Militant Imprints: Palestine, Art and Revolution in al-Hadaf (1969–72)
Founded in Beirut in 1969, the Arabic periodical al-Hadaf (The Target) was the media organ of the newly formed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PLFP arose as a guerrilla organization in 1967, espousing a Marxist-Leninist framework and advancing armed revolutionary struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Its rise is indicative of wider political transformations precipitated by the 1967 Arab–Israeli war, the radicalization of a Third World internationalism and New Left anti-imperialist solidarity in the late 1960s. In this context, Al-Hadaf has often been consulted as an archival source offering valuable insights about this crucial moment of revolutionary transformation in the history of the Palestinian liberation struggle. However, the periodical itself, its editorial foregrounding of art as a site of revolutionary struggle, and its visual and material form, have yet to be studied.
In particular, al-Hadaf’s founding editor, Palestinian novelist, journalist and militant Ghassan Kanafani (1936–72) played a pivotal role in defining the aesthetic preoccupations and form of this radical periodical. He dedicated a special section to contemporary political art, literature and culture and, crucially, acted as a conduit to bring on board an emerging generation of Arab artists and writers. Thanks to many artists’ contributions, the periodical itself was visually striking, showcasing a wealth of experimental militant artworks. Furthermore, it reconciled some of the tense relations between modern art and politics which had been fiercely debated in the previous decade in literary Arabic periodicals such as al-Adab and Shiʿr. Thus a new sense of political urgency and commitment through the arts was emerging in the pages of al-Hadaf.
Drawing on an archive of Al-Hadaf’s foundational years (1969-72), under Kanafani’s editorial direction, my paper aims to uncover this neglected art historical and politico-aesthetic dimension. It is concerned primarily with the role such a magazine plays in the politicization of art in revolutionary contexts. How did al-Hadaf succeed in lending new militant meanings to modernist artistic practices outside the confines of gallery spaces, market systems, and elite literary circles? How did it carry in its printed pages—texts, images and symbols—new aesthetic sensibilities that articulate revolutionary horizons? And, in doing so, how did this periodical aesthetically inscribe the Palestinian struggle and the radical left in the Arab world, within the translocal visuality of anti-imperialist revolutionary ferment and transnational solidarities that characterized the global sixties?
Zeina Maasri (PhD) is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, UK. Before taking up her post at Brighton, she was both an independent graphic designer and an academic at the American University of Beirut (1999 – 2016) in Lebanon. She is the author of Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil […]