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Thursday 17 July 2014

Mahmoud Darwish: Silence for Gaza



Palestinians at Rafah crossing await permission to transport people wounded in the ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip to Egypt for treatment: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA Images, 12 July 2014
Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies, because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time.
Because in Gaza time is something different.
Because in Gaza time is not a neutral element.
It does not compel people to cool contemplation, but rather to explosion and a collision with reality.
Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.
Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.
The only value for the occupied is the extent of his resistance to occupation.
That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones, or songs. It learned it through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.
Gaza has no throat. Its pores are the ones that speak in sweat, blood, and fires. Hence the enemy hates it to death and fears it to criminality, and tries to sink it into the sea, the desert, or blood. And hence its relatives and friends love it with a coyness that amounts to jealousy and fear at times, because Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.
Gaza is not the most beautiful city.
Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities.
Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin.
Gaza is not the richest city.
It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland, because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort. Because it is his nightmare. Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age and women without desires. Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us and the one most worthy of love.
We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists.
We do injustice when we wonder: What made it into a myth? If we had dignity, we would break all our mirrors and cry or curse it if we refuse to revolt against ourselves. We do injustice to Gaza if we glorify it, because being enchanted by it will take us to the edge of waiting and Gaza doesn’t come to us. Gaza does not liberate us. Gaza has no horses, airplanes, magic wands, or offices in capital cities. Gaza liberates itself from our attributes and liberates our language from its Gazas at the same time. When we meet it -- in a dream -- perhaps it won’t recognize us, because Gaza was born out of fire, while we were born out of waiting and crying over abandoned homes.
It is true that Gaza has its special circumstances and its own revolutionary traditions. But its secret is not a mystery: Its resistance is popular and firmly joined together and knows what it wants (it wants to expel the enemy out of its clothes). The relationship of resistance to the people is that of skin to bones and not a teacher to students. Resistance in Gaza did not turn into a profession or an institution.
It did not accept anyone’s tutelage and did not leave its fate hinging on anyone’s signature or stamp.
It does not care that much if we know its name, picture, or eloquence. It did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.
Neither does it want that, nor we.
Hence, Gaza is bad business for merchants and hence it is an incomparable moral treasure for Arabs.
What is beautiful about Gaza is that our voices do not reach it. Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist away from the enemy’s face. Not the forms of the Palestinian state we will establish whether on the eastern side of the moon, or the western side of Mars when it is explored. Gaza is devoted to rejection… hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection.
Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph over an island… they might chop down all its trees).
They might break its bones.
They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women. They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood.
But it will not repeat lies and say “Yes” to invaders.
It will continue to explode.
It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live. It will continue to explode.
It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.
Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008): Silence for Gaza, English translation by Sinan Antoon, from Hayrat al-`A’id (The Returnee’s Perplexity), Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007 (via Mondoweiss)

Gaza from the Hill Muntar.
Image Description from historic lecture booklet: "This picture is taken two miles southwest of Gaza on the Hill Muntar. Gaza was the southern-most and strongest of five Royal Cities of Philistines. It has been made famous by the exploits of Samson. Tradition points out a place on the southwest side of town toward the left of the picture as the place where stood the gates of the Philistine city which Samson carried off (Judges 13). It is claimed by some that this is the hill whither Samson carried the gates. Gaza is about 100 feet high and stands in the midst of orchards. There is an abundance of figs, dates and olives. The soil is irrigated by well water and yields abundantly. Gaza is very closely connected with Old Testament history, being mentioned in almost every book. It was a town even before the call of Abraham, and now is the largest city close to the seacoast in Palestine. In the conquest of Joshua the territory of Gaza is mentioned as one which he was not able to subdue (Josh. 15:47). But it apparently continued through the times of Samuel, Saul, and David to be a Philistine city.": photographer unknown, c. 1910 (Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives)

Kids in Gaza. Photographed near Jabaliya Refugee Camp. Drinking water is limited in the Strip, and I am not sure how clean this water was: photo by Shabtai Gold, July 2005; image by velvetart, 6 September 2005

Palestinians at Rafah crossing await permission to transport people wounded in the ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip to Egypt for treatment: photo by Eyad Al Baba / APA Images, 12 July 2014

Palestinian youth keeping warm during winter with "hatab" fire in Gaza refugee camp, Jerash, Jordan. In the Gaza refugee camp where most homes lack indoor plumbing and heating, the time-honored Arab tradition of gathering around a "hatab" fire is frequently practiced during the winter season. The youth who often complain of being cramped up in their small homes, are particularly fond of making outdoor fires with scrap wood and shrubs located throughout the camp
: photo by Einkarem1948, 18 January 2009

