Online teaching resources on ‘the untold story of the Palestinian Revolution’

New teaching resources at explore the history of the Palestinian Revolution and are freely available on an open access website launched by Oxford University’s Department of Politics and International Relations.

The website is an outcome of a British Academy-sponsored project, ‘Teaching Contemporary Palestinian Political History’, to build teaching resources and capabilities. It focuses on the subject of the Palestinian national liberation movement and its revolution in the 50s, 60s and 70s and has been developed for those who wish to use it. It makes available primary resources and first-hand accounts collected from those who participated and lived through the period. The ‘teach’ elements of the site organise historical material in a structured way, and can be used for independent learning purposes, or to supplement relevant Higher Education courses.

Original contemporary sources include over 80 oral history interviews with Palestinians who relate their own experiences and explain their own participation in the revolution. The web platform is available in both Arabic and English, and charts some of the key events from the ‘Nakba’ (Palestine War) of 1948 to the siege of Beirut in 1982. It explores some of the political and social realities of the Palestinian people at the time: revolutionary culture, the formation of a national representative institution (the Palestine Liberation Organisation), and the roles played by trade unions, women’s associations, and grass-roots movements. It also charts the role of international solidarity for the Palestinians, including the support of international institutions such as the United Nations. The online resource contains primary sources and writings from the period, videos, photographs, songs, posters, as well as excerpts from revolutionary publications and other materials.

The web platform is the culmination of a five-year research project funded by the British Academy. The project was a collaboration involving scores of academics, archivists, universities and institutions including Palestine and the Middle East, South Africa, and Cuba.

The project is led by Professor Karma Nabulsi, Fellow and Tutor in Politics at St Edmund Hall, Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department of Politics and International Relations, and Associate Professor at the University of Oxford. She authored, curated, and edited the digital resource with Professor Abdel Razzaq Takriti, a scholar of modern Arab history at the University of Houston. The themes were developed over several years through workshops with leading Palestinian and South African historians, librarians, and archivists from Oxford, the UK, as well as universities and institutes in Palestine, Lebanon, South Africa, France, and the United States.

Their work was guided by institutes specialising in resistance and anti-colonial histories of the period, including the Museum of the Cuban Revolution and the Institute for Historical Research in Havana, and the South Africa Democracy and Education Trust which has produced its own multi-volume collective work on their decades-long struggle for freedom.

Dr Nabulsi comments: ‘There are few if any teaching materials looking at the story of the Palestinians from their viewpoint during this important anti-colonial era. We started pretty much from a blank page. Of course, the website does not set out to be a comprehensive historical record of the Palestinian liberation movement during that period, but instead introduces some of the key themes from the missing vantage point of the Palestinian people themselves, and the international context.

‘This project gathered hundreds of hours of interviews, so that voices traditionally unheard in academic studies of decolonisation can be listened to. It is the first time many of them have spoken about their memories of this period. They recall politically important debates and discussions of that time, providing fresh insights for researchers, students and others with an interest in the period.’

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