Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Darwish "Fleeting Words" Poem

I had occasion to mention the infamous Darwish poem but cold not locate it on the web earlier.

I have now spotted another mention of it and some lines, I recall it as a rather long poem in Al-Awdah, have appeared in Haaretz. Unfortunately, Haim Guri (see below) leaves out the lines where Darwish writes "and take your graves with you" as he uses a pro-Pal. book which probably left it out on purpose.. I will yet find it. In the meantime, read on this extract from Fleeting words by Haim Gouri:-

But in the unendurable reckoning he made with us, the Hebrew-Israelis, one found also - regrettably, astonishingly and shamefully - poems that were hard to read, that outraged me, because they attacked not the occupation regime, which he loathed, but my nation in this land, which we see as our ancient homeland, our "poor man's lamb," whose significance in the annals of civilization was conferred by my people, whence our right to realize independence and sovereignty, if only in part of the land.

In March 1988, I read in the daily Maariv Darwish's poem "Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words," in which he writes:

"O 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 /
... From you steel and fire, from us our flesh /
From you yet another tank, from us stones /
From you teargas, from us rain /
... As bitter dust, go where you wish, but /
Do not pass between us like flying insects /
... Pile your illusions in a deserted pit, and be gone /
... And we have what you lack / A bleeding homeland of a bleeding people ..."

And he concludes:

"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 /
... So leave our country /
Our land, our sea /
Our wheat, our salt, our wounds /
Everything, and leave /
The memories of memory /
those who pass between fleeting words!"*

The poem sent shock waves among Israelis, particularly on the left, many of whom viewed Mahmoud Darwish as a poet expressing the afflictions of his people, but recognizing Israel's existence and aspiring, despite everything, to a brotherhood of nations in this bleeding land. I remember the fierce reaction of Halit Yeshurun.

The poet Siham Daoud, whom I respect, explained to me at the time: "He is referring only to the territories. He is not a fool. He is a world-class poet!"



This English translation was published in "Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation," edited by Zachary Lockman and Joel Benin, South End Press, 1999, see pages 26-27. It is not identical to the Hebrew version published in Maariv.


And now, I've come across this:-

Mahmoud Darwish – Poet of Destruction and Devastation, Deceptive Memory as a National Hindrance

...Darwish was born in the village of al-Birwe (a few kilometers east of Acre) influx of local Arabs, primarily from Syria and Lebanon, began, across the border into the Land of Israel. In that framework, several clans settled in the village, and by 1947, 1,500 people lived there...In this way, Arab “settlements”, whose sole purpose was to provide inexpensive housing for the Arab multitudes, who came to Israel during the 1930’s and 1940’s, were established in the Land of Israel. In the wake of the 1948 War of Independence, the village was abandoned and Kibbutz Yas’ur and the Ahihud collective settlement, named after one of the heads of the Tribe of Asher, were established in its place. Thus, after many years of anticipation, the land was restored to its original owners.

In Arab historiography, these transient settlements were accorded mythical dimensions to the point that the nationalist fantasy totally overshadows the historic truth...“Palestine”, the figment of...imagination, had no real connection to the Arabs. The planning, initiative, economy, culture, development, construction, villages, cities, ports, educational institutions, roads, hospitals and welfare institutions were all products of the efforts of the resolute Land of Israel Jews, despite all of the ambient violence directed against them in a cruel and racist manner...[the Arabs] co-opted the Jewish memory and transformed it into an Arab and personal historic memory, just as Israeli-Arab political organizations attempt to do to Israeli history and culture at present.

...The more time passed, the more the memory became larger than life itself – so great, that the dream itself became the biggest obstacle to its realization, as it is difficult to reach political compromise with the personal and national vision that reached mythical dimensions with the passage of time.

It was upon this historical theft, as a deceptive national vision, that Mahmoud Darwish – and many others – built his lyrical and political career over the years, especially since he left Israel in 1971. However, truth be told, Darwish himself – no less than others – is responsible for the current status of the Palestinians, as he transformed himself into the poet of destruction and devastation...

...In 1988, when the first intifada was in full swing, Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Going…Gone” was published in the Israeli press. The poem, which was translated into Hebrew in different versions, elicited a great emotional uproar among the Israeli public due to a few sentences contained therein that again attested to Darwish’s extreme nationalist style. And so it is written in one of the poem’s stanzas:

Woe unto those walking among the flying words
Load your names upon your shoulders and leave
Remove your hours from our time and leave
And steal landscapes as you please so that you will know
That you will never know
How a stone from our land will build the heavens.

...Darwish contributed to the formation of Arab political culture, which became a bloody double-edged sword. The emphasis in Arab politics that relied primarily on the “armed struggle”, violence, destruction, devastation and the transformation of its perpetrators into “sacred victims”, totally nationalized all resources, earmarking them for the one and only objective, to the extent that no additional resources remained for the building of a bona-fide, vital and vibrant nation. And certainly, no substance was injected into that nationalism other than violence and a shift to freedom of Arab decision to act violently.

Dr. Yohai Sela, The Mideast Forum, July 19, 2007


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