Children playing near overground sewage in Gaza refugee camp, Jerash, Jordan. Suffering and deprivation is apparent throughout the Gaza refugee camp where the vast majority of families live on less than $40 USD per month. The putrid odor from overground sewage, coupled with the dusty deserts surrounding the refugee camp make living a daily challenge for residents of the camp. Sewage and waste water accumulates in the overground sewage systems shown above. These sewage "lines" in the camp collect from holes in the floors of the homes or dumped directly into ditches that run beneath each home in the camp. Despite being plagued by severe poverty, residents of this refugee camp are regularly forced to pay Jordanian authorities exorbitant amounts to have the excreta/sewage pumped out of their homes into special septic tanks. The Gaza refugee camp in Jerash, Jordan is home to 24,000-34,000 Palestinian refugees who fled from Gaza, Palestine in 1948 and 1967. Unlike Palestinian refugees from other districts of Palestine, the Palestinians in the Gaza refugee camp are considered persona non grata in Jordan (i.e. they are denied an identity, not granted identification papers and, therefore, denied the right to work and travel freely throughout the country). Most Jordanians and Palestinians living in the capital of Amman remain unaware of the Palestinians in the Gaza refugee camp, prompting many experts to describe these refugees as the "Forgotten Ones": photo by Einkarem1948, 18 January 2009

Typical homes in Gaza refugee camp, Jerash, Jordan: photo by Einkarem1948, 18 January 2009

Narrow alley in the Gaza refugee camp: photo by Einkarem1948, 10 June 2009

Narrow alleys in the Gaza refugee camp: photo by Einkarem1948, 10 June 2009


Pierre Joris said...

thanks Tom —one is nearly glad that Darwish does not have to see this anymore. — Pierre

Lally said...

heartbreaking, as always

Hazen said...

Chile has just suspended trade talks with Israel over that nation's continuing atrocities in Gaza, and may recall its ambassador. The world is not totally devoid of conscience.

Elmo St. Rose said...

There's no reason why Gaza and the
rest of Palestine as well as Lebanon is not some part of paradise,
A Mediterrean coast, the Holy sites of three
major religions....all you need
is peace and now all you have is war...Islam is a religion of the
sword or it least many of its proponents act that in the 20th and 21first centuries
with weapons of mass destruction
is violent Jihad a viable option for the human race. There's enough
wealth in Middle East to fund a
higher standard of living and
civilization. Religion and the
romance of struggle are
in the way.
The UN: a third of the countries
in the UN treat their own citizens
worse than Israel treats the Palestinians.
If you want to do something right
do it your self. You make peace with your enemy. Your friends you
are already at peace with. So what
does your enemy need and what do you need.
What's the Hamas dialogue? Anachronistic won't cut it.
Be Dubai, be the Beirut of old,
anything but endless blood. Also
when Hamas teaches their children
that Jews are descendant of Apes and Pigs...consider Einstein and
the mushroom clouds that are in the background and consider the
Palestinian and Jewish diasporas
that thrive, sometimes together
outside the Middle East as long as
they don't talk about the Middle
East. I refer those of you who are aghast at these pictures and hear
the drum beat of Darwish amidst
the silence to consider the practical proposals of Tony Blair
who had no personal dog in the fight. Common sense practical proposals as opposed to fanatical
religion and romance on both sides

Barry Taylor said...

The hard-won self-knowledge of Darwish's perspective, without self-flattery or self-pity, stands in stark contrast to the staggering propagandist contortions we've been subjected to this last week.

Maureen said...

The picture this morning on the front page of The New York Times needed no words. My heart stopped when I saw it; my eyes filled with tears.

Whatever one's politics, no one anywhere can justify those children's deaths.

Desmond Tutu in his book 'The Book of Forgiving' includes a graphic showing the Revenge Cycle and the Forgiveness Cycle. It is at the point of pain, Tutu explains, that one can make a choice to choose harm and continue the revenge cycle or choose healing that puts an end to the vicious violence. I'd like to think both sides still can make a choice. The choice truly is a matter of life and death.

Hilton said...

Tom, thanks for posting this. Darwish can say it all on yet another level of insight. One bit of news: I signed an ad against the Israeli onslaught with other US and Israeli academics that appeared today in HaHaretz. Every small gesture, every poem and shout, every ad, every cry and song, everything counts, meager as they may seem. I appreciate all your posts about Gaza.

