This year, the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) has launched ‘Return Week II’, which aims to raise awareness about the inalienable right of return for Palestinian refugees. ‘Return Week II’ provides a platform to a plethora of activists, academics, and political commentators speaking up for Palestinians’ inalienable rights and discussing pro-Palestine outreach policy and advocacy mechanisms seeking to enable Palestinian refugees to exercise their right of return through international laws and conventions. ‘Return Week II’ is a commemoration of UN Resolution 194, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the founding of the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which outlines the legality of Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homeland. This year’s event is special in form and content as it gives a great deal of attention to artistic visualizations of the Palestinian refugee plight.
December 2021 London, UK and ONLINE
2nd Dec - 12th Dec, 2021
06 Dec, 2021
07 Dec, 2021
08 Dec, 2021
09 Dec, 2021
10 Dec, 2021
Sliman Mansour is one of the most distinguished and renowned artists in Palestine. His style embodies steadfastness in the face of a relentless military occupation. His work — which has come to symbolise the Palestinian national identity — has inspired generations of Palestinians and international artists and activists alike. Born in 1947, Mansour spent his childhood around the verdant hills and fields of Birzeit — where he was born — and later his adolescence in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. These experiences left a significant mark on his work, heightening a sense of gradual loss in Palestine, especially after the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem in 1967. His early experiences also presented him with the symbols and images he would later use to preserve and highlight Palestinian identity. By using symbols derived from Palestinian life, culture, history, and tradition, Mansour uniquely illustrates Palestinians’ resolve and connection with their land. His pieces epitomize art as a form of resistance. With orange trees, he represents land lost in the Nakba of 1948. With olive trees, he represents land occupied in 1967. With women wearing traditional embroidered dresses, he represents Palestinian land and the Palestinian revolution. With the landscape of Palestine and its stone terraces, he represents the mark of Palestinian farmers on the land. With images of Jerusalem, and the glistening Dome of the Rock, he represents the Palestinian homeland and the dream of return. Mansour, together with artists Vera Tamari, Tayseer Barakat, and Nabil Anani, founded the New Visions movement in 1987. The movement was formed in response to the first intifada, and called on artists to boycott Israeli art supplies and instead utilize local natural materials such as coffee, henna, and clay. Mud — the basis for human life in many cultures and religions as well as an actual piece of Palestinian land — was a tool of choice for Mansour.
Fayez Elhasani is a Palestinian painter based in Gaza. Born in 1952 in Gaza, Fayez Al Hasani holds a BA in Fine Art from Cairo University. He currently teaches Fine Art in the Education department at UNRWA. He previously taught art at the Teachers Institute in Algiers. Fayez has participated in a number of exhibitions in Algeria, Jordan and Palestine and is one of the founders of the Plastic Arts Association, based in Gaza. Fayez's uses art to visualise and express the Palestinian yearning to return. He has painted hundreds of pieces of artwork all revolving around Palestinian identity, most of which painted whilst being under illegal Israeli military blockade in Gaza.
Halima Aziz is a German-based passionate Palestinian artist and Design student. Born in 1999, her mother is from Tulkarm and her father is from Gaza. She was born in Germany but spent her childhood in Gaza, Palestine. Halima experienced Israel's military assault on Gaza in 2008 and survived it. In 2009 she moved back to Germany and by the age of 17 years old she started to paint about Palestine. In Germany she noticed that just few people knew about what is happening in Palestine, and this is how she started to paint about it. She is proud to be a Palestinian and showing her culture through her paintings. Halima Aziz paints in acrylic and oil on canvas and sometimes with watercolours on art paper. Her artwork emphasises and expresses her feelings and emotions towards what she experienced in Palestine. She’s also expressing what the Palestinians are still experiencing and have to go through. "I believe that through my art and other art from amazing Palestinian artists, people will understand more clearly how we as Palestinians feel and what we have to go through. Everyone should care about it because it’s a human right issue. I hope and believe that one day Palestine will be free and we will return back to our homes.“
Malak Mattar, a Palestinian artist from Gaza, paints powerful expressionist faces, figures, and semi abstract designs. She first started painting at age 13, during the 51 day Israeli military assault on Gaza in 2014. Forced to stay inside for her own safety, she felt a compelling need to release all of her negative energy, fear, anxiety and sheer terror. She started painting with art supplies from her school, basic watercolour on paper. This opened up a world of self expression for her. Today Malak has produced over 300 paintings. Unable to leave Gaza due to restrictions of the Israeli occupation, Mattar shows her paintings to the world via social media, on Instagram and Facebook. “I don’t paint despite war and occupation. I paint because of it. Living through this era of war, there’s a big part of me that wants to document. I have this feeling that everything I do will live longer than me, than everyone. Even with a portrait that has nothing to do with the situation, it is a document because I was the one who painted it.”
