>Originally written at the end of December, 2010…
Palestinian refugees form the largest refugee population in the world. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Palestinian registered refugees comprise approximately 4.7 million of the Levantine population in Jordan, Syria, West bank, Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Those considered refugees by UNRWA are defined by those who experienced a loss of their means of livelihood or normal place of residence as a result of the Nakba between the years of 1946 and 1948. Descendants of Palestinian refugees are also included. The statistical unknown of refugees and descendants are those that fled the region entirely, to North Africa or Europe for example, as a result of the Nakba. The UNRWA statistic is by no means a reflection of the entire Palestinian refugee population, and it is unsubstantiated to assume that only those living in refugee camps are less fortunate, for the exception of the Gaza strip and West Bank, than those who have fled elsewhere. Understanding the plight of the Palestinian people is founded in the understanding of their collective identity – the only global sense of community for Palestinians.
The generations after the Nakba have been analyzed through the study of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, however so much is left uninvestigated that answers many of the international community’s questions on the fundamentals of Palestinian statehood; Why do Palestinians still call themselves Palestinians if they never lived in Palestine? What traditions have been passed on, if any, between generations of Palestinians? What does it mean to be Palestinian and not have an associated nationality? What social patterns have emerged from post-1948 generations, and what implications does it have on the future and the global community?
The post-1948 generations have dispersed and assimilated to countries all over the world carrying with them, or inheriting, their own sense of Palestinian identity. A bicultural hybrid forms while displaced Palestinian youth attempt to assimilate local culture with their familiarization of Palestinian national identity. Compounded with the recent western media criticisms against Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, they grapple with strong and, at times, inherently degrading media images of the Middle East.
The western media’s diatribe, coupled with post-1948 generation individuation and hybridization between two distinct cultures has created a unique bicultural phenomenon. A Palestinian’s cultural understanding has been formed through oral history, rooted from previous native generations, and without any real memory of what Palestine used to be. The post-Nakba Palestinian develops a memory based solely on stories from their parents and grandparents. Over the last sixty years, the non-native Palestinian psyche has been influenced and influences in ways that are curious and interesting to me.
During the 2008 Israeli siege on the Gaza strip, or last year, when Israeli Defense Forces raided the humanitarian aid ship, the “Freedom Floatilla”, the international Palestinian community responded with discouragement, defeat and anger. This collective voice presented itself through participation in protests, strikes and other public expressions of solidarity that the larger international community also participated in. Curiosity, however, begs to understand what is happening to the post-1948 Palestinian psyche and how their dichotomous self-identity and political realities will impact our world.