I just received Norman Finkelstein’s latest book, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom. I noticed this blurb by Alice Walker:
“This is the voice I listen for, when I want to learn the deepest reality about Jews, Zionists, Israelis, and Palestinians. Norman Finkelstein is surely one of the forty honest humans the Scripture alludes to who can save ‘Sodom’ (our Earth) by pointing out, again and again, the sometimes soul-shriveling but unavoidable Truth. There is no one like him today, but in my bones I know this incredible warrior for Humanity and Justice is an archetype that has always been. And will always be. Small comfort in these dark times, perhaps, but a comfort I am deeply grateful for.”
Liz Burkemper shared this with me, and I am happy to share it here. Liz is a sophomore at George Washington University.
“The Occupation has created generations of us that have to adore an unknown beloved: distant, difficult, surrounded by guards, by walls, by nuclear missiles, by sheer terror.” Themes of land, identity, and displacement color I Saw Ramallah, a lyrical memoir of lament by Mourid Barghouti. A Palestinian poet and intellectual, Barghouti was born in the agrarian village of Deir Ghassanah outside of Ramallah four years before the birth of the State of Israel. The memoir explores Barghouti’s identity as one of the naziheen, or “displaced ones” — during his undergraduate study at Cairo University, Barghouti witnesses the fall of Ramallah to Israeli forces as part of the Six-Day War in 1967, leading to thirty years of exile from his homeland. When Mourid finally returns to Palestine in 1996, the complexities of his relationship with the land become discernible. Though he spends “a lifetime…trying to get here,” Mourid discovers that “it is enough for a person to go through the first experience of uprooting, to become uprooted forever.”
Barghouti’s story is told as much through his identity as a Palestinian exiled from the homeland for thirty years as it is through his naturally poetic soul. Even when writing in prose, Barghouti offers a unique lyricism that is made manifest in the text. At the beginning of the book, Mourid describes his first experience back in Palestine: “This then is the ‘Occupied Territory’?…When the eye sees it, it has all the clarity of earth and pebbles and hills and rocks…It stretches before me, as touchable as a scorpion, a bird, a well; visible as a field of chalk, as the prints of shoes.” This passage brings to the story’s center the disconnect between the land of Palestine and its people created through decades of Israeli occupation. While Palestine is called many words — the West Bank and Gaza, occupied Palestine, Israel, Judea and Samaria, the Areas — the land itself remains at once the Palestinian homeland and a concept talked about by actors who think that they know, a reality never to be known by Palestinians themselves. Mourid continues to poetically narrate his return to Palestine: Read the rest of this entry »
I no longer see literature as an art or entertainment. For me literature must fulfill a certain mission in categories of history and justice. Literature is the art of correcting injustices. If there is nothing else I can do, I write a book. This is precisely the task of the witness today, of the modern storyteller, of the Jewish writer. We use words to try to alter the course of events, to save people from humiliation or death.
–Elie Wiesel, Against Silence, edited by Irving Abrahamson, v. 3, p. 116
Felicia Langer, An Age of Stone (Quartet Books, 1988) Trans. Isaac Cohen
It is my simple belief that whatever happens to [the Palestinians], their future and their fate in the last decades of the twentieth century must be the concern of everyone.
A Gazan: Inside or out, this whole place is a prison. We have nothing left to lose.
‘The ones who did not know, did not want to know.’
I register the event. I record the facts.
An Age of Stone is an account of attorney Felicia Langer’s work from 1979 to 1988. Published almost thirty years ago, the book reveals what commitment entails in the day to day life of the author: accompanying the Palestinians, defending them in an absurd and unjust court system, not averting her gaze from the daily horror these people endured, weeping with the families, raging as a spiritual practice, and resolving never to give up.
There are pictures that stay in the memory as if carved with a fine chisel.
Of the thousands of demolished homes I remember one house in Silwad.
Of the hundreds of torture victims I see the burnt eyes and the crouched back of Sulaiman.
Of the countless smiles in the darkness there is the smile of Sami.
Of the hundreds of hunger-strikers I see the tiny Mehdi.
Like a great sea reflected in a tiny drop. 17 Read the rest of this entry »
In October 2003
We were in Nablus
Being alert in the olive groves
Dashing across the settler-only roads
Learning a thing or two about sumud
In Louisville the minister and civil rights activist had exhorted the crowd-—
“If you see a good fight, get in it”
And so we did
–from novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris
Last night, Sharifa Barakat and I had dinner at Central Cafe (along with Imman Musa and Dania Saffaf Atienza). Sarah Dwidar introduced me to Sharifa her freshman year at SLU on sunny day on West Pine. Later, she took a Social Justice class with me, and we were part of SLU Solidarity with Palestine. I have long been impressed with her humor, love of literature, and keen sense of responsibility.
After dinner, we walked to Left Bank Books to hear author Ibtisam Barakat (no relation to Sharifa) share her philosophy and read from her new book, Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine. Someone asked her a question about the political solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian people, culture, and land, and she said point-blank, there’s no solution politically, there can only be a “soul-lution.” Accordingly, her contribution is to tell the story of her life as a Palestinian in Palestine and the Diaspora. She has published two books so far, and she mentioned at least three others to come, insha’allah.
I was struck by Ibtisam’s clarity, calm, and compassion. Her presence is her message.
It was an intense, gentle, and inspiring evening.
Within a short period of time there will be no Jewish workers in Israel. The Arabs shall be the workers; the Jews shall be the managers, inspectors, officials, and policemen and mainly secret service men. A state governing a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners is bound to become a Shin Bet state, with all that this would imply to the spirit of education, freedom of speech and thought and democracy. This corruption, characteristic of any colonial regime, would be true for Israel. The administration will be forced to deal with the suppression of an Arab protest movement and the acquisition of Arab quislings. We must fear that even the army and its officers, a people’s army, will deteriorate by becoming an occupation army, and its officers, turned into military governors, will not differ from military governors elsewhere in the world.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Israeli philosopher and scholar
Quoted in George Baramki Azar, Palestine: A Photographic Journey