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Special Report

 

Palestinian Heritage Foundation 

15th Anniversary Banquet

By Jane Adas

 

 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2002

 

Fifteen years ago, Hanan and Farah Munayyer inaugurated the Palestine Heritage Foundation with a collection of  traditional Palestinian costumes and embroidery. The Foundation has grown to the extent that the Munayyer hope to open the first museum in North America dedicated to the preservation of traditional Arab culture. Today, with Israel's ongoing systematic destruction of Palestinian society, their efforts seem more important than ever. 

Metropolitan Saliba and Professor Walid Khalidi

Some 300 guests celebrated the Foundation's anniversary April 28 at a banquet in Teaneck, New Jersey. Wedding costumes from the 19th and early 20th century were modeled, accompanied by the music of Simon Shaheen and his Ensemble. Because each area in Palestinian had its distinct pattern and style, variety of clothing is remarkable. The  audience particularly cheered for the "bride" from Jenin.

It was most fitting that Prof. Walid Khalidi, author of Before Their Diaspora, From Haven to Conquest, and ; All That Remains, gave the keynote address. He pointed out that the Sept. 11 assault, which was condemned globally and without reservations, was the first time in 187 years that the continental United States has come under attack, shattering America's sense of invulnerability. The trauma for Arab-Americans in their home of choice, he noted, has been compounded by what is happening in their homes of origin, where the fall-out from Sept. 11 already in is evidence.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Dress from Al Khalil, Hebron


Khalidi
described Palestinian losses during the Al Aqsa intifada, accelerated by Prime Minister Sharon, as colossal: nearly 2000 ; killed and 40,000 wounded, the vast majority of them civilian. The media accuses Palestinians of targeting civilians, but Khalidi; said, Zionists have done so since before the formation of Israel. And, he added,  for 50 years, from -Qibya in 1953 and Beirut in  1982 until today- the chief exponent of Israeli military targeting civilians has been Ariel Sharon. 

According to Khalidi, no Israeli military leader has killed more, nor done more, damage to Arab civilian life-yet President Bush calls Sharon a "man of peace." 


Dress from Asduud, Gaza region.

Israel and the U.S. incessantly demand that Arafat do more to stop Palestinian violence. Until 2001, however,all suicide bombers, without  exception, belonged to groups in opposition to Arafat and Oslo. Fatah's Al- Aqsa Brigade took up the tactic in reaction to Barak's targeting of PA personnel, headquarters, and facilities, a policy  much expanded by Sharon.

When Israel attacks homes and places of work with F16s, Apaches helicopters, and Merkava tanks Khalidi said, against peoplearmed only with small weapons, and when the very survival of Palestinian civil society is threatened, the temptation to resort to suicide bombing is not easy to resist. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Dress from Galilee and Southern Syria
 

Although, Khalidi said, he did not know Arafat's role in the arms smuggling incident, he does know that it is Arafat's duty to arm his forces when the Israeli army threatens the Palestinian heartland. To do so is no more a violation of the spirit of Oslo than is Israel's doubling of the Israeli settler population during the course of the peace process.   
                                                                                                                                                                                                       
The outlook, according to Khalidi, is grim and could become still worse. The master key is to be found, as has always been in the White House. From Plan Dalet in 1948 to the current Operation Defensive Wall- with only the exception of the 1956 attack onEgypt-  every Israeli military action has been preceded by a green light from Washington. But, Khalidi concluded, Palestinians are not the only people to fight colonialism at a great cost.  Empires don't last forever, he reminded the audience, and empires far greater than Israel are gone.

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