As the year opens, we’re thinking of the words of writer and artist Saretta Morgan:
“I want to wake every morning into love,
where love is the question of how I’m going to help you get free,
where that means whatever it needs to mean.”
This is an exercise of feminist praxis we invite you to practice with us. In this third installment of Palestinian voices to listen to, we continue demanding the freedom of Palestine. We also mourn the Palestinian poets and writers martyred last year and throughout the years of the occupation — Literary Hub has compiled some of their biographies and works to celebrate their lives.
As we continue to read these writings by Palestinian journalists, writers, academics, and thinkers, we’re reminded of the necessity of coupling this with action. Poet Hala Alyan writes: “in the urgency of moments like this, indeed, art is not a replacement for policy.”
We urge you to pair your learning with action, and demand the Canadian government enforce an arms embargo against Israel, call for an end to the occupation of Palestine, and learn more about actions to take in solidarity with Palestine.
“Gaza Asks: When Shall This Pass?” by Refaat Alareer in Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire, via Haymarket Books
“‘Writing is a testimony, a memory that outlives any human experience, and an obligation to communicate with ourselves and the world. We lived for a reason, to tell the tales of loss, of survival, and of hope,’ I told my students.”
[Note: Refaat Alareer was martyred on Dec 6, 2023.]
“A Palestinian Poet’s Perilous Journey Out of Gaza,” by Mosab Abu Toha in The New Yorker
“I don’t want to hug anyone, because I don’t want to believe that I am leaving them. I kiss my parents and shake hands with my siblings, as though I am only going on a short trip. What I am feeling is not guilt but a sense of unfairness. Why can I leave and they cannot? We are lucky that Mostafa was born in the U.S. Does it make them less human, less worthy of protection, that their children were not?”
[Note: Mosab Abu Toha was kidnapped by the Israel Occupying Forces on Nov 19, then released on Nov 21 after being beaten.]
“Against Content Warnings,” by Sara Abou Rashed, as part of “Who Shall Remember How? Palestinian Poets Respond,” via Los Angeles Review of Books
If a word
“From Hisham Awartani, Wednesday, November 29,” by Hisham Ali Hisham Awartani, via The College Hill Independent
“On November 15 I joined my fellow Brown students to write the names of thousands of Palestinians killed in the war on Gaza. They gave us a document issued by the Gaza Health Ministry, and out of curiosity the first thing I did was look up my name. There were 30 results. 13 people named Hisham and 17 with Hisham as a middle name. I didn’t know how to feel. My name was not a common one.
I am the Hisham you know. I lived. My story is being told. The 13 other Hishams were killed, their stories forever erased. They were human and they did not have to prove that to anyone. They knew no respite, no justice, no peace.”
[Note: Hisham Awartani was shot in Vermont on Nov 25 and survived, but is paralyzed.]
“What a Palestinian-American Wants You To Know About Dehumanization,” by Hala Alyan via Teen Vogue
“Dialectically: a story isn’t enough, and one cannot triumph in any social justice struggle without examining the stories that have been turned into gospel. This is true for any project of imperialism, occupation, or persecution: narratives get us into them. Narratives will get us out.”
“ars poetica of partridges & Palestine,” By Mandy Shunnarah, via Palette Poetry
I’m looking for metaphors on Wikipedia again. It’s easy
to write poems about birds with so many species of partridges.
National Geographic says 43 of those species are decreasing
in population; something Palestinians know all too well.
People like poems about birds more than they like poems
about Palestine, & actual Palestine & her endangered people.
We just won’t go extinct quickly enough. But I digress.
That’s not the metaphor I’m looking for just yet.
‘They shot her son in her arms and forced her to throw his body’: testimonies from the death march on Salah al-Din Street” by Tareq S. Hajjaj via Mondoweiss
“Her child would cry loudly as she carried him, multiple people told me, all repeating the same details and recounting the same sequence of events that would follow: a soldier, annoyed by the child’s screeching, “sniped at him” from a distance and shot him in the head as his mother carried him. The soldier then picked up his megaphone and ordered her to throw him by the side of the road and keep walking.”
“Two Months,” by the Palestinian Youth Movement via The New Inquiry
“We have seen organized student walk-outs, sit-ins outside political offices, and direct confrontations with leaders supporting the genocidal violence, which have intensified political contradictions as well as consolidated relationships between organizations and sectors. Labor unions have passed ceasefire resolutions and continued the necessary work of divestment and sanctions. Community groups have popped up in every neighborhood across America. They are animated by Palestine because they are animated by their own struggles: to live a dignified life free of interference from everything that wages war on human dignity. …
The story is unity, just as the story is “not enough.” The story is the will of the popular masses summarily ignored by the ruling class. The story is of Gaza’s people forming a revolutionary north star. And yet, that is not the story you will read in the mainstream.”
