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Potters for Palestine: The Need for Solidarity

As I write this, over 22,000 Palestinians have been killed at the hands of the Israeli government and Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers, with over 7,000 still under the rubble and 50,000 more injured. I find myself feeling more and more isolated as the days go on, as fewer people are talking about Palestine, even as the attacks by Israel have extended to the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria. I cannot make sense of how the artists around me go to their studios every day and are seemingly able to block out the rest of the world. It often feels like I am living another reality when people ask me how my day was or about what I am making in the studio –  I can only think of Gaza. As a Palestinian-American potter, my life has been unimaginable since October. Not because I had any illusions about how ruthless Israel could be, but because I didn’t realize how helpless and alone I would feel when Israel launched its genocidal war on Gaza.


Thankfully, solidarity from the ceramics community lifted my spirits. On November 15th, 2023, my Instagram was flooded with posts from the “Potters for Palestine” campaign that urged potters to call for a ceasefire and an end to Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza. The statement accompanying the post, written by ceramicists Melissa Weiss, Julie Moon, Leena Ismail, and Haakon Lenzi, urged readers to support Palestinians “in their struggle for liberation.” By this point, Gaza had experienced “1.4 million displaced civilians and 11,000 deaths – 73% of whom are women, children, and the elderly,” as stated by the Potters for Palestine infographic. When I asked Melissa Weiss why she felt compelled to be a part of the Potters for Palestine organizing, she said, “I’m sitting here looking at my phone of unimaginable horrors and atrocities being done to the Palestinian people by an occupying army and government.” She went on to say of being a potter who uses Instagram right now, “Then scroll to an image of a pot and someone talking about blah blah blah. It was so dystopian. How could I post about anything but to scream for an end to this nightmare? This cruelty is being committed using my tax dollars I pay when I sell pots using this app! With an illegal occupying government using my ethnicity to justify its human atrocities. They are killing everyone and everything and saying if they don’t, I won’t be safe. This is psychotic. It felt so wrong. It is so wrong.” 


Unfortunately, the Potters for Palestine solidarity posts were quickly met with contra campaigns that criticized posters for jumping onto a trend. While it was moving to see the initial outpouring of potters in support of Palestinian liberation, I was heartbroken when the angry comments rolled in and several potters took down their initial post or amended it to support the state of Israel. The backlash to the campaign did clarify one important thing: the movement for Palestine is shifting. Palestinians often fight their battles alone, feeling that we are screaming into an empty void. But the multiple grassroots campaigns cropping up to uplift the voices of Palestinians are a real and tangible victory for the struggle for liberation. The backlash implies that Zionists feel that their lies, which have long been accepted by most Westerners, are finally crumbling. 

The efforts of these outspoken potters are indicative of a powerful political force in our community, but there needs to be more mass participation by craftspeople in this struggle. I often feel as though potters and craftspeople in general can isolate themselves inside their bubbles. It can be easy to find a little enclave, as I have in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and block out all the noises around me. I was overjoyed that I saw craftspeople speaking out, but I also felt like there were too few voices chiming in with their support. I have lost respect for many of my favorite potters as they continue to be silent in the face of genocide. I find myself thinking about Desmond Tutu's quote, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The time to speak is now, as we are living through a moment where the cultural thinking around Palestine is radically changing. 

Pushback from the pottery community is just a small example of artists being punished for being pro-Palestinian. In October, David Velasco, former editor of the art magazine Artforum, was fired from his job. Velasco was fired after staffers at Artforum published and signed an open letter calling for the liberation of Palestine.[1] The acclaimed artist Ai Weiwei faced a major backlash and had an upcoming show at the Lisson Gallery canceled after posting a now-deleted tweet criticizing U.S. aid to Israel. In an interview following the cancellation, Ai said the current backlash against supporters of Palestine “mirrors an authoritarian culture, reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution in China and the tragic events in Germany decades ago.”[2]

James Baldwin said, “The role of the artist is exactly the same as the role of the lover. If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” Artists have a critical role to play as Israel’s regime grows ever more violent. Photographer Nan Goldin recently called off a project with the New York Times magazine because of their pro-Israel coverage of Gaza. She wrote on Instagram that her decision to cancel the project was “because of the NYT’s reporting on the war on Gaza, which shows complicity with Israel. For what they report and don’t report, and how they question the veracity of anything Palestinians say.” Goldin acts as a role model for what other artists can do, as she unapologetically uses her platform to call out the injustices that Palestinians face.[3]

As potters, we are continuing the tradition of craft that has been passed down for centuries and techniques that have been shared around the globe. Within this, we cannot isolate our practice from the ceramics practiced around the world. In Palestine, the traditions of pottery are long and rich. Gaza, like areas in the rest of occupied Palestine, has an important history of trade and culture as it connects the Asian and African continents. Clay artifacts have been discovered in Tell el-Ajjul, ten kilometers south of Gaza City, dating as far back as 1,500 B.C.[4] During the Bronze Age, Gaza City served as a stop on the Syrian-Egyptian caravan route. During the Ottoman period, Gaza City served as a major destination for scholars from around the Province of Damascus, and during the nineteenth century, Gaza continued to be a center for trade because it was a large producer of soap and cotton and had bazaars larger than the ones in Jerusalem.

