The UNESCO has listed the art of traditional Palestinian embroidery (Tatreez) as “social and intergenerational practice” last Wednesday on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (16.COM 8.b.30). The UNESCO’s listing of the Tatreez took place during the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).
Why the UNESCO’s Listing of the Tatreez Matters
The UNESCO’s listing of the Tatreez in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity came in days after Israel’s attempt to steal the cultural heritage of the traditional Palestinian embroidery.
Two weeks ago, the Miss Universe beauty pageant contestants posted pictures of themselves wearing the traditional Palestinian embroidery while rolling stuffed vine leaves with a caption that read, “Day in the life of a Bedouin. @Visit_Israel.”
As a result, a group of Jordanian women wore the traditional Palestinian dresses (Thobe) saying, “This is our heritage. This is the Palestinian heritage from the Canaanite civilization that’s passed down through the generations.”
In a thread on Twitter, The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a US-based activist group, called out the Israeli propaganda denoting that what Israel is doing is a “simultaneous cultural theft and disavowal,” as well as “an attempt to ‘self-indigenize’.”
“Through cultural appropriation and self-indigenization, settlers make themselves (and the rest of the world) believe they belong on the land that birthed the indigenous culture, even as they ethnically cleanse the actual indigenous people from it,” JVP stated.
The activist group revealed that the social media posts on the profile of Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez is an attempt from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism to steal the identity of Palestinians and call it Israeli, even though being Bedouin, in and itself, symbolizes being indigenous.
“For example, through posts sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, Miss Universe contestants have showcased their engagement with Palestinian food, clothing, and dance traditions — but they’ve called this culture, and the land and people from which it originated, ‘Israeli,’” JVP said. “And, while they said they were living ‘the life of a Bedouin,’ they neglected to illustrate the actual conditions of Bedouin life, which include home demolitions, forced expulsions, and Israeli police violence.”
In fact, in The Inventory of Palestinian Embroidery Heritage prepared by Palestine’s Ministry of Culture to the UNESCO, the ministry brought to light the threat that the traditional Palestinian embroidery is under because of Israel’s attempts to culturally appropriate the Palestinian identity “with the aim of robbing Palestinians of their culture and totally erasing them culturally.”
And thus, having the UNESCO list the traditional Tatreez as Palestine’s is an acknowledgement that this traditional embroidery is part of the Palestinian culture and not Israel’s — which is a huge win for Palestine against Israel’s attempts to erase Palestine.
The Palestinian Response
In a statement last Wednesday, Palestine’s Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh thanked UNESCO for its listing of Palestine as Representatives for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, acknowledging how this listing is a huge win for Palestinians.
“[The UNESCO’s listing of the Tatreez] is an important and a timely step as we protect our Palestinian identity, heritage, and narrative, from the occupation’s attempts to steal what it does not own,” Shtayyeh said.
Palestine’s Minister of Culture Atef Abu Saif said that the ministry had been working for more than two years so that they would have the traditional Palestinian embroidery on the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. He added that this cultural heritage has been “the best evidence that we are the people of this land.”
“Heritage is the living reservoir of the memory of our people on this earth. The preservation of the national cultural identity of our heritage is indispensable to the necessity of confronting an occupation that harnesses all its capabilities to eradicate and steal it,” he said in a statement.
The Miss Universe Contest Is Just a Cover-Up
In the midst of hosting the Miss Universe competition and promoting a false propaganda for itself, Israel has been attacking Palestinians in Barqa village, destroying around 20 Palestinian houses.
In addition, while distracting the media with the Miss Universe competition, Israel has been kicking Palestinians out of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.
The Bottom Line
Israel has been using the Miss Universe competition to not only distract the media from its bigotry and apartheid policies against Palestinians, but also erase the Palestinian identity and culture entirely.
Boycotting Israel is a must. If anything, a monstrous state like Israel shouldn’t’ve been allowed to host the Miss Universe beauty pageant in the first place.
Having the traditional Tatreez recognized by the UNESCO as Palestinian is a huge win for Palestinians in the midst of Israel’s barbaric policies. However, unfortunately that doesn’t mean that Israel will stop trying to steal the Palestinian identity like it’s been doing with many Arab and Palestinian dishes like Hummus and Falafel.
The Tatreez symbolizes the Palestinian beauty and resistance in the face of the Israeli occupation, and it should always be perceived as such.