The Danish House in Palestine: "It’s Tragic & Beautiful At The Same Time.”

Karla Borg

Palestine. Subjected to 74 years of deadly occupation and oppression that we all know is happening, but rarely talk about in the Western world. However, since I started following @eye.on.palestine on Instagram, a day hasn’t gone by where I don’t think about the Palestinians and the suffering they experience on a daily basis. Therefore I was grateful to get the opportunity to meet Josef, Public Engagement & Programme Manager at The Danish House in Palestine, in Absalon on a gloomy afternoon in Copenhagen to learn more about DHIP, their work, their views on how Palestine is represented in Western media and wether or not Islamophobia could be one of the reasons that the Palestinian cause is largely ignored.

What is The Danish House In Palestine? 

“We are an independent civil society organization with Palestinian and Danish employees, partners, and audience working in the fields of culture and art in Palestine. 

Our aim is to strengthen mutual understanding and appreciation between Danish and Palestinian cultures and engage Danes in Palestine and vice versa. Furthermore, we work to help encourage a cultural and creative sector that provides learning opportunities for children and young people of Palestine - a safe space for daring artistic expressions and thereby contribute to increased cultural diversity, pluralism, and freedom of expression in Palestine.

DHIP is a non-political organization, but when that is said, we are as non-political as an organization possibly could be when working in Palestine, because everything is political in the context we work in and not being political is a political statement in itself.”

Tell us about DHIP’s latest project!

“The youth in Palestine are limited in most parameters in life but absolutely no one may neglect that they are young people with important voices. The book “It’s a House Made of Sticks'' is a book with everyday life stories told by 21 young Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. Through poems, texts, and other kinds of artwork, each contributor has opened up about important conversations about their right to exist, their relations to their home, land, and the sea.

As an alternative to the Danish media coverage of the situation the book doesn’t focus on what some people call “the most complex conflict in the world”. This book doesn't focus on history, religion, and politics but simply shows that a lot of people are living under these cruel circumstances in Palestine. Young human beings with dreams about a safe and free life with the possibility of pursuing their dreams - touching the waves of the ocean for the first time, traveling to another country to meet their relatives who fled the country during the Nakba.”

What are your thoughts on the way Palestine is portrayed in Western media? 

It is clear that the media have had a decisive impact on how we in the Western world have understood the situation in Palestine. In my opinion, the media often overlooks the context in which the events unfold. It overlooks the fact that the Palestinians live under occupation and siege. There is thus a fundamentally unequal power relationship between the Palestinians and the Israeli state - with the latter as the superior party in terms of military, economic, and resources to influence international news coverage. 

This year we’ve seen the contrast between the condemnation, sanctions, and boycott of Russia's aggression in Ukraine and the total silence regarding Israel's attacks on Palestinians. In my opinion, politicians, the media, and society must react equally harshly when there is a violation of international law and injustice is committed, regardless of who commits it. I mean, The U.N. Mideast envoy just said one week ago that 2022 is on course to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since the U.N. started tracking fatalities in 2005. In 2022 they killed more than 212 Palestinians and counting - many of them are children. Are we talking enough about this? I don’t think the power of the media is a secret to anyone anymore. It’s so powerful that I can't say any more than this.

What the media often forget when they talk about what they like to call a conflict in the public debate are the many consequences and violations of human rights that take place on a daily basis due to the occupation and the settlements. Why aren’t they talking about the lack of basic fundamental human rights? We are talking about no freedom of movement, no protection of violations - not to mention the confiscation of land and forced displacement, the demolitions, and destructions of people's homes.”

Do you think Islamophobia plays a role in the unjust representation of Palestine? 

“The media definitely affects society and right now, it’s very much present in the Western world in general in which “othering” has become an acceptable norm. In any war, you have the civilized against the savages - and in each case, you support the civilized. That’s just how it is, always has been, but who decides who are savages and who are civilized? By supporting the only "democratic state" in the Middle East, Israel, you will defeat what? Terrorists? Jihad? What? I think we need to ask ourselves who are the people and groups that are producing Islamophobia, and what are their links to those involved in defending Israeli politics?

Palestinians are often assumed to be Muslims but this is far from the case. We have Christians, Jews, and Druze Palestinians - and they are too impacted by the occupation. Palestine is a rare case in this sense because even Christians can be subject to Islamophobia in Palestine.

It’s important that we never stop speaking about it and humanity learns from the social injustice that has been going on for over 74 years and is still going on as we speak."

What do you want people to know about the situation in Palestine?
"That there are people living under these cruel circumstances. Real human beings, not just numbers in the media. As I said, if it’s possible, I want people to come and visit Palestine and these people. To meet these warmhearted human beings, kind strangers who will invite you into their house to eat with their families, to have a good time. These people who value happy and loving memories, laughing, joking - people who live in the moment because they never know what tomorrow will bring and if they don’t laugh it feels like they will collapse. It’s tragic and beautiful at the same time.”

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