“Popular and Known to No One,” by Amna Muhammad Abu Safat, via The Baffler
This time I’ll dissolve.
I’ll enter love as a woman
and leave it as oil or kindling.
spilling over if I must,
blocking out the sun if you want,
delaying the light.
[Note: This poem was translated into English by Lena Tuffaha]
“We will meet soon, free, with our heads held high”: Testimonies from Palestinian prisoners, via People’s Dispatch
“Insults, provocation, and more stringent measures. While we were waiting for the visit, we saw the scene of the Nahshon units unleashing dogs to the prisoners and the sound of screaming and beatings, how often this scene is repeated, and with many brutal and humiliating methods.”
“Palestinian Poets on the Role of Literature in Fighting Genocide: Summer Farah, Samah Fadil, Priscilla Wathington, and Rasha Abdulhadi discuss countering Zionist propaganda and mobilizing art into action,” by Summer Farah, Samah Fadil, Priscilla Wathington, and Rasha Abdulhadi via Electric Literature
Priscilla Wathington: If you are a poet of conscience in this moment of genocide, this question must come up. Poetry is not a life-saving surgery. No matter how much we may repeat the metaphor, poetry is not water. It cannot write the bombs out of the sky. It cannot put back together the bodies of a loved one, or build a safe place for even a mouse to sleep in Gaza. But this is not to say that poetry or words in general are useless in a time of genocide. If words had no power to influence people’s feelings about the bombing of hospitals or the military detention of children, then Israeli forces would not be arresting poets and other writers. And more broadly, if books did not have the capacity to shift attitudes and open up new ways of seeing the world, then there would not be so many banned books. As much as poetry cannot be a replacement for other forms of action, such as calling our Congressional members here in the U.S., it can and should be an extension of our overall decolonial belief practices and commitments.
Excerpt from a Tweet from Belal Aldabbour, via We Had Dreams
“If I die, remember that I, we, were individuals, humans, we had names, dreams and achievements and our only fault was that we were classified as inferior.”
“Not Just Passing,” by Hiba Abu Nada via Mizna
O little light in me, don’t die,
even if all the galaxies of the world
O little light in me, say:
Enter my heart in peace.
All of you, come in!
[Note: Hiba Abu Nadan was martyred on October 20, 2023.]
“The Harvard Law Review Refused to Run This Piece About Genocide in Gaza,” by Rabea Eghbariah via The Nation
Palestine brings a special uncovering force to the discourse. It reveals how otherwise credible institutions, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, are no longer to be trusted. It shows how facts become disputable in a Trumpist fashion by liberals such as President Biden. Palestine allows us to see the line that bifurcates the binaries (e.g. trusted/untrusted) as much as it underscores the collapse of dichotomies (e.g. democrat/republican or fact/claim). It is in this liminal space that Palestine exists and continues to defy the distinction itself. It is the exception that reveals the rule and the subtext that is, in fact, the text: Palestine is the most vivid manifestation of the colonial condition upheld in the 21st century.
[Note: this piece was initially intended for the blog of the Harvard Law Review under the name “The Ongoing Nakba: Towards a Legal Framework for Palestine,” but was prevented from publication by the journal’s editors. The Intercept provides an investigation into the Harvard Law Review’s silencing of Rabea Eghbariah.]
“Notes on Craft: Writing in the Hour of Genocide,” by Fargo Nissim Tbakhi via Protean Magazine
“Palestine demands that all of us, as writers and artists, consider ourselves in principled solidarity with the long cultural Intifada that is built alongside and in collaboration with the material Intifada. We are writing amidst its long middle; the page is a weapon.”
For further reading, we recommend:
- Palestine Square via the Institute for Palestine Studies, which publishes news, analysis, narrative, perspectives, and arts and culture pieces on Palestinian affairs.
- Protean Magazine’s “Letters from Gaza” in partnership with the Institute for Palestine Studies
- E-sims for Gaza, an initiative to ensure Palestinians can remain in contact with loved ones and the outside world as electricity is cut off.
- Dispatches from We Are Not Numbers (WANN), a youth-led Palestinian nonprofit project in the Gaza Strip that tells the stories behind the numbers of Palestinians in the news
- Resources from the Toronto Palestine Film Festival, including how to take action
- We Had Dreams, a platform that uplifts the hopes, dreams, and fears of Palestinians in Gaza, available in multiple languages
- Passages Through Genocide, a compilation of collected, translated, and published texts from Palestinian writers confronting the genocide in Gaza
- Free e-books from Verso books about Palestine
Header image: “Normalization,” by Sarah Z, via Artists Against Apartheid