West News Wire: A small museum in Washington that tells the story of the Palestinian people is seeing an extraordinary increase of visitors who are interested in Palestine as we approach the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, which is Arabic for calamity.
The staff and founder of the museum claim that despite the fact that US politics and perceptions have historically been heavily biased in favour of Israel, the rising attendance is a reflection of a broader movement in public consciousness towards the situation of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
According to Bshara Nassar, the museum’s creator, “there is increased attendance to the museum this year so far because we are also telling a story in a way that through arts and culture disarms people.”
He adds that they’ve had more visibility this year and are getting more people into the museum space.
The Museum of the Palestinian People provided reporters with data showing that the monthly average attendance in 2022 was 132 people. So far in 2023, that number has increased to 227 people per month, a 170 percent spike.
The museum’s own outreach initiatives over the previous year, which included co-sponsoring events in Washington and setting up tables at other events to generate awareness about its presence, are one of many factors contributing to the increase in visitors.
However, other factors, such as Israeli soldiers’ continuous abuse of Palestinians and the countdown to the Nakba commemoration, have also contributed.
The Nakba, or the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist forces to make way for the establishment of Israel in 1948, is commemorated by Palestinians worldwide on May 15.
Zionist troops waged a planned military operation that resulted in the forced removal of 80% of the Palestinian population from their homes, the killing of thousands of Palestinians, the destruction of hundreds of communities.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” said Julia Pitner, the museum’s director of operations and programmes, after being asked whether the Nakba anniversary has helped to increase attendance over the past few weeks.
“Also, because of what happened at Aqsa, because there were demonstrations worldwide against what happened at the Aqsa Mosque,” she said referring to the violence against Palestinian worshippers during Ramadan this year.
“There has been a lot more attention and people are curious now, which is good and bad at the same time. It’s good because we want to have more attention on the Palestinian issue. It’s bad because it only seems to come when there’s violence.
American attitudes of the Israeli-Palestinian issue have changed recently, according to surveys.
According to a Gallup survey conducted in March, more Democratic Party supporters have more sympathy for Palestinians than for Israelis. This is the first change since the poll’s inception 22 years ago.
According to a poll from 2021, 51% of Americans were against Israel receiving fully unlimited aid if it continued to build settlements in the occupied West Bank, which many international organisations consider to be against international law.
However, despite the heightened attention, no US senators have visited the museum.
Would Betty McCollum like to attend? Pitner declared.
She observed that American political institutions continue to support Israel either directly or indirectly.
It’s difficult since American politics towards Israel and Palestine might be extremely complex or not complex at all. Because it’s either pro-Israel or not, particularly on Capitol Hill. However, at the local level, that isn’t the case, and you’re starting to see a lot of it swell up. More Congressmen are now interested in discussing Palestine, and we would love to invite them to this event.
Nassar said the museum is a non-profit organisation that’s not focused on politics or working with politicians, but they would love to have them come to visit the museum and learn about Palestine’s history.
And while no lawmakers have walked through its doors, Nassar noted that congressional staffers and people working at the US State Department have come to the museum on their own individual capacity simply out of curiosity.
They also recently had a group of people from the Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s top think tanks, visit the museum.
“We’re a cultural institution and a museum, and we welcome everyone,” Nassar said.
The museum has been putting out programmes focused on exploring this history in advance of the Nakba, which occurs on May 15. These initiatives include inviting survivors to speak about their experiences, hosting book discussions with Palestinian authors, and providing workshops in Palestinian needlework.
“The Nakba, which is a terrible and traumatic tragedy for Palestinians, will soon be 75 years old. Remembering it and talking about it are crucial for raising awareness of it among Palestinians, according to Nassar.