Palestinian Cultural Journalism is a Responsibility

When I started working as a journalist during my university studies in sociology and anthropology, I didn’t know that I would follow the path of cultural journalism. The story started when a friend of mine who worked at a radio station in Nazareth approached me to suggest an idea for a radio program that deals with youth issues in general, but especially with the Palestinian students in Israeli universities. I didn’t like the idea, so I decided to go to the radio station suggesting a weekly program on Arab and Palestinian culture instead.

It was then that I decided I will dedicate my personal and professional life to cultural journalism, a decision that mainly came from my being a Palestinian woman in Israel, my belief in the cause of my people and the importance of culture in general: protecting it in the light of the current political reality and the continuous attempts to efface it since the Nakba of 1948 (the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948). This includes the need to preserve the Arab and Palestinian identities, the belief in their enlightening and liberatory role, and the necessity of introducing to the world a Palestinian cultural production that connects with the past to tell the story of the present, in individual and collective stories, seeking a better future on all fronts.

The radio program lasted for two years, and in parallel I stayed with journalism. The crisis that is facing cultural journalism worldwide is the same one that faces the Palestinian newspapers and media platforms, so it’s rare for a media platform to provide a serious and professional space for culture. Thus, very few journalists choose to specialize in this track, where there is an absence of suitable platforms and resources. In addition, there is a particularity in the case of Palestinian cultural journalism: as, after the Nakba of 1948, tens of cultural newspapers and magazines were forced to close, which led to a collapse in the Palestinian cultural media system. Palestinians had to start from zero again to establish media spaces in general, and cultural ones in specific.

The shortage of cultural media platforms didn’t hold me off from cultural journalism, and it didn’t make me change my journalistic course, despite the continuous hardships. The solution was to write in Arabic newspapers in Lebanon and Egypt as a reporter covering Palestinian cultural issues. Although these newspapers have websites, they were only circulated in print in their countries, and are thus read mainly by their local audiences.

My work with Arabic newspapers and media platforms as a cultural journalist is freelance work, as this is the system of these newspapers when working with foreign journalists; so I couldn’t just live by this profession, where there is no financial stability, which is the case with many journalists in general and cultural journalists specifically. This is why a lot of them decide to work in something else in parallel with their journalism career. On the personal level, I was lucky enough to work in the cultural field along with my journalism career, either as a media projects curator or in Arab and Palestinian cultural and artistic organizations. I always tried to combine the best of both worlds in media and culture, but yet this still didn’t quench my thirst. As I once wrote on my Facebook page, generally I don’t like working full-time in institutions, or working in a traditional way from 8 to 5 in any profession, I only love working full-time in one profession: cultural journalism. I also wrote that if we had a cultural newspaper or a magazine or even one that allocates some space to cultural journalism, I would work 12 hours and not just 8. I say this because I see a responsibility and necessity in providing a media space for culture, though I’m convinced that cultural journalism is a work that has nothing to do with official working hours. Journalists in general, and cultural journalists specifically, are storytellers carrying their profession in their hearts everywhere they go.

This wish was somehow realized when my colleague, the poet and journalist, Ali Mawasi came to me with the idea to pitch an idea to the management of the Arabs48 Organization (a Palestinian media organization), to establish a Palestinian Cultural web magazine, with the name Fusha, that we would work on editing together, dedicating its platform for Palestinian culture worldwide, by identifying it, researching it and highlighting it, and establish a critical scene for the sake of developing it. To our joy, our pitch was well received, and the website was established at the beginning of the year.

I think there’s a responsibility that falls to us cultural journalists everywhere, to pressure media organizations to allocate spaces for arts and culture, regardless of the overall global crisis of journalism and the lack of financial resources to support it or to support culture in general. All this will push to make journalism a space for people’s stories and their realities, and a formation of a wider concept of culture to serve as a mirror for whoever is beating with life and hope, despite all of the destruction.