Happy is the People for whom Darwish is a Hero

Alternative Information Center (AIC), 24 August 2008

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More than 5,000 mourners attended the funeral of Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, 1941-2008, which was held on 13 August 2008 in Ramallah.


"During the funeral procession of Mahmoud Darwish, we passed by the coordination office of the European Union with the Palestinian police force. What did Mahmoud Darwish think when he heard the Dutch general responsible for training the Palestinian police talk about his job? The man in uniform did not speak about, heavens forbid, training soldiers in order to defend against Israeli attacks or to protect the sovereignty of the Palestinian state’. He spoke of the armed forces designed for a civil war, trained only to bring down the democratic government which reached power, in Gaza and the West Bank, through a democratic process. It is no coincidence that Darwish resigned from his political positions upon signing of the Oslo agreements. Before many others, the poet understood that these agreements were liable to transform the Palestinian Authority into a puppet government of the United States, and the Palestinian police forces into support units of the occupying army. In retrospect, it is clear that the poet read the political map much better and much faster than the politicians."



Happy is the people for whom poetry is its God. Happy is the people for whom poets—and not generals, people with material wealth or these such oligarchic types—are the national symbol. This was my thought as I marched, together with a group of 20 Israeli activists, in the mass funeral procession of Mahmoud Darwish in Ramallah. 

And a memory from 25 years ago: only twenty people, most of them old neighbors, accompanied the coffin of the legendary Soviet spy and anti-Nazi fighter Leopold Trepper in a cemetery in Jerusalem. Not one representative of the government attended, nor did any speaker from the numerous groups representing the victims of the Holocaust and the anti-Nazi resistance fighters. I felt then that the representation of the Jewish people, its history and memory, was placed entirely on the shoulders of the weak. Woe to a people that does not honour its true heroes, respecting instead generals who send their soldiers to battle while they themselves run to sell stocks in the market, all the while forcing the young generation to identify with “successful” people, honest less or more, such as Arcadi Gaydamak and Lev Leviev. Woe to such a people.

And if dealing with generals, mention must be made of the Israeli General Gal Hirsch, who failed in the last Israeli war against Lebanon, and now portends to provide consultancy to the Georgian army and teach it about war. And in Georgia, as in Lebanon: a total defeat. Sheikh Nasrallah is correct the second time in mocking Hirsch and his employers, along with Israel and the United States, who again are on the losing side.

The Palestinian people should not attempt to imitate the Israeli people on its home court, a court in which public morality is in the hands of a professional army, and which relies on failed generals in order to protect its sovereignty. During the funeral procession of Mahmoud Darwish, we passed by the coordination office of the European Union with the Palestinian police force. What did Mahmoud Darwish think when he heard the Dutch general responsible for training the Palestinian police talk about his job? The man in uniform did not speak about, heavens forbid, training soldiers in order to defend against Israeli attacks or to protect the sovereignty of the Palestinian state’. He spoke of the armed forces designed for a civil war, trained only to bring down the democratic government which reached power, in Gaza and the West Bank, through a democratic process. It is no coincidence that Darwish resigned from his political positions upon signing of the Oslo agreements. Before many others, the poet understood that these agreements were liable to transform the Palestinian Authority into a puppet government of the United States, and the Palestinian police forces into support units of the occupying army. In retrospect, it is clear that the poet read the political map much better and much faster than the politicians.

Happy is the people whose poets do not run from dealing with issues of the day, and who refuse to lock themselves up in an ivory tower of literary creation, and are prepared to dirty their hands in politics. Woe to the people whose greatest authors are prepared to sign, in order to represent their country in a European book fair, statements that they will not criticize the policies of their government. Here we speak not of a dictatorship or an authoritarian regime but of democratic Israel, which does not persecute its creators, the Jews at least. It is no wonder, therefore, that in order to become the greatest of Arab poets, Mahmoud Darwish had to leave his country-homeland, in which he admittedly wrote several of his best poems, but which treated him as a communist propagandist (sic), representing a danger to the security of the region. Even after Darwish became a creator famous throughout the world, and Israeli society a bit more open, it was decided, after a tumultuous discussion, to put one of his poems in the Israeli school curriculum, on one condition…that it not be political (sic). Mahmoud Darwish did not like his Israeliness, but never denied it. The State of Israel, in contrast, denied one of its greatest sons. The loss was, of course, entirely that of Israel, entirely that of us all.

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Mahoud Darwish, who grew up in the Acre region spent many years in exile after being banned from Israel between 1973 and 1995.


This article was originally written in Hebrew for an Israeli audience and translated to English by the AIC.



http://www.alternativenews.org/blogs/michael-warschawski/happy-is-the-people-for-whom-darwish-is-a-hero-20080824.html