Palestinian Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • It is polite to show interest in a person’s family background, such as asking whereabouts in their family was originally from. Palestinians are generally proud of their heritage and may delight in sharing some personal knowledge or history regarding these areas. 
  • Show respect towards those who are older than yourself and pay attention to them in all situations. Elders are highly respected, no matter their social status.
  • Approach criticism or confrontation sensitively and in private. Openly accusing someone of a mistake can tarnish a Palestinian’s honour. It is important to give them the chance to explain themselves so they can protect their honour and move forward (see Honour (Sharaf) in Core Concepts).
  • Follow through on promises and return favours. Palestinians tend to value people that they can trust to honour their word. If you accept someone’s favour or help, there is an expectation that you return similar generosity at some point in the future. Failing to do so can reflect poorly on you.
  • Some Palestinians may be quite open and willing to talk about the challenges and hardships their people face under occupation. If the topic is discussed, listen to their point of view and express sympathy where appropriate. Palestinians are likely to appreciate that their voice is being heard and any acknowledgement of the complexity of the situation.


Don’ts

  • Avoid asking questions that assume Palestinians (particularly refugees) are uneducated, unintelligent or impoverished, such as “Do you have the internet at home?”. The Palestinian population is highly educated, urbanised and familiar with technologies and overseas practices. This is demonstrated by the near-perfect literacy levels in the Palestinian Territories, as well as the high educational achievements of Palestinians across and refugee populations (see Other Considerations).
  • Avoid framing Palestinians as entirely ‘powerless’ or ‘helpless’ victims, especially in regard to refugees. While experiences of disempowerment, struggle and loss should not be understated, such perceptions can discount people’s resilience and achievements, as well as Palestinian resistance efforts.
  • Do not presume a Palestinian’s political position. While it is fair to say that almost all want freedom from occupation, there are political divides and strongly held views amongst the community as to how this can be achieved (see Political Sensitivities in Other Considerations). 
  • Do not presume that Palestinians wish harm on Israelis or dislike all those who do not support the Palestinian cause. Most Palestinians are primarily concerned with restoring social normalcy, security and economic stability for their people. Such extreme positions do not reflect the average person.
  • Do not make comments or jokes that imply Palestinians are terrorists or assume that Palestinian Muslims follow a conservative, interpretation of Islam. The actions and beliefs of extremist groups do not reflect the majority population and are condemned by most Palestinians living overseas. Such stereotypes are often used to undermine Palestinian freedom efforts and can be deeply offensive.
  • Avoid losing your temper or complaining about petty things that are not overly significant. Palestinians are generally very resilient people and struggle is constantly put into perspective in light of those still experiencing violent and dire conditions under occupation (as well as those who have passed away). Therefore, people are expected to control their emotions and be patient and composed.

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