In August 2023, Middle East Eye published a story highlighting the Atallah family, who had seven pottery factories operating in the Gaza Strip. The story focuses on the challenges the Gazan family faces in exporting their goods to nearby countries because of the Israeli siege. The Israeli regime cracked down on exports from Gaza after the second Intifada in 2000. Before this, the Atallah family sold most of their pottery to the West Bank, Jordan, and Gulf nations.[5] I am not sure what has happened to the ceramic facilities since October, but we can assume they have been destroyed, as most of the northern and central parts of Gaza have been flattened since October. 

Nol Collective, a garment manufacturer in Palestine, shared a story on December 19th, 2023, of Husam, one of their weavers who lives in Gaza. Husam’s family has now become refugees twice, first in 1948 when they fled the village of al-Majdal to Gaza. Al-Majdal, just thirteen kilometers north of Gaza, was home to 800 looms where fabric was woven to make traditional Palestinian thobes. Families from al-Majdal, such as the Maleeha and the Hinnawi families, carried on the weaving traditions in Gaza from 1948 until the present day. Now, the homes of the weavers and their looms have been destroyed by Israeli airstrikes. Nol Collective has updated that one of their weavers was killed by an airstrike along with his family. Now, the goal of every person in Gaza is to survive. Everyday commodities like handmade rugs and pottery have to be put to the side, as families like Husam's are forced to evacuate to Rafah in the south, where almost two million Palestinians are sheltering. 

While it is clear that Israel has destroyed artmaking in Gaza at the moment, it has also become increasingly hard to continue art practices in the West Bank during the last two decades. In 2016, I visited Hebron with a group of Palestinian high schoolers from all over the diaspora. Hebron, a city in the south of the West Bank, has a long history of glass blowing, pottery, weaving, and tatreez, a traditional Palestinian style of embroidery. We went to Hirbawi, the factory that – to this day –  produces authentic keffiyehs, the white and black ornate scarf that symbolizes Palestinian resistance. We also toured pottery studios where underglazes are painted meticulously onto platters, bowls, and jugs, and even tried our hand at blowing glass. The art that has been passed down for generations, produced by Palestinians living under occupation, is a sign that Palestinians and our traditions are strong. We will not let our culture die, even if this is the goal of Zionism. It is difficult to produce, sell, and export goods due to the Israeli militarization in the area. Illegal Israeli settlements continue to be erected in the West Bank, which causes Palestinians' homes to be destroyed and families to be displaced. 

The destruction taking place in Gaza right now is a genocide, not just of people; it is also a cultural genocide. Israel has targeted universities, churches, and mosques. In November, Israeli strikes hit Gaza’s “Central Archives,” where thousands of historical documents dating back 150 years were destroyed. The mayor of Gaza City, Yahya Al-Sarraj, commented on the attack, saying, “Targeting the Central Archives poses a great danger to the city, as it contains thousands of historically valuable documents for the community.” He went on to say, “The attempt by the occupation to destroy everything beautiful, to erase Palestinian memory, and to impose a policy of obscuring the people, [makes] Palestinian cities uninhabitable.” Zionism has always tried to erase Palestinians, as it described the country of Palestine before 1948 as “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Destroying archives, homes, libraries, schools, and places of worship not only makes Gaza uninhabitable, but it also attempts to erase what a rich culture Gaza has had for centuries. Edward Said once said, “Culture is a way of fighting against extinction and obliteration.” As a Palestinian living in the diaspora, Palestinian traditions such as baking knafeh (a sweet made of cheese and shredded filo dough) and embroidering keep me connected to the land that my grandfather’s family was expelled from in 1948. 

It is clear to me now that liberation for Palestine will happen, as global narratives around the occupation are slowly changing before our eyes, and movements like the Jewish Voice for Peace, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and boycotts, divestments, and sanctions are growing rapidly. It is now up to the artists of the world to stand for what is right. This includes calling for an immediate ceasefire, an end of aid to Israel, and partaking in the cultural boycott of Israel, which would all lead to the end of the occupation and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees. Within studios, boycotting Israel-made products and tools is an effective way to pressure the apartheid state, as was done to dismantle apartheid in South Africa. Along with Potters for Palestine, I have been inspired by campaigns such as “Crafts and Tradespeople in Solidarity with Palestine,” “Sewists for a Free Palestine,” “Artist Teach-In for Palestine,”  and countless raffles of artwork to raise funds for aid to Gaza. It is not too late to stand with the Palestinian people. Staying silent in the face of violence against civilians in Gaza, half of whom are children, is an unforgivable act. I hope that learning about the rich history of Gaza and the Palestinian people contextualizes our struggle and humanizes us as people who want to live freely, even if Zionism and Western media try to erase and destroy us. 


[1]  Zachary Small, “Artforum Fires Top Editor After Its Open Letter on Israel-Hamas War,” New York Times, October. 26, 2023, accesse

[2] Ian Williams, “Exiled Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Speaks on His Cancellation,” The Spectator, December 16, 2023,

[3] Alex Greenberger, “Nan Goldin Cancels New York Times Project Over Newspaper’s ‘Complicity with Israel,’” ARTNews, November 9, 2023,

[4]  Mohammed al-Hajjar, “In pictures: Inside Gaza's Traditional Pottery Industry,” Middle East Eye, August 3, 2023,

[5] Ibid.

[6] “An Update from a Weaver in Gaza,” Instagram post, December 13, 2023

[7] Rania Abu Shamala, “‘Israel destroyed Central Archives of Gaza City’: Head of Gaza Municipality,” Anadolu News Agency, November 29, 2023,


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