Suha Sabbagh (سهي صباغ) is a Palestinian writer. She is the former director of the Institute for Arab Women's Studies in Washington, DC. She knows and writes of both worlds.
As a Palestinian woman who grew up in Israeli Haifa, she has lived with what she calls "the constant issue of identity" since her earliest years. Growing up in a Christian Palestinian family living in what had become a Jewish neighborhood, the young Suha was aware that her family had "a different set of traditional norms" than her neighbors, who, nevertheless, accorded her family respect. (In part, she believes, this was because they were viewed as "Christians" rather than "Arabs.")
Sabbagh learned to accept and appreciate cultural differences, an experience which, she says today, "informed my whole life and prompted me to seek a solution. " This co-existence, however, "ended at the neighborhood borders, " where Arabs were second-class citizens in every respect, in a society where the Hebrew-speaking majority spoke Arabic only when cursing. To add yet another degree of cultural confusion, Sabbagh attended a French parochial school whose curriculum "centered around the conquests of Napoleon, " and where she thus received an education that prepared her "to live in Europe rather than the Middle East."
In 1965, Sabbagh came to the US to complete her education, studying, and then teaching, art history in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In the '70s, she moved to Madison to obtain her doctorate in comparative literature. Studying theories of society and culture, I always related to identity, " she wrote her thesis on Frantz Fanon and the cultural aspect of colonization. It was in 1975, as a student at the University of Wisconsin living and working with other Palestinians, that Sabbagh began to feel I a stronger sense of Palestinian consciousness and identity.
"She points out that prior to 1967, Palestinians living in Israel and in what were to become the occupied territories had virtually no contact with each other. Cultural differences had developed from 1948 to 1967 between the more urban Israeli Palestinians and the generally rural West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. The Palestinians living in Israel had lost some of their cultural identity by having to adapt to their new situation. After 1967, with all of Palestine under Israeli control, however, these barriers began to break down.
(From wrmea.com website )
- Palestinian Women of Gaza and the West Bank, 1998.
Arab women : between defiance and restraint, Olive Branch Press, New York, 1996.
Sex, Lies & Stereotypes - The Image of Arabs in American Popular Fiction, Paperback - 1990.