TC said...

Many thanks, friends, we hear you.

Hilton's words, for me, offer a small light in this time of great darkness.

"Every small gesture, every poem and shout, every ad, every cry and song, everything counts, meager as they may seem."

Maureen's comment brings home a truth that's been impossible to avoid since yesterday. The killing of the kids on the beach, and the propaganda efforts to blame it on the victims, was just that last drop that tipped the beaker of revulsion over the brim.

Hail to Chile, nation of poets.

Hail to Darwish, hail to Darwish, hail to Darwish, poet.


I hate repeating myself, so, as to your reiterated Blair Proposal, kindly see my response here.

Make sure not to miss the bit reported by the great Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, on how Blair made off with the big cash Israeli peace prize for his heroic efforts as mediator last time round -- when he stopped by Gaza on the run, was told the people needed water pipes, but couldn't persuade his Israeli friends to permit delivery...

Mose23 said...

"We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists".

We slip into the myths so easily and they seem to fit well. What fierce courage and dialectical acuity does it take to turn from them.

With your good small gesture you are letting Darwish live here. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Elmo, if you have an argument to make, don't bring Blair into it. It certainly won't wash this side of the pond.

TC said...

I'd been waiting for somebody who knew a bit about Tony Blair, from experience, to pipe up to the crackerbarrel analyst on that brilliant suggestion.

Talk about those "staggering propagandist contortions we've been subjected to this last week" (Barry).

You've got to remember all Tony's great contributions to peace, such as his vigorous egging-on of the Iraq tragedy.

(Or was that grand historical faux-pas on his part to be written off as mere outright stooge-ism, just another of "our" "special relationships" at work?)

TC said...

Nora Barrows-Friedman from Gaza, 17 July 2014:

After a week of threats and “warning rocket” fire last Friday on the al-Wafa rehab and geriatric hospital in eastern Gaza City, the Israeli army heavily shelled the building just hours ago and caregivers are scrambling to evacuate the most vulnerable patients.

I spoke with Dr. Basman Alashi, the executive director of al-Wafa, at a little past 10pm Palestine time today, Thursday, about an hour after Israel started to bomb the hospital.

“It started just before nine, they started it and it continued every other minute, firing at the hospital. They started on the fourth floor, continued to the third, then from the back of the hospital, then to the side, then to the front, then they cut the electricity, we have fuel everywhere. I don’t know the extent of the damage but it reached a point where my nurses were unable to function, unable to stand, unable to help the patients,” Alashi said.

And meanwhile, the bigger picture:

Israeli forces enter Gaza: Peter Beaumont, 17 July 2014

"Operation, involving Israeli infantry, tanks, engineers and artillery bombardment, intended to target Hamas tunnels into Israel."

That echo you hear comes from the vacuum chamber of historical memory.

Anyone old enough to remember the confidence with which those orchestrating the massive bombing campaigns in Southeast Asia a half century ago assumed the enemy could be bombed back to the Stone Age, stifled in their tunnels, strangled and suffocated like a plague of rats, should also recall the hollowness of those arrogant assumptions of the superiority of the technological might of an invading power over the determination and resolve of those invaded, once it was discovered that, yes, they were still in those tunnels, after the last reverberations of the brutal ordnance had faded away.

Those in the tunnels could make do with so little. Their rubber sandals were cut from old automobile tires. They could fight for nights and days and months and years on end without saying "Yes" to the invader.

And by the way -- don't look now, but, they won that war we started on the slimmest of pretexts.

The Pueblo Incident was the Hamas rocket of that epoch.

As it happens, and due to circumstances largely beyond my control -- when it came time to go to college, I couldn't afford it, and so accepted a scholarship to a small school that had, back in the nineteenth century, been one of those schools to which the government granted land in return for the school's participation in the Reserve Officer Training program -- I attended, between 1959 and 1961, a number of classes on global political/military strategy, which inevitably boiled down to hypotheticals -- how to plan for the next war.

The Middle East was a study area of choice (along with, of course, Southeast Asia).

The key hypothetical was, Suez is threatened, what to do?

The "practicals" were always going to be complicated.

The present Israeli invasion of Gaza, with concerted deployment of infantry, tanks, engineers, navy, helicopters & c, is plainly not something that was hatched overnight.

You've got to know the plan was always on the table. Waiting for its moment. Of total insanity.