As readers, writers, and artists, the impulse to act may feel insignificant at this moment. Our team at Room certainly understands this.
Amidst mass catastrophe, we turn to Toni Morrison, who said of living through crisis: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
Both now and throughout this 75-year occupation, Palestinian writers, poets, thinkers, and academics have been writing about Palestine and Gaza, and their long struggle for liberation. Room has compiled an incomplete reading list of what’s been guiding us lately: we hope these words guide you, too, to demand a ceasefire and take action in solidarity with Palestine.
“A Gaza Daughter in Exile: ‘I Wish I Were There With You‘,” by Reema Saleh via Institute for Palestine Studies’ Palestine Square
“Rima, I lost six kilograms in less than two weeks. We eat one meal a day because there is not enough food . . . We’re broken, we’re living the most primitive life. I walked under the bombs for about 45 minutes to find the internet to speak to you.”
“The Palestine Double Standard,” (previously: “Why Must Palestinians Audition for Your Empathy?”) by Hala N Alyan, via The New York Times
“This is demoralizing work, to have to speak constantly in the vernacular of tragedies and atrocities, to say: Look, look. Remember? That other suffering that was eventually deemed unacceptable? Let me hold it up to this one. Let me show you proportion. Let me earn your outrage. Absent that, let me earn your memory. Please.”
“Refuge,” by Hiba Abu Nada, translated by Huda Fakhreddine, via Protean Magazine
“I grant you refuge in knowing
that the dust will clear,
and they who fell in love and died together
will one day laugh.”
[Note: Hiba Abu Nada was martyred by an Israeli airstrike on October 20.]
“To be Palestinian is to constantly have basic facts of your existence denied,” by Saeed Teebi, via Globe and Mail
“Here in Canada, we label the clothes and personal items that our kids take to school, in case they lose them. In Gaza, there is no school these days, but children have taken to labelling their own bodies – writing their names on their little hands. That way, if they are killed in a bombing, at least they can be identified.”
“Denying Motherhood in Gaza,” by Lama Ghosheh, via Institute for Palestine Studies’ Palestine Square
“Why must mothers in Gaza and Palestine endure such pain? What does it mean to be a mother in Occupied Palestine? Is giving birth in this land a crime against our children?”
“A Liberatory Demand from Queers in Palestine,” by Queers in Palestine, available in multiple languages
“We refuse the instrumentalization of our queerness, our bodies, and the violence we face as queer people to demonize and dehumanize our communities, especially in service of imperial and genocidal acts. We refuse that Palestinian sexuality and Palestinian attitudes towards diverse sexualities become parameters for assigning humanity to any colonized society. We deserve life because we are human, with the multitude of our imperfections, and not because of our proximity to colonial modes of liberal humanity.”
“When You Land at Ben-Gurion Airport,” by Issam Zineh, featured in “Voices on Palestine” via Guernica
“a convocation of desert eagles rises from your spleen,
each one carrying a stone—this one to mark the blood
leaving your body, your face now a milk white grotto,
& one from the basilica in your heart destroyed, in part,
by your own uprising, & one for the rebuilding,”
“What the War Means for Palestinians Inside Israel,” A Q&A with Isaac Chotiner and Amjad Iraqi via The New Yorker
“The dominant feeling right now among Palestinian citizens is fear . . . you feel that increasing racism, you feel that increasing hawkishness, including against the Arabs inside the country. And what we’ve been seeing after these two weeks is Palestinian students on campuses being suspended or expelled by university administrations. . . . I don’t know what the numbers are now, but you have scores of citizens being arrested by the Israeli police as we speak. So we’re seeing the state really try to stifle citizens from being able even to protest.”
“A Palestinian Meditation in a Time of Annihilation,” by Fady Joudah, via Literary Hub
“I am terrified to think that the steady snail-pa,ce of pro-Palestinian solidarity in the US has not recognized how largely it has leaned on the near absolute condition of Palestinian suffering. As long as Palestinians are the sole recipients of death, dying, and wretched life, solidarity with them gains in legitimacy. Any disruption in this balance—which never alters the Palestinians as the landslide majority owners of misery—must be attacked, contained, belittled with moral superiority by allies who had not said much of anything previously about Israel’s decades-long atrocities.”
“Revision,” by Hala N Alyan, via Guernica
“There is no bomb shelter. There is no ship.
You can leave. Why aren’t you leaving?
You can resist. Why aren’t you resisting?
On the phone, my grandmother would call me her heart.
Her soul. Her two God-given eyes.
She’d ask if I wanted to visit Palestine again.”
“Awaiting News of a Loved One’s Martyrdom” by Sara Sbaih, via Institute for Palestine Studies’ Palestine Square
“After barely two hours of fitful sleep, I wake up to go to work and immediately check my phone for any news related to my family. The scale of death has led me to believe that I might lose them in this war. And so, I wait for the news of their death.”
A dispatch from Khalil Abu Yahia, via Dispatches from Gaza in Jewish Currents
“Don’t leave us alone. We are making history now. What would you like your children to read about you? That you justified this oppression? Or that you stood on the side of the oppressed people?”
“To the Watchlist,” by George Abraham, via The Drift
But does there even exist a poem
where my body has ever not been
at stake? I ask the muse
who names himself
my center, writing love
always in the shadow
“This could be my last report from Gaza,” from Tareq S. Hajjaj, via Mondoweiss
“Keep my stories alive so that you keep me alive. Remember that I wanted a normal life, a small home full of my children’s laughter and the smell of my wife’s cooking. Remember that the world that pretended to be the savior of humanity participated in killing such a small dream.”
For more reading, we recommend checking out Palestine Square via the Institute for Palestine Studies, which publishes news, analysis, narrative, perspectives, and arts and culture pieces on Palestinian affairs. Our friends at Protean Mag have also been publishing a series of Letters from Gaza in partnership with the Institute for Palestine Studies as well.
Let us be steadfast in demanding a ceasefire and end to the occupation and taking actions in solidarity with Palestine, including learning about feminist writers in support of Palestinian liberation, writing and films about Palestine, and more.
Header image: Nablus, Al-Haddadeen Street, next to Rivoli Cinema, posted 2013, via Palestine Remembered.