Awarding authors on Palestine

28th Dec 2017
Awarding authors on Palestine

Ilan Pappe won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Palestine Book Awards dinner (Photo: MEMO)

Ahmed J Versi

The sixth annual Palestine Book Awards, flagship of Middle East Monitor (MEMO), took place in London on November 24.

Commenting on the more than 40 entries submitted for consideration for this year’s awards, Trustee of the Palestine Book Awards, Victoria Brittain, expressed delight at the fact that the event had surpassed all expectations and hoped the award would continue well into the future.

Nine books were shortlisted into three categories – academic, memoir and creative – after painstaking efforts by a panel of expert judges. This year the judges also decided to include a lifetime achievement award.

Professor Illan Pappe, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award, in his keynote address, said Palestinian rights had been compromised for Israeli demands.

He described the contributions of the likes of the late Edward Said and Walid Khalidi – two prominent Palestinian intellectuals – in “creating protected spaces and enter mainstream production of knowledge”, which prior to their groundbreaking efforts had been suppressed in the world of academia.

Pappe explained the difficulty of publishing a book “that was suspected of being pro-Palestinian”. Intellectuals like Said needed to “use their fame to write books on Palestine”. Said, explained Pappe, fused “activism with scholarship”.

“In the case of the Zionist occupation, facts do not speak for themselves,” said Pappe, “they require a narrative.” He spoke about his own effort in 2007 to create his “own safe space” to develop scholarship of Palestine, citing the bravery of the publishers of his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine as an example of the pendulum swinging towards historical truth and honesty.

“These new scholars,” Pappe pointed out, were given the “permission to narrate”, they “used their trade” for a just cause and “deconstructed Zionism and classified Israel as an apartheid state.”

The prize for the best academic book saw two winners: Gaza Under Hamas: From Islamic Democracy to Islamist Governance by Bjorn Brenner and Laila Parsons’ book The Commander: Fawzi Al-Qawuqji and the Fight for Arab Independence 1914-1948.

During his acceptance speech, Brenner mentioned that it had taken him “six difficult years” living in Gaza with the Palestinians to produce a book that gave a voice to the people in Gaza.

In her acceptance speech, Parsons explained that her work tried to frame the Palestinian history as part of a wider “history of anti-colonial struggle”. She said that this history continues to this day as Palestine continues to be “colonised by the Israeli state”.

The winner of the Creative Award went to Samia Halaby for Drawing the Kafr Qasem Massacre. The book which was described by the author as “documentary drawing”, portrays the 1956 massacre that took place in Kafr Qasem at the hands of Israeli forces.

The winner of the Memoir Award.was Ella Shohat for her book On the Arab-Jew, Palestine, and other Displacements. Shohat described her “incredible experience and voyage of understanding” she had undergone in discovering her “own history of dispossession and in reclaiming my Iraqiness”.

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