From June 25 to July 3, 2019, Palestinian author, Ramzy Baroud, will be in Kenya for a ground-breaking tour to discuss his latest book, The Last Earth (Pluto, 2018) at various venues across Nairobi, the country’s capital.
The book tells the stories of dispossession, exile and loss of ordinary Palestinians – but it is also about hope and resistance in modern Palestine, says Baroud. “I hope that, in some way, The Last Earth, will change the way that Kenyans see Palestine and its people.”
Baroud’s hosts – the Kenya Palestine Solidarity Movement (KPSM) – share his hope. “Kenya’s own history and struggle against colonialism puts us in a unique position to understand the liberation and anti-colonial struggle of the Palestinian people. We hope that Ramzy will provide a clearer understanding of the occupation of Palestine for Kenyan audiences,” says KPSM co-chairperson, Naomi Barasa.
In writing The Last Earth, Baroud drew on dozens of interviews to produce a vivid and intimate account of Palestinian lives – in villages, refugee camps, prisons and cities, in the lands of their ancestors and in exile.
“Ordinary Palestinians have rarely narrated their own history, and this is an attempt to reclaim our narrative. The stories of the occupation are told by the occupier, the stories of colonialism are told by the colonizers,” says Baroud.
Baroud says that he is part of a new generation of Palestinian lions challenging their Israeli hunter’s narrative. Baroud’s previous books include My Father Was a Freedom Fighter and The Second Palestinian Intifada – both of which chronicle the Palestinian struggle against occupation from a human perspective.
“This image of Africa as helpless, hungry and in desperate need of civilization was planted in our minds by the same people who view Arabs – and Palestinians in particular – as savage terrorists. We must challenge both stereotypes,” states Baroud.
The Palestinians, says Baroud, are much more than the peace process or suicide bombers. “Like Africans, we Palestinians are a proud people resisting occupation and colonialism. The story of Palestine is the story of the Palestinian people, starting with the creation of Israel on the ruins of Palestinian towns and villages in 1948. If Palestinians hadn’t resisted, their story would have ended right there and then, and they too would have disappeared,” he explains.
Born into a family of refugees in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip, Baroud was forced into exile in the United States. But home for him will always be Beit Daras – a Palestinian village that was destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948. “When Google Earth was launched in 2001, I rushed immediately to locate a village that no longer exists on a map. I wasn’t crazy. The village of Beit Daras is the single most important piece of earth to me.”
Baroud’s statement reflects the feelings of millions of displaced Palestinians longing to return to their ancestral villages.