Today, the Palestinian people celebrate Palestinian Culture Day, which is the birthday of the national poet Mahmoud Darwish. It marks the beginning of Culture March, which writer Salman Nator initiated in 2011 at Mossawa. Various Palestinian civil and culture institutions and groups hold events such as art exhibitions, film showings, and theatrical performances to commemorate the prominent pillars of Palestinian culture and promote the status of culture and creativity. Palestinian Culture Day is undertaken under difficult circumstances and challenges this year, such as the rise of violence and the intensification of racist and discriminatory policies against Arab citizens. Therefore, there is a need to strengthen and enhance Palestinian culture for its vital role in shaping national identity and promoting social cohesion amongst Arab Palestinians against tribal and sectarian biases.
Since the Nakba, Israeli governments have been fighting Palestinian culture in the Arab community, especially during the military rule period. However, Arab citizens were able, despite the challenges and racist and discriminatory policies, to create a cultural movement that showcased poets and writers such as Salman Nator, Fadwa Tokan, Tawfiq Zayyad, Soad Karaman, Samih Al-Qasim, Emile Habibi, Salem Jubran, Hanna Abu Hanna, and Mahmoud Darwish, who contributed to shaping identity and enriching the Palestinian cultural movement, despite attempts from the Israeli government to isolate and disconnect Arabs within the 1967 borders from the Arab world and Palestinian extension.
Less than 5% of the ministry of culture budget is allocated to the Arab minority culture institutions in Israel. In addition to repeated attempts by Israeli governments to prevent Palestinian artists and art, as well as theater closures and budget cuts to the arts that infringe on the rights of speech and expression, they are threatening to withdraw funding from the Al Saraya Theater in Jaffa on Palestinian Culture Day. The responsibility then falls on all civil institutions to take a leading role in promoting and prioritizing cultural activism, spreading humanitarian values and shaping an alternative to the reality of racism, discrimination, poverty, violence, and tribalism.
The role of civil institutions and political parties in securing the cultural and collective rights of Arab Palestinian citizens and exerting pressure to provide a decent expression for Palestinian Arab culture in various media outlets is important. We also need to secure public spaces in our Arab towns and cities, including mixed cities, by naming streets and buildings after figures who contributed to shaping Palestinian culture. The Mossawa Center has worked tirelessly on culture rights since its founding. Some achievements can be found here.
We call on the local Arab authorities, political parties, schools, civil institutions, and cultural organizations active in the Arab community to support art and culture, and to establish and intensify cultural and national events and activities by embracing artistic and literary activities that contribute to deepening human values, respecting diversity, and encouraging creativity and art in all its forms. We also call on our community to participate in the Culture March events organized by the Arab Cultural Associations Forum in cooperation with the Mossawa Center.