Maher Naji is a Palestinian painter, based in Gaza. Maher's family was forced to flee from Northern Sawafer Village prior to his birth, and was born in 1963 in Jabaliya Refugee Camp in Gaza, where he finished his primary and secondary education. He left for Russia in 1983 to join the Baron Stieglitz Art Academy in St. Petersburg and returned to Gaza in 1994 after receiving his PhD in Arabian Architecture. During his stay in Russia, he participated in numerous exhibitions and since coming back to Gaza he has continued to pursue his work as an artist, whilst under blockade since 2007. Maher's artwork is inspired by his family's memories of Palestine before 1948. He relies on his mother's vast details of her memories, for every line and shape in his paintings, his art is a means of preserving Palestinian culture in the midst of Israeli settler colonial siege. The memories he paints, are also the hopeful visualisations of return.
Safaa Odah is a Palestinian cartoonist and digital artist based in Gaza. Unlike most artists who discover their love for art at a young age, Safaa Odah realised her passion for drawing when she was in college. Back then, she was studying household economics and education in Al-Aqsa University in Gaza. Throughout her lectures, she caught herself doodling with a pencil in her notebook margins as a way to pass time. Drawing, however, was simply a side hobby, and after graduating, she looked for jobs in her field of study. Unfortunately, she had no luck due to Israel's blockade's on Gaza, and remained unemployed: a stressful position to be in. Surprisingly, her lack of employment allowed her more time to work on her drawings and to hone her skills. In 2009, she decided to pursue art seriously. Later, she made the jump from traditional pencil and paper to using a drawing tablet to create digital art. Inspired by the art of her fellow Palestinian caricature artists, such as Naji al-Ali, Safaa, too, seeks to portray the human experience through art that criticizes societal norms and political decisions. Her most recent artwork on the right of return garnered the emotions of millions online who liked, re-shared and re-posted them.
Jasmine Hawamdeh is an Toronto-based independent artist, an accomplished illustrator, oil painter, and printmaker. Jasmine draws inspiration from her Palestinian roots, advocacy work, and her Palestinian grandmother, who departed with the keys to her Jerusalem home in her hands. To Jasmine, return means the right to pick figs from the same trees that her grandparents planted. Returning means walking on the soil where those who died fighting for the right to remain at home are buried, returning means being reunited with homes that were once stolen, and returning means strolling across Palestine, knowing that Palestinians are free. The collection of illustrations are all inspired by returning home to Palestine.
Mohammad Sabaaneh is a Palestinian graphic artist living in Ramallah in Occupied Palestine. Mohammad Sabaaneh has gained worldwide renown for his black and white sketches. His stark geometric figures and landscapes are rich with Palestinian visual traditions and symbols, while his haunting figures depict a vivid perspective of the brutal Israeli occupation. He is a member of the International Cartoon Movement as well as the VJ Movement for visual journalists around the globe.
Aya Ghanameh is a Palestinian illustrator, writer, and designer currently working as a Children’s Book Design Fellow at Chronicle Books. In her work, she is particularly invested in inclusivity and intersectionality, and exploring how literary and visual arts can expand the horizons of knowledge production related to cultural identity beyond nationalist ways of thinking to center the voices of ordinary people. She is a recent graduate of the Illustration department at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she earned her BFA with a minor in Literary Arts and Studies. Her debut children's picture book, These Olive Trees, is due for publication in spring 2023 with Viking Children’s at Penguin Random House.
Imad Abu Shtayyah is a Palestinian painter and plastic artist. Imad was born in 1965, in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. He is a member of the Association of Jordanian Plastic Artists. "I have been drawing since I was a child, to express the the innate pain I feel as a Palestinian banned from returning to his homeland, and stuck in a permanent state of refugeedom. I still paint because of the complex political and human reality we live as Palestinian refugees...I try to instill hope into people's souls through my hurt, hope for the day we return."
Hadil Alsafadi is a Palestinian artist from Safad, born and raised in the diaspora. Hadil uses her art as a tool to advocate for human rights and social justice of many causes, particularly the Palestinian cause. From a young age she started drawing using traditional media, but now works digitally. Her Vibrant digital drawings pay homage to a homeland that she could never visit. Her dedication towards the cause stems from a desire to reclaim the narrative about Palestine and delivering the truth about apartheid. She considers herself a story-teller with a duty to raise awareness about the realities of the Palestinian experience, culture, and heritage. “Return” to Hadil means the reclamation of the entire 27,027 square kilometers of Palestinian lands. It means returning to her hometown, Safad, and retrieving the home that was stolen from her grandfather. Return means the liberation of all prisoners, women, children, and men. Return means being able to visit Jerusalem without a permit and praying in Al-Aqsa without having to go through any IOF check-points. It means the elimination of borders between Jerusalem, West-Bank, Gaza strip and the 48 Lands. Return means the realization of our martyrs’ dreams. Return means resistance, it means Liberation.
