Anne Frank Is Palestine’s Child, Too July 15, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Palestine.
Tags: anne frank, anti-semitism, fascism, gaza, gaza children, gaza massacre, israel military, Palestine, palestinian children, Palestinians, racism, roger hollander, vacy vlazna
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The Suffering of Palestinian Children Is Not Unlike Anne Frank’s
In the context here of youthful suffering, let us consider the similarities between the Nazi victimising, traumatising and slaughtering of Anne Frank to the victimising, traumatising, mutilating and slaughtering of the teenagers and children of Gaza. The children of Gaza have also been trapped, or, as Anne may have put it, “chained in one spot, without any rights” for seven years in the largest concentration camp in the world.
“Who has inflicted this upon us? Who had made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now?”
“In the Shifa hospital I saw a sight I will never forget. Hundreds of corpses, one on top of the other. Their flesh…their blood, and their bones all melting on each other. You wouldn’t know the woman from the man or even the child. Piles of flesh on the beds, and lots of people screaming and crying, not knowing where their kids are, their men or their women.
“Mr Dussel has told us much about the outside world we’ve missed for so long. He had sad news. Countless friends and acquaintances have been taken off to a dreadful fate. Night after night, green and grey military vehicles cruise the streets.”
Today, the roundups dreaded by Anne Frank find new forms in the West Bank of Palestine. There, Israel systematically ramps up the state of anxiety and fear with night-time raids and violent home invasions. Arrests of children and adults occur mainly at night, when the whole family is suddenly awakened and their home invaded by armed soldiers shouting and ransacking the family’s possessions. This leads to the kidnapping of the family member, or members, targeted, leaving the family distraught and their lives devastated. Reuters reported that, according to UNICEF, “approximately 700 Palestinian children, between the ages of 12 and 17, are kidnapped, detained and interrogated by the Israeli army, the Police and security agents in the West Bank every year, and are subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in direct violation of the Convention on the Right of the Child, and the Convention against Torture.”
In both the West Bank and Gaza, the effect of unending oppression has become tragic for Palestinian children. The respected Gaza journalist Mohammed Omer points out in “For Gaza’s Children the Trauma Never Ends”:
“The Nazi persecution and World War II in Europe, which lasted from 1933 to 1945, affected an entire generation of children. By contrast, Israel’s dispossession and occupation of Palestine has lasted some six decades–and counting. Generations of Palestinian children have been affected physically, psychologically and materially.”
For Anne Frank, the experience of Nazi oppression had the effect of making her former life seem surrealistic. She wrote:
Anne then lists the humiliations Jews were subject to under the Nazi’s apartheid regime. Interestingly, her experience can easily be reworded, as follows, to reflect the Palestinian experience:
“Freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Palestinian apartheid decrees that violate international law:
–Palestinians live under military law, while Israelis live under civil law.
–Identity cards only for Palestinians.
–Segregation between Jewish and Palestinian communities.
–Jews-only roads and transport.
–Movement restrictions for Palestinians.
–Unequal access to land and property.
–Forcible eviction and home demolitions for Palestinians.
–Palestinians forbidden the right of return, while Jews anywhere in the
world have the right to live in Israel.
–Deportation of Palestinian prisoners.
–Palestinians are forbidden from living with Israeli Arab spouses.
–Separate and unequal education systems.
–Forced resettlement of Bedouins.”
In addition, Adalah reports that “In the four short months since the current Knesset came to power, MKs have proposed as many as 29 new discriminatory bills that attack the rights of Palestinians in Israel and the OPT.”
Even though for Anne “t he approaching danger [was] being pulled tighter and tighter,” and she felt “like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage,” we Palestinian young people share with her that confounding universal metamorphosis of the human teenager into a young adult overflowing with the same heartfelt reflections, confessions, emotional struggles, lamentations, loves, fears, hates, and hopes.
Palestine’s wandering poet May 12, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Iraq and Afghanistan, Palestine, Political Commentary.
Tags: gaza, israel, mahmoud darwish, Middle East, mike marqusee, national poet, Palestine, palestine poetry, palestine's poet, palestinian people, plo, Poetry, protest poet, west bank
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Mike Marqusee on Mahmoud Darwish, the poet of the Palestinian people
On a bright winter morning we made a pilgrimage to the hill of Al Rabweh, on the outskirts of Ramallah, where the poet Mahmoud Darwish is buried. An ambitious memorial garden is planned, but at the moment it’s a construction site littered with diggers and cement mixers. The oversize tombstone is crated up in plywood. We were welcomed by cheerful building workers and joined by Palestinian families paying their respects and taking snaps. Sitting amid the pines overlooking the tomb (and a nearby waste ground populated by stray dogs), we spent an hour reading Darwish’s State of Siege, a sequence of poems he wrote in response to Israel’s 2002 assault on the city. Here he called on poetry to ‘lay siege to your siege’ but observed bitterly that:
This land might just be cinched too tight
for a population of humans and gods
Darwish was six in 1948 when his family fled their village in western Galilee. When they returned a year later they found the village destroyed and their land occupied. Since they had missed the census they were denied Israeli citizenship and declared ‘present-absentees’, an ambiguous status that Darwish was to transform into a metaphor for Palestine and much more.
