Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Friday 20 March 2015

Mahmoud Darwish: Words


The almond blossom sends me flying in March, from my balcony #MahmoudDarwish b 74y ago [Photo: #Palestine circa 1920i]: image via rui borges@homo_viator, 13 March 2015

When my words were wheat
I was the earth.
When my words thundered
I was the storm.
When my words wore down rock
I was the river.
But when my words became honey
Flies devoured my lips.

Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008): Words (English translation via The HyperTexts)

"A little of this absolute and blue infinity Would be enough" #MahmoudDarwish b 74y ago #Gaza Photo @laurenceGeai: image via rui borges@homo_viator, 12 March 2015

❥❥I have vowed to fashion from my eyelashes a kerchief and upon it to embroider verses for your eyes❥❥ #MahmoudDarwish
: image via Wednesday @Naeema Hussain, 1 January 2015

Journalist Momen Faiz covering story of teacher Ahmed Sawafiri -- both disabled by Israel #Palestine #Gaza v @palinfoen: image via Voice from Palestine @Palaestina, 19 March 2015

Ahmad Swafiri, a #Palestinian teacher who lost his legs and hand but still creates a generation of educated kids. #Gaza: image via Mohammed Matter @AbuYazan_Gaza, 18 March 2015

Ahmad Swafiri, a #Palestinian teacher who lost his legs and hand but still creates a generation of educated kids. #Gaza: image via Mohammed Matter @AbuYazan_Gaza, 18 March 2015

Ahmad Swafiri, a #Palestinian teacher who lost his legs and hand but still creates a generation of educated kids. #Gaza: image via Mohammed Matter @AbuYazan_Gaza, 18 March 2015

Ahmad Swafiri, a #Palestinian teacher who lost his legs and hand but still creates a generation of educated kids. #Gaza: image via Mohammed Matter @AbuYazan_Gaza, 18 March 2015

Palestinian children in #Gaza playing with lion cubs. [pic from @MrHalimi]: image via @naufalawg, 19 March 2015

For now the lion cubs sleep inside the house with the family in Rafah refugee camp. #Gaza @QudsN: image via Nasser Atta @nassratta5, 19 March 2015

The Zoo in Rafah, #Gaza sell the lion cubs to Palestinian refugee family because there is no funding to care for them: image via Nasser Atta @nassratta5, 19 March  2015

Gaza City, Gaza. Saad al-Jamal holds a lion cub outside his house in the Rafah refugee camp. Jamal said he bought two two-month-old cubs from the Rafah zoo. He lives with the animals in his home. We hope he knows how big they will get: photo by Said Khatib/AFP via The Guardian, 19 March 2015

Embedded image permalink

After #Netanyahu Wins Vote with Racism and Vow of Permanent Occupation, How Will World Respond?: image via Demcracy Now @democracynow 18 March 2015

Dear Mr Netanyahu: Sorry we dared to  dream. Yours, Israel's Arab population. Palestinian citizens of Israel once had hope that one day, as citizens, we would be partners, able to live where we want and access resources. No longer: Sayed Kashua, The Guardian, 19 March 2015
For a moment I was optimistic.

For one moment this week the hope I had utterly lost last summer –- a summer suffused with racism, hatred, blood and devastation -- came back. For one moment, after I left Jerusalem with my family for life in Illinois, I thought that maybe there’s still a chance, maybe there are still enough people in Israel who refuse to rule and oppress another nation.

The last pre-election polls in the Israeli media predicted a loss for the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the head of the Arab parties’ Joint List, the young lawyer Ayman Odeh, gave me hope that it was not too late to stop the fascism. Odeh took part in a television debate with Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who as usual called Odeh and the rest of the country’s Arab citizens -- people like me -- a fifth column, the spearhead of the terrorist organisations in the Knesset.

Odeh smiled tranquilly, and spoke about unity, cooperation, terminating the occupation in the Palestinian territories and forging a future of equality in Israel. The young lawyer succeeded in cutting Lieberman down to size, and showed him exactly for what he is: a benighted, pathetic racist.

For a moment I no longer felt afraid of Lieberman and of his threats against the Arab citizens; for a moment I wanted to believe it was still possible.

Not that I thought, heaven forbid, that Lieberman’s rivals from the Zionist Union would, when they came to power, immediately set about ending the occupation and granting the Arab citizens rights. But the very thought that a prospect existed of terminating Netanyahu’s rule gave me some solace. It was a wobbly base for change of some sort; a glimmer of hope with which I could deceive myself into believing that it would, after all, be possible to return home and lie to my children that one day there will be peace, that one day they will be equal citizens in a democratic state.

I was wrong. I was wrong because I wanted to be wrong. I was wrong because I sought hope at any price. Because deep in my heart I refused to believe that people could be so indifferent to the suffering of others. “The Arabs are voting in their masses,” our prime minister incited the Israeli public on election day, declaring unabashedly that those masses were not truly citizens but enemies bent on our destruction -- beware of them. After all, his election slogan was “It’s us or them”. And he succeeded. Once more he opted for intimidation, factionalism, hatred and incitement, and once more he succeeded.

In the triumph of #Netanyahu the legitimacy of a Jewish State is crumbling: @JonLansman #JSIL: image via Mosabbir Ali @mosabbir, 19 March 2015

“If I am elected,” Netanyahu promised the people of Israel, 'there will not be a Palestinian state." True, it’s no secret that Netanyahu was not intending to support the establishment of a Palestinian state. The change lay in the fact that he said so openly, in order to persuade Israeli voters to flock to him. Who, then, should one be disappointed in -- the prime minister, or the Israeli majority?

Netanyahu thanks supporters after a win in Israel’s elections. In his first interview since then, he backtracked on his declaration that he would not permit a Palestinian state if re-elected: photo by Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media via The Guardian, 19 March 2015

And no, I don’t buy the official Israeli excuses that try to explain the occupation by resorting primarily to the words “fear” and “security”. No fear and security can explain settlements in the heart of a Palestinian population in the West Bank, in the heart of East Jerusalem or in Hebron. No fear and security can explain the expulsion of Palestinians from their home in favour of Jews, blacking out their cities, stealing their drinking water, surrounding them with concrete walls. No explanations and no theories based on threat, fear or security can explain separation and cruel discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens. Racism can explain it, messianic impulses seizing on divine precepts can explain it, so can ethnic cleansing.

“Better to have Bibi in power,” some of my Arab colleagues will say, “better to have someone like Binyamin Netanyahu, who will expose the country’s true face.” They may be right. There may be something to the argument that it’s preferable to have a prime minister who asserts loud and clear that there will not be a Palestinian state and who does not consider the Arabs in Israel as true citizens. Preferable to a more sophisticated Zionist leadership that will throw sand in the eyes of the international community and talk in dulcet tones about a political agreement with the Palestinians, but will do all it can to prevent Palestinian independence. Others of my colleagues will also say that this is preferable, because it’s a sure recipe for the emergence of a single binational state that will be forced on the Israelis in the future without their having intended it.

Madleen Kullab, 21, the sole (known) fisher woman in #Gaza. She takes a boat out every day. The sea is my life" RT: image via Chris Gunness  @ChrisGunness, 19 March 2015 Israel

However, that’s an extremely problematic argument. The hope for a binational state that Israeli policy will bring about unintentionally, will be shunted aside for years by the racist separation that already exists in the occupied territories. Israel will continue to expand at the expense of Palestinian land, the Palestinians will continue to be squeezed into densely populated cantons encircled by walls, until the international community will ostracise Israel and force it to grant civil rights to the Palestinians -– thereby perhaps bringing about a binational state.

That’s a dangerous process, grounded in the trampling of the Palestinians. And even if the situation does play out like that, what exactly will the Palestinian society look like after long years of poverty, distress, overcrowding and adversity?

What kind of people will these ghettos of Palestinians produce? What form of morality, national consciousness and hope will people be left with after so many years of stifling occupation and a sense of hopelessness? Will the Palestinian people still retain the strength to struggle for a binational state, or will we have become, by then, the fallout of a people barely able to stand on its feet?

Ahmad AlSoaferi. 25, teacher who lost both legs during israeli offensive on #Gaza in 2008. He continues to Inspire! : image via Isa @akhi_isa, 19 March 2015

“There will not be a Palestinian state,” the prime minister declared, sealing the fate of his subjects in the occupied territories, who are deprived of the right to vote. But he has never said what there will be. It sometimes seems that the only plan the Israeli government has for the Palestinians is for them to sit quietly while Israel does whatever takes its fancy, equipped with its army, with laws it promulgated and with courts it established. As for the Palestinians, their role is to keep quiet, except perhaps to say thank you.

We are already weary, battered and bereft of hope. The Palestinians have tried everything and by God, it’s Israel’s governments that taught us that the only thing the Israelis appreciate is force. Except that we have no force.

“There will not be a Palestinian state,” the prime minister stated, and thereby declared that there is also no point in the existence of the Palestinian Authority, which was created and defined as a stage on the way to the establishment of a state. Possibly the time has come to dismantle the PA and return the keys to Netanyahu. After all, he’s the real landlord, and a direct occupation without intermediaries is preferable.

Now that we know that Israel officially has no intention of bringing about the creation of a Palestinian state, maybe the Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will start to demand Israeli citizenship instead of independence?

American donors donated around $237,000, about 90% of total contributions to the #Netanyahu reelection campaign: image via Ahmed Shihab-Eldin @ASE, 19 March 2015

A Palestinian state will not come into being without massive and immediate international intervention, but Netanyahu has already proved that he will get backing from the US administration for all his actions.

The likely scenario is that the King of Israel will continue from the place at which he stopped three months ago in order to hold early elections. His government had just then approved the "Jewish nation-state" bill. That legislation aims to perpetuate the discrimination against Arab citizens within Israel and to make it clear that in any clash between the state’s values as Jewish and democratic, its Jewishness will have the upper hand.

How dumb I felt for having allowed myself to cultivate hope. How foolish of me to think that I’m allowed to dream of a day when, as citizens of the state, we will be partners in decision-making. How naive I must be to dare to dream that Israel’s Arab citizens will be able to live wherever they wish in their country, have access to its resources and no longer make do with alms the state throws in their direction and demands that they be grateful.

“It’s us or them,” the prime minister said. Well, it’s you, Mr Prime Minister. You won, and proved that we have no right of existence. Sorry we dared to dream, sir.

‘We are already weary, battered and bereft of hope.’: photo by Daniella Cheslow/Zuma Press via The Guardian, 19 March 2015


Hilton said...

Beautiful and, as always, painful. I wrote this right after the election in Israel for Passover coming soon. Add your own words to the Haggadah:

Treyf Pesach

This year I am observing a Treyf Pesach.

Help me sweep the chometz back into the house, for we need to get dirty.

Help me replace the wine with whiskey, lots of it, so we can forget the horror.

Once we were slaves, and now we are slaves again.

Instead of matzo symbolizing the haste in which we fled slavery, stack up slices of white bread, any kind of leavened bread because now Pharaoh Bibi holds our people in thrall.

Chop up the apples and nuts to represent all the Palestinian houses blown up.

Eat the bitter herbs to remember how the beauty of our culture has been infused with hate.

Slap down a pork chop rib to remember how all of the hopes and dreams of freedom have turned ugly, have turned to blood, have become a vile joke.

Eat the slimy kale to recall all the olive trees torn out of the ground.

Dip the leafy slime into the salt water to cry over how young kids lording over old men at checkpoints.

Eat the horseradish to recall the bitterness of lies in our name. Shove spoonfuls of horseradish down each other’s throats so we can never forget what we have done.

Put the egg in the center to recall that once we were a people rich with variety and joy and now we are a cartoon of ourselves – but even then spring will come, maybe, if the warming earth allows.

Why is this night different from all other nights? It’s not, it’s the same old story of using our own pain to cause the pain of others.

The foolish child is the only wise one around. He says, I want to get out of here, I’d rather live in Berlin or LA than stomp on other people and call that democracy.

The wise child is a fool, asking why he can’t get lower rent and doesn’t notice the bloated settlements.

Let the girls sing the new Dayenu.

We build walls to choke another people – Enough Already.

We in America and Europe are told to come and be ruled by Pharaoh Bibi – Enough Already.

Bombs and more bombs will make us safe – Enough Already.

Once we were slaves and now we are slaves again – Enough Already.

Beat up the stranger in our midst – Enough Already.

And American Jews look on and say nothing, as they have said nothing for decades – Enough Already.

Let us feast on our bitterness and loss. Let us gulp down the whiskey so we can forget.

Next year leave Jerusalem alone.

Mose23 said...

In the wake of the last assault on Gaza all sweet and reasonable discourse is shot to pieces.

Don't know why I was surprised when I heard about that old crook's reelection but I was. I'd expected some kind of critical response to all that racist rhetoric and violence.

Voices like wheat and thunder, like the sound of rushing waters: the only kind of honest talk right now.

Thank you for showing the photos of Ahmad Swafiri. Once again Beyond the Pale offers us the news that matters.

Hilton, you're right. Getting dirty is the just thing, the only way to counter all the talk of purity, of us and them.

billoo said...

Thank you for this wonderful post, Tom.

Given the eclipse, I thought of Genet's:

Eclipse is a word full meaning. In addition to the sun, which is even more evident when eclipsed by the moon, every event, man or image eclipsed by someone or something also emerges regenerated; however brief their disappearance, they emerge clearer and brighter than French the reflexive verb s'eclipser, literally to eclipse oneself, hovers between the usual meaning, to slip away, escape, and the figurative connotation to disappear because of the brightness of another.


vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

So much terrifying beauty in so few words.

TC said...

Terrible that we must once again assemble in sorrow to lament the eclipsed and the forgotten -- echoing the sadness of Sayed Kashua, the pain deep and old and the cruelty unremitting.

There had been the foolish moment of impossible hope.

Hilton's words, eloquent, heartbreaking.

The EU report leaked yesterday suggests Jerusalem is once again approaching boiling point -- as Bibi triumphantly trucks in yet more "settlers", thumbing his nose once more at the EU, UN, O'B, and, well, everybody.

The walking dead Israeli majority is fruitless and barren, settlers must be trucked in because the dead cannot give birth.

A friend from the West Bank whose village has been walled-off for many years, and whose large family has suffered bitterly from the apartheid policies, surprised me, following a return visit to his home shortly after the cessation of the awful white phosphorus-lit terror-bombing campaign of Dec. 08-Jan. 09, by saying that, despite everything, "no one's giving up hope".

I asked what might be the source of this forlorn hope.

"We will win in the end."

He is an intelligent and worldly man. His confidence, if that's what it was -- how do we translate sumud, steadfastness, perseverance, we who do not have it? -- shook me.

"But..." I stumbled... "how?"

"Simple," he said. "We're a lot better at making babies."

And now we're shipping over John Boehner on an unofficial state visit. The "victory lap," they're calling it in Bibi's camp.

If any man ever qualified as a walking poster for birth control, it's got to be John Boehner.