Protest Stencil is a collaborative political graphic art project that since 2016 has supported grassroots activists with visual materials to amplify their campaign messages and demands. Regularly hitting the headlines, the project has specialised in public space interventions that draw attention to the work of antiracist, abolitionist and anticolonial campaigns in the UK and internationally. Protest Stencil posters have repeatedly brought the words and demands of Palestinians onto London’s streets. While Palestinian voices may often be silenced in the media, they have repeatedly been amplified through this form of direct action - repurposing advertising space for both political messages and celebrations of Palestinian culture.
President of UCL Students for Justice in Palestine Society
Ilan Pappé is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, The Modern Middle East, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Lara Elborno Lara Elborno is a Palestinian-American international lawyer and activist based in Paris though her family originally hails from Gaza and Yaffa. She dedicates a large part of her legal practice to human rights work including accompanying asylum seekers in asylum proceedings before French jurisdictions. She is also co-host to a weekly English-language podcast called the Palestine Pod which aims to support the Palestinian struggle for liberation against Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid.
Mariam Barghouti is a Palestinian writer and researcher based in Ramallah. She earned a BA in English Language and Literature from Birzeit University, and an MSc in Sociology and Global Change from the University of Edinburgh. She worked as a journalist and reporter with a focus on the Levant, and published various sociopolitical commentaries from Palestine. Her reporting and analysis have been featured in Al-Jazeera English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Washington Post, BBC, and Middle East Eye. She has also undertaken monitoring and evaluation missions of humanitarian and development aid in Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon for various governmental and non-governmental organizations. Barghouti is also a policy member with the Palestinian think tank, Al-Shabaka, and provides consulting on context analysis and risk mitigation, advocacy, and creative direction. She is also a lecturer of Sociology.
Dr Gabriel Polley is an activist and academic who has been engaged with the Palestine solidarity movement in the UK for eight years. He lived and worked in the West Bank in 2014-15, and completed his PhD at the European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, in 2020, supervised by Professor Ilan Pappe and Dr Nadia Naser-Najjab. His writing has been featured by Middle East Eye, Mondoweiss and the Institute for Palestine Studies, and his first book, Palestine and the Victorians: Colonial Encounters in the Holy Land is due to be published by I.B. Tauris next year.
Ariel Gold is the National Co-Director of CODEPINK and a U.S. Middle East foreign policy expert. She holds a bachelor's degree in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University and a masters degree in Social Work from State University of New York, Binghamton. Before being banned from entering Israel in June 2018, Ariel used to travel to the West Bank one to two times per year to work with Palestinian individuals and organizations on the ground in their struggle for freedom and justice. Though she can no longer travel to Palestine, she carries out creative actions for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine and throughout the world. Ariel has been published in the Forward, Huffington Post, Tikkun Magazine, Truthout, Mondoweiss, and more.
Mark Muhannad Ayyash is the author of A Hermeneutics of Violence (UTP, 2019). He was born and raised in Silwan, Jerusalem, before immigrating to Canada, where he is now an Associate Professor of Sociology at Mount Royal University. He is currently writing a book on settler colonial sovereignty in Palestine/Israel.
Rebecca Miles Is Executive Director of the Nez Perce Tribe. Miles was elected to the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), the governing body of the Nez Perce Tribe, in May 2004. Miles was chosen Woman of the Year by the Washington State University Alumni Association in March 2006. She also received the National River Hero Award in 2007 for her work on Endangered Species Act-listed species in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Washington State University in 1997, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University in 2002.
Kei Pritsker is a journalist with BreakThrough News, socialist activist and an active member of PSL, the Party for Socialism and Liberation
Tara Houska is Ojibwe from Couchiching First Nation. She is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C., and is involved in advocacy on a broad spectrum of indigenous issues. Much of her work is focused on environmental justice and institutional racism. Tara regularly engages with grassroots organizations dedicated to protection of natural resources, treaty rights, cultures, and sacred lands, notably including Standing Rock & Stop Line 3. Last year, she co-founded Not Your Mascots, a non-profit dedicated to elimination of stereotypes, caricatures, and mascots that continue to obfuscate the past treatment and ongoing plight of indigenous peoples.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
Nerdeen Kiswani is a Palestinian organizer from NYC. She is the founder and chair of Within Our Lifetime - United for Palestine, a community based Palestinian led organization whose goal is to revitalize the revolutionary spirit of the Palestinian community abroad in pursuit of a free homeland. She is also a second-year law student at CUNY school of Law, where she organizes with Students for Justice in Palestine.
