PHT Newsletter — April 2020
What’s special about Tuesday 30 June 2020?
Tuesday 30 June 2020 is the centenary of Britain’s transfer of Palestine from military to civilian administration. Sir Louis Bols, of the ‘Occupied Enemy Territory Administration’, handed over Palestine to Viscount Herbert Samuel, who was Jewish and a Zionist and had been appointed High Commissioner of Palestine.
Samuel signed an informal “receipt”, acknowledging that he had received “one Palestine, complete”, as described by Israeli historian Tom Segev in his book “One Palestine Complete”.
The abbreviation at bottom left of the letter stands for “Errors and Omissions Excepted”, but clearly not the error of establishing the basis for a settler colonial state, or the omission to consult the people on whose homeland the state was to be established.
Textile town Stroud, Gloucestershire, ‘wowed’ by Palestinian History Tapestry
Between 17 and 23 February 2020 the Lansdown Hall and Gallery in the textile town of Stroud in Gloucestershire, UK, hosted an exhibition of 40 panels from the Palestinian History Tapestry (PHT) grouped by themes – history, women, life, home, food, art and religion. The exhibition was visited by over 500 people, some from as far afield as France, London, Totnes, Derby, Edinburgh and Manchester.
The conceptualisation, promotion and realisation of the exhibition was the brainchild of Robin Layfield, webmaster of the PHT Project’s website.
Another Stroud resident, Mark Epton designed the printed promotional material for the Project.
Robin Layfield introduced the speakers at the opening event on 17 February. Stroud’s deputy mayor, Margaret Poulton, welcomed and formally opened the exhibition. Jan Chalmers, co-chair of the PHT Project, went on to give an account of the PHT Project’s development since its initiation in 2012, inspired initially by other examples of histories illustrated with stitch, such as the Bayeux and Keiskamma tapestries.
The Tapestry is currently composed of nearly 100 panels, which, together, measure nearly 80 metres. Jan drew attention to Stroud’s longstanding production of red and blue fabric for the British army and navy with Gaza’s production of fabric for Palestinian dresses (thobes) and carpets. Jan showed contemporary examples of embroidered cushion covers made in Stroud and Gaza and the dramatic contrast between the rural panorama of Stroud and the devastation of Gaza resulting from repeated military assaults and the siege implemented by Israel and Egypt since 2006.
The family of the second speaker, Haya Awad Abdalhadi, has been in Gaza since the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe). Her grandmother was forced to leave her village (Al Khisas) in Northern Palestine, and eventually ended up in Gaza where she met and married Haya’s grandfather.
Haya is a 26-year-old English Language and Literature graduate who has been working in the humanitarian field, initially as a volunteer with Première Urgence Internationale, then, after graduation, with Médecins du Monde–France, International Medical Corps, and Aisha Association for Woman and Child Protection. She has experienced at first hand the drastic effects on daily life caused by the siege of Gaza, and she witnessed the results of the devastating assaults on the Gaza Strip in 2008/9, 2012, and 2014. She is currently studying for a Master’s degree in Development and Emergency Practice at Oxford Brookes University.
Gill Yudkin, one of the Patrons of the PHT Project, was the last speaker at the Stroud Exhibition’s opening event. She is a retired general practitioner, who worked in inner London before retirement. Her work in the charitable sector began in Tanzania in the 1960s and continued after she retired from general practice. A visit to Israel/Palestine in 2008 under the aegis of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions confirmed Gill’s determination to support Palestinian people “living under the yoke of the Israeli occupation”. She joined a small, secular Jewish grant-giving charity – the British Shalom-Salaam Trust (BSST – www.bsst.org.uk), which she has chaired since 2009.
BSST makes small grants to grassroots projects that that challenge oppression and disadvantage within Israel and Palestine – for example, the Palestine Trauma Centre in Gaza , and the Arteam Garden Library, South Tel Aviv’s only community centre for asylum-seeking and migrant workers’ children and their parents (see illustration).
The opening event of the Stroud exhibition concluded with a session for questions and a stream of appreciative comments. This augured well for the six following days of the exhibition, which made clear that the hard, preparatory work had achieved more than anyone had dared hope for.
UNRWA at 70
UNRWA at 70
The Palestinian History Tapestry was exhibited at an all-day meeting at the British Library in London on 30 November 2019 marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA). The event was supported by the Palestine Return Centre, the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, and the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter. A star-studded programme of speakers included two PHT Patrons – Ghada Karmi and Ilan Pappé. A looped slide show was used to display on a large (LB) screen very high definition images of the 97 panels that currently constitute the Palestinian History Tapestry. The original stitched panel marking the foundation of UNRWA was also displayed.
PHT featured at Memo 8th Palestine Book Awards
Middle East Monitor launched the 8th Palestine Book Awards season in front of a packed gathering in London earlier this month. For the first time in the award’s history, each of the shortlisted books was twinned with a panel or a collection of panels from the Palestinian History Tapestry which were on display during the award’s pre-launch discussion with the authors. Some of the beautifully crafted tapestries by Palestinian women from within and outside the occupied territory created a setting befitting any celebration of art and literature.
The evening was kicked off by journalist and author, Victoria Brittain, who is also a trustee of Palestine Book Awards. Her remarks expressed delight not only at the award’s success, which since its launch in 2012 has morphed into one of the most anticipated events of the year related to Palestine, but also at the display of beautiful Palestinian embroidery corresponding with each of the shortlisted books.
Following the successful partnership, the Palestinian History Tapestry project is now set to become an annual feature of the Palestine Book Awards.