The winners of the Palestine Book Awards (PBA) were unveiled at a prestigious event in London tonight, attended by prominent figures from the world of academia, literature and politics.
The PBA ceremony is MEMO’s flagship event and the culmination of months of hard work. Nominations start in January with submissions from publishers across the world. Nine books were shortlisted from dozens of entries into three categories – academic, memoir and lifetime achievement - after painstaking efforts by a panel of expert judges.
Two books were presented with the Academic Award. Maha Nasser was honoured for her work “Brothers Apart: Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Arab world”, which explores the transnational connections forged between Palestinian intellectuals and the rest of the Arab world, and Colin Andersen for “Balfour in the Dock: J.M.N. Jeffries & the Case for the Prosecution”, which examines the 750-page magnum opus on Palestine by outstanding British journalist J M N Jeffries.
Reja-e Busailah was presented with the Memoir Award for his autobiographical work “In the Land of My Birth: A Palestinian Boyhood”, which documents his childhood in the lead up to the loss of Palestine in the 1948 Nakba (the Catastrophe).
The Lifetime Achievement Award, a prize that honours the author’s many contributions to literature on Palestine, was awarded to Salim Tamari, who also contributed to this year’s shortlist with “The Great War and the Remaking of Palestine”. Tamari’s work has spanned more than two decades, and having served as a professor at several prestigious universities in the US, Europe and Palestine, he has secured his place as one of the Arab world’s most experienced academics on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The evening was opened by PBA judge Alan Waddams, who thanked guests for attending an event that celebrated important contributions to Palestinian literature. Waddams then handed over to author Ramzy Baroud for this year’s keynote speech, in which he reflected on the significance of Palestinians telling their own stories, particularly as Palestinians mark the 70 anniversary of the Nakba this year.
“The story of my people is much older than that of Israel and the birth of the Zionist movement. However, it was the latter that has disrupted the course of our history, rendering most of us refugees in Palestine itself, throughout the Middle East and the world,” he told guests.
He made special reference to recent events in his hometown of Gaza, where since March, Palestinians have been gathering at the border with Israel to protest the suffocating siege on the Strip since 2006.
“For the millions of refugees, and for the thousands of protesters at the Gaza border, Palestine is no longer just a piece of earth but a perpetual fight for justice – in the name of those who died along the dusty trails of exile and of those who are yet to be born,” he declared, before moving on to what those outside the region could do to aid the cause.
He concluded: "It is sorely needed that, we, as Palestinian writers, historians and journalists assume the responsibility of reinterpreting Palestinian history, internalising and communicating Palestinian voices, so that the rest of the world can, for once, appreciate the story as told by its wounded but tenacious victims"
Tonight’s award ceremony was preceded by an informal seminar with the authors of all the books shortlisted in London last night, which gave the public an opportunity to ask questions about the works collated this year. The oversubscribed event was well received by attendees, who were also able to purchase the shortlisted books and have them signed by their respective authors.