Unsettled Debts: 1968 and the Problem of Historical Memory| Reborn as Fida’i: The Palestinian Revolution and the (Re)Making of an Icon

Loubna Qutami


The 1968 Battle of Karameh secured a place in history for the Fida’i as an iconic figure of the victorious “new Palestinian.” The ideals that initially animated the Fida’i icon in 1968 have been transformed alongside the unstable conditions of the Palestinian liberation struggle. The enduring resonance of the Fida’i is nevertheless a pedagogical opportunity to revisit the period of its emergence and draw out lessons for contemporary decolonial struggle. The author argues that the unfulfilled revolutionary promise of the Fida’i is best apprehended by focusing on the organizational practices, aspirations, and contradictions from which it emerged and the widespread internationalist and grassroots participation in struggle that it galvanized. Through an examination of Fida’i poster art alongside political manifestos, the author analyzes the Palestinian, Arab, and global context in the period when the Fida’i became an icon and its subsequent transmutations in the decades that followed. The author illustrates the strategic and analytic principles obscured by various superficial invocations and appropriations of the icon in efforts to recuperate its emancipatory legacy.


Fida’iyyin, Karameh, Palestine, Palestinians, PLO, internationalism, revolutionary war, anti-colonialism

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