OPINION: Karam Dana Offers Intriguing Insights to The Palestinian Transitional Identity
Before attending “The Power of Palestine: Imperishable in a Transnational World,” given by Karam Dana, I was relatively uneducated about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I already knew that Israel had been occupying Palestinian land since World War II, and that Israel was generally problematic — a word Dana used frequently — in their treatment of Palestinian civilians, including children, who were being killed by Israeli forces. However, I had yet to experience a full and proper lesson or discussion on the topic. More importantly, I had never actually heard a discussion in person from a Palestinian perspective.
The lecture took place on Thursday, Sept. 27 in Davis Auditorium. Dana, who was born in Palestine, argued for the support of Palestine and its people in a calm manner. He didn’t passionately contend for the freedom of Palestine by vehemently attacking Israel, saying that he didn’t want to evoke the “angry Arab yelling-guy” stereotype. Instead, he relied on historical facts, statistics and his own research. He was animated and energized as a speaker, but friendly and surprisingly cheerful, while at the same time making it clear that these issues mattered very much to him.
Dana explained at the beginning of the event that the purpose of his lecture was not to find a clear and immediate solution to the Palestine-Israeli “conundrum,” as he put it. Rather, he stressed the idea that Palestinians have a transnational identity, as a result of the creation of Israel in 1948 and its expansion since 1967. The concept of Palestine is no longer geographical, but rather encapsulates the diaspora of Palestinians around the world. Dana’s main argument was, essentially, that as a result of the diaspora, Palestinians still have power and agency over what happens to their homeland.
To me, this sentiment was the key part of the lecture: establishing what the Palestinian identity means today and what Palestinians are willing to do to solve this problem. Dana illustrated through surveys he conducted for his research about Palestinian transational identity that Palestinians are generally willing to reach peace through any means, including both violent and non-violent practices; however, Dana personally condemned violence of any form. Dana’s surveys also revealed that contrary to most preconceptions, the majority of Palestinians reported positive views of European and American individuals.
Dana ended the lecture on a note of hope, sharing examples of progress being made, including an increasing number of Palestinians in Congress, solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and even the support of Israelis and other members of the Jewish diaspora—a group to which both of my own paternal grandparents belong.
But what stood out to me the most was something Dana mentioned offhand towards the end of the lecture: there are parallels between the Jewish and Palestinian experiences. The Jewish people were historically oppressed and displaced, and as a result of the way governing bodies have handled the Israel-Palestine issue, Palestinians are currently facing a similar fate.
After attending the lecture, it seems to me that this isn’t a matter of being Jewish, Israeli or Palestinian. It’s about understanding that the oppression of innocent Palestinians is a problem, and that their voices and perspectives are essential to finding a peaceful solution. As Dana put it, no matter where you’re from or what you identify as, “you don’t want to see children die.”