers
The General Union of Palestinian Women
The General Union of Palestinian Workers
The General Union of Palestinian Writers and Journalists
The Higher Council of Palestinian Youth and Sports

The popular organizations were established under the aegis of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to organize Palestinians in the diaspora and to develop their skills so that they might someday assume the leadership of the professional, political, and cultural institutions of a future Palestinian state. The popular organizations are structured democratically and enjoy representation in the Palestine National Congress (PNC), the Palestinian parliament.

The establishment by the PLO of these popular organizations emulates, almost to the letter, the nation-building strategies of the early Zionists who established local branches of the Society of the Jews organized by special interests. Thus this particular poster is an almost exact parallel to pre-1948 posters of the Zionist movement that sought to mobilize and organize Jewish students and professionals in countries around the world.

© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.

Questions for A New
Democratic Discussion

1) The kaffiyeh is a popular, international metaphor for Palestine. Is there a corresponding metaphor for Israel or Zionism? What advantages and disadvantages do artists face when they employ these visual metaphors in their work?

2) The quotation in the poster applies the word “terror” to actions against Palestinians. In the context of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, that label has come to be almost exclusively associated in the U. S. with the actions of Palestinians. Why has that happened? How is the term “terror” itself used as a weapon?

3) How are the Palestinian popular organizations similar to or different from the Young Republicans, the Young Democrats of America, the American Medical Association, the National Federation of Teachers, and other organizations of allied individuals in the United States? What are some other organizations in the United States that could be considered analogous to the popular organizations of Palestine?

4) What is the likely impact of the Palestinian popular organizations, with their democratic traditions, on the constitution and government of the future state of Palestine?

Related Works

General Union of Palestinian Women
Visit Palestine
Redeem the Land


Please send us your questions and comments (English only please!)