IntersectionalityConflict Cultural Genocide Continues: How Israel Is Erasing The History And Memory Of Palestine 

Cultural Genocide Continues: How Israel Is Erasing The History And Memory Of Palestine 

The war on Palestine is a war on the very essence of being a Palestinian. It is the systematic erasure of the memory and the very identity of Palestine.  

More than 36,000 people have been killed in Palestine since Israel started its genocidal offensive in the Palestinian territories on October 8th 2023. More than 80,000 people have been injured and about 1.7 million people have been displaced. 

According to the UNFPA Around 155,000 pregnant women and new mothers are struggling to survive. They are suffering from hunger and the diseases that stalk it, amid life-threatening shortages of food, water and medical care.”

Israel’s genocidal onslaught in Palestine and its territories has now lasted seven months. They continue to launch air attacks and bombardments, killing and maiming thousands, starving the entire people, and confining them in an open prison where the population is driven to the outskirts. Rafah is Gaza’s last option, and Israeli forces are currently bombing the refugees’ tents. Palestine’s population lack food, water, healthcare, and other necessities. They are forced to suffer physically, mentally, and psychologically, and are reduced to subhuman levels.

Besides destroying the political autonomy and sovereignty of a nation, the Israelis are waging a war on the very essence of Palestine; its rich culture, history of thousands of years, its literature, and its heritage. The war on Palestine is a war on the very essence of being a Palestinian. It is the systematic erasure of the memory and the very identity of Palestine.  

Erasure of cultural heritage 

For the past eight months and even before that if one goes back to the history of occupation of Palestine, the Zionists have destroyed many cultural heritages and sites in the state of Palestine. They have destroyed hundreds of years old mosques, churches, and archaeological sites among others. 

Mosques destroyed in Palestine
Source: Anadolu Agency

According to Al Jazeera, “An ancient harbour dating back to 800 BC, a mosque that was home to rare manuscripts and one of the world’s oldest Christian monasteries are just a few of at least 195 heritage sites that have been destroyed or damaged since Israel’s war on Gaza began on October 7, according to an NGO documenting war damage on cultural sites.”

Many mosques, at least 104, have been destroyed in Palestine, notably the Othman ibn Qashqar Mosque, constructed in 1220. Another mosque, the Sayed al-Hashim Mosque, which is historically and culturally significant, has also been demolished. The mosque was built in 1850.

The war on Palestine is a war on the very essence of being a Palestinian. It is the systematic erasure of the memory and the very identity of Palestine.  

The Byzantine Church of Jabalia was also destroyed. “The floor of the Byzantine Church of Jabalia, built in 444, was once decorated with colourful mosaics depicting animals, hunting scenes and palm trees. Its walls were adorned with 16 religious texts written in ancient Greek, which dated back to the era of Emperor Theodosius II, who ruled Byzantium from 408 to 450,” writes Al Jazeera. Many churches such as the Church of Saint Porphyrius and Monastery of Saint Hilarion were also destroyed by Israeli air strikes. 

This is how Fascist and Nazi ideologies operate, they destroy the culture and heritage of the people they want to rid of; attacking their identity and memories as humans and erasing their very essence. 

Similarly, Nazis in Germany attacked the very essence of being a Jew, by destroying their culture and heritage. They destroyed their homes, synagogues, books, art and culture. “In Nuremberg, for example, attackers destroyed 236 Jewish flats. In Düsseldorf, over 400 were vandalised. In the cities of Rostock and Mannheim, the attackers demolished virtually all Jewish apartments.” reports The Conversation.

Due to the ongoing offensive, Palestinian and international organisations are yet to assess the total damage done to various buildings of national and international prestige. 

War on Language and Literature 

The world mourned the killing of the Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, who was known as the ‘voice of Gaza.’ Many people across online and offline spaces protested and performed his famous poem, “If I must die…” The Israeli forces killed him along with some of his family members in December 2023. 

