Book Review: Traditional Palestinian Costume: Origins and Evolution February 08, 2015 16:30

By Hanan Karaman Munayyer, Interlink Publishing, 2011, hardcover, 576 pp. 

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Reviewed by Clovis Maksoud

Hanan Munayyer's Traditional Palestinian Costume: Origins and Evolutionconstitutes a decisive rebuke to those who, in a pathetic and shameful distortion of the identity of the Palestinian people, define them "invented." When Newt Gingrich, who claims to be a "historian," uttered this fallacy, a rush of other Republican candidates competed as to who could go further in amplifying this ferocious and scandalous attack on the Palestinian people and their identity. From this perspective, this collection constitutes, albeit unintentionally, the civilized response correcting the historical record.

This claim of Palestinians being "invented"—and the looseness with which this fantasy was uttered but never seriously rebutted, let alone questioned, by most of the political and media establishment in the U.S.—explains much of the flawed relations the U.S. has with many of the Arab people, despite a deep undercurrent of appreciation for its values.

It is this appreciation, as well as a prevailing Arab—and especially Palestinian—conviction that the U.S. is a persuadable entity, that cements the bonds among the Palestinian and Arab people with the people of the United States. Nearly a quarter of a century of research and documentation undertaken by Hanan and Farah Munayyer explains the strong commitment of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation which they founded.

While the notion that Palestinians are "invented" has, in one way or another, characterized U.S. treatment of Palestinian national rights, this can be altered by a constituency of conscience that, when required, can be the much needed corrective force enhancing America's national understanding of Palestinian rights.

Like other central Palestinian and Arab-American contributions—notably by Walid Khalidi and the late Edward Said and Hisham Sharabi, among hundreds of others—comes this exceptional compilation, which adds a new dimension to the intellectual and cultural wealth of the United States.

This epic landmark should embolden and reconfirm the obvious continuum, namely that Palestine exists, and rebut the invented fallacies so that the truth prevails. This monumental volume by Hanan Munayyer constitutes a significant contribution that eventually will liberate those who, for too long, were addicted to prejudice against Palestinian human and national rights.

The rich repertoire of embroidered patterns that have been revealed through these costumes is as relevant a source of historical data as any archaeological find. In a way, this inspiring contribution testifies to the Palestinian people's unwavering commitment to the belief that their right to national and human dignity is irreversible and its realization inevitable.