The launch of Dr Ramzy Baroud’s latest book The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story took place at the Islamia auditorium in Lansdowne on Sunday afternoon. The event was hosted by the Afro-Middle East Centre in collaboration with the Muslim Youth Movement and the Academia Library.
Dr Baroud, who is on his third visit to Cape Town, is currently on a tour in South Africa in an effort to strengthen solidarity between South Africa and the Palestinian diaspora. Dr Baroud shared that he also intended to connect to South Africans whom he described as people standing with Palestinians for many years, in numerous acts of solidarity.
Dr Baroud, a journalist, author and editor of the Palestine Chronicle, authored several books on the Palestinian struggle including previous publication; My Father was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. Dr Baroud also holds a PHD in Palestinian Studies from the University of Exeter and is a non-resident scholar at Orfalea Centre for Global and International Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara.
The conversation facilitated by VOC’s Shafiq Morton provided a platform for an informal open Q&A session between guests present and Dr Baroud.
Morton described The Last Earth as, “A story of dispossession, but not of disconnection. An account of despair, but still a story of hope. It is a story of a story. But most importantly, it is about real people who have real names and real identities. In the last earth, we scratch the soil, we smell the dirt and we see the human face. Beyond the politics, I would say that the last earth is our home.”
The Last Earth is based on real and personal figures to Dr Baroud and narrates true events. It provides a rarely seen narrative in which the paradigm shifts from nameless “victims” of the struggle to the first-hand human experience of the Palestinian people.
“Palestine has been reduced in the minds of so many people, to little fragments of the discourse that are often misrepresentative with Palestine and who the Palestinian people are,” said Dr Baroud
“The idea that Palestine is essentially a victim and almost cannot wear any other hat, cannot play any other role but being that victim.”
“The collective character of the Palestinian people is not that.”
Dr Baroud warned of the trend in current political discourse on Palestine that it is turned into mere academic rhetoric far disconnected from the people on the ground.
“Put the people back at the center of the story, listen to them so that we know how to channel our support and solidarity.”
“When people are the ones who are conveying these stories not as victims elaborating on their victimhood. Because Palestinians never truly embraced victimhood. That is absolutely essential to their resistance. The moment you accept you’re a victim, you won’t resist. The reason they exist is because they resisted.”
Dr Baroud explained that the laws passed by the Israeli regime were not merely about annexing land, but it has tried to unscrupulously erase the culture and history of the Palestinian people. He gave examples of Israel’s renaming many of the street names from Arab names, dating back for hundred of years, to Hebrew names. He adds that the struggle in Palestine goes further than the struggle for land. It is also about what the land represents now. The land, as significant to the discourse as it is, has grown in its significance over time.
“Israel has for 70 plus years worked to ensure the erasure of Palestine. We are doing the exact opposite. We are trying to resist that process of erasure and for us, therefore we say existence is resistance. We also understand that our real existence can only happen through the process of generating memory.”
Dr Ramzy Baroud will be on VOC Drivetime at 5.10pm on Monday.