New Toasts and Rainbows
This poster depicts the outline of the state of Palestine as a field of red flowers with a flock of swallows, representing Palestinians, heading towards an orange sun, symbolizing Jerusalem.
The text is an excerpt from Promises of the Storm, a poem by acclaimed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Translated from Arabic:
The “storm” here refers to the Palestinian national liberation movement.
Poetry is a revered art form in Palestinian culture. Few Palestinians would admit that they do not know the words and deeper meanings of this particular poem. That is why only a short excerpt is necessary for the poster.
The visual imagery reinforces the concept of a promise or contract between the Palestinian people and their revolutionary movement: that the people would never lose faith in the struggle for self-determination and return from exile, and that the revolutionary movement would never betray the people’s trust.
The geographical boundaries of the map are maximalist — they do not make any concessions to any earlier partitions of the land between Jewish and Arab communities decreed by the United Nations, or to any peace process negotiations. The outline of this map of Palestine is free of any broken-out territories, such as Gaza and the West Bank. No Israeli settlements are shown.
Palestine is depicted as whole and magnetic. Return is depicted as being as natural and as inevitable as a flock of swallows following some mystical migratory call to return to an ancient nesting site.
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Questions for A New
1) Could this poster, with Hebrew captions instead of Arabic, have served as a Zionist immigration poster in the 1920s? If yes, why? If no, why not?
2) Is the “right of return” an internationally recognized right for Palestinian refugees?
3) Many Zionists argue that if Palestinian refugees were allowed to return to Israel, it would fundamentally alter Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. How valid is this justification for denying the right of return to Palestinians? How does Israel’s “law of return” comport with U.S. and U.N. conventions on refugees?
4) What are the origins of U.S. government’s policies dedicated to maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel? Has the U.S. ever supported the emergence, or legitimacy, of an exclusively religious state before? Are any Constitutional principles compromised by U.S. policies vis-à-vis Zionism?
5) According to a 2003 study (January-June 2003) conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, only 10 percent of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, and Lebanon would choose to rebuild their homes under Israeli rule if offered the opportunity to do so. This finding conflicts dramatically with standing Israeli and Palestinian perceptions of refugee attitudes regarding the right of return. What would it mean for the peace process if the findings were, in fact, accurate? Is it possible to get impartial, dispassionate data from refugees with respect to such a volatile and emotional issue?
6) Some have argued that Israel has already dealt with the Palestinian refugee issue by absorbing Jewish refugees from Arab states — as a sort of quid pro quo exchange. Others find it ludicrous to think that, in the words of journalist and intellectual I. F. Stone, “Palestinian Arabs whom Israel didn’t want should have no objection to being ‘exchanged’ for Arab Jews it did want. One uprooting cannot morally be equated with the other” (from “Holy War,” reprinted in Wrestling with Zion, Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon, eds., New York: Grove Press, 2003). Can refugee problems be solved only by returning people to their original homes, or are their other possible solutions? If the latter, what say do the refugees themselves have in the proposed solution?
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