Poet from Palestine
Source: Wikipedia

Alareer was a strong voice against the oppression and brutality carried out by Zionists. He often documented and talked about what was happening in the region. “No matter how many tweets or livestreams you see, the reality on the ground is so much more terrible than it is on social media … We don’t deserve this. We’re not animals like the Israelis think. According to AJ, our kids deserve better,” said Alareer in an interview

Many tiktoks and Instagram reels exhibit how zionists are hijacking and appropriating the music and tunes that are part of the Palestinian history of music or part of the resistance. “Dami Falestini” is one such song that was stolen and appropriated by zionist singers. The song was composed by a Palestinian singer during his X Factor performance.

The song resonated among millions during the resistance against Zionists post-October 8th. The song talks about the freedom of Palestine, however, Zionists even appropriated the very song by replacing the lyrics

Thousands of tiktoks and Instagram reels are voicing their concern and distaste at how even the songs belonging to Palestinians are being appropriated and stolen by Zionists. But it seems not only songs but the bigger repositories of human history and knowledge are being destroyed by zionists. Many libraries as old as the 12th and 13th centuries were destroyed by Israel. 

The Library of the Great Omari Mosque is one such library which existed since 1277 and was established by Sultan Zahir Baybars. The library consisted of more than thousands of books and manuscripts. 

According to Al Jazeera, the library also considered “rare manuscripts, including old copies of the Quran, biographies of Prophet Muhammad and ancient books on philosophy, medicine and Sufi mysticism.”

‘Theft’ of the culinary history of Palestine

Food and cuisines are as much part of one’s history and culture as art, music and literature are. They reflect the sociocultural and political traditions of the people who make and consume them. Palestine is rich in food and culinary history. However, Palestinians be it the local population or diaspora, be it local bread makers or big restaurant owners all are in dire situations as their food is being appropriated by the zionist. 

food of Palestine
Source: AFP

According to TRT World, “The admiration to the Palestinians’ cause and struggle is not only limited to politics but also to their authentic typical meals such as musakhan, maqlouba, mansaf, stuffed vine leaves, hummus, falafel and shakshouka.”

In many big restaurants outside Palestine, and often on television and social media, Palestinian food is referred to as Israeli. One can see this appropriation of Palestinian food as Israeli in the many restaurants in India as well. For instance, falafel, Hummus etc are part of the great history of culinary and food of Palestine which often many Zionists try to convince the buyers are authentic Israeli foods. 

If you happen to be in Nazareth, Acre, Jaffa – cities in historic Palestine dominated by Palestinian communities then you have a chance to taste the real authentic Palestinian dishes but be wary and do not be misled if you are told that falafel is an Israeli dish. Palestinians have no sovereignty whatsoever when it comes to their freedom of movement, there is, however, also an attempt to appropriate their food,” writes TRT

Many people are boycotting dates that were cultivated and then packaged in the settler colonies in Palestine. These dates are grown on lands that are illegally occupied by the Israeli settlers and are grown and packaged through the exploitative labour of Palestinians, many times children are forced to work on such plantations. 

According to Al Jazeera, “It is important to note that if you buy Medjool (Medjoul) dates in Europe or the US, there is a good chance they were grown in a settlement or from Israel proper. Unless it is from a trusted Palestinian source like Zaytoun or Yaffa, you could be eating a date that contributes to the dispossession of the Palestinian people. California dates, such as Orchid Dates and Best Fresh Produce, provide good alternative options as well.”

Palestinian history and heritage, culture and dance date back thousands of years and are a reflection of the state’s cultural contact with various other cultures, from Greek, Byzantine, Arab, etc, all are the amalgamation of the current Palestinian identity. Destroying one’s culture, history, and memories is a way to erase the very essence of being a native. This is a deliberate attempt to destroy the Palestine we know, from our memories and the discourse.

Bombing archaeological sites, schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, and buildings of cultural value are all banned under international law. However, the Israeli state doesn’t seem to heed international law and persists in destroying the land of Palestine. 

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