Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why Do Palestinians Write their own Sports History?



‘Facts and truth are the weapons that will win because in the end, no one can live with the men of lies and violence.’ [1]
              Christopher King

     This question is inseparable from the main question:  “Why do Palestinians write their own history?” Sport has always been an essential part of Palestinian history and culture: it has been a mirror that reflected political processes in Palestine. Before Nakba (i.e. catastrophe) of 1948, there were some 65 athletic clubs in Palestine; approximately 55 of them were members of the Arab Palestine Sports Federation (PSF established in 1931, re-established in 1944).

Palestinian modern history is unique, not only because the Nakba, and the expulsion of the 750,000 refugees from their land, but also because this history consistently has been a subject of dispossession, concealment and distortion. Together these successes of Zionism have produced a prevailing view of the question of Palestine that almost totally favors the victor, and takes hardly any account of the victim. [2] By what moral or political standard are we expected to lay aside our claims to our national existence, our  land, our human rights? In what world is there no argument when an entire people is told that it is juridically absent, even as armies are led against it, campaigns conducted against even its name, history changed so as to "prove" its nonexistence? [3]

     Israel always sought to put an aura on its crimes committed against Palestinians. As part of this aura, in order to justify its crimes, Israel planned to erase the history of Palestinians just as it has erased their villages. This war against history resulted in the loss and the ‘imprisonment’ of all historical documents. Today Israel is waging an electronic war to improve its distorted image in the world. Of course, this war includes misinformation about sports.
Reading the Zionist literature on the history of Palestine as well as the history of sports in Palestine, one might get the impression that Palestine was void of Palestinians. If such histories do mention the Palestinians, they invariably try to depict these Palestinians as lacking any cultural, social, or athletic aspect. They appear to assert that the Zionists populated the region, and graced it with civilization and modernization — that they brought sports and culture to the primitive people who had hitherto known nothing of either of these refinements. Efforts such as these to distort reality and rewrite history are not new. Indeed, the Zionist athletic leadership worked to marginalize the Palestinians in the sports sector.

Probably, the euphoria of victory, which the Israeli scholars enjoyed throughout the years after 1948, inspired them to write history as victors. As Christopher King mentioned in his fantastic article “Palestinians Write Your History” ‘There is a clever saying that in warfare, history is written by victors. Like many such aphorisms it is wrong. History is written by those who write it.’
 Fortunately, with historians such as Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said and many others who have undertaken the task of retrieving Palestinian history, the Palestinians themselves may soon be victors. [4]

   To a very large degree, of course, the Palestinian’s reality today is dominated by what he has suffered directly at the hands of Zionism. There is no evading that history and that actuality, just as there can be no Palestinian future without a transcendence of it.[5] It is impossible to banish a history of any nation. Palestine and Palestinians are a historical fact that could not be erased and hard to transcend. There could be proved without presenting  millions of documents and facts. Palestinian newspapers such as Filastin (established 1911) and Difa’ (established 1934) alone could be considered as historical documents which refute the Zionist claim; such claims alleged that the Palestinians lacked any cultural, social or athletic aspect.

   Obtaining complete knowledge about history of Palestine could not be accomplished without the integration of all its aspects: political, economic, social and cultural (which must include sports). At the same time history of sports could help in perceiving Zionist political and cultural aspects. It is well known that sports played a pivotal role in realizing the dream of the Jewish national home in Palestine.
We need to write history to honor and immortalize those who devoted their time and efforts for the sake of sports and social progress. In 1948, members of the athletic clubs sacrificed their life for their homeland. The well-known athlete Zaki al-Darhali, who played for the national selected team as a left wing, and his colleague Said Shunneir secretary of PSF’s Jaffa regional committee, were killed in the bombing of the social services center [Saria] building in Jaffa by the Zionist military organizations.

   After 1948, sports infrastructure was destroyed completely. 750,000 refugees scattered throughout the Diaspora, among them were tens of athletes. In Lebanon (in 1950’s-1990’s) about 120 social-athletic clubs were established in refugee camps. Under the Egyptian administration, sports in Sector Gaza witnessed remarkable growth. In 1962, Palestine Football Association was established, and many federations of various sports became members in international federations. After 1967, in the West Bank and Sector Gaza, social-athletic clubs became a beacon of freedom and resistance against the Israeli occupation. Joining the International Olympic Committee and the International Football Federation in the 1990’s, Palestinian sports, despite of the obstacles set by the repugnant Israeli occupation, made a quantum leap in all arenas : local, regional and International.
Palestinians through sports do not only struggle for freedom and an independent state: they also seek to take part in advanced global civilization. Preserving history is one of the indicators of civilization; for civilization is the result of the accumulated efforts by individuals whose main concern is progress. In 1946, the Egyptian physical education teacher Hussein Husni, who served in Palestine for about fifteen years, wrote in Filastin: “Every Palestinian has to know, that every penny he pays to encourage sports renaissance, he buys nothing but glory for his homeland. Oh how precious is glory.”


[1] Christopher King, Palestinians - Write Your History , 2 January  2009 .
[2] Edward Said,The Question of Palestine, (NY, Vintage Books: 1980) ,p 72
[3] Edward Said,The Question of Palestine, (NY, Vintage Books: 1980) , introduction, p. xvii.

[5]  Edward Said,The Question of Palestine, (NY, Vintage Books: 1980) ,p 179 – 180

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