He was 22 when he read his poem ‘Identity Card’, with its defiant refrain ‘Record: I am an Arab’, to a cheering crowd in a Nazareth movie house. Repudiating Golda Meir’s assertion that ‘there are no Palestinians’, his poems played a key role in the Palestinian movement that emerged after 1967, fashioning a modern Palestinian identity using traditional poetic forms in a renewed, accessible Arabic.
Repeatedly arrested and imprisoned, Darwish left Israel in 1970 and remained in exile for more than a quarter of a century. His political journey led from the Israeli Communist Party to the PLO, which he joined in 1973 (penning Arafat’s famous ‘Don’t let the olive branch fall from my hand’ speech to the UN). He settled in Beirut, from which he was expelled along with the PLO following the Israeli invasion of 1982, the subject of his inventive and harrowing prose memoir, Memory for Forgetfulness.
In the years that followed, Darwish wandered – Tunis, Cyprus, Damascus, Athens, Paris – broadening his poetic scope and deepening his insight. He was elected to the PLO executive committee in 1987 but resigned in 1993 in protest at the Oslo accords. ‘There was no clear link between the interim period and the final status, and no clear commitment to withdraw from the occupied territories,’ he explained. It’s said that when PLO leader Yasser Arafat complained to Darwish that the Palestinian people were ‘ungrateful’, the poet (remembering Brecht) snapped back, ‘Then find yourself another people.’
Oslo did allow Darwish to return to Palestine and in 1996 he settled in Ramallah, only to find himself under siege again six years later. In his last years he wrote more prolifically than ever, responding to the tragedies of Iraq, Lebanon and the violent conflict between Palestinian factions:
Did we have to fall from a tremendous height so as to see our blood on our hands … to realise that we are no angels … as we thought?
Did we also have to expose our flaws before the world so that our truth would no longer stay virgin? How much we lied when we said: we are the exception!
When Darwish died in 2008, thousands joined the cortege and there were candle-lit vigils in towns across the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority declared three days or mourning and issued a series of postage stamps in his honour.
Being the Palestinian national poet was a heavy burden, one that Darwish bore from an early age, and though he chafed under it he never shirked the load. Instead, he succeeded in transforming the Palestinian experience into a universal one. The themes of loss, exile, the search for justice, the dream of a homeland, the conundrum of identity: all became, as his work evolved, human and existential explorations, without ceasing for a moment to be rooted deeply in the vicissitudes of Palestinian life. For decades he mourned Palestine’s losses, denounced its tormentors, celebrated its perseverance, and imagined its future.
And we have a land without borders, like our idea
of the unknown, narrow and wide
… we shout in its labyrinth: and we still love you, our love
is a hereditary illness.
Though preserving Palestinian memory and identity was his life’s work, Darwish conceived of this as a creative act of self-renewal: ‘Identity is what we bequeath and not what we inherit. What we invent and not what we remember.’ Among his last verses was this admonition:
We will become a people when the morality police protect a prostitute from being beaten up in the streets
We will become a people when the Palestinian only remembers his flag on the football pitch, at camel races, and on the day of the Nakba
Darwish was a ‘national poet’ who challenged as well as consoled and inspired his national audience. As he moved away from his earlier declamatory, public style towards a more personal idiom, elliptical and oblique, and at times (unpardonable sin for a ‘national’ poet) obscure, he met resistance. ‘The biggest achievement of my life is winning the audience’s trust,’ he reflected in 2002. ‘We fought before: whenever I changed my style, they were shocked and wanted to hear the old poems. Now they expect me to change; they demand that I give not answers but more questions.’
Even in translation, where we miss so much, Darwish’s voice rings clear. In his mature style there’s a seductive fluidity: he moves lightly from realm to realm, pronoun to pronoun (‘I’ to ‘we’, ‘I’ to ‘you’, ‘us’ to ‘them’), from the intimate to the epic, past to future, abstract to concrete. Metaphors topple over each other, abundant and inter-laced. This is poetry that fuses the political and the personal at the deepest level.
Throughout, his evocation of loss and exile, of coming from ‘a country with no passport stamps’, is poignant, elegiac but open-ended, conjuring resolution from despair: ‘We travel like everyone else, but we return to nothing’; ‘There is yet another road in the road, another chance for migration’; ‘Where should we go after the last border? Where should birds fly after the last sky?’; ‘In my language there is seasickness. / In my language a mysterious departure from Tyre’.
Guests on the sea. Our visit is short.
And the earth is smaller than our visit
… where are we to go
when we leave? Where are we to go back to when we return?
… What is left us that we may set off once again?
Yet, convinced that ‘Out of the earthly/ the hidden heavenly commences’, Darwish affirmed the richness and beauty of life, especially life in its ordinariness:
We have on this earth what makes life worth living: April’s hesitation, the aroma of bread at dawn, a woman’s point of view about men, the works of Aeschylus, the beginning of love, grass on a stone, mothers living on a flute’s sigh and the invaders’ fear of memories
In one of his late poems, Darwish pays tribute to his friend Edward Said, putting this advice in Said’s mouth:
Do not describe what the camera sees of your wounds
Shout so that you hear yourself, shout so that you know that you are still alive, and you know life is possible on this earth.
Mike Marqusee writes a regular column for Red Pepper, ‘Contending for the Living’, and is the author of a number of books on culture and politics