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On Palestine and hope of symbols

KUWAIT: In November 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), headed by Yasser Arafat, convened in Algiers. Something historic was on the horizon. In May 1948, the Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the Zionist entity killed over 15,000 Palestinians, displaced ¾ of a million more from their homes, and robbed the native population of 78 percent of their land. When the dust settled, all that was left of Arab Palestine were two isolated pockets of territory: The West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Back in Algiers, the gathered members of the PLO all carried the weight of that history on their shoulders. For men like Arafat, who spent much of their lives in Palestine both before and after the Nakba, the decision they were about to make would change the course of their people’s history. The West Bank and Gaza Strip were ruled by Jordan and Egypt respectively until the war of 1967, in which the Zionist entity fully occupied the territories, in addition to the Sinai and Golan Heights. This came to be known as the ‘Naksa’ or ‘Setback’.

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The Zionist entity would eventually relinquish control of the Sinai but maintain military occupation of all other territories in a seemingly endless, invincible iron grip. In the face of hopelessness, we again go back to Algiers, where on November 16, 1988, an announcement was made to the jubilation of millions of Palestinians and activists globally. The PLO had declared independence for the State of Palestine. The front page of The Kuwait Times read in big, celebratory text the headline: The State of Palestine is Born.

The declaration was mostly symbolic, as the Zionist entity still exercised full control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the territories expected to make up the State of Palestine. But the power of symbolism is one that cannot be underestimated. From the watermelon to the key to the keffiyeh, Palestinians are able to exercise their most powerful form of resistance: Existence. Today, when thousands have been and continue to be martyred in Gaza and the West Bank faces unending violence, it is important to, like those men in Algiers in 1988, continue working in the spirit of hope in ultimate liberation.

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