This Saturday, Welcome Merchant are hosting the Falastin Fair, which is a Palestinian Forum that will both celebrate culture and educate those in attendance about how to better support the Palestinian cause. Ticketholders can expect both delicious food and thought-provoking discussion from our panellists. The panellists are Amal Naser, proud third-generation Palestinian refugee and community organiser, Dr. Barbara Bloch, convenor of Palestine Fair Trade Australia, Sara Saleh, human rights lawyer, activist and author of Palestinian, Egyptian and Lebanese heritage and Arwa Abousamra, Palestinian-Australian author.
We had the privilege to speak with Sara and Arwa about their connection to their culture, their work, and about supporting the Palestine cause – read on below to find out more.
Arwa Abousamra is a Saudi-born Palestinian author and has spent most of her life living on Gadigal Land. For Arwa, food has played a highly significant role in building her connection to her cultural heritage. Arwa tells us, “growing up in a western country with limited family and even more limited links to fellow Palestinians living in Australia at the time, food was the one way we could express our love for our heritage.” Arwa cites her parents’ love for cooking as a key factor in the “ever-growing love” she has for her culture and people.
Arwa’s autobiography, Tea with Arwa, was published in 2011. In this work, Arwa shares the highs and lows of her journey as a migrant. Arwa tells us that the work explores her “yearning for a sense of belonging and how the culture of food helped nurture [my] connection to a heritage passed down through storytelling, language and cuisine”. Though she is an established author, Arwa was not immune to the challenges posed by a language barrier when she first arrived in Australia. She says that this “made progress slow and difficult”, however she refused to give up on her studies. Through study at university, Arwa attained accreditation as an Arabic language interpreter.
Arwa states that it is crucial that the wider Australian public use their voices and platforms to speak up about the ongoing oppression of Palestinian people. “Being silent about it only aids the continuity of that system, so people need to speak up.”
Arwa urges us all to support Palestinian creatives and activists wherever we can. “Supporting everything Palestinian, whether it is books, art, performance, food, protest, petitions and everything in-between, helps further the pursuit of justice for Palestinians”.
Sara Saleh is a human rights lawyer, a community organiser and an author who identifies as the daughter of migrants from Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon. Sara grew up between Australia and the Middle East, and is now based on Gadigal Land.
When asked about how she became involved in humanitarian work, Sara states, “I often say that as a Palestinian, I grew up learning to march and rally and protest and chant before I even started to walk and talk!” In regard to practicing law, Sara states that it was important to her to use any tool at her disposal to address systemic inequalities.
Sara also speaks about stories being an integral part of her culture. She tells us, “I grew up hearing stories. Those are the things that I feel we inherited. I feel in a way I was always destined to be a storyteller in some shape, way or form.” An affinity for storytelling is evident in Sara’s family; her grandfather was also a writer.
Sara states that a major challenge she has faced as a Palestinian is the ‘wilful ignorance’ of many in wider Australian society. Sara rightfully condemns this, stating, “at this point in time that [wilful ignorance] can no longer stand”. Sara asserts that people must be working to ensure their allyship moves beyond being simply tokenistic or symbolic. Sara implores us to ask ourselves, “what are you doing to actively check yourself, to learn and unlearn what you know?”
When asked what our readers can do to support the cause, Sara echoes Arwa; “support and elevate Palestinian artists, poets, filmmakers, writers…show up to our events, support our stories, buy our books when they’re out, come to our festivals!”
Sara also emphasises that allyship comes in many forms – she says, “everyone has the ability to contribute something”. If you are not able to contribute financially, you can donate your time, volunteer with organisations. “If you can’t afford books, you can literally ask for the library to stock them for you!”, Sara says. “Being part of a movement is the only way that we can actually undo some of these injustices”.
Sara and Arwa will be joined by the other panellists this Saturday at the Falastin Fair.
50% of the entry ticket sales for this event will go to Medical Aid for Palestine. While this event is sold out, you can donate directly by clicking here.