Enas Fares Ghannam, holder of a Bachelor's degree in English, professional diploma in translation, and Master's in translation. Is the project manager of the "We Are Not Numbers" program. This program, which was originally founded to tell the stories behind those who were killed or were injured by Israeli occupation forces, tells the stories of Palestine from the mouth of Palestinians all over the world. Enas is originally a refugee from Nablus, and worked as a teacher at UNRWA schools for a few years. Her ambition is to help the Palestinian people, Palestinian youths specifically, achieve their goals and become free. By freedom, She doesn’t only mean living in a free state, without the Israeli occupation, or having the freedom to move or travel safely, but in her own words, she means freedom to express their opinions and to think in a way that can help Palestine become a better place for themselves and for their children in future.
Leanne Mohamad is a British Palestinian born and raised in London and a current final year student at Kings College. She won the UK Redbridge Regional “Speak out” challenge in May 2016 after giving an impressive performance to enthusiastic applause. Leanne delivered a speech entitled ‘Birds, not Bombs’ based on her country and her passion, Palestine in which she was calling for peace and freedom and to an end of the injustices Palestinians are facing; especially Palestinian children. Her speech called for freedom, justice and peace but after she was faced with a barrage of hatred and abusive comments as well as attempts to silence her. Since then, Leanne has carried on to be a leading activist in the fight for human rights, speaking and appearing at many popular universities and conferences – and she has even spoken in Parliament and has been recognised and spoken internationally.
Janna Jihad is an activist and is known for being the world’s youngest journalist. A resident of the Nabi Saleh Village in occupied Palestine, Janna regularly participates in demonstrations against the Israeli Occupation. She began making videos of what was happening in her village, from Israeli occupation to illegal settlement building, when she was only 7.
Mariam Afifi is a Palestinian activist and musician who is a member at the Palestine Youth Orchestra. She was recently arrested while protesting the ethnic cleansing taking place in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. The videos showing her arrest became viral
Batool Subeiti is a university student and human rights activist based in the UK
Is a Palestinian digital rights defender, she is working as an Advocacy Advisor at 7amleh- The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, she is also a partner scholar for both Said Foundation and Chevening awards scholarships 21/22 and studying MA in Social Media and Digital Communication at the University of Westminster. Mona had worked previously with several civil society organizations, she was the community outreach coordinator of Transparency Palestine, the national chapter of Transparency International
Is an Irish People Before Profit/Solidarity TD, who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency since the 2011 general election. Boyd-Barrett helped to organise mass protests against the war in Iraq in 2003 as chair for the Irish Anti-War movement. He has continuously politically fought for Ireland's Israeli Ambassador to be expelled, and to place sanctions on Israel, for its brutal treatment of Palestinians and its apartheid regime.
Naz Shah has served as Labour MP for Bradford West since 2015. Recently in the December 2019 General Election, Naz received 33,736 votes, which equalled a 76.2% majority, retaining her seat. Prior to being elected, she was the chair of the mental health charity, Sharing Voices Bradford. After the general election in 2015, Shah became a member of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.
Dr Salman Abu Sitta was born in 1937 in Ma‘in Abu Sitta, in the Beersheba district of Mandate Palestine. An engineer by profession, and a researcher most known for his ground-breaking project mapping of Palestine in 21st, 20th and 19th centuries and developing a practical plan for implementing the Palestinian right of return of Palestinian refugees. He has spent over 40 years digging for any detail of information about or related to Palestine before, during and after al Nakba. Abu Sitta's work has encompassed not only documenting the Nakba, but also ensuring that "the memories and identity of the occupied homeland are never lost". He is the author of six books and over 300 articles and papers on Palestine, including The Atlas of Palestine, 1917–1966. He is the founder and president of the Palestine Land Society.
Miko Peled - Is a writer and human rights activist born and raised in Jerusalem. He is considered by many to be one of the clearest voices calling for justice in Palestine, support of the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, (BDS) and the creation of a single democracy with equal rights on all of historic Palestine. He is the author of “The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine," and “Injustice, The Story of The Holy Land Foundation Five.”
Terry Rempel is a Canadian-based independent scholar currently residing on Treaty 6 Territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others. A graduate of the University of Exeter, Rempel holds a doctorate in philosophy with a specialization in Middle East politics and was a founding member of BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in Palestine. His current research projects include a (re)survey of the “Palestinian refugee problem” over the longue duree from the dual perspectives of se
Michaela is a dedicated activist for Palestinian rights, housing for all, refugees and asylum-seekers rights, access to social welfare and effective mental health resources & facilities.