FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Librarians and Palestine

by RON JACOBS

This June, a delegation of librarians, archivists, and other library workers will travel to Palestine. They will connect with colleagues in library- and archive-related projects and institutions there, traveling as truth seekers and information skeptics, applying their experience in the form of skillshares and other types of joint work.    Their hope is to shed light on Palestinian voices, refure various myths common in the West about Palestine, and bear witness to the destruction and appropriation of information.  Furthermore, they will support efforts to preserve cultural heritage and archival materials (of all kinds) in Palestine.  Upon their return, this delegation hopes to share the information and experience theywere able to appropriate on their trip.

In all their travels, they have stated that they will repsect the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and will not partner with any organization that violates this call.

Upon hearing of this venture, I emailed the organization with a few questions.  What follows is my exchange with the group.

Ron Jacobs: What compelled/inspired you all to undertake this journey? Was there a specific report regarding the destruction of historical materials?

Librarians and Archivists for Palestine: We’re all librarians or archivists who have been involved with issues of knowledge production, circulation, access, and preservation across contexts and for many years. We’re also very much committed to the idea and practice of librarians and archivists as active members of justice movements, including Palestine. One of us has been organizing delegations to Palestine for many years now, and authored a study on the destruction of historic materials in Palestine. Given the austerity climate in the US and around the world, and the short shrift given to libraries, archives and other information commons, we felt that now would be a good time to head to Palestine to not only carry forward support for Palestine in the library and archive community, but to learn and share skills and knowledge on how to improve and expand the reach and effectiveness of these institutions for justice movements.

RJ: As a library worker, I share your belief in the power of knowledge.  What do you see as the essential role knowledge plays in Palestine?  Likewise, what about Israel?

LAP: We are indeed absolutely committed to open access, and the free exchange and distribution of knowledge. Israeli settler-colonialism prioritizes short-circuiting this flow in any way they can, including destruction of schools, libraries, public spaces; confiscating books, newspapers, archives, and all sorts of written materials; denying entry or circumscribing the movement of scholars and students; imposing and censoring Palestinian speech, newspapers, and other works.

In this way, Israel aims to maintain and solidify the fragmentation of the Palestinian body politic,  making it difficult for Palestinians to exchange knowledge with each other and with the outside world, and therefore strengthen their struggle for justice. Palestinians, however, remain some of the most highly educated people in the Arab world, and it is a testament to their will and ingenuity that knowledge and information is always prioritized, and remains central to the struggle. Of course, many libraries in Palestine face some of the same issues we face in the states, including reduced readership and budgets. We want to learn the ways Palestinians have attempted to craft accessible public commons – including community centres, libraries at schools, municipalities, and archives of all sorts all over the country. One need only visit the Prisoners Section of the Nablus Public Library, which holds books, writings, and other materials smuggled into Israel prisons and donated to the library by former prisoners, to understand the intense attachment of Palestinian society to knowledge.  In this we feel we will be learning far more from our colleagues from Palestine than we could ever offer, and we’re excited by that exchange.

Of course, this settler-colonial project of blocking flows of knowledge impacts Israelis as well, many of whom have grown seemingly unaware and unwilling to learn about their neighbors, and their own complicity and responsibility in denying and destroying the heritage of the Palestinian people. We do hope to visit and meet with Israelis who have attempted to re-introduce knowledge erased and to confront the structures that have trapped both Palestinians and Israelis. We’re also keen to learn from Israelis working on other fronts in the fight against settler-colonialism, including organizing against anti-African and anti-Mizrahi racism, as well as participating in working class and social justice movements in Israel.

RJ: What is the nature of the library system (if there is one) in Palestine?

LAP: There are several major university libraries in the West Bank and Gaza, including at Birzeit and Najah. There are public libraries in most of the major cities: Nablus, El-Bireh, Gaza. The Tamer Institute for Community Education, an organization that emerged during the First Intifada when schools and universities were forcibly shut down, some for years, is organizing a libraries network to connect them all together.

In numerous other spaces libraries are held, books accessed, archives organized and developed, and knowledge exchanged. So we’re hoping to visit national institutions like the Institute for Palestine Studies, the Qattan Foundation, as well as community centers and research centers in refugee camps, as well as Haifa, Lydd, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Hebron, Jaffa and elsewhere.

We hope to gain an understanding of how all these institutions communicate, what needs they have, what sorts of projects they’re currently working on, and what kinds of work they’re currently prioritizing. So the nature of library and archival systems is really something that we’re going there to learn about, rather than knowing about in any real detail beforehand.

If you would like to donate to the Librarians and Archivists Delegation to Palestine, please go to their website

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail