Recent Palestinian Literary Activism
Poetry has a long history in the Middle East (as author Khaled Furani examines in one of the new books listed below), and Palestinians in the footsteps of Mahmoud Darwish and many other predecessors are turning to poetry and forms of new literacies to deal with the political turmoil of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa recently published a poem for Samer Issawi, the Palestinian activist currently imprisoned in Israel. In February 2013, a movement began to increase awareness of the state of Issawi and a few other Palestinian prisoners who had all been on a hunger strike since August 2012. Also in February, Palestinian-American poet and human-rights activist Remi Kanazi performed poetry regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and injustices in general for student activist groups at Swarthmore College.
Is Palestine Next?
By Adam Shatz
No one in the Arab world was watching the news more closely than the Palestinians during the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The first emotion they experienced was disbelief; the second – particularly when they saw Palestinian flags being raised in Tahrir Square –was relief that they were no longer alone. Arab lethargy has been a virtual article of faith among Palestinians, who felt that their neighbours had betrayed them in 1948 and had done nothing to help them since.
The Palestinian national movement, which rose to prominence under Yasir Arafat’s leadership in the late 1960s, was defined in large part by its belief that Palestinians had to rely on themselves. Mahmoud Darwish was not the only one to note that during the siege of Beirut in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon in an attempt to crush the PLO, tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv but the Arabs were too busy watching the World Cup Final to take to the streets.
The old Arab order was buried in Tahrir Square. Young revolutionaries rose up against a regime which for three decades had stood in the way of Palestinian aspirations. It seemed too good to be true and some pundits in Palestine wondered whether it wasn’t an American conspiracy. But it wasn’t, and Palestinians began to re-examine what had been one of their most disabling convictions: the belief that the US controls the Middle Eastern chessboard, and that the Arab world is powerless against America and Israel. ‘There has been a kind of epistemic break,’ a young Palestinian said to me.
The excitement among Palestinians sometimes seems to be mixed with unease, even envy: the spotlight has been stolen from them. As a Hamas councilwoman in Nablus put it, ‘For 60 years they were watching us. Now we are watching them.’ But Palestinians have prided themselves on being the vanguard of protest in the Arab world and they will not be content to remain spectators for long.
Michael Archer: Q&A with Alice Walker
June 15, 2011
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author on her impending trip to Gaza, “SlutWalk,” and The Chicken Chronicles.
By Michael Archer
Next week, Alice Walker will be among the passengers aboard “The Audacity of Hope” when it sails from Athens to Gaza to challenge Israel’s naval blockade. (The boat will carry letters from Americans to Palestinians, not aid.) The 67-year-old, Pulitzer Prize winner took a moment to discuss her impending voyage, along with some thoughts on the “Slutwalk” protests (and her understanding of the word “slut”), and the incredibleness of chickens.
To Exist Is to Resist
In my mind
I’ve freed Palestine
Envisioned a dream
That just needs to be seen
Olive trees and fields of figs
That lead to our roads
No blocks filled with cops
No ten-year-olds shot
Is what I got
I understand my grandmother’s plan
To live on her bought and paid-for land
And though it isn’t in her hands
It remains in her heart
Every time another is killed
We go back to the start
1948: the date you make us remember
The star and scars of David
And we’re the ones who’ve hated?
We’ve been raped and berated
By bullets and forced “immigration”
Squatting and settling
Left wrestling with the best Zionism has to offer
While the US fills its coffers
We’re seen as monsters
Our people blow up in pain
Black-eyed and half-insane
Wouldn’t you be?
If an Israeli bullet penetrated your child’s brain?
I envision Palestine in my mind
With the “chosen” frozen in time
To realize their morality’s blind
To take back generations of crime
And put an end to Apartheid
How many kids sit and wish
They could be labeled other than a terrorist
To exist is to resist!
Reads the graffiti in their cities
Give them chalk instead of rocks
They’ll use the blackboards
If you let them go to school
Give them chalk instead of rocks
Instead you bulldoze the block
Destroy their homes
Palestine is what you call the “no building zone”
But you can’t bulldoze our minds
Every time we’ll rise through ashes
Like Cassius Clay
We’ll bob and weave for infinity
There is no divinity
In bombing our cities
Setting up committees to treat us differently
We’re from Falasteen
The land where dreams are made
So just remember one thing
One day the bells of freedom will ring
And you’ll see me smiling
Loving life in Palestine
– Remi Kanazi