Sunday, January 04, 2009

"A bleeding homeland of a bleeding people"

I have been trying to avoid making such a post since before Israel began pounding Gaza a week ago. This post is not about who started what when or whether the egg came before the chicken and the whole painful story spanning over six decades. It only brings bitterness, and I no longer have hopes for a swift and just solution (so I won't talk about that). I won't even draw parallels between Gaza 08/09, Lebanon 2006 and Iraq 2003.

What I'm sure of is that Palestine more than any place in the world evokes strong connotations in the Arab world. As someone paraphrasing the famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish said "Palestine is [..] a metaphor - for the loss of Eden, for the sorrows of dispossession and exile, for the declining power of the Arab world in its dealings with the West."

In this context, Libyan cities have witnessed a number of demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian people, the latest of which took place this morning in Tripoli.

Moreover, Libya has always been generous with its aid. Suffice it to say that it was the first Arab country that in defiance of the sanctions imposed on Gaza since 2007 attempted to send a boat to the Gaza strip last year only to be ordered back by Israeli warships with the advice from Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor that "anyone wishing to transfer humanitarian aid into Gaza is welcome to do it in coordination with Israel and through the regular crossings. They can also contact Egypt."
This time Libya heeded this advice and sent planeloads of humanitarian aid via Egypt, that were barred on December 28 from landing, probably until further clearance is obtained from the necessary authorities in Israel, Egypt and maybe the USA. I did not follow the diplomacy at work behind the scenes but I'm relieved to read that the next day whatever problem was seemed to have been resolved and the consignment was delivered thereby forming the first link to a chain of aid over the next days.I hope it does reach the Gazan people as it gives one the selfish feeling that at least we are doing something.

As the blood once again spills into our living rooms - especially now with the ground assault that started on the evening of Saturday 3rd January, emotions are consequently running high in our region, with tolerance levels sometimes verging on the non-existent.

It will serve no purpose to mention casualties and body count from the Palestinian side in this latest episode because numbers are always ridiculously and unbearably high, and I'm sure someone else has already recorded them.

Hence, whilst all 32 dead and 600 wounded Israelis and their families, victims of Palestinian rockets since 2001 up to now do get my sympathy and while I do understand the plight of those Israelis suffering post traumatic stress syndrome, having been myself exposed to a relatively limited but intense experience 22 years ago; I must admit that the plight of the Gazans who I'm sure are now beyond 'mere' PTSS strikes a totally different chord not only within me but within many others.

In this regard Darwish's 1988 poem "O those who pass between fleeting words" which I always associate with any occupying army ( so do not dare call me anti-Semitic!) has been playing not only on my Ipod for the last two years but also in my head. To me it has a timeless quality and the metaphors so beloved by Mahmoud Darwish make it possible depending on one's mood to be interpreted or misinterpreted.
Below is one English translation from "Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation", courtesy of the following gentlemen: Zachary Lockman and Joel Beinin.


0 those who pass between fleeting words
carry your names, and be gone
Rid our time of your hours, and be gone
Steal what you will from the blueness of the sea and the sand of memory
Take what pictures you will, so that you understand
That which you never will:
How a stone from our land builds the ceiling of our sky.

0 those who pass between fleeting words
From you the sword,from us the blood
From you steel and fire,from us our flesh
From you yet another tank,from us stones
From you tear gas,from us rain
above us, as above you, are sky and air
So take your share of our blood, and be gone
Go to a dancing party, and be gone
As for us, we have to water the martyrs' flowers
As for us, we have to live as we see fit.

0 those who pass between fleeting words
As bitter dust, go where you wish, but
Do not pass between us like flying insects
For we have work to do in our lands
We have wheat to grow which we water with our bodies' dew
We have that which does not please you here
Stones or partridges
So take the past if you wish to the antiquities market
And return the skeleton to the hoopoe, if you wish,
On a clay platter
We have that which does not please you: we have the future
And we have things to do in our land.

