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The Importance of Family History and Genealogy for the Palestinian People III: The International Stage

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 02.03.2006:

By Leyla Zuaiter

The Palestinian people are among the most talked about but least understood people on earth. The reason for this is complex and cannot be reduced to a single factor, but includes the religious filters through which people around the world see this land, entrenched positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, media bias and selective reporting, the dearth of studies, memoirs, biographies, films, and other literature bringing their history and people to life. Where political correctness now makes many races and ethnic groups off limits for bigots, not only has prejudice and stereotypes about Arabs in general, not decreased in the United States, for example, but they have actually increased in the Post 911 World, and in the current international climate, some people consider their prejudices to be proof of Patriotism. Palestinians find themselves up against a biased foreign media, covered primarily in relation to the political context, and very rarely as a people with a rich and varied history and heritage, or as flesh and blood human beings trying to go about the normal business of life—just like every other people—but under unimaginable (because inadequately reported) conditions. This has caused them to be seen almost as pariahs. However new technology such as computer and especially the internet not only allows people new ways of studying their values and identity but also allows Palestinians to skirt traditional media and the stereotypes it promotes, by reaching out to the world. One way of doing so is through Family History and Genealogy.

· Joining the Genealogy Club

o By studying their family history and heritage—and developing an Internet presence—Palestinians will be joining a club of people engaged in a similar activity around the world, who understand the importance of knowing and researching one’s roots. This offers a new common “language” with which Palestinians can engage in dialogue with others.

· Tugging at Roots, Tugging at Hearts

o When it comes to portraying Palestinians and Palestine, journalists and other writers suddenly forget everything they were taught about “showing, not telling.” Whereas the tragedies and suffering of other peoples are written about in a vivid, well-developed, manner, those of Palestinians are often reduced to simple decontextualized statistics.

o The products of the family history research of Palestinians—whether scholarly paper, article, memoir, biography, film, website, novel, play,(dare we hope—journal?) poem, cookbook, etc.—if written or translated into foreign language can help bring to life the rich and vibrant history and heritage of the Palestinian people and the admirable values which have allowed them to face a difficult lot. One well-written book about the experiences of a single Palestinian individual or family is likely to bring about greater understanding than thousands of books on politics.

This is an excerpt of a longer article which first appeared on AEI’s Bethlehem Genealogy and Family History Page

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