Memory and the Return of History in a Settler-colonial Context: The Case of the Palestinians in Israel

Nadim N. Rouhana*, Areej Sabbagh-Khoury

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In this essay we trace the return of history as a process that has become integrated into the transformation of Palestinian political consciousness. We examine how Palestinian history, particularly the history of the dismantlement of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of the majority of Palestinians from their homeland–known in Palestinian historiography as the Nakba–has gradually started to occupy the centre of the present political and cultural experience and discourse of the Palestinians in Israel. We examine why the Nakba, the defining experience in modern Palestinian history and politics, was, until the mid-1990s, silenced in the “official political sphere” of the Palestinians in Israel. We will also try to explain when and why history returned to take an active and conscious place central in Palestinian political discourse, and more recently, political behaviour and cultural activities. We argue there has been a discernible process of transformation from a silenced collective memory around the Nakba to its gradual return as a salient force in the modern political consciousness of this community. We trace this transformation and examine the various manifestations of this return, which, we argue, reflects a dramatic makeover of their present collective consciousness. We then briefly address the political implications of this transformation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)527-550
Number of pages24
Issue number4
StatePublished - 19 May 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Israeli–Palestinian conflict
  • Nakba
  • Palestinians
  • collective consciousness
  • colonizer and colonized
  • history and memory
  • settler colonialism


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