0 those who pass between fleeting words
Pile your illusions in a deserted pit, and be gone
Return the hand of time to the law of the golden calf
Or to the time of the revolver's music
For we have that which does not please you here, so be gone
And we have what you lack
A bleeding homeland of a bleeding people
A homeland fit for oblivion or memory

0 those who pass between fleeting words
It is time for you to be gone
Live wherever you like, but do not live among us
It is time for you to be gone
Die wherever you like, but do not die among us
For we have work to do in our land
We have the past here
The first cry of life
We have the present, the present and the future
We have this world here, and the hereafter
So leave our country
Our land, our sea
Our wheat, our salt, our wounds
Everything, and leave
The memories of memory

For my Arabic speaking readers here is the link for عابرون في كلام عابر and a bonus link for those of you who may also want to enjoy it in Syrian diva Assala Nasri's voice.


Maya M said...

I agree that Darwish is right that Palestine is a metaphor. I would add that it is no wonder that we observe in Palestine the same phenomena observed every time when a real place populated by real people is turned (mainly by people outside it) into a metaphor/symbol/cause/ideal/artwork/whatever: human beings are inevitably deprived of their intrinsic value, some (in this case, the Palestinians) being regarded as mere tools to bring the metaphor from the realm of nightmares into reality, no matter what happens to how many of them in the process; others (in this case, the Jews) being regarded as nuisance spoiling the artwork, similarly to flying insects annoying an artist at work, and they must go where they wish, or be made gone by any means. A recent similar example was Kosovo, which was a metaphor for the Serbs. Happily, that time NATO decided that the world had had enough of Serbs playing their stupid lethal games in Europe.

programmer craig said...

Not gonna comment on the subject matter! Just wanted to say, I'm happy to see you making "Highlander" type posts again :)

Anand said...

Thanks for expressing your human emotions regarding Palestine. Let us all pray for their welfare.

All living beings have a specific time on earth . . . and then providence comes to pick them up from this world and that living being's loved ones . . . and to take the deceased to a place of joy, bliss, peace and light. Let us remember the departed with happy thoughts . . . with our memories of them and how they changed us.

Let us remember that providence is infinitely just, compassionate and wise. All is as it should be.

When we lose a loved one, we should give thanks that we got to know them for that window of time we knew them.

"Thanks dear infinitely beloved . . . dear perfection beyond perfection. We love you, and we know that our departed ones are in your care."

The Amazigh Observer said...

Great Poem.

The Amazigh Observer said...

others (in this case, the Jews) being regarded as nuisance spoiling the artwork, similarly to flying insects annoying an artist at work, and they must go where they wish, or be made gone by any means.

What the hell are you talking about Maya ?

To my knowledge it was Europe's Jewry who ethnically cleansed the indigenous Middle Eastern population of mandate Palestinian so that they could have there "Jewish State" not the other way around.

Maya M said...

I am talking e.g. about this:

Maya M said...

I am sorry, the link appeared broken again - when will Blogger learn how to upload intact links? I meant this one:
Anyway, you have just to type "Sderot" in Google Image Search.
If a neighbouring country begins firing rockets at my city, I will definitely require our military to try its best to stop this process.

LouLou said...

"If a neighbouring country begins firing rockets at my city, I will definitely require our military to try its best to stop this process."

Uh-huh. And if a neighboring country invades my homeland, expropriates my property and my livelihood, kills part of my family, evicts the other part to neighboring countries and isolates me from the those who remain with settlements and checkpoints - and kills anyone of my people who stands in the way of any of the above even if it is a child with a rock, I'd probably want to shoot rockets at said neighboring country.

That's the tragedy of both the Israelis and Palestinians. Each side starts the story at the point which is more empathetic to their grievance and their pain and chooses to ignore what else is happening before or after or around that time. And as long as neither side is able to look at the full picture, there is no hope.

Our job - as outside observers - I think is to keep our eyes on the big picture and try to help the warring parties to see it. Not to enhance their myopia - which is the ultimate cause of their misery.