The Politics of Dispossession

by Mark Chmiel

for Sharifa Barakat

“The climax to this campaign  occurred when, in West Beirut, Israeli soldiers carted off Palestinian archives, destroyed the private libraries and homes of prominent Lebanese nationalists and Palestinian personalities, and literally heaped excrement over valuable rugs and cultural artifacts almost at the same moment when, in Sabra and Shatila, a gang of Lebanese Maronite psychopaths — armed, trained, and support by Israel — was slaughtering Palestinian civilians under the light of flares provides by Israeli soldiers.  This was all a concerted, deliberate attempt to roll back the history of the past several years:  Palestinians, in Begin’s rhetoric, were to be treated as terrorists and two-legged beasts, and neither as human beings nor as potential citizens.  This made it easier to bomb them and to pretend that Israel was doing the work on behalf of humanity.”

–Edward Said, “Palestinians in the Aftermath of Beirut:  A Preliminary Stocktaking [1982],” p. 72
The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination 1969-1994 

A Later Exchange …

Sharifa,
This book is well worth your time and concentration.

Sharifa Barakat: Dr C, I have added it to my reading list after some Goodreads browsing the other night. It’ll be my next Said read once I’m done with After the Last Sky!

 

Mark Chmiel: Shaneeka, tell me something you liked about After the Last Sky!

Sharifa Barakat: There are a lot of things I liked! I liked how he wove in his own background, and I felt like he was articulating a lot of the feelings/thoughts/ideas I had floating around in a way that has solidified my understanding of Palestinians. This is a thought that comes back to me often, though it doesn’t apply to my family exactly since we still have our hometowns (but can’t live there even if we wanted to): “The difference between the new generation of Palestinians and that of 1948 is striking. Our parents bore on their faces the marks of disaster uncomprehended. Suddenly their past had been interrupted, their society obliterated, their existence radically impoverished. Refugees, all of them. Our children know no such past” (21). I think of that often because it’s so weird to think of my grandparents, great-aunts and uncles, etc, having lived in Palestine and then having all that they knew change so dramatically and permanently. Even weirder to think of all the families we know that don’t have their original hometowns anymore (or, often, any home in Palestine). When I hear about the origins of a new friend or of some family we’ve always known, it’s usually “So and so is from X village from the ’48 refugees or from the ’67 refugees but then went to Lebanon/Syria/Egypt/America/Amman (and on and on).”

I also learned something really interesting (and infuriating): I always wondered why Westerners would often say Achmed or change the ‘h’ sound to a ‘kh’ sound. “The standard Hebrew method for transliterating Arabic words and names has now completely taken over the American press; this enrages me to an absurd degree. It used to be the case that the Arabic gutteral ‘h’ would be rendered in English as ‘h.’ Ever since 1982 the New York Times, among others, has changed it to ‘kh,’ which corresponds to the nearest Hebrew equivalent” (135). I don’t know if that’s true anymore for the American press, but that explains why I still hear it so often, I think. Another random: “The main dishes of Palestinian cuisine…have become staples of the Israeli diet: Tabooleh appears on some restaurant menus as ‘kibbutz salad'” (135). It always makes me mad when I see recipes or cooking shows that tout “Israeli hummus” or “Israeli falafel”!

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