At a closer look, however, each issue of TWP (which, in spite of the name, is a monthly publication) is a remarkable compendium of learned yet easily readable articles covering Palestinian arts, culture and history, as well as business and social developments.
The January 2007 issue is dedicated to Palestinian customs and traditions. ‘Privacy and Love in Palestinian villages’ by Ali Qleibo describes how in the past entire families sharing one room dealt with intimacy, or the lack thereof. Efforts being undertaken to save the Palestinian musical heritage, collected and kept in a digital archive at Birzeit University, are described in another article. A different one deals with the project establishing the International Academy of Art Palestine (IAAP). In total, the January issue makes up 100 pages dense with articles and fascinating content.
TWP clearly tries to give exposure to an alternative Palestine, not the one people, locally and abroad, are used to read about in the news, but a vibrant Palestine, rich in history and traditions.
I meet Sani Meo, the founder and publisher of TWP in East Jerusalem over coffee. The agenda of TWP, he tells me, is to promote the brand “Palestine”, mainly among Palestinians. Many Palestinians today think that all is Palestinian is bad. They are being constantly put down, humiliated by everything that happens around them. They need to learn that they can be proud, that contrary to what some would like them to believe, Palestinians have a rich history and culture. There is plenty of world class material here: actors, singers, dancers, intellectuals, businesspeople, and more. So many success stories, they need to get out there. This is very important also in terms of the conflict. Only once Palestinians will regain pride in what they are they will be able to speak with Israelis as equals, not as inferiors.
TWP does not cover only rosy subjects. Many articles refer to the difficulties generated by Israel’s occupation. Some articles even focus on it, such as the one by choreographer Omar Barghouti in the October 2006 issue, ‘Palestinian Dance Education under Occupation: Need or Frill?’.
The same article, like others, does not spare criticism towards internal conservative attitudes either. ‘…developing dance, in both technique and content…. has faced serious challenges from within society, not just from the occupation authorities. Social conservatives were particularly incensed by the tendency inherent in contemporary Palestinian dance, as in all contemporary art forms around the world, to defy anachronistic norms, challenge patriarchic and clerical authority or rebel against molded, inherited parameters of allowed though and expression.....’ writes the author.
TWP is published in Ramallah and is freely distributed in all Palestinian major centers, Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Betlehem, Gaza, Jericho and more. 12.000 copies each month are distributed. It can be found in hotels, restaurants and cultural centers. People abroad can read it on the web or subscribe to the printed version. TWP has subscribers as far as Australia and Chile says Meo. Many locals also subscribe to it, even though they could pick it up for free. In many cases it’s their way to support the publication which is 100% funded through local Palestinian advertisement and receives no aid money at all.
Tony Khouri, TWP’s editor-in-chief, adds that even though TWP started as a publication aimed at visitors (in the year 2000, before the second intifada started) today it is read by more and more Palestinians. There are people here, also from modest background, who read every issue of TWP cover to cover, sometimes with the help of a dictionary. We get readers writing to us and commenting about articles, or asking us when we are going to cover their artistic performance, religious group or social project. Readers also send us articles spontaneously, this is something we actively encourage people to do.
The web site, www.thisweekinpalestine.com, is constantly being developed and is becoming a source of information on Palestine in its own rights. It is searchable by subject, including festivals, music, cultural heritage, women, nature and others.
When I ask about their upcoming projects, Sani Meo tells me about the launch of a new Arabic language monthly dedicated to Palestinian youth, Filistin Ashabab (Palestine, the youth).The magazine’s intent is to encourage young Palestinians to open their minds, says Meo. It will not deal with conservative matters, it’s a very liberal publication that wants to set an example. We are also distributing our design 2007 agenda and calendar, with pages dedicated to Palestinian cultural institutions, and a CD of Palestinian songs we recently launched.
It would be also wonderful to have an Arabic version of This Week in Palestine, Tony Khoury adds.