Arabic Book Club Event Discusses Cultural Approaches to Understanding Palestine Today

2023_11_27 GUQ_Arabic Book Club-21

At a recent Arabic Book Club event at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), academics, researchers, practitioners, and those interested in Palestinian culture and arts came together for a discussion in Arabic about “The Palestinian Cause: Cultural Approaches.”

The event moderator Dr. Omar Khalifah, Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at GU-Q underscored the importance of creating forums for regular dialogue on trenchant problems even in the absence of outright conflict. “This is the latest event in a series on Palestine that started well before the war on Gaza, which has hosted a number of expert guests on various related issues,” he said.  

Dean Safwan Masri opened the event, explaining the critical role that universities play in convening diverse perspectives around contentious topics, and building bridges to understanding. “This evening we address cultural approaches to understanding Palestine,” he said, adding that the event offers insight into multiple perspectives on what “explorations of identity, thought, art, literature, and discourse, has to add to the dialogue.”

Panelists included Dr. Rami Abu Shehab and Dr. Emad Abdullatif, professors from Qatar University, Bashar Hamdan, Senior Producer at Al Jazeera, and Dr. Farah Aridi, Associate Professor in Comparative Literature from the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies. In a discussion moderated by Dr. Omar Khalifah, the guests talked about the cultural history of Palestine, the power of the media to persuade, and the central role that storytelling around historical figures and events plays in fostering resilience and calling for action in times of conflict.

The power of creativity in making sense out of suffering and coming to a greater understanding of the diversity of human experience was a recurrent theme.  Speakers discussed topics ranging from contributions to Palestinian identity from those living in the diaspora to the necessity to record history in modern-day cinema, documentaries, and other mediums, even in the absence of resources and collective initiatives. Dr. Aridi offered a poignant call to creative action to  preserve cultural memories, saying: “Even when unable to write, we must share the stories and narratives of others